The Pleasure of Doubt
in Art, Aesthetics, and Everyday Life

Irritation, uncertainty, disbelief; distrust, skepticism, wariness – the spectrum of doubt is rich and diverse. But traditionally, philosophy and humanistic scholars tend to turn their back on it. Doubt is usually conceived in purely negative terms: It is seen as a mere lack of knowledge, as an unavoidable step towards clarity, at best as a token of our finitude. The rational ideal of ‘pure knowledge’ tries to eliminate doubt in favor of clarity and distinctness. Doubt, in this perspective, is just a necessary evil.

The international conference “The Pleasure of Doubt in Art, Aesthetics, and Everyday Life” wants to examine and further approaches which liberate doubt from its traditional subordinate position. It seeks to lay bare the generative, positive aspects of doubt. In doing this, it follows the lead of artists and scholars who, like the American Pragmatists, both emphasize and embrace the stimulating and transformative facets of doubt. In fact, moments of doubt may well be acknowledged as valuable opportunities for a creative transgression of one’s intellectual and experiential horizon: Doubt opens up the chance to loosen the grip of stiffened patterns of thought; it invites to take a second look, to form a new perspective, and to initiate a change of aspect.

In order to capture this transformative power, one has to look beyond purely intellectual changes – which is what our conference wants to do. Doubt can only exert its force because it engages the doubting subject as a whole: not just on the level of concepts and beliefs, but also on the aesthetic level of feeling and perception. The starting point of doubt is emotional, taking hold not only of the mind, but also of the feeling and perceiving body. Doubt, in short, is not just a state of mind: it is a complex experience with irreducible aesthetic dimensions.

Renowned representatives from anthropology to philosophy are invited to discuss how doubt shapes our lives, and how the experience of doubt is or even ought to be dealt with.

Erika Fischer-Lichte, Berlin; Dieter Mersch, Zürich; Andrew Norris, Santa Barbara; Matthijs Pelkmans, London; Heidi Salaverria, Hamburg; Richard Shiff, Austin; Miriam Strube, Paderborn; Christiane Voss, Weimar; Uwe Wirth, Gießen; Michelle Zerba, Alexandria (LA)

The conference is organised by
Mark Halawa-Sarholz and
Jörg Volbers

of the International Research Group Interart Studies
in cooperation with the ICI Berlin

ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry
Christinenstraße 18/19, Haus 8, 10119 Berlin
Tel: +49 (0)30 473 7291 – 10, U – Bhf. Senefelder Platz (U2)

For more information