Publication Date

April 2017


Tushar Irani, Quiara Hudes


English (United States)


One of the key debates within aesthetics is whether art can do the work of philosophy. Some readings of Plato regard art as a mimetic distraction that is unable to do philosophy. However, more modern thinkers, such as Thomas Wartenburg, believe art to be an integral component in conducting the work of the discipline. This project uses Hegel’s concept of sittlichkeit and Dmitri Nikulin’s work on dialogical philosophy to prove art’s place within the field. Sittlichkeit is Georg Wilhelm Fredric Hegel’s concept of an origin of societal values. Societies take these values and regard them as they see fit in their particular historical context. Oftentimes, two or more of these values come into conflict with one another. These debates are taken from sittlichkeit, played out in a society, and then ultimately return to sittlichkeit. Hegel believed that these debates are played out through art: specifically drama. Allosensus is a term used in describing the conclusion of a dialogue. Rather than consensus or dissensus, Allosensus retains disagreement, but recognizes the other participant in the dialogue as valid, and leaves open the potential for a continuation of the conversation. This project uses sittlichkeit and Allosensus in both a productive and analytic way in order to present the view that art can indeed do the work of philosophy. This takes two forms. The first is Aporia! A Tale of Rhetoric and Philosophy, a work of musical theater that will be used to demonstrate a specific instance of values debate within a society. The society in question is Athens during the fourth century BCE, and the particular conflict dramatized is that of rhetoric versus philosophy as the dominant mode of discourse in public life. The play centers on an exiled Cretan rhetorician named Protaginus who starts a fly-by-night rhetoric school in Athens, but after he falls in love with one of his student’s wives, he has to win a high-profile court case and get out of town before an insatiable Socrates turns his attention to Protaginus’ fledgling academy. In accordance with Hegel’s interpretation of art that engages in a debate of values, Protaginus will represent rhetoric and Socrates, philosophy. Neither side will be presented normatively, as right or wrong, but will, in fact, be forces that diametrically oppose one another, and cannot help but come into conflict. This conflict is mediated through Nikulin’s Allosensus. The second portion of this project is an accompanying paper, analyzing the play. Besides answering the foundational question of whether art can do the work of philosophy, the paper would also explicate both sides of the conflict, outlining how each instance of clash between the two characters represents a facet of the societal debate, illustrating how a dialogue functions and examining how the consequences of this disagreement affected Athenian society thereafter. It is my belief that using Allosensus and sittlichkeit as bases of analysis for works of drama gives one the opportunities to study specific cultures, the history of values debate and aesthetics in ways that are impossible when analyzing only philosophical treatises. This example, in particular, is notable for its setting in the foundational time and place of both Western Philosophy and Western Drama.



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