Kant defined aesthetic as both, “the analysis of taste and the analysis of sensible cognition or intuition” . Aesthesis, means “sensation”, the Greeks made a distinction between aesthesis autophues (natural sensation) and aesthesis epistemonike (acquired sensation). We may say that aesthetics is both the study of aesthetic objects and of the specific and subjective reactions of observers, readers, or audiences to the work of art. Aesthetics is necessarily interdisciplinary and may be interpretive, prescriptive, descriptive, or a combination of these.
The big, obvious question about aesthetic value is whether it is ever ‘really in’ the objects it is attributed to. This issue parallels the realism/anti-realism debates elsewhere in philosophy. Though there is little reason to assume that aesthetic value will behave in just the say way as for example, moral value. An extreme realist would say that aesthetic values reside in an object as properties independent of any observer’s responses, and that if we make the judgment ‘That is a beautiful flower’, or ‘this painting is aesthetically good’, what we say is true or false – true if the flower or painting has the property, false if it does not. We will tend to like the object if we recognize the aesthetic value in it, but, for the realist, whether we recognize it and whether it is are two separate questions.
Consequently, much work in aesthetics has gone into trying to specify the nature of aesthetic experience or aesthetic response. One factor is pleasure, satisfaction, or liking. The second is experience: the response we are looking for must be a way of attending to the object itself. In the case of music, it must be a response to perceived patterns of s...
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...bility, however, so that a new question emerges: The music all by itself somehow seems to point to, or stand for emotions – how? Aesthetics has yet to come to terms with this issue. There is a similar pattern in the case of artistic representation. In the question of what a picture depicts, what role is played by the artist’s intentions, and what by the interpretations which an observer may conjure up? Or does the painting itself have a meaning by standing in symbolic relations to items in the world? If the latter, how similar, and how dissimilar are depiction and linguistic representation?. Once one starts to address problems at this level, the philosophy of art starts to concern the nature of philosophy as a whole.
Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Judgement. Trans. J. H. Bernard. Hafner Library of Classics. New York: Hafner Press-Macmillan, 1951.
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