Ancient philosophers generally thought of beauty as an expression of the harmony of the cosmos, as Plato explains it in his late dialogue Timaios. For Plotinus the visible beauty of worldly things mirrored the divine beauty. The valuation of art, however, was very different. Plato criticized art in the Republic for being the imitation of real objects that in turn are imitations of ideas — and thus art turns out to be ontologically disappointingly weak. Only with the emergence of the discipline of philosophical aesthetics in the 18th century did art slowly assume a more prominent role in the thinking of philosophers.
Aesthetics started out by placing more emphasis on the senses in the process of cognition. The British empiricists like Shaftesbury, Hume and Burke were the first to stress this sensual element also in relation to works of art. In Germany, Alexander Baumgarten and Moses Mendelssohn transformed the Baroque philosophy of Leibniz and Wolff by stating that although sensual perception might not grant the same precision of cognition as rationality, it still allows for insights into the perfection of the world.
His notion that we can never interpret a work of art for good because we can never place our perception of it under a concept remains one of the great insights of aesthetics. For G. Hegel the formal aspects of art were less important than its content. Art for him was one expression of the absolute spirit, and thus it changes both in content and importance throughout the ages. The Romantic philosophers such as Schelling, Solger and Novalis, put art at the highest pinnacle of their philosophical systems, because only art allows for the possibility of intellectual intuition, i. Idealist aesthetics came to an end with Schopenhauer who considered the contemplation of art as a means to escape the workings of the will and as granting us a moment of serenity.
Friedrich Nietzsche reversed this valuation and championed art as the great stimulant of life. In the 20th century, aesthetic investigations generally were no longer integrated into a philosophical system, and yet aesthetics became one the most prolific areas of research and argument. But not all of these investigations were benevolent.
In the mid 19th century, Kierkegaard had already demanded that the aesthetic state of mind must be overcome by the ethical state. In the 20th century, thinkers like Rudolf Bultmann and Emmanuel Levinas criticized art as a potential or actual obstacle to truth and responsibility. But by and large, thinkers emphasized the importance of art, although philosophers like Hans-Georg Gadamer argued that philosophical aesthetics must be overcome as a discipline, because it treats works of arts just like other objects, i.
The general trend, however, was for aesthetics to become more and more prominent as a philosophical subject while traditional disciplines like metaphysics or epistemology fell out of favour. This increasing importance of aesthetics was primarily a development in the continental branch of philosophy, although in the past few decades the analytic school has been catching up.
Many contemporary aesthetic theories are not stunningly original contributions, but rather elaborations on traditional positions. All throughout the century, a strong neo-marxist strain can be detected that has transformed itself into a different kind of politically-critical aesthetic theory in the last quarter of the century. Neo-marxist theories of art, however, were for a long time rather prominent, as for example in the writings of Georg Lukacs, Antonio Gramsci, Ernst Bloch or Jean-Paul Sartre. In the Frankfurt School, predominantly with Theodor W.
Adorno and Max Horkheimer, this approach was connected to a criticism of mass entertainment as destruction of the critical potential of high culture. Walter Benjamin took a rather different stance on technology and forms of entertainment like movies that he considered a progressive form of art. He judged the new medium of film as especially useful for resisting the aestheticization of politics practiced by the Nazis. One of the difficulties we face when trying to describe philosophical aesthetics today is that the boundaries of the subject have become rather permeable.
This is mainly due to the fact that in the past three decades many academic fields like art history, musicology, literature and film studies have taken a theoretical turn and have begun to explore their own foundations. This often centres around questions regarding the nature of the object of study and the possible approaches to this object. These, however, are matters traditionally pondered by philosophical aesthetics.
On the other hand, a good number of writers on literary theory etc. Still, we would be hard put to sort truly philosophical aesthetics from the self-reflective texts of those disciplines that formerly used to treat their object mainly historically. Even within the work of one author, we might not be able to decide what is philosophy proper and what is commentary on art. Take Adorno, for instance: are his writings on the philosophy of new music, on opera or on Beethoven studies in musicology or philosophical aesthetics?
