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The Origins of Aesthetic Thought in Ancient Greece: Matter, Sensation, and Experience

The Origins of Aesthetic Thought in Ancient Greece: Matter, Sensation, and Experience COMPARATIVE LITERATURE / 326 Although they operate in concert to define aesthetic thought as Porter understands it, the categories of sensuous appearance and materiality must be carefully distinguished; for many of the materialist or quasi-materialist theories that buttress ancient reflection, matter is not "merely" matter. It is, rather, always and unavoidably aesthetic: it is defined as an object of perception or aisthesis. Porter does not mean by this that matter is simply what we perceive. Rather, there is a close, and costly, link between materialism and a broadly phenomenological perspective, such that in affirming the primacy of matter through the experience of perception ancient materialists also found themselves having to posit matter as something that is always excessive and escaping: the perception of matter is a perception of that which cannot be grasped as such. Pre-Socratic and sophistic thought of the fifth century BCE reflects this paradox in its tendency to extend matter to infinity (apeiron), to affiliate matter with increasingly rarified things (like air), and to let materialism engender its denial and vice versa (for example, in Parmenides and then in Plato). In the radical materialism represented by Democritean atomism, appearances are the face or mask of http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Comparative Literature Duke University Press

The Origins of Aesthetic Thought in Ancient Greece: Matter, Sensation, and Experience

Comparative Literature , Volume 64 (3) – Jun 20, 2012

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Duke Univ Press
ISSN
0010-4124
eISSN
1945-8517
DOI
10.1215/00104124-1672979
Publisher site
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Abstract

COMPARATIVE LITERATURE / 326 Although they operate in concert to define aesthetic thought as Porter understands it, the categories of sensuous appearance and materiality must be carefully distinguished; for many of the materialist or quasi-materialist theories that buttress ancient reflection, matter is not "merely" matter. It is, rather, always and unavoidably aesthetic: it is defined as an object of perception or aisthesis. Porter does not mean by this that matter is simply what we perceive. Rather, there is a close, and costly, link between materialism and a broadly phenomenological perspective, such that in affirming the primacy of matter through the experience of perception ancient materialists also found themselves having to posit matter as something that is always excessive and escaping: the perception of matter is a perception of that which cannot be grasped as such. Pre-Socratic and sophistic thought of the fifth century BCE reflects this paradox in its tendency to extend matter to infinity (apeiron), to affiliate matter with increasingly rarified things (like air), and to let materialism engender its denial and vice versa (for example, in Parmenides and then in Plato). In the radical materialism represented by Democritean atomism, appearances are the face or mask of

Journal

Comparative LiteratureDuke University Press

Published: Jun 20, 2012

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