Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existen ...

that deals with the nature of
beauty Beauty is commonly described as a feature of objects that makes these objects pleasurable to perceive. Such objects include landscapes, sunsets, humans and works of art. Beauty, together with art and taste, is the main subject of aesthetics, o ...

taste The gustatory system or sense of taste is the sensory system The sensory nervous system is a part of the nervous system responsible for processing sensory information. A sensory system consists of sensory neurons (including the sensory re ...
, as well as the philosophy of art (its own area of philosophy that comes out of aesthetics). It examines subjective and
sensori-emotional values
sensori-emotional values
, or sometimes called
judgments Judgement (or US spelling judgment) is also known as '' adjudication'' which means the evaluation of evidence to make a decision. Judgement is also the ability to make considered decisions. The term has four distinct uses: * Informal – op ...

sentiment Sentiment may refer to: *Feeling Feeling was originally used to describe the physical sensation of touch The somatosensory system is a part of the sensory nervous system. The somatosensory system is a complex system of sensory neurons and neur ...

and taste. Aesthetics covers both natural and artificial sources of aesthetic experience and judgment. It considers what happens in our minds when we engage with aesthetic objects or environments such as in viewing visual art, listening to music, reading poetry, experiencing a play, exploring nature, and so on. The philosophy of art specifically studies how artists imagine, create, and perform works of art, as well as how people use, enjoy, and criticize their art. It deals with how one feels about art in general, why they like some works of art and not others, and how art can affect our moods or even our beliefs. Both aesthetics generally and philosophy of art especially ask questions like "What is ''art''?," "What is a ''work'' of art?," and "What makes ''good'' art?" Scholars in the field have defined aesthetics as "critical reflection on art, culture and
nature Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, material world or universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxies, and all other forms of matter and ...

". In
modern English Modern English (sometimes New English or NE (ME) as opposed to Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th centur ...

modern English
, the term "aesthetic" can also refer to a set of principles underlying the works of a particular art movement or theory (one speaks, for example, of a
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in m ...



The word ''aesthetic'' is derived from the
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
(''aisthetikos'', meaning "aesthetic, sensitive, sentient, pertaining to sense perception"), which in turn was derived from αἰσθάνομαι (''aisthanomai'', meaning "I perceive, feel, sense" and related to (''aisthēsis'', "sensation"). Aesthetics in this central sense has been said to start with the series of articles on "The Pleasures of the Imagination" which the journalist Joseph Addison wrote in the early issues of the magazine ''The Spectator'' in 1712. The term "aesthetics" was appropriated and coined with new meaning by the German philosopher
Alexander Baumgarten Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten (; ; 17 JulyJan LekschasBaumgarten Family'' 1714 – 27 May 1762) was a Germany, German philosopher. He was a brother to theologian Siegmund Jakob Baumgarten (1706–1757). Biography Baumgarten was born in Berlin ...
in his dissertation ''Meditationes philosophicae de nonnullis ad poema pertinentibus'' ("Philosophical considerations of some matters pertaining the poem") in 1735; Baumgarten chose "aesthetics" because he wished to emphasize the experience of art as a means of knowing. Aesthetics, a not very tidy intellectual discipline, is a heterogeneous collection of problems that concern the arts primarily but also relate to nature. even though his later definition in the fragment ''Aesthetica'' (1750) is more often referred to as the first definition of modern aesthetics.

Aesthetics and the philosophy of art

Some separate aesthetics and philosophy of art, claiming that the former is the study of beauty and taste while the latter is the study of art proper, in the form of materialized works of artists. However, most commonly Aesthetics encompasses both questions around beauty as well as questions about art. It examines topics such as aesthetic objects, aesthetic experience, and aesthetic judgments. For some, aesthetics is considered a synonym for the philosophy of art since
Hegel Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (; ; 27 August 1770 – 14 November 1831) was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citi ...
, while others insist that there is a significant distinction between these closely related fields. In practice, aesthetic judgement refers to the sensory contemplation or appreciation of an object (not necessarily an
art object A work of art, artwork, art piece, piece of art or art object is an artistic creation of aesthetic Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such ...
), while artistic judgement refers to the recognition, appreciation or criticism of art or an
art work A work of art, artwork, art piece, piece of art or art object is an artistic creation of aesthetics, aesthetic value. Except for "work of art", which may be used of any work regarded as art in its widest sense, including works fr ...

art work
. Philosophical aesthetics not only has to speak about art and to produce judgments about art works, but also has to give a
definition A definition is a statement of the meaning of a term (a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical ...

of what art is. Art is an
autonomous The federal subject The federal subjects of Russia, also referred to as the subjects of the Russian Federation (russian: субъекты Российской Федерации, subyekty Rossiyskoy Federatsii) or simply as the subjects o ...
entity for philosophy, because art deals with the
senses Sense relates to any of the systems and corresponding organs involved in sensation, i.e. the physical process of responding to Stimulus (physiology), stimuli and providing data for perception. During sensation, sense organs collect stimuli for Tran ...

