Journal Article

The Religious and the Aesthetic Attitude

Rik Van Nieuwenhove

in Literature and Theology

Volume 18, issue 2, pages 174-186
Published in print June 2004 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online June 2004 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI:
The Religious and the Aesthetic Attitude

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The author argues that there is a deep congruity between disinterestedness, which is considered a typical characteristic of the aesthetic attitude (we approach a work of art without immediate reference to practical concerns), and the ideal of detachment that is seen to be typical of the mature religious attitude described by mystical theologians. Disinterestedness refers to a non-instrumentalising attitude in relation to the thing of beauty. In order to be captured by the piece of art—i.e. in order to be involved—I have to be disinterested. This is not indifference; it is the exact opposite. It is openness, receptivity, which takes delight in the sheer beauty revealed to us. Similarly, the ideal of detachment (or radical self-lessness) as described by mystical theologians such as Eckhart, John of the Cross or Simone Weil suggests how we can engage with God and world in a non-possessive manner. Weil's notion of attention is nothing else but the cultivation of this disinterestedness. The paper implies a critique of those who want to drive a wedge between aesthetics and religion.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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