Aesthetics is the philosophy of beauty, perception and art. It was once part of other philosophical subjects, epistemology and ethics.(Sheppard) However, discussion and study of beauty and art requires much evaluation and analysis. Hence a separate account was established to focus more on the metaphysics of beauty and art.
The term aesthetics comes from the Greek word aisthetikos which means ‘ of sense perception.’ This suggests that the study of aesthetics is directed toward the questions: What is beauty? What is art? What is it to say that something is beautiful or something is art? These are some of the initial questions which are necessary for the study of Aesthetics.(Sheppard)
Seemingly, when we speak of aesthetics we tend to suppose that what we are talking about are the things that we usually perceive and experience. We normally equate aesthetics to something that we see like that of art, drawings, carvings, etc. Yet, art and aesthetics are not literally the same thing. Aesthetics is broader than that of art in a sense that art only lies under the study of aesthetics.
But because we believe that a particular aesthetic experience take place when we experience art or the likes, we become so much in tuned of converging the two concepts which is not correct. (Beuys and Harlan)
In relation to the concept of aesthetic experience, we try to grasp the underlying principles behind our different way of reacting or appreciating what we experience or what we perceive. For example, a man, when exposed to a certain object tends to make an impression about it either positive or negative reaction.
But such reaction may be different from other’s reaction primarily because we have different way of interpretation. This only implies that individuals have different sets of criterion which they use in appreciating forms of art.
Freeland’s But What is Art?
In this contemporary period, art is a very significant in man’s daily living. Art serves many purposes. As Cynthia Freeland asserted in his book, the art world seems so dynamic that almost every little thing can be regarded as product of art or art itself.
In her work, she discussed the importance of modernization and debate in the arts. She made this explicitly using philosophy, art theories, and other frameworks to justify her claims and arguments. She had also explained the concepts of beauty, culture, sex, politics and money in her elucidation of the arts.
Moreover, she campaigned that the art of discovering new themes to be used in the arts. And these themes are primarily framed from modernity and innovation. This particular approach to the arts actually triggers the public and the readers in looking at the arts in a new perspective.
In this chapter, Freeland gave the floor to the very controversial aspect of the arts. Commercialization of the arts is truly a current issue. We become aware of the fact that art does not only stay as art itself. It even goes beyond the matter of making and having an art.
Freeland suggested in this chapter the involvement of the art world and the products of the arts to the market industry. What is in the arts that make them valuable? What is it in the arts that make it worth over millions of dollar?
Philosophically, the art itself is a much contested concept. There are lots of philosophers who gave their views on the concept of art and the concept of beauty. Among these philosophers were David Hume and Immanuel Kant.
Hume expressed his idea on beauty and art by saying that we appreciate art or we understand art using our common sense. However, every individual has his own set of taste or sentiment thus it is inevitable that one might see something as an art-material while others might say that such is not.
It seemed that Hume is trying to imply that the value of art vary according to how individuals see it. Yet, he claimed that we as rational beings, we have this particular faculty that lets us arrive at particular judgment towards that particular art. This implies that we have this common sentiment that acts the initial criterion for judging beauty or art. And this undertaking is discussed in Hume’s work called The Standard of Taste.
On the other hand, Kant argued that there is this feeling of liking that is inherent in every individual that aid in their pursuit of what is beautiful and what is to be considered as art. His arguments were somehow alike with Hume’s concept of common sense which he used as criterion for judging beauty and art.
Nevertheless what is distinct from Kant’s approach is his use of reason as the indicator of beauty and art for reason alone can guide one person in making judgment on what is beautiful and what is an art.(Sheppard)
The above arguments were the initial theories used for answering the question of how value is attached to a particular art or how do particular arts get their values. Ironically, Freeland suggested in his work that these very primordial conceptions on the value of the arts are very much neglected nowadays.
The criterion for attaching certain values to particular objects or arts does not only base on the cited criterion provided by Hume and Kant or by any other philosophers. Freeland said that the purpose of devising an art is not solely based on the artist’s expression of feelings.
More often, artworks nowadays are only produced in order to make money or in order to commercialize them. Hence the purpose of the arts is not anymore directed towards the feeling or the expression of the artist but on the feeling that he has to do it or he has to devise it in order to earn for a living or in order to make money.
Aesthetic judgment does not really apply to the contemporary products of the arts. The most important thing for the artists now is to display them or exhibit them and later on see who is going to buy them and how much he should sell it.
Beuys, Joseph, and Volker Harlan. What Is Art? : Clairview Books, 2007.
Freeland, Cynthia. But Is It Art?: An Introduction to Art Theory New ed: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Sheppard, Anne. Aesthetics: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Art Oxford University Press, 1987.
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