(i.e. the etymology of aesthetics) and art is as such free of any moral or political purpose. Hence, there are two different conceptions of art in aesthetics: art as
knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in the real world. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability—that is whether it can be demonstrated to correspond to exp ...
or art as action, but aesthetics is neither
epistemology Epistemology (; ) is the concerned with . Epistemologists study the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge, epistemic , the of , and various related issues. Epistemology is considered a major subfield of philosophy, along with other major ...

nor ethics. Aestheticians compare historical developments with theoretical approaches to the arts of many periods. They study the varieties of art in relation to their physical, social, and culture environments. Aestheticians also use psychology to understand how people see, hear, imagine, think, learn, and act in relation to the materials and problems of art. Aesthetic psychology studies the creative process and the aesthetic experience.

Aesthetic judgment, universals and ethics

Aesthetic judgment

Aesthetics examines affective domain response to an object or phenomenon. Judgments of aesthetic value rely on the ability to discriminate at a sensory level. However, aesthetic judgments usually go beyond sensory discrimination. For
David Hume David Hume (; born David Home; 7 May 1711 NS (26 April 1711 OS) – 25 August 1776) Cranston, Maurice, and Thomas Edmund Jessop. 2020 999999 or triple nine most often refers to: * 999 (emergency telephone number) 250px, A sign on a beach ...

David Hume
, delicacy of taste is not merely "the ability to detect all the ingredients in a composition", but also the sensitivity "to pains as well as pleasures, which escape the rest of mankind." Thus, the sensory discrimination is linked to capacity for
pleasure Pleasure refers to experience that feels good, that involves the enjoyment of something. It contrasts with pain Pain is a distressing feeling often caused by intense or damaging stimuli. The International Association for the Study of Pain ...
. For
Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German Philosophy, philosopher and one of the central Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment thinkers. Kant's comprehensive and systematic works in epistemology, metaphysics, ethic ...

Immanuel Kant
Critique of Judgment The ''Critique of Judgment'' (), also translated as the ''Critique of the Power of Judgment'', is a 1790 book by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, ; ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German Philosophy, philo ...
'', 1790), "enjoyment" is the result when pleasure arises from sensation, but judging something to be "beautiful" has a third requirement: sensation must give rise to pleasure by engaging reflective contemplation. Judgments of beauty are sensory, emotional and intellectual all at once. Kant (1790) observed of a man "If he says that canary wine is agreeable he is quite content if someone else corrects his terms and reminds him to say instead: It is agreeable to ''me''," because "Everyone has his own (
sense A sense is a biological system used by an organism for sensation, the process of gathering information about the world and responding to Stimulus (physiology), stimuli. (For example, in the human body, the brain receives signals from the senses, ...

taste The gustatory system or sense of taste is the sensory system The sensory nervous system is a part of the nervous system responsible for processing sensory information. A sensory system consists of sensory neurons (including the sensory re ...

". The case of "beauty" is different from mere "agreeableness" because, "If he proclaims something to be beautiful, then he requires the same liking from others; he then judges not just for himself but for everyone, and speaks of beauty as if it were a property of things." Viewer interpretations of beauty may on occasion be observed to possess two concepts of value: aesthetics and taste. Aesthetics is the philosophical notion of beauty. Taste is a result of an education process and awareness of elite cultural values learned through exposure to
mass culture Popular culture (also called mass culture or pop culture) is generally recognized by members of a society as a set of the practices, beliefs, and objects that are dominant or prevalent in a society at a given point in time. Popular culture al ...
. Bourdieu examined how the elite in society define the aesthetic values like taste and how varying levels of exposure to these values can result in variations by class, cultural background, and education. According to Kant, beauty is subjective and universal; thus certain things are beautiful to everyone. In the opinion of
Władysław Tatarkiewicz
Władysław Tatarkiewicz
, there are six conditions for the presentation of art: beauty, form, representation, reproduction of reality, artistic expression and innovation. However, one may not be able to pin down these qualities in a work of art. The question whether there are
fact A fact is something that is true True most commonly refers to truth Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality.Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionarytruth 2005 In everyday language, truth is typically ascribed to things ...
s about aesthetic judgments belongs to the branch of
metaphilosophy Metaphilosophy, sometimes called the philosophy of philosophy, is "the investigation of the nature of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, E ...
known as meta-aesthetics.

Factors involved in aesthetic judgment

Judgments of aesthetical values seem often to involve many other kinds of issues as well. Responses such as disgust show that sensory detection is linked in
instinct Instinct is the inherent inclination of a living Living or The Living may refer to: Common meanings *Life, a condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms ** extant taxon, Living species, one that is not extinct ...
ual ways to
facial expression A facial expression is one or more motions or positions of the muscle Skeletal muscles (commonly referred to as muscles) are organs An organ is a group of tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that ...
s, and even behaviours like the
gag reflexThe pharyngeal reflex or gag reflex is a reflex contraction of the back of the throat whereas laryngeal spasm is a reflex contraction of the vocal cords, evoked by touching the roof of the mouth, the back of the tongue, the area around the tonsils, t ...
. Yet disgust can often be a learned or cultural issue too; as Darwin pointed out, seeing a stripe of soup in a man's beard is disgusting even though neither
soup Soup is a primarily liquid A liquid is a nearly incompressible In fluid mechanics or more generally continuum mechanics, incompressible flow (isochoric process, isochoric flow) refers to a fluid flow, flow in which the material dens ...

