Course on Aesthetics

Royal Academy of Art, The Hague (NL)

'The Common and the Sensible: An Interdisciplinary Meeting in the In-Between of Aesthetics' by Leonhard de Paepe.

Jacques Rancière (1940) – today’s leading philosopher of esthetics – leaves some old debates in esthetics behind him and moves directly towards a surprisingly productive category that has been overlooked in recent years: The Sensible.

The sensible is a virtue which is directly linked to society. Rancière shows that the sensible has always been entangled with politics, right from the beginning in Plato. During the course we will read and discuss a central text in which Rancière explains how art and the sensible are interlinked and how the distribution of the sensible and politics are connected. In the text Rancière furthermore elaborates on the relationships and transgressions between politics and media, media and speech, and writing and the sensible.

Following Rancière’s worldview, we will take a closer look at some debates he has with older philosophers such as Plato, Immanuel Kant, Walter Benjamin and Jean-Francois Lyotard. We will then discuss his views in relation to philosophical scholars from economics and media, and use his work while reading texts by contemporary artists. In doing so we will have an overview of some of the major topics in esthetics: reproduction, media, technology, democracy and capitalism, which culminate in the work of Rancière.

The course is a meeting between art and philosophy and does not consider the two disciplines as separate worlds. The course is intended to provide the participating students with the tools to write explicitly about their work. Writing and thinking are linked, just as thinking and acting. These tools are providing through writing exercises (in relation to the student’s own research, but also on the topic of the course), individual and group meetings on the art of writing and presentation excersises.


Aesthetics and its discontents (Jacques Rancière)

The Continental Aesthetics reader (Clive Cazeaux)

Dialectic of Aesthetic Judgement (Immanuel Kant)

What is Writing? (Jean-Paul Sartre)

The Death or decline of Art (Gianni Vattimo)

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (Walter Benjamin)

The Sublime and the Avant-Garde (Jean-Francois Lyotard)

The Inhuman (Jean-Francois Lyotard)

Experience Economy (Pine & Gillmore)


After studying fine arts at the Willem de Kooning Academy, Leonhard de Paepe (NL) studied philosophy in Rotterdam and Berlin. He graduated Cum Laude after writing his MA thesis in philosophy of aesthetics.

De Paepe was editor at newspaper Trouw, in addition to writing book reviews for newspaper NRC Handelsblad. Currently, he is teaching political philosophy and aesthetics by Jacques Rancière at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague, the Willem de Kooning Academy and Fontys in Tilburg.