The Aesthetics in the 21st Century page has been updated to include the program as well as abstracts, so I thought I would post my own, to be presented as the final paper of the conference:
“The Feeling of Things: Transcendental Empiricism in Herder, Whitehead, and Serres”
Abstract: While contemporary philosophers have turned once again to aesthetics as an important field, some going as far as to maintain it as “first philosophy,” this focus has important precursors (and, as we will see, an unfortunately ignored contemporary). This paper aims to outline an important historical tradition steeped in romanticism and a variety of transcendental empiricism, while also showing its relevance and applicability to the speculative turn. Beginning with Johann Gottfried Herder, the author will show an alternative to Kantianism, a philosophy which takes feeling and sensation seriously. This will ground a position the author terms “non-cognitive philosophy,” a methodology in opposition to many of the neo-rationalists associated with or related to speculative realism (Badiou, Meillassoux). Non-cognitive philosophy refuses to reduce the world to concepts, language, human minds, or rationality. Instead, it is a methodology aimed at showing the multiplicity of things, affirming that a thing is not reducible to any single variety of access (cognitive, emotional, aesthetic, causal, logical, relational, etc, etc.). This tradition continues prominently in the work of Alfred North Whitehead and his attempt to construct a “critique of pure feeling” in contrast to the Kantian and Idealist traditions. In addition, Whitehead provides a non-anthropocentric metaphysics, with feeling no longer being tied to flesh and nerves, but is instead an attribute of being. The essay will conclude by turning to Michel Serres, whose work has gone seemingly unnoticed by the speculative realist movement. Serres should be a central figure for the “aesthetic turn” both for his metaphysics of communication as well as his study of bodily sensation as an alternative to epistemology. This tradition founded on the principle of “feeling as first philosophy” will prove to be an important, though untapped, aspect of the speculative turn.
In addition to this paper, I will also be speaking as part of the Editor’s Workshop along with my fellow Speculations editors, Paul Ennis, Thomas Gokey, and Robert Jackson, as well as Paul Boshears from continent. It should be a great conference and I’ve very much looking forward to finally meeting those I’ve known for so long online!