beard A beard is the hair that grows on the jaw, chin, upper lip, lower lip, cheeks, and neck of humans and some non-human animals. In humans, usually only pubescent or adult males are able to grow beards. Some women with hirsutism Hirsutism is ex ...

s are themselves disgusting. Aesthetic judgments may be linked to emotions or, like emotions, partially embodied in physical reactions. For example, the
awe Awe is an emotion Emotions are biological states associated with all of the nerve systems brought on by neurophysiological changes variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioural responses, and a degree of pleasure or suffering, dis ...

inspired by a sublime landscape might physically manifest with an increased heart-rate or pupil dilation; physiological reaction may express or even cause the initial awe. As seen, emotions are conformed to 'cultural' reactions, therefore aesthetics is always characterized by 'regional responses', as Francis Grose was the first to affirm in his 'Rules for Drawing Caricaturas: With an Essay on Comic Painting' (1788), published in W. Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty, Bagster, London s.d. (1791? 753, pp. 1–24. Francis Grose can therefore be claimed to be the first critical 'aesthetic regionalist' in proclaiming the anti-universality of aesthetics in contrast to the perilous and always resurgent dictatorship of beauty. 'Aesthetic Regionalism' can thus be seen as a political statement and stance which vies against any universal notion of beauty to safeguard the counter-tradition of aesthetics related to what has been considered and dubbed un-beautiful just because one's culture does not contemplate it, e.g. E. Burke's sublime, what is usually defined as 'primitive' art, or un-harmonious, non-cathartic art, camp art, which 'beauty' posits and creates, dichotomously, as its opposite, without even the need of formal statements, but which will be 'perceived' as ugly. Likewise, aesthetic judgments may be culturally conditioned to some extent.
Victorians In the history of the United Kingdom, the Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 18 ...
in Britain often saw
African sculpture Most African sculpture was historically in wood and other organic materials that have not survived from earlier than at most a few centuries ago; older pottery figures are found from a number of areas. Traditional African masks, Masks are important ...
as ugly, but just a few decades later,
Edwardian The Edwardian era or Edwardian period of British history The British Isles The British Isles are a group of islands in the North Atlantic off the north-western coast of continental Europe Mainland or continental Europe is th ...
audiences saw the same sculptures as beautiful. Evaluations of beauty may well be linked to desirability, perhaps even to sexual desirability. Thus, judgments of
aesthetic value Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and taste (sociology), taste, as well as the philosophy of art (its own area of philosophy that comes out of aesthetics). It examines subjective and s ...
can become linked to judgments of economic, political, or
moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman ...

value. In a current context, a
Lamborghini Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. () is an Italy, Italian brand and manufacturer of luxury sports cars and SUVs based in Sant'Agata Bolognese. The company is owned by the Volkswagen Group through its subsidiary Audi. Ferruccio Lamborghini, an Ita ...

might be judged to be beautiful partly because it is desirable as a status symbol, or it may be judged to be repulsive partly because it signifies over-consumption and offends political or moral values. The context of its presentation also affects the perception of artwork; artworks presented in a classical museum context are liked more and rated more interesting than when presented in a sterile laboratory context. While specific results depend heavily on the style of the presented artwork, overall, the effect of context proved to be more important for the perception of artwork then the effect of genuineness (whether the artwork was being presented as original or as a facsimile/copy). Aesthetic judgments can often be very fine-grained and internally contradictory. Likewise aesthetic judgments seem often to be at least partly intellectual and interpretative. What a thing means or symbolize is often what is being judged. Modern aestheticians have asserted that
will Will may refer to: Common meanings * Will and testament A will or testament is a legal document that expresses a person's ( testator) wishes as to how their property (estate (law), estate) is to be distributed after their death and as to which ...

desire Desire is the emotion Emotions are biological states associated with all of the nerve systems brought on by neurophysiological changes variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioural responses, and a degree of pleasure or suffering, ...
were almost dormant in aesthetic experience, yet
preference In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense scop ...

choice A choice is the range of different things from which you can choose. The arrival at a choice may incorporate Motivation, motivators and Choice modelling, models. For example, a traveler might choose a route for a journey based on the preferenc ...

have seemed important aesthetics to some 20th-century thinkers. The point is already made by
Hume Hume most commonly refers to: * David Hume (1711–1776), Scottish philosopher Hume may also refer to: People * Hume (surname) * Hume (given name) * James Hume Nisbet (1849–1923), Scottish-born novelist and artist In fiction * Hume, the ...

, but see Mary Mothersill, "Beauty and the Critic's Judgment", in ''The Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics'', 2004. Thus aesthetic judgments might be seen to be based on the senses, emotions, intellectual opinions, will, desires, culture, preferences, values, subconscious behaviour, conscious decision, training, instinct, sociological institutions, or some complex combination of these, depending on exactly which theory is employed. A third major topic in the study of aesthetic judgments is how they are unified across art forms. For instance, the source of a painting's beauty has a different character to that of beautiful music, suggesting their aesthetics differ in kind. The distinct inability of language to express aesthetic judgment and the role of
Social construction Social constructionism is a theory of knowledge Epistemology (; ) is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Episte ...
further cloud this issue.

