In the Butcher’s Shop

Peter de Bolla

  • Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation by Gilles Deleuze, translated by Daniel Smith
    Continuum, 209 pp, £9.99, March 2004, ISBN 0 8264 7318 0

In the technical literature on aesthetics a distinction is often made between the empirical inquiry into beauty (what it is, which objects have it and so forth), and the investigation of sensory cognition. The former became subsumed in the 18th century into the theory of taste and has ever since been in the ascendant, while the latter (what Alexander Baumgarten called ‘the science of aesthetics’) has suffered mixed fortunes. While taste has provided the focus for most theoretical speculation on aesthetics, sensory cognition has either been diverted into some of the weaker efforts of psychology, or been ignored altogether. However, this truth about the philosophical project of aesthetics denies another truth, one certainly known to many practising artists, which arises on account of our being sensate beings: that sensation itself has a cognitive component.

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