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Taryn Sweeney, IDVSA





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The Cartesian paradigm, in its modern existence, can be understood as comprised of four pillars—the founding principle of cogito ergo sum, dualism, a mechanistic worldview, and mathesis universalis. Each of these four pillars contributes to aesthetic philosophy in foundational ways that are largely unacknowledged. This error is owed to literal readings of Descartes’ works that neglect the operational intentions of his paradigm. When one approaches the Cartesian paradigm operationally, it is revealed that aesthetic philosophy owes a tremendous debt to Descartes’ works. Moreover, modern philosophers have dedicated substantial efforts to connecting subjective concepts such as mood and sensation to Descartes’ paradigm. These connections, which all rely on literal readings of the paradigm, are often tenuous and depend heavily on large extrapolation from small notations. However a broader reading of Descartes’ model of the soul reveals a unique niche for subjective expression which provides a distinct role for aesthetic considerations in his epistemology. Revelatory knowledge—knowledge of a nonscientific nature that reveals things as they are—need not be marginalized from mathesis universalis. What is more, it is revealed that aesthetic philosophy is one of the largest contributors to the overall project of mathesis universalis in modernity. This contribution is based on the act of poiesis—a form of knowledge-making that is grossly overlooked as an epistemological process. A series of paintings by Joseph Wright of Derby provide a case study of how revelatory knowledge can be integrated with, and inform, the Cartesian paradigm.

Concepts of modernity by Hans Blumenberg illuminate the need for understanding revelatory knowledge as integral to mathesis universalis by imaging the pillar as an evolving mechanism of human construction. In conclusion, a discussion of the parallels between aesthetics and other marginalized epistemic sources (women, artists, and fiction) reveal consonant efforts to reshape mathesis universalis as more inclusive of revelatory knowledge.


Arts and Humanities | Philosophy


Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts


Portland ME

Aesthesis Universalis: Reconciling Aesthetic Philosophy and the Cartesian Paradigm



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