Aesthetic universals

The philosopher
Denis Dutton Denis Laurence Dutton (9 February 1944 – 28 December 2010) was an American philosopher of art, web entrepreneur, and media activist. He was a professor of philosophy at the University of Canterbury in ChristchurchChristchurch is the largest ci ...
identified six universal signatures in human aesthetics:
Denis Dutton Denis Laurence Dutton (9 February 1944 – 28 December 2010) was an American philosopher of art, web entrepreneur, and media activist. He was a professor of philosophy at the University of Canterbury in ChristchurchChristchurch is the largest ci ...
's ''Aesthetic Universals'' summarized by
Steven Pinker Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science Popular science (also called pop-science or popsci) is an interpretation of science intended for a general audience. ...

Steven Pinker
in ''
The Blank Slate ''The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature'' is a best-selling 2002 book by the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popu ...
# Expertise or virtuosity. Humans cultivate, recognize, and admire technical artistic skills. # Nonutilitarian pleasure. People enjoy art for art's sake, and do not demand that it keep them warm or put food on the table. #
Style Style is a manner of doing or presenting things and may refer to: * Architectural style, the features that make a building or structure historically identifiable * Design, the process of creating something * Fashion, a prevailing mode of clothing s ...
. Artistic objects and performances satisfy rules of composition that place them in a recognizable style. # Criticism. People make a point of judging, appreciating, and interpreting works of art. # Imitation. With a few important exceptions like abstract painting, works of art simulate experiences of the world. # Special focus. Art is set aside from ordinary life and made a dramatic focus of experience. Artists such as
Thomas Hirschhorn Thomas Hirschhorn (born 16 May 1957 in Bern ,german: Berner(in),french: Bernois(e), it, Bernese , neighboring_municipalities = Bremgarten bei Bern, Frauenkappelen, Ittigen, Kirchlindach, Köniz, Mühleberg, Muri bei Bern, Neuenegg, Ostermundi ...

Thomas Hirschhorn
have indicated that there are too many exceptions to Dutton's categories. For example, Hirschhorn's installations deliberately eschew technical virtuosity. People can appreciate a Renaissance
Madonna Madonna Louise Ciccone (; ; born August 16, 1958) is an American singer-songwriter and actress. She is considered one of the most influential figures in popular culture and has often been referred to as the " Queen of Pop". Madonna is noted ...
for aesthetic reasons, but such objects often had (and sometimes still have) specific devotional functions. "Rules of composition" that might be read into
Duchamp Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp (; ; 28 July 1887 – 2 October 1968) was a French-American painter, sculptor, chess player, and writer whose work is associated with Cubism Cubism is an early-20th-century avant-garde art movement that revolution ...
's ''
Fountain A fountain, from the "fons" ( "fontis"), meaning source or , is a decorative reservoir for discharging into a basin to supply . It is also a structure that jets water into the air for a decorative or dramatic effect. Fountains were original ...
'' or John Cage's ''4′33″'' do not locate the works in a recognizable style (or certainly not a style recognizable at the time of the works' realization). Moreover, some of Dutton's categories seem too broad: a physicist might entertain hypothetical worlds in his/her imagination in the course of formulating a theory. Another problem is that Dutton's categories seek to universalize traditional European notions of aesthetics and art forgetting that, as André Malraux and others have pointed out, there have been large numbers of cultures in which such ideas (including the idea "art" itself) were non-existent.

Aesthetic ethics

Aesthetic ethics refers to the idea that human conduct and behaviour ought to be governed by that which is beautiful and attractive. John Dewey has pointed out that the unity of aesthetics and ethics is in fact reflected in our understanding of behaviour being "fair"—the word having a double meaning of attractive and morally acceptable. More recently, James Page (Australian educationist), James Page has suggested that aesthetic ethics might be taken to form a philosophical rationale for peace education.

New Criticism and "The Intentional Fallacy"

