The Kantian foundation of Aby Warburg’s theory of culture: An interpretation of the concept of orientation
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The aim of this work is to provide an interpretation of Aby Warburg’s scholarship highlighting its connections with Kant’s philosophy in order to offer a more systematic account of its scope and principles. Although it is highly questionable if Warburg’s oeuvre could be placed within a specific school of thought, this work shows a clear connection of his Kulturwissenschaft with the post-Kantian milieu that encompasses both Marburg’s neo-Kantianism and Romantic philosophies of culture. The thesis shows that Warburg and Kant can only be compared on the basis of Kant’s philosophy of history. Warburg’s work deals primarily with the antinomy of freedom and necessity on which basis art history can be understood as having a sense or direction. Differently from Kant and Goethe, Warburg’s reflection considers also the material conditions of aesthetic appreciation and thus, rather than form as such, the dynamic that informs the identification of objects is that of ornamentation – which is built on notions such as weight, direction, etc - a variation that leads to see the object necessarily as anthropomorphized (e.g.as someone moving). Through a comparison with Benjamin the thesis shows how for Warburg images have a political effect, although he merely hints to this fact, The outcome of this dissertation is twofold: on one side it provides an impact to the systematic understanding of Warburg’s work, on the other side it offers the possibility to situate Warburg’s work within the current philosophical debate as a “forgotten” possibility of Kantianism, responding to the current resurgence of realism against the so-called Kantian “correlationism”.