Chapter 11 : Philosophy of Art-Aesthetics

Material under development !!!!!


Aesthetics-perspectives on beauty   

From the Internet encyclopedia of Philosophy  by Hartley Slater

Aesthetics may be defined narrowly as the theory of beauty, or more broadly as that together with the philosophy of art. The traditional interest in beauty itself broadened, in the eighteenth century, to include the sublime, and since 1950 or so the number of pure aesthetic concepts discussed in the literature has expanded even more. Traditionally, the philosophy of art concentrated on its definition, but recently this has not been the focus, with careful analyses of aspects of art largely replacing it. Philosophical aesthetics is here considered to center on these latter-day developments. Thus, after a survey of ideas about beauty and related concepts, questions about the value of aesthetic experience and the variety of aesthetic attitudes will be addressed, before turning to matters which separate art from pure aesthetics, notably the presence of intention. That will lead to a survey of some of the main definitions of art which have been proposed, together with an account of the recent “de-definition” period. The concepts of expression, representation, and the nature of art Objects will then be covered.






American Aesthetics Association site: Aesthetics On-line

Philosophy of Art

Philosophers address a fundamental question: What is art?

Here are a number of options:

Imitation : to represent as in an imitation what is to an audience

Play : to offer experiences that entertain the audience

Expression : to serve as a form of communication from the artist to an audience

Empathy : to induce in an audience an experience and emotion

Experience : to cause the audience to have an experience of some significance or value


FUNCTION OF ART : What is its function or aim or purpose?

1. promote, reveal, or display  value and  instill morality

2. exists for its own sake

3. promote a new way of seeing or experiencing  


1. Individual judgment and standard - a matter of personal taste,  expert judgments

2. Objective standards- harmony, order   technique/content/form

3. Objective relativism -there exists general standards e.g., structure&form

        but art must be evaluated according to its ability to inspire aesthetic response

The Nature of Art

A. Objective Nature of Art  inherent elements and qualities  

Plato- critique of art as negative, anti-rational and disruptive

       art as imitation, fiction,

1. art leads away from the truth , the ideal form

2. art incites the emotions, disorders the soal, disharmony

       possible transcendent function


1. art reveals universal truths

2. art releases emotions, CATHARSIS, maintains proper internal order

listing of elements of tragedy- CLOSURE, UNITY OF PLOT, CATHARSIS           

B. ART for ART's sake- ART has an intrinsic value

   Ortega y Gasset

Oscar Wilde- ART expresses itself- art has an independent life

Bad ART returns to life and nature

LIFE imitates Art

Lying is the proper aim of ART


C. Subjective- effect upon observer  

David Hume -   a work of art is beautiful only if it evokes a certain kind of sentiment

beauty appeals to the "common sentiment", response should be universal to a observers with sound judgments. not all have such judgment because of being uneducated, inexperienced, confused or in poor health.  Durable admiration may be an indicator of great art.  Avoid caprices of mode and fashion and the mistakes of ignorance and envy.


art is the expression of feeling

       the free play of imagination over the observation of formal

         limits on artistic creativity

1. denies supremacy of reason in ART and life

   acknowledges supremacy of imagination

2. promotes subjective experience over objective  


LEO TOLSTOY's Religious Defense of ART  

1. Art is a means to communicate feelings

2. purpose of art is to unite humanity through shared experience,

    feelings- the UNIVERSAL in human experience

3. Religious justification is the highest understanding

4. the artist expresses and communicates moral and religious feelings

   -infectiousness-infected by the author's condition of soul

               individuality, clearness,  sincerity

Herbert Marcuse:

   the Reality Principle replaces the Pleasure Principle

   this is through repression and sublimation

   this is essential to civilization

   repression goes beyond the necessary to surplus repression

   Social Function of Art:

   TRANSCENDENCE-from the given social world to the possible future social order-        LIBERATED

   keep alive repressed dreams of Liberation-fuels revolutions        


Paul Mattick    ---       public funding of the arts  

pro  1. support for creativity, a national resource

                    2. preserve freedom of expression  

vs   1. funding art is not a legitimate function of government

                  2. government has responsibility to determine what type of art to fund

               3. taxpayers are under no obligation to support works they find offensive or                    senseless


Thomas Wolfe  ------    Social function of art

rejecting the world

legitimizing wealth : art as new  Religion of the educated classes


Lawrence Wechsler  --   confusion of art with life

performance art   is it art?  


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