During the first half of the twentieth century, a significant shift to general aesthetic theory took place which attempted to apply aesthetic theory between various forms of art, including the literary arts and the visual arts, to each other. This resulted in the rise of the New Criticism school and debate concerning ''the intentional fallacy''. At issue was the question of whether the aesthetic intentions of the artist in creating the work of art, whatever its specific form, should be associated with the criticism and evaluation of the final product of the work of art, or, if the work of art should be evaluated on its own merits independent of the intentions of the artist. In 1946, W. K. Wimsatt, William K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley published a classic and controversial New Critical essay entitled "Intentional Fallacy, The Intentional Fallacy", in which they argued strongly against the relevance of an Authorial intentionality, author's intention, or "intended meaning" in the analysis of a literary work. For Wimsatt and Beardsley, the words on the page were all that mattered; importation of meanings from outside the text was considered irrelevant, and potentially distracting. In another essay, "Affective fallacy, The Affective Fallacy," which served as a kind of sister essay to "The Intentional Fallacy" Wimsatt and Beardsley also discounted the reader's personal/emotional reaction to a literary work as a valid means of analyzing a text. This fallacy would later be repudiated by theorists from the reader-response school of literary theory. One of the leading theorists from this school, Stanley Fish, was himself trained by New Critics. Fish criticizes Wimsatt and Beardsley in his essay "Literature in the Reader" (1970). As summarized by Berys Gaut and Livingston in their essay "The Creation of Art": "Structuralist and post-structuralists theorists and critics were sharply critical of many aspects of New Criticism, beginning with the emphasis on aesthetic appreciation and the so-called autonomy of art, but they reiterated the attack on biographical criticisms' assumption that the artist's activities and experience were a privileged critical topic." These authors contend that: "Anti-intentionalists, such as formalists, hold that the intentions involved in the making of art are irrelevant or peripheral to correctly interpreting art. So details of the act of creating a work, though possibly of interest in themselves, have no bearing on the correct interpretation of the work."Gaut and Livingston, p. 6. Berys Gaut, Gaut and Livingston define the intentionalists as distinct from Formalism (art), formalists stating that: "Intentionalists, unlike formalists, hold that reference to intentions is essential in fixing the correct interpretation of works." They quote Richard Wollheim as stating that, "The task of criticism is the reconstruction of the creative process, where the creative process must in turn be thought of as something not stopping short of, but terminating on, the work of art itself."

Derivative forms of aesthetics

A large number of derivative forms of aesthetics have developed as contemporary and transitory forms of inquiry associated with the field of aesthetics which include the post-modern, psychoanalytic, scientific, and mathematical among others.

Post-modern aesthetics and psychoanalysis

Early-twentieth-century artists, poets and composers challenged existing notions of beauty, broadening the scope of art and aesthetics. In 1941, Eli Siegel, American philosopher and poet, founded Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy that reality itself is aesthetic, and that "The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites." Various attempts have been made to define Post-Modern Aesthetics. The challenge to the assumption that beauty was central to art and aesthetics, thought to be original, is actually continuous with older aesthetic theory; Aristotle was the first in the Western tradition to classify "beauty" into types as in his theory of drama, and Kant made a distinction between beauty and the sublime. What was new was a refusal to credit the higher status of certain types, where the taxonomy implied a preference for tragedy and the sublime to comedy and the Rococo. Benedetto Croce, Croce suggested that "expression" is central in the way that beauty was once thought to be central. George Dickie (philosopher), George Dickie suggested that the sociological institutions of the art world were the glue binding art and sensibility into unities. Marshall McLuhan suggested that art always functions as a "counter-environment" designed to make visible what is usually invisible about a society. Theodor Adorno felt that aesthetics could not proceed without confronting the role of the culture industry in the commodification of art and aesthetic experience. Hal Foster (art critic), Hal Foster attempted to portray the reaction against beauty and Modernist art in ''The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture''. Arthur Danto has described this reaction as "kalliphobia" (after the Greek word for beauty, κάλλος ''kallos''). André Malraux explains that the notion of beauty was connected to a particular conception of art that arose with the Renaissance and was still dominant in the eighteenth century (but was supplanted later). The discipline of aesthetics, which originated in the eighteenth century, mistook this transient state of affairs for a revelation of the permanent nature of art. Brian Massumi suggests to reconsider beauty following the aesthetical thought in the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari. Walter Benjamin echoed Malraux in believing aesthetics was a comparatively recent invention, a view proven wrong in the late 1970s, when Abraham Moles and Frieder Nake analyzed links between beauty, information processing, and information theory.
Denis Dutton Denis Laurence Dutton (9 February 1944 – 28 December 2010) was an American philosopher of art, web entrepreneur, and media activist. He was a professor of philosophy at the University of Canterbury in ChristchurchChristchurch is the largest ci ...
in "The Art Instinct" also proposed that an aesthetic sense was a vital evolutionary factor. Jean-François Lyotard re-invokes the Kantian distinction between
taste The gustatory system or sense of taste is the sensory system The sensory nervous system is a part of the nervous system responsible for processing sensory information. A sensory system consists of sensory neurons (including the sensory re ...
and the sublime (philosophy), sublime. Sublime painting, unlike kitsch realism (visual arts), realism, "... will enable us to see only by making it impossible to see; it will please only by causing pain." Sigmund Freud inaugurated aesthetical thinking in Psychoanalysis mainly via the "Uncanny" as aesthetical affect. Following Freud and Merleau-Ponty, Jacques Lacan theorized aesthetics in terms of sublimation and the Thing. The relation of Marxist aesthetics to post-modern aesthetics is still a contentious area of debate.

