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By Janet Wolff

Explores sociocultural impacts at the development of conventional aesthetic theories and judgments

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Extra resources for Aesthetics and the Sociology of Art

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Hermeneutic theory, following Dilthey and Gadamer in particular, shows that all knowledge in history and social science is reinterpretation from the point of view of the interpreter, for the task of identifying totally with one's subject and eliminating one's own existential reality is an impossible one. The work of the critical theorists has been influential in sociology in developing the critique of knowledge and objectivity. In his inaugural lecture at Frankfurt in 1965, entitled 'Knowledge and interest', Jiirgen Habermas systematically explored the relationship between different types of knowledge and their motivating interests (see Habermas, 1970a).

The way in which a literary work satisfies, surpasses, disappoints, or disproves the expectations of its first readers in the historical moment of its appearance obviously gives a criterion for the determination of its aesthetic value. The distance between the horizon of expectations and the work, between the familiarity of previous aesthetic experiences and the 'horizon change' demanded by the response to new works, determines the artistic nature of a literary work along the lines of the aesthetics of reception: the smaller this distance, which means that no demands are made upon the receiving consciousness to make a change on the horizon of unknown Sociology versus Aesthetics 35 experience, the closer the work comes to the realm of 'culinary' or light reading.

Tony Bennett discusses this with regard to Althusser, who distinguishes science from ideology. Ideology is defined in so far as it departs from the knowledge proposed by a particular science. As Bennett argues, however, this same logic must then also be applied to Althusser's 58 Aesthetics and the Sociology of Art own 'science', which becomes ideological from the point of view of another science. For as Althusser himself has said, following Spinoza, a science is the measure of its own truth value, and of what is false in relation to it (see Bennett, 1979, p.

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