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The captivated gaze: Diderot’s allegory of the cave and democracy


Abbt, Christine (2024). The captivated gaze: Diderot’s allegory of the cave and democracy. Critical Horizons, 24(4):339-352.

Abstract

The problem of the captivated gaze has been taken up repeatedly in philosophy. Plato's Allegory of the Cave stands paradigmatically for this. Here, the gaze at the shadowy images prevents people from taking the path to the sun. Denis Diderot's critical reinterpretation of Plato's Allegory of the Cave is less well known. In Diderot, the view of the artificial light images is just as captivating as Plato's shadow images. Unlike there, however, Diderot does not distinguish between perception and cognition but instead focuses on the significance of the seemingly unimportant shift of the gaze within the cave. Diderot determines the starting point of the realisation of freedom in the liberation of one's own gaze from the captivation intended by third parties. Prerequisites for the liberation of the gaze are the realisation of an interruption. It is shifts in the alignment of the eyeballs that become visible here as lucid intervals and which, in Diderot, become the starting point of power analysis and the site of revolt and freedom practice. In this article, I will show how Diderot's demand for enabling the individual realisation of lucid intervals is not first and foremost an aesthetic, but a highly political one. The criteria of art, which are defined by Diderot and have not lost their relevance until today, are based on his explosive insight that the incessant captivation of the gaze stands in the way of democratisation.

Abstract

The problem of the captivated gaze has been taken up repeatedly in philosophy. Plato's Allegory of the Cave stands paradigmatically for this. Here, the gaze at the shadowy images prevents people from taking the path to the sun. Denis Diderot's critical reinterpretation of Plato's Allegory of the Cave is less well known. In Diderot, the view of the artificial light images is just as captivating as Plato's shadow images. Unlike there, however, Diderot does not distinguish between perception and cognition but instead focuses on the significance of the seemingly unimportant shift of the gaze within the cave. Diderot determines the starting point of the realisation of freedom in the liberation of one's own gaze from the captivation intended by third parties. Prerequisites for the liberation of the gaze are the realisation of an interruption. It is shifts in the alignment of the eyeballs that become visible here as lucid intervals and which, in Diderot, become the starting point of power analysis and the site of revolt and freedom practice. In this article, I will show how Diderot's demand for enabling the individual realisation of lucid intervals is not first and foremost an aesthetic, but a highly political one. The criteria of art, which are defined by Diderot and have not lost their relevance until today, are based on his explosive insight that the incessant captivation of the gaze stands in the way of democratisation.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Sociology and Political Science
Social Sciences & Humanities > Philosophy
Uncontrolled Keywords:Digitisation, Diderot, allegory of the cave, attention, lucid intervals, democratisation
Language:English
Date:29 January 2024
Deposited On:13 Feb 2024 07:47
Last Modified:30 Apr 2024 01:50
Publisher:Routledge
ISSN:1440-9917
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/14409917.2023.2286866
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)