Recent aesthetics

Guy Sircello has pioneered efforts in analytic philosophy to develop a rigorous theory of aesthetics, focusing on the concepts of beauty, love and sublimity. In contrast to romantic theorists, Sircello argued for the objectivity of beauty and formulated a theory of love on that basis. British philosopher and theorist of conceptual art aesthetics, Peter Osborne (writer and academic), Peter Osborne, makes the point that "'post-conceptual art' aesthetic does not concern a particular type of contemporary art so much as the historical-ontological condition for the production of contemporary art in general ...". Osborne noted tha
contemporary art is 'post-conceptual'
in a public lecture delivered in 2010. Gary Tedman has put forward a theory of a subjectless aesthetics derived from Karl Marx's concept of alienation, and Louis Althusser's antihumanism, using elements of Freud's group psychology, defining a concept of the 'aesthetic level of practice'. Gregory Loewen has suggested that the subject is key in the interaction with the aesthetic object. The work of art serves as a vehicle for the projection of the individual's identity into the world of objects, as well as being the irruptive source of much of what is uncanny in modern life. As well, art is used to memorialize individuated biographies in a manner that allows persons to imagine that they are part of something greater than themselves.

Aesthetics and science

The field of experimental aesthetics was founded by Gustav Theodor Fechner in the 19th century. Experimental aesthetics in these times had been characterized by a Subject (philosophy), subject-based, inductive reasoning, inductive approach. The analysis of individual experience and behaviour based on experiment, experimental methods is a central part of experimental aesthetics. In particular, the perception of works of art, music, or modern items such as websites or other IT products is studied. Experimental aesthetics is strongly oriented towards the natural sciences. Modern approaches mostly come from the fields of cognitive psychology or neuroscience (neuroaesthetics). In the 1970s, Abraham Moles and Frieder Nake were among the first to analyze links between aesthetics, information processing, and information theory. In the 1990s, Jürgen Schmidhuber described an algorithmic theory of beauty which takes the subjectivity of the observer into account and postulates: among several observations classified as comparable by a given subjective observer, the aesthetically most pleasing one is the one with the shortest description, given the observer's previous knowledge and his particular method for encoding the data. This is closely related to the principles of algorithmic information theory and minimum description length. One of his examples: mathematicians enjoy simple proofs with a short description in their formal language. Another very concrete example describes an aesthetically pleasing human face whose proportions can be described by very few bits of information, drawing inspiration from less detailed 15th century proportion studies by Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer. Schmidhuber's theory explicitly distinguishes between what's Beauty, beautiful and what's interesting, stating that interestingness corresponds to the first derivative of subjectively perceived beauty. Here the premise is that any observer continually tries to improve the predictability and compressibility of the observations by discovering regularities such as repetitions and symmetries and fractal self-similarity. Whenever the observer's learning process (which may be a predictive artificial neural network; see also Neuroesthetics) leads to improved data compression such that the observation sequence can be described by fewer bits than before, the temporary interest (emotion), interestingness of the data corresponds to the number of saved bits. This compression progress is proportional to the observer's internal reward, also called curiosity reward. A reinforcement learning algorithm is used to maximize future expected reward by learning to execute action sequences that cause additional interesting input data with yet unknown but learnable predictability or regularity. The principles can be implemented on artificial agents which then exhibit a form of Artificial intelligence, artificial curiosity.

Truth in beauty and mathematics

Mathematical considerations, such as symmetry and complexity, are used for analysis in theoretical aesthetics. This is different from the aesthetic considerations of applied aesthetics used in the study of mathematical beauty. Aesthetic considerations such as symmetry and Occam's razor, simplicity are used in areas of philosophy, such as Categorical imperative, ethics and theoretical physics and cosmology to define truth, outside of empirical considerations. Beauty and Truth have been argued to be nearly synonymous, as reflected in the statement "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" in the poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by John Keats, or by the Hindu motto "Satyam Shivam Sundaram" (Satya (Truth) is Shiva (God), and Shiva is Sundaram (Beautiful)). The fact that judgments of beauty and judgments of truth both are influenced by processing fluency, which is the ease with which information can be processed, has been presented as an explanation for why beauty is sometimes equated with truth. Recent research found that people use beauty as an indication for truth in mathematical pattern tasks. However, scientists including the mathematician David Orrell and physicist Marcelo Gleiser have argued that the emphasis on aesthetic criteria such as symmetry is equally capable of leading scientists astray.

Computational approaches

Computational approaches to aesthetics emerged amid efforts to use computer science methods "to predict, convey, and evoke emotional response to a piece of art. It this field, aesthetics is not considered to be dependent on taste but is a matter of cognition, and, consequently, learning. In 1928, the mathematician George David Birkhoff created an aesthetic measure ''M = O/C'' as the ratio of order to complexity. Since about 2005, computer scientists have attempted to develop automated methods to infer aesthetic quality of images. Typically, these approaches follow a machine learning approach, where large numbers of manually rated photographs are used to "teach" a computer about what visual properties are of relevance to aesthetic quality. A study by Y. Li and C.J. Hu employed Birkhoff's measurement in their statistical learning approach where order and complexity of an image determined aesthetic value. The image complexity was computed using information theory while the order was determined using fractal compression. There is also the case of the Acquine engine, developed at Penn State University, that rates natural photographs uploaded by users. There have also been relatively successful attempts with regard to chess and music. Computational approaches have also been attempted in film making as demonstrated by a software model developed by Chitra Dorai and a group of researchers at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center. The tool predicted aesthetics based on the values of narrative elements. A relation between Max Bense's mathematical formulation of aesthetics in terms of "redundancy" and "complexity" and theories of musical anticipation was offered using the notion of Information Rate.

