Ways of Unworlding: Against Aesthetic Inferentialism


  • Identities Journal for Politics, Gender and Culture Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities - Skopje
  • David Roden




aesthetics, semantics, Nelson Goodman, worldmaking, conceptual art, concept horror


I consider and support two claims about aesthetic experience: 1) that it involves encounters with a reality that is not conceptualized via such encounters; 2) that it can generate ruptures in established norms or in the production of shared worlds. This thesis is developed in the teeth of contemporary rationalist inhumanisms that draw on Nelson Goodman’s cognitivist aesthetics and his irrealist account of ‘worldmaking’ to translate the logical insights of inferentialism (or conceptual role semantics) into an aesthetics oriented towards concept-laden practices and their revision through the techniques of experimental art. I employ Derrida’s iterability argument to show that inferentialism presupposes a realist metaphysics that treats repetition and event individuation as independent of constitutive rules, conceptual schemes or ‘world versions’; indicating one way in which aesthetic material remains outside of, even recalcitrant to, the conceptual order. The aesthetic implications of this metaphysics of undecidable events are further explored by considering Jean-Pierre Caron’s recent discussion of Henry Flynt’s idea of ‘constitutive dissociations’ and, finally, the concept as, ambivalently, victim or suicide in the experimental horror of Gary Shipley’s novel Warewolff! and my own Snuff Memories.




How to Cite

Journal for Politics, Gender and Culture, I., & Roden, D. (2021). Ways of Unworlding: Against Aesthetic Inferentialism. Identities: Journal for Politics, Gender and Culture, 18(1-2). https://doi.org/10.51151/identities.v18i1-2.481

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