Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 6 (Jan-Mar 1984) p. 43.

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Aesthetics : Some Important Problems

R. B. Patankar

ESTHETICS is a much-respected, almost an awe-inspiring subject in Maharashtra today. People are enthusiastic and inquisitive about it. A large number of articles and books are being written on the subject. Many people have claimed that the Marathi writing on aesthetics has a significant contribution to make to world aesthetic thought. Such claims, not infrequently made, are wild. The fact of the matter is that we have not made even a remotely comparable, as a matter of fact, any contribution to any discipline that is included in the general category known as Humanities. For example, nobody has made similar claims about our contribution to any social science (on the theoretical plane); or to ethics, epistemology, metaphysics. Nobody appears to have evinced the slightest interest in these subjects. It is indeed a great wonder that so much should have been done in aesthetics alone and absolutely nothing in any other field. This is all the more surprising because some of these neglected fields should have been our main preoccupation. But let us pause a little and ask: by what criteria is it to be judged whether we have actually achieved anything significant in the sphere of aesthetics?

To begin with we have to ascertain whether the necessary infrastructure, of the right variety and quality, was already there, to make new aesthetic systems possible. This infrastructure has at least three aspects: (A) there should exist new and powerful movements in different Arts, clamouring for new theoretical formulations which they hope would do better justice to them than the older, outmoded ones. Do such movements exist in today's (or yesterday's) Maharashtra? At least in the field of literature the picture is not very heartening. Absence of greatness in modern Marathi literature is a theme to which critics from B. S. Mardhekar (who, incidentally, was our first modern aesthetician) have repeatedly turned, and nobody has challenged this estimate of modem Marathi literature. This observation has certain theoretical implications. Aesthetic theories are conceived and grow in the womb of a living, developing art tradition. The aesthetician or the theoretical critic cannot take the place of the parents; his is a much humbler task, that of watching the steady growth of the foetus, to help it in this process, till it comes

January-March 1984 43

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