Demonstrating the reliance on a consensus in ascribing aesthetic as well as moral and political judgments, Josef Früchtl defends the mode of the consensual as if, a fiction that allows not only for the stability of political discourses negotiating controversy, but also for the mimetic assumption of equality essential to any radically democratic resistance. Früchtl thus repositions Rancière, but also reconsiders how Habermas’ theory of truth within speech acts turns into a decisively political point of view, moving him closer to Lyotard’s description of the différend. Just as the différend needs to be understood by the differing parties, for Habermas dissent requires the possibility of agreeing to disagree, starkly opposed to the radical disagreement of a Rancièrian mésentente. And yet Früchtl sees the same basic potential for consensus at the very heart of the aesthetic community that may recognize the claim to equality in resistance movements as well as the exception of the aesthetic experience.
Fiction: A Short Story
I would like to begin with a short story. And in doing so, I draw upon an experienced German story-teller and philosopher (who, by the way, is very well known in Giessen). It is a short story, but a fundamental one – as is the tradition with philosophy –, and it goes like this1:
For a long time, philosophy needed fiction, roughly speaking, only when figments of the imagination were called for. Sometimes this would be for arbitrarily combined characteristics (such as those which make up the creatures found in fables, like centaurs or unicorns), and sometimes for a self-contradictory non-entity (like a square circle or a wooden iron). For Immanuel Kant, a non-entity (nihil negativum, Unding) was located right at the bottom of the “scale of nothing,” meaning as it did a term which cancels itself out, a term in opposition not only to reality, but also to possibility. In contrast, a thought-entity (ens rationis, Gedankending) may also be a “mere invention” or “fiction,” as Kant stated, but at least one which is possible. The opposite concept to fiction was thus initially that of reality. A fiction is not real but possible. As the concept of reality gradually merged with the one of truth (something is true if it really complies in a certain manner), especially under the omnipotent influence of Christianity, the concept of fiction, secondly, assumed a mantle of negativity, of deceit and delusion. According to this view, fictions were deceptive in a formal sense, in that they veiled their status of fabrication. When Christian religion had to relinquish its power over science and philosophy at the end of the 18th century, however, one reaction to this development was the crystallisation of an additional, a third interpretation of fiction, believing it to be beyond the alternative between true and false, able to stand up in its own right. Evidence of this interpretation can be found in science and art equally. In the former, fiction achieved validity as a hypothesis, as a statement principally capable of being true, but not (yet) proven true. In the latter, fiction – that world created in literature, drama, paintings, and opera – was viewed as facilitating an area of truth, as expansively presenting metaphors and images which were potential candidates for the truth. A fourth interpretation of the concept of fiction which emerged was that of self-reference. Here fiction refers to itself, in other...