Probability. On Rhetoric in Art
in: Daidalos 64, June 1997 (Special Issue „Rhetoric“), p. 80-89.
Advertising is structured in such a way that, through the mere inclusion of verbal language, res and argumentum are articulated in contradistinction to one another. In an advertisement, it is possible to distinguish between the thing denotated and the thing connotated, i.e. between the subject of the advertisement (a car, a brand of beer), and the idea meant to be associated with it (freedom, coolness). What advertising employs is precisely not that convergence of fictive and real which allows the experience of art to remain autonomous and which Kant described as „disinterested pleasure.“ Advertising is concerned with making the statement: „if X (this car), then Y (freedom),“ in order to influence a decision in favor of X. In terms of both the means and the end, advertising is clearly closer to rhetoric than is art. Thus it is not surprising that attempts to develop a rhetoric of the image (e.g. by Roland Barthes) are based above all on advertising and not on art.
The fact that rhetoric has merely to do with probability and not with truth was seen, in an anti-rhetorical turn, as evidence of human impoverishment. Unable to recognize truth, humanity musters up rhetoric to compensate for this inability. A look at art, however, provides occasion to reverse the argument. As a single pearl-like strand of ‚possible worlds,‘ it bears witness to humanity’s wealth, its ability to creatively take up residence in the world. The ability to make art not only enables us to interpret the world, but also opens the possibility that everything could be different.
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