No matter how we label them, we are still able to distinguish a number of projects, concerns, movements and trends in contemporary reflections on art. Much like in artistic practice, though, none of the simultaneously existing possibilities seems to dominate — or if so, not for very long. Should we decide that we need more than a variety of aesthetics to select from, we might have to get used to the idea that we cannot disconnect the inquiry into art from our other philosophical concerns.
This, however, is hardly a popular notion in the contemporary discourse.
- Aesthetics and the philosophy of art.
- Vegetarian Cooking: Vege Burgers in Salsa Sauce (Vegetarian Cooking - Vegetables and Fruits Book 103).
- Library Catalogue.
Faced with this crowd of modern aesthetic approaches, it is difficult to know where to begin, but I shall start by considering the offspring of marxist aesthetics. The marxists have given up on the idea that an overarching social theory with powers of prediction is desirable or possible, but still they want art to have some function in the criticism of unfair social practices or dangerous tendencies of our society. A social and political agenda is also clearly expressed in the several versions of feminist aesthetics. They all argue that sensual perception is gender specific and due either to biological facts sex or social formation procedures gender.
The first wave of feminist aesthetics goes back to the writings of Simone de Beauvoir and Kate Millet and examines the portrayal of women in art. Silvia Bovenschen as a late student of the Frankfurt School continues this project. A second wave of feminist aesthetics shifted the questions to the differences of production of art by women. Another version of a politically-oriented aesthetics with only one central concern is the aesthetics of ecology.
This seems one of the more vibrant sub-genres at present. After Kant, few aesthetic theories tried to deal with natural beauty. The problem of the demarcation of aesthetic properties from non-aesthetic properties, exacerbated by Cohen's critique, has generated a fair amount of discussion. It is widely agreed that aesthetic properties are perceptual properties, dependent on lower-level perceptual properties, directly experienced rather than inferred, and linked in some way to the aesthetic value of the objects possessing them.
In addition, most would follow Sibley in finding aesthetic properties to be non-conditiongoverned. But beyond that, matters are open to dispute. Some of the further marks of aesthetic property status that have been proposed are: having regional character Beardsley ; being value-tending or value-contributing Beardsley ; being implicitly evaluative Goldman ; being evaluatively relevant Levinson b ; being the subject of terminal attributions Kivy ; and requiring imaginative or metaphorical thought for their attribution Scruton ; Gaut Despite debate over these marks, there is substantial intuitive convergence as to what perceivable properties of things are aesthetic, as noted earlier.
Mention must also be made here of Goodman , a rather different approach to theorizing the aesthetic, which offers five symptoms, not of aesthetic propertyhood, but of aesthetic functioning on the part of a symbol system: syntactic density; semantic density; relative repleteness; exemplificationality; and complex reference. On such a multi-dimensional conception, aestheticness obviously becomes very much a matter of degree. Walton , in a highly influential paper, follows Beardsley and Sibley in taking aesthetic properties to be perceptual, gestalt-like, non-rule-governed, and dependent on an object's lower-level perceptual properties.
But Walton insists, developing a suggestion in Gombrich , that aesthetic properties depend as well on the perceptually distinguishable artistic categories —for instance, ones of style or genre or medium—under which works of art can be seen to fall. The consequence is that a work's aesthetic complexion is not a function of its lower-level or structural perceptual features alone, and that its aesthetic appreciation must thus involve bringing the right categories into play in one's experience of the work.
Rightness of category, in turn, is partly a matter of the surrounding art-historical context , including factors such as the artist's intention, the artist's oeuvre as a whole, the artistic traditions in which the artist worked, or the artistic problems to which the artist appears to be responding. The question of whether aesthetic attributions are objective or subjective, and, relatedly, whether it is realism or anti-realism about aesthetic properties that is justified, have been importantly addressed in recent literature see Scruton ; Budd ; Goldman ; Bender Two further issues concerning the aesthetic much discussed at present are, first, that of the relation of the aesthetic to the artistic , and whether this is a relation of inclusion, exclusion, or partial overlap see Goldman ; Stecker ; Levinson b ; and second, that of the relation of the p.
