I mentioned in comments below that I was reading the late Peter Fuller's Aesthetics After Modernism, which was "widely acclaimed throughout Australia" when he gave it as a speech there in 1982, as the back cover tells me. When I picked it up, the question in my mind was what, if anything, an nearly 25 year old essay, written while postmodernism was in its ascendence, had anything to say to us now. Having now read it, I am left wondering how to describe an effort to lay out a theory of the history of modernism and the future of art, all done under the guidance of evolutionary biology, psychoanalytic theory, Herbert Marcuse, and John Ruskin--in 40 pages. Fuller, truly, was like no other.
Or perhaps not. Without jumping ahead of myself, I have to say that the concluding paragraphs of his small book reminded me quite strongly of a book I frequently return to, Erazim Kohák's The Embers and the Stars: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Moral Sense of Nature. As part of an rather hermetic series of posts (here's one and two), I put up a long quote from that work here, one that touches on some of what I recognized. The next paragraph of the passage from Kohák, which I did not post then, seems even more to the point now:
Sensing the life of the forest around me, I think only a person blinded and deafened, rendered insensitive by the glare and the blare of his own devices, could write off the primordial awareness of the human's integral place in the cosmos as mere poetic imagination or as "merely subjective." The opposite seems far closer to the truth. It is what we are accustomed treating as "objective reality"--the conception of nature as a system of dead matter propelled by blind force--that is in truth the product of a subject's purposeful and strenuous activity, a construct build up in the course of an extended, highly sophisticated abstraction. It is, undeniably, a highly useful construct for accomplishing a whole range of legitimate tasks. Still, it is a construct, not an experiential given. Humans must suspend lived experience to produce the "scientific world view" of physics. Our direct awareness of nature as the meaningful context of our lives, by contrast, presents itself spontaneously, without a subject's effort. If anything, it requires the very opposite: to suspend effort, to let be and listen, letting nature speak. In a real, though not a customary sense, it is what we mislabel "poetic imagination" that is, "objective," a spontaneous experiential given. It is our image of nature as dead and mechanical--and the image of the human as either a robot or a rebel--that is "subjective," a product of the subject's active imagination rather a given of live experience--and actually quite counterintuitive.
Perhaps it's only a shared Romantic impulse, but it's near this ground that the devout Eastern European phenomenologist meets the the more tortured British writer drawn to Ruskin like a moth to flame. I'm not sure when, but there will be more on this soon.