Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Aesthetics and Philosophy: A Match Made in Heaven? by Anja Steinbauer

We might imagine aesthetics, the study of art and beauty, and philosophy as two unhappy partners in a failing relationship, coming to us seeking counselling. “You can’t give me anything”, aesthetics might complain, “you don’t help people appreciate art or beauty, you don’t make artists better at their creative activity. You have no contribution to make to the aesthetic experience whatsoever. I wish you’d simply get out of my life!” “You never listen to reason,” philosophy might grumble in reply,

“You are just so messy, without principles. No universal truths to speak of.”

So what is the point of philosophical aesthetics? Why force aesthetics and philosophy together?

Scepticism about the merits and even the possibility of a philosophical aesthetics has been the subject of irreconcilable controversies among thinkers. It is by no means self-evident that problems of aesthetics should be an object of philosophy: many philosophers have held that issues relating to art and beauty cannot be the object of philosophical work. The rationalist thinkers simply denied aesthetics a place in their systems of thought, while positivist and neo-positivist thinkers argued that it could not be part of philosophical enquiry.


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