Discussion in analytic aesthetics of the problem of defining art begins in scepticism, scepticism rooted in the anti-essentialism of Wittgenstein. But see also, in a similar vein, Ziff Weitz argued convincingly that earlier modern theories of art, such as those of Tolstoy, Bell, and Collingwood, were in effect disguised recommendations in favour of particular kinds of art, or briefs for what good art consisted in, and not really accounts of the phenomenon of art with any claim to descriptive adequacy.
Shop with confidence
But that, said Weitz, was as it should be, for two reasons: first, the evaluative component of ascriptions of arthood is central and ineliminable, and second, the concept of art is inherently open, and so always resists circumscription in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions of application. Two of Weitz's arguments for the conclusion that the concept of art is inherently open and so resistant to definition were that the creativity that is inseparable from the idea of art necessarily dooms to failure any attempt to close the concept of art in terms of determinate conditions; and that the boundaries between the sub-categories of art e.
But neither of those arguments is compelling. With respect to the first, the fact that creativity must be allowed to characterize the in principle ever changing objects of art in no way entails that creativity must therefore characterize the concept of art itself in such manner as to forestall the possibility of definition. With respect to the second, the fact that boundaries between genres of art may be fluid or permeable in no way entails that the concept of art encompassing them all must therefore have a constantly changing outline, if only because the domain of art is broader than, and not equivalent to the union of, all existing artistic genres.
For further criticisms, see Carroll Later writers, notably Dickie, have also challenged the first of Weitz's conclusions—that art is an eliminably evaluative concept—by making a case for a dassificatory or descriptive concept of art, one with respect to which the idea of bad or even worthless art is not an oxymoron. But a prior response to Weitz was Mandelbaum , which importantly suggested that the reason Weitz failed to discern any properties common to all and only artworks was that he had focused on exhibited and intrinsic properties such as beauty or form or material , rather than on non-exhibited and relational properties, for example intentional and causal ones, such as connect works to their contexts or their creators.
Mandelbaum also p.
In the wake of the exchange between Weitz and Mandelbaum on art's definability emerged institutional theories of arthood, which proposed that a non-manifest relation to a social framework was what made something an artwork, not its manifest or observable properties. This account was later elaborated at length in Danto , where emphasis is put on artworks acquiring aboutness and meaning in virtue of their relations to the artworld that surrounds them. According to Binkley , in the most minimal of institutional theories, an artwork is merely something indexed in accord with artworld practices of indexing, i.
Finally, Dickie , first published , a revamped version of Dickie , holds that an artwork is an artefact of a kind created to be presented to an artworld public.
It is evident in all such definitions that a great weight is implicitly placed on the artworld as an institution identifiable apart from identification of objects that are artworks in relation to it, lest vicious circularity result. Mention should also be made here of more traditional attempts to define art relationally, by appeal to aesthetic projection rather than institutional connection, as for example in Beardsley , which takes an artwork to be something created or intended to afford aesthetic experience.
See Levinson for further development. On that account, an artwork is roughly anything intended for regard or treatment in the way some past artworks were correctly regarded or treated. Like institutional definitions of art, Levinson's intentional-historical definition does not locate arthood in any intrinsic properties of the object; but, unlike institutional definitions, it holds as crucial not the connection of an object to the social framework of the artworld, but rather the connection an object bears to the preceding concrete history of art taken as a datum—a connection intentionally established, in one way or another, by the would-be artmaker.
See p. If the historical definition of art is on the right track, then the domain of art might be said to have a roughly recursive structure, but the historical definition is not as such a strictly recursive one. For criticism of the historical definition, see Carroll , , ; Stecker ; Davies ; and Currie ; for responses to some of those criticisms, see Levinson Arthood, for Carroll, resides in connections to the past, ones that can be exhibited in a coherent and convincing narrative showing how a candidate object is related, either by repetition, amplification, or repudiation, to artworks that preceded it.
