Habermas on aesthetic experience as communicative action

The speech Habermas gives receiving the Frankfurt City Adorno Price in 1980 describes modernity as an unfinished project, and as part of this Surrealism, where everything is art and everyone an artist, as a false sublation of culture. Suggesting an alternative, namely looking at aesthetic experience as a form of communicative action, Habermas argues for social modernisation. This paper describes my own experiences of some of Piet Mondrian’s paintings in Habermas’ perspective where aesthetic experience becomes part of a lifeworld (Husserl), and thereby connects all three value spheres in the communicative action: the cognitive-instrumental, the moral-practical and the aesthetic-expressive, and not just one of them. Martin Jay criticises Habermas concept aesthetic-practical rationality, posing the question of what kind of learning process Habermas has in mind. I pick some points in the debate between them from the 80’s, and relate the debate to some of Mondrian’s paintings. In doing this I pose two questions: Where is the feeling I get looking at Mondrians paintings coming from? and Can we regard this as communication in a way covered by Habermas’ concept of communicative action?

Keywords: Habermas, aesthetic experience, Martin Jay