Evolutionary aesthetics

Evolutionary aesthetics refers to evolutionary psychology theories in which the basic aesthetic preferences of ''Homo sapiens'' are argued to have evolution, evolved in order to enhance survival and reproductive success. One example being that humans are argued to find beautiful and prefer landscapes which were good habitats in the ancestral environment. Another example is that body symmetry and proportion are important aspects of physical attractiveness which may be due to this indicating good health during body growth. Evolutionary explanations for aesthetical preferences are important parts of evolutionary musicology, Darwinian literary studies, and the study of the evolution of emotion.

Applied aesthetics

As well as being applied to art, aesthetics can also be applied to cultural objects, such as crosses or tools. For example, aesthetic coupling between art-objects and medical topics was made by speakers working for the United States Information Agency, US Information Agency. Art slides were linked to slides of pharmacological data, which improved attention and retention by simultaneous activation of intuitive right brain with rational left. It can also be used in topics as diverse as cartography, Mathematical beauty, mathematics, gastronomy, fashion and website design.


The philosophy of aesthetics as a practice has been criticized by some sociologists and writers of art and society. Raymond Williams, for example, argues that there is no unique and or individual aesthetic object which can be extrapolated from the art world, but rather that there is a continuum of cultural forms and experience of which ordinary speech and experiences may signal as art. By "art" we may frame several artistic "works" or "creations" as so though this reference remains within the institution or special event which creates it and this leaves some works or other possible "art" outside of the frame work, or other interpretations such as other phenomenon which may not be considered as "art". Pierre Bourdieu disagrees with Kant's idea of the "aesthetic". He argues that Kant's "aesthetic" merely represents an experience that is the product of an elevated class habitus and scholarly leisure as opposed to other possible and equally valid "aesthetic" experiences which lay outside Kant's narrow definition. Timothy Laurie argues that theories of musical aesthetics "framed entirely in terms of appreciation, contemplation or reflection risk idealizing an implausibly unmotivated listener defined solely through musical objects, rather than seeing them as a person for whom complex intentions and motivations produce variable attractions to cultural objects and practices".

See also

* * Theosophy and visual arts, Art and Theosophy * Art periods * History of aesthetics before the 20th century * Medieval aesthetics * Mise en scène * Theory of art


Further reading

* Mario Perniola, ''20th Century Aesthetics. Towards A Theory of Feeling'', translated by Massimo Verdicchio, London, New Delhi, New York, Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2013, . * * ''Handbook of Phenomenological Aesthetics''. Edited by Hans Rainer Sepp and Lester Embree. (Series: Contributions To Phenomenology, Vol. 59) Springer, Dordrecht / Heidelberg / London / New York 2010. * Theodor W. Adorno, ''Aesthetic Theory'', Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1997. * Ayn Rand, ''The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature'', New York, NY, New American Library, 1971
Derek Allan
''Art and the Human Adventure, Andre Malraux's Theory of Art'', Rodopi, 2009 * Derek Allan