If such a narrative is constructible, the candidate object is an artwork, or has a claim to art status; if not, then not. Note that, so elucidated, the narrative theory of art might be more accurately labelled the narrativizability theory of art. A useful higher-order classification of theories of art is provided in Davies , which also reviews and criticizes a number of contemporary accounts.
Davies divides theories of art into functional ones, which see art as definable in terms of some essential function that its objects fulfil or are intended to fulfil examples of which would be Beardsley's aesthetic definition or the traditional definition of art as representation , and procedural ones, which see art as definable in terms of the performance or occurrence of certain procedures internal to a social practice examples of which would be the institutional definitions of Dickie, Diffey, and Binkley.
Philosophical Aesthetics: An Overview
Unfortunately, not all current theories fit under one or the other of these headings, notably historical and narrative theories. In addition, some current theories, of hybrid character, incorporate procedural, functional, and historical considerations Stecker According to that account, though the concept of art resists classical definition, there are, none the less, a variety of conditions that are yet conjunctively sufficient and disjunctively necessary for arthood Gaut The ontology of art is concerned with the question of what kinds of entities artworks are; what the identity and individuation conditions of such entities are; whether the metaphysical status of artworks is uniform or diverse across artforms; what work authenticity amounts to in different artforms; and whether a reductive or eliminativist position regarding artworks can be justified.
Philosophers have asked whether works of art are physical or mental, abstract or concrete, singular or multiple, created or discovered. Perhaps the most fundamental distinction in the p. Philosophers have also queried the status of forgeries, reproductions, copies, versions, translations, transcriptions, and adaptations of works of art, and the extent to which interpretation is involved in producing instances of works in the performing arts.
Austin Harrington: New German aesthetic theory / Radical Philosophy
Goodman introduced the distinctions of singular v. For discussion, see Levinson a. Goodman's moderate nominalist conception of a musical work, in particular, is that it is a class of performances compliant with a score, scores being complex symbols in a notation. Wollheim argued against identifying all artworks with physical objects, and against the opposite conception of artworks, perhaps attributable to Croce, Collingwood, and Sartre, according to which works of art are mental entities. Wollheim also introduced the idea of musical and literary artworks as types , rather than classes, and analysed the way in which properties of an artwork type are transmitted to or inherited by its tokens.
Wolterstorff proposed that musical and literary works were types of a special sort, which he called norm kinds , meaning that they, like biological kinds, could have correct and incorrect, or properly formed and improperly formed, instances for example peformances containing wrong notes. Though the proposals of Margolis and Danto strive explicitly to be adequate to works of avant-garde visual art of the late twentieth century pop art, ready-mades, minimal art, and conceptual art , their validity is presumably not restricted to avant-garde modes of artmaking.
An important suggestion regarding avant-garde musical works, but perhaps applicable to traditional ones as well, can be found in Tormey , construing them as akin to recipes or prescriptions, not for sounds as such, but rather for actions to be undertaken by performers. More recent accounts of the ontology of art are those of Currie and Levinson, which emphasize the importance to the identity of a work of the historical context in which the work arises, and stress, pace Goodman, the insufficiency of a work's observable structure alone to fix that identity, even in artforms where notation p.
Currie views artworks as action types , where the action in question is the complex sequence of steps by which the artist, with certain objectives in mind and working in a given creative context, arrives at a given manifest object: that which we ordinarily, though mistakenly, identify as the artwork itself. Currie believes that all artworks are types, even those that, like paintings and drawings, are ostensibly unique particulars see also Zemach Levinson, on the other hand, insists on the traditional distinction between particular singular and type multiple arts; but like Currie he eschews a structuralist view of artwork types for a historicist one.
