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Transcript of Aesthetics
Abara, Ma. Victoria L.
Isik, Ogulcan Yulugses F.
Macatulad, Danielle RJ L.
Villafuerte, Addison P.
INTRODUCTION Aesthetics comes from the German “Ästhetisch” or French “esthétique”, both from the Greek word “aisthetikos” which means sensitive; or perceptive. It was popularized in English by the translation of Immanuel Kant, and used originally in the classically correct sense "the science which treats of the conditions of sensuous perception." Kant had tried to correct the term after Alexander Baumgarten had taken it in German to mean "criticism of taste" (1750s), but Baumgarten's sense attained popularity in English c.1830s (despite scholarly resistance) and removed the word from any philosophical base. (Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001-2002) According to Ford (2009), “Aesthetics is the philosophical branch of inquiry concerned with beauty, art and perception. In a more general sense, aesthetics as a philosophy refers to the study of sensory values. This means the judgement or evaluation by the senses and through time has come to refer to critical or philosophical thought about art, culture and/or nature.” According to Townsend (1996, p.vii), “Aesthetics deals with art, beauty, and the human experience and feelings that produce and respond to art and beauty. As a field, its subject matter includes art, a range of our sensitive responses to the world, and the values that we place on both.” History The ancient Greek philosophers initially felt that aesthetically appealing objects were beautiful in and of themselves. Plato felt that beautiful objects incorporated proportion, harmony and unity among their parts. Aristotle found that the universal elements of beauty were order, symmetry and definiteness. According to Islam, human works of art are inherently flawed compared to the work of Allah, and to attempt to depict in a realistic form any animal or person is insolence to Allah. This has had the effect of narrowing the field of Muslim artistic possibility to such forms as mosaics, calligraphy, architecture and geometric and floral patterns. Indian art evolved with an emphasis on inducing special spiritual or philosophical states in the audience, or with representing them symbolically. As long as go as the 5th Century B.C., Chinese philosophers were already arguing about aesthetics. Confucius (551 - 479 B.C.) emphasized the role of the arts and humanities (especially music and poetry) in broadening human nature. His near contemporary Mozi (470 - 391 B.C.), however, argued that music and fine arts were classist and wasteful, benefiting the rich but not the common people. Western Medieval art (at least until the revival of classical ideals during the Renaissance) was highly religious in focus, and was typically funded by the Church, powerful ecclesiastical individuals, or wealthy secular patrons. A religiously uplifting message was considered more important than figurative accuracy or inspired composition. The skills of the artisan were considered gifts from God for the sole purpose of disclosing God to mankind. With the shift in Western philosophy from the late 17th Century onwards, German and British thinkers in particular emphasized beauty as the key component of art and of the aesthetic experience, and saw art as necessarily aiming at beauty. For Friedrich Schiller (1759 - 1805), aesthetic appreciation of beauty is the most perfect reconciliation of the sensual and rational parts of human nature. Hegel held that art is the first stage in which the absolute spirit is immediately manifest to sense-perception, and is thus an objective rather than a subjective revelation of beauty. For Schopenhauer, aesthetic contemplation of beauty is the most free that the pure intellect can be from the dictates of will. British Intuitionists like the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671 - 1713) claimed that beauty is just the sensory equivalent of moral goodness. More analytic theorists like Lord Kames (1696 - 1782), William Hogarth (1697 - 1764) and Edmund Burke hoped to reduce beauty to some list of attributes, while others like James Mill (1773 - 1836) and Herbert Spencer (1820