Aesthetic Experience, Subjective Historical Experience and the Problem of Constructivism

This article takes as its starting point the recent work of Frank Ankersmit on subjective historical experience. Such an experience, which Ankersmit describes as a `sudden obliteration of the rift between present and past' is connected strongly with the Deweyan theory of art as experiential, which contains an account of aesthetic experience as affording a similar breakdown in the polarization of the subject and object of experience. The article shows how other ideas deriving from the phenomenological tradition and the philosophy of perception can fruitfully be applied to the same terrain, and an account of aesthetic experience is built up that stresses embodied, differential and virtual aspects in the perception of aesthetic objects. The disruption and/or enhancement of these aisthetic aspects of perception, coupled with the self-conscious reflection thereby occasioned, is put forward as an account of aesthetic experience that links Ankersmit's ideas with those of others, and a critical reading is made of a section of Ankersmit's Sublime Historical Experience that centers on his experience of a painting by Francesco Guardi. The final section aims at strengthening aspects of Ankersmit's ideas and renews his critique of the radical constructivism of Oakeshott.