According to Levinson, a musical or literary work is an indicated structure , a species of initiated type : roughly, a tonal or verbal structure-as-indicated-by-X-in-art-historical-context-C. On that conception, musical works are both creatable and entities in which creator and context figure essentially. Four very recent studies may be mentioned which go in the same historicist and contextual direction as Levinson and Currie: D. Davies , S. Davies , Howell a , b.
6 editions of this work
These studies also effectively underline how only a pluralist ontology of works of art can be adequate to the great diversity of existing artworks, artforms, and art traditions—from high art to folk art, primitive art to technological art, and western art to non-western art in all its manifestations. Apart from their all being artefacts, artworks are very many kinds of things, and are thus not all encompassable within a single metaphysical category. For objections to historicistcontextualist proposals, see Dodd and Predelli The topic of representation in analytic aesthetics has for the most part been pursued with reference to pictorial representation or depiction.
Work was prompted most significantly by the publication of Art and Illusion , a landmark book by art historian Ernst Gombrich. Wollheim's theory is a development of Wittgenstein's idea of aspect perception, or perceiving one thing as another, e. But instead of seeing-as, Wollheim proposes a variant notion, seeing-in, as the core of pictorial perception. Seeing-in differs from seeing-as in at least two ways: first, the former applies to the parts of a picture, the latter only to the picture as a whole; and second, the former involves awareness of the picture's surface simultaneously with awareness of the picture's depicted content.
Seeing-in is thus for Wollheim a primitive visual capacity, at first exercised on natural phenomena, e. So for Wollheim a picture is essentially an arrangement of marks intended for seeing-in which in fact supports such seeing-in. A large part of the aesthetic interest in pictures is tied to the basic twofoldness of seeing-in, wherein we necessarily appreciate what is depicted, in a fictive three-dimensional space, in relation to the real two-dimensional pattern of marks that underlies it. Walton's theory understands pictures as props in visual games of make-believe, where making believe is in turn understood as an activity of guided imagining.
Confronted with a picture, we are prompted to imagine that we are seeing such and such an object by the configuration of marks that constitutes the picture, and we imagine precisely of our seeing those marks that it is a seeing of the object the picture depicts.
- Immanuel Kant: Aesthetics.
- La crise jusquà quand ? (French Edition).
- What’s New in… Aesthetics.
- Rock Brigade;
- The Taste of Country Cooking: 30th Anniversary Edition.
- The Sacrifice;
Whether Wollheim's and Walton's proposals are ultimately reconcilable is an open question. For Walton, Wollheim's seeing-in is to be analysed without remainder in terms of imagined seeing; whereas for Wollheim, seeing-in is an activity prior to and more fundamental than imagined seeing, however important such seeing is in later phases of pictorial appreciation.
For further discussion see Levinson a , Lopes , and van Gerwen The cognitive turn in the theory of pictorial representation, already evident in the writings of Gombrich, Goodman, Wollheim, and Walton, is more pronounced still in Schier , which appeals directly to facts about ordinary visual processing in support of a theory of pictures.
Schier proposes that a representation is pictorial just in so far as it recruits the visual recognitional capacities that subjects already possess for familiar objects, so that a picture represents an object O if it triggers, in subjects who view it, the same capacities for recognition that would be triggered by the sight of O in the world. Schier underlines that pictorial competence, p. A more recent study, Lopes , maintains that the key to pictorial representation is the furnishing of similar visual information by picture and object.
Lopes proposes an aspect-recognition theory of depiction, according to which successful pictures embody aspectual information sufficient to trigger recognition of their objects in suitable perceivers, which aspectual information is non-conceptual in form. Lopes's most interesting idea, a development of Gombrich , is that the heart of depiction as a mode of representation is its inevitable selectivity , so that, no matter what style of depiction is involved, a picture, unlike a description, is explicitly noncommittal about certain represented properties of its object, precisely in virtue of being explicitly committal about others.
That artworks express states of mind, or are expressive of such states, is a commonplace of criticism, and such expression or expressiveness is usually thought of as a primary locus of art's interest. Expression is generally regarded as a distinct mode of artistic meaning, differing from representation in its logical features, mode of operation, and range of objects e.
