Aesthetic Thinking?

Profile spotlights and pumpkin seed oil: The light projection “Floating Shifts” was created by Sissy Kuhlmann (BA Trends & Identity), Johannes Reck and Nicola Bischof (BA Interaction Design). It was created in the module “Colour, Light and Interaction”. Photograph: Regula Bearth © ZHdK

Dieter Mersch, what is aesthetic thinking?

“Aesthetic thinking” has two meanings: “the aesthetics of thinking” and “thinking the aesthetic.” The former refers to poetics, to thinking involving rhetorical devices or to artful, elaborate speech. The latter, “thinking the aesthetic,” is more interesting, yet also more controversial, because philosophical thinking is always associated with assertion, argumentation and justification, which in turn refer to discourse. Positing that any such thing as thinking the aesthetic exists  refutes the claim of scientific discourse to be the sole mode of representation. It also assumes that we can argue, judge or do research in and with other forms and media: colours, sounds and silences, acoustic sequences, designs, animations or scenes and the like — in other words, that designs are not only ways of expressing ourselves but also produce insights. In this context, we need to take “aesthetic thinking” literally: aesthetics, from Greek aisthēsis, “perception.” Thus it is not a matter of thinking in words that say something, but of ways of thinking in visible, audible or tangible terms that show something and thus always show themselves.

In this section, experts from around ZHdK briefly consider key terms and concepts in the arts and culture. The steadily expanding glossary is available online at: zett.zhdk.ch/what-is
Prof. Dr. Dieter Mersch was head of the Institute for Theory (ith) at the Department of Cultural Analysis.
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