Cambridge Scholars, 2013. * Augros, Robert M., Stanciu, George N., ''The New Story of Science: mind and the universe'', Lake Bluff, Ill.: Regnery Gateway, 1984. (has significant material on Art, Science and their philosophies) * John Bender and Gene Blocker, ''Contemporary Philosophy of Art: Readings in Analytic Aesthetics'' 1993. * René Bergeron. ''L'Art et sa spiritualité''. Québec, QC.: Éditions du Pelican, 1961. * Christine Buci-Glucksmann (2003), ''Esthétique de l'éphémère'', Galilée. (French) * Noël Carroll (2000), ''Theories of Art Today'', University of Wisconsin Press. * Mario Costa (philosopher), Mario Costa (1999) (in Italian), L'estetica dei media. Avanguardie e tecnologia, Milan: Castelvecchi, . * Benedetto Croce (1922), ''Aesthetic as Science of Expression and General Linguistic''. * E.S. Dallas (1866), ''The Gay Science'', 2 volumes, on the aesthetics of poetry. * Arthur Danto, Danto, Arthur (2003), ''The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art'', Open Court. * Stephen Davies (philosopher), Stephen Davies (1991), ''Definitions of Art.'' * Terry Eagleton (1990), ''The Ideology of the Aesthetic.'' Blackwell. * Susan L. Feagin and Patrick Maynard (1997), Aesthetics. Oxford Readers. * Penny Florence and Nicola Foster (eds.) (2000), ''Differential Aesthetics''. London: Ashgate. * Berys Gaut and Dominic McIver Lopes (eds.), ''Routledge Companion to Aesthetics''. 3rd edition. London and New York: Routledge, 2013. * Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert (1995), ''Einführung in die Ästhetik'', Munich, W. Fink. * David Goldblatt and Lee B. Brown, ed. (2010), ''Aesthetics: A Reader in the Philosophy of the Arts.'' 3rd edition. Pearson Publishing. * Theodore Gracyk (2011), ''The Philosophy of Art: An Introduction''. Polity Press. * Greenberg, Clement (1960), "Modernist Painting", ''The Collected Essays and Criticism 1957–1969'', The University of Chicago Press, 1993, 85–92. * Evelyn Hatcher (ed.), ''Art as Culture: An Introduction to the Anthropology of Art.'' 1999 * Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1975), ''Lectures on Aesthetics, Aesthetics. Lectures on Fine Art'', trans. T.M. Knox, 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press. * Hans Hofmann and Sara T Weeks; Bartlett H Hayes; Addison Gallery of American Art
''Search for the real, and other essays''
(Cambridge, Massachusetts, M.I.T. Press, 1967) * Michael Ann Holly and Keith Moxey (eds.), ''Art History and Visual Studies''. Yale University Press, 2002. * Carol Armstrong and Catherine de Zegher (eds.), ''Women Artists at the Millennium''. Massachusetts: October Books/MIT Press, 2006. * Immanuel Kant, Kant, Immanuel (1790), Critique of Judgement, Translated by Werner S. Pluhar, Hackett Publishing Co., 1987. * Kelly, Michael (Editor in Chief) (1998) ''Encyclopedia of Aesthetics''. New York, Oxford, Oxford University Press. 4 vol. pp. xvii–521, pp. 555, pp. 536, pp. 572; 2224 total pages; 100 b/w photos; . Covers philosophical, historical, sociological, and biographical aspects of Art and Aesthetics worldwide. * * Søren Kierkegaard (1843), ''Either/Or'', translated by Alastair Hannay, London, Penguin, 1992 * Peter Kivy (ed.), ''The Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics.'' 2004 * Carolyn Korsmeyer (ed.), ''Aesthetics: The Big Questions.'' 1998 * Lyotard, Jean-François (1979), ''The Postmodern Condition'', Manchester University Press, 1984. * Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1969), ''The Visible and the Invisible'', Northwestern University Press. * David Novitz (1992), ''The Boundaries of Art.'' * Mario Perniola, ''The Art and Its Shadow'', foreword by Hugh J. Silverman, translated by Massimo Verdicchio, London-New York, Continuum, 2004. * Griselda Pollock, "Does Art Think?" In: Dana Arnold and Margaret Iverson (eds.) ''Art and Thought''. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 2003. 129–174. . * Griselda Pollock, ''Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum: Time, Space and the Archive''. Routledge, 2007. . * Griselda Pollock, ''Generations and Geographies in the Visual Arts''. Routledge, 1996. . * George Santayana (1896), ''The Sense of Beauty. Being the Outlines of Aesthetic Theory.'' New York, Modern Library, 1955. * Elaine Scarry, ''On Beauty and Being Just.'' Princeton, 2001. * Friedrich Schiller, (1795), ''On the Aesthetic Education of Man''. Dover Publications, 2004. * Alan Singer and Allen Dunn (eds.), ''Literary Aesthetics: A Reader.'' Blackwell Publishing Limited, 2000. * Jadranka Skorin-Kapov, ''The Intertwining of Aesthetics and Ethics: Exceeding of Expectations, Ecstasy, Sublimity''. Lexington Books, 2016. * , ''A History of Six Ideas: an Essay in Aesthetics'', The Hague, 1980. * , ''History of Aesthetics'', 3 vols. (1–2, 1970; 3, 1974), The Hague, Mouton. * Markand Thakar ''Looking for the 'Harp' Quartet: An Investigation into Musical Beauty''. University of Rochester Press, 2011. * Leo Tolstoy, ''What Is Art?'', Penguin Classics, 1995. * Roger Scruton, ''Beauty: A Very Short Introduction'', Oxford University Press, 2009. * Roger Scruton, ''The Aesthetic Understanding: Essays in the Philosophy of Art and Culture'' (1983) * Th
London Philosophy Study Guide
offers many suggestions on what to read, depending on the student's familiarity with the subject

* John M. Valentine, ''Beginning Aesthetics: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Art.'' McGraw-Hill, 2006. * von Vacano, Diego, "The Art of Power: Machiavelli, Nietzsche and the Making of Aesthetic Political Theory," Lanham MD: Lexington: 2007. * Thomas Wartenberg, ''The Nature of Art.'' 2006. * John W. Whitehead, John Whitehead, ''Grasping for the Wind.'' 2001. * Ludwig Wittgenstein, ''Lectures on aesthetics, psychology and religious belief'', Oxford, Blackwell, 1966. * Richard Wollheim, ''Art and its objects'', 2nd edn, 1980, Cambridge University Press,

Indian aesthetics

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External links

* * *
Aesthetics in Continental Philosophy
article in the ''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy''
Medieval Theories of Aesthetics
article in the ''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy''
Revue online ''Appareil''

More about Art, culture and Education

An history of aesthetics

The Concept of the Aesthetic

entry in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Philosophy of Aesthetics
entry in the Philosophy Archive
Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges: Introduction to Aesthetics

Art Perception
Complete pdf version of art historian David Cycleback's book.
BBC Radio 4 discussion with Angie Hobbs, Susan James & Julian Baggini (''In Our Time'', 19 May 2005) {{Authority control Aesthetics, Humanities 1730s neologisms