Most recent theories of expression in art have centred on the problem as it presents itself in relation to music , and with the expression of emotion as the central case. The relation between expression in art and expression in its primary, i. Tormey proposes that artistic expression is a matter of an artwork's possessing expressive properties, properties designated by terms which in their primary use designate intentional states of persons, and that such expressive properties for instance cheerfulness or anguish are ambiguously constituted by the non-expressive structural features such as rhythms and timbres underlying them.
Wollheim , which focuses on painting rather than music, suggests that expressiveness is a matter of intuitive correspondence or fit between the appearances that works of art or natural objects present and feeling states of the subject, which are then projected on to those works or objects in complex ways see also Wollheim Davies offers a theory p. Levinson b following Vermazen , suggests that musical expressiveness consists in the hearability of music as the personal expression of inner states by an indefinite agent or persona, and explores the complicated interplay between imagination, arousal, and projection that the perception of such expressiveness involves see also Robinson ; Ridley Scruton locates the perception of musical expressiveness in the listener's ability to inhabit from the inside the gestures that music in its movement appears to embody, and thus adequately to imagine the inner states corresponding to such gestures.
Finally, Matravers gives a sophisticated defence of the arousalist position on musical expression, which takes a musical work's expressiveness to consist in its disposition or power to evoke parallel or related emotions in audiences. Whether or not the evocation of emotion by music is rightly tied conceptually to musical expressiveness, the character and variety of emotional responses to music has been extensively discussed by analytic aestheticians. It has been asked whether such responses are fully fledged emotions or just moods or feelings, with no or minimal cognitive content; whether imagination or make-believe is involved in the generation of such responses; whether such responses have objects, and if so what those objects are; whether such responses constitute part of musical understanding; and whether such responses are a sign of musical value see Levinson a , d.
The problem is to explain how negatively emotional music can have such a powerful appeal for us if, as seems to be the case, it has a strong tendency to evoke corresponding negative emotions in listeners see Levinson ; Davies ; Ridley ; Matravers ; Kivy Beardsley, M. Find this resource:. Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism. Indianapolis, Ind. The Aesthetic Point of View. Bell, C. Bender, I. Budd, M. Knowles and J. Skorupski eds. Oxford: Blackwell. Values of Art. London: Penguin. Carney, J. Carroll, N. The Philosophy of Horror.
New York: Routledge. Yanal ed. University Park, Pa. The Philosophy of Art. London: Routledge. Theories of Art Today. Madison, Wis. Beyond Aesthetics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cohen, T. Collingwood, R. The Principles of Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Currie, G. An Ontology of Art. London: Macmillan. The Nature of Fiction. Image and Mind. Danto, A. The Transfiguration of the Commonplace. Cambridge, Mass. Davies, D. Davies, S. The Definition of Art. Musical Meaning and Expression. Musical Works and Performances. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Dewey, J. Art as Experience. New York: G. Dickie, G. The Art Circle. Chicago: Chicago Spectrum Press first published Diffey, T. Dodd, J. Gadamer, H. The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays , trans. Gaut, B. Carroll ed. Goehr, L. Goldman, A. Aesthetic Value. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Gaut and D. Lopes eds. Gombrich, E. Art and Illusion. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
London: Phaidon. Languages of Art , 2nd edn. Indianapolis: Hackett first published Of Mind and Other Matters. Indianapolis: Hackett. Hopkins, R. Picture, Image and Experience. Howell, R. Kivy, P. Speaking of Art. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. Sound Sentiment. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Music Alone. New Essays on Musical Understanding. Lamarque, P. Fictional Points of View. Lang, B. The Concept of Style , 2nd edn. Langer, S. Feeling and Form. New York: Scribner's. Levinson, J. Music, Art, and Metaphysics. The Pleasures of Aesthetics. Hjort and S.
Laver eds. Aesthetics and Ethics. Alperson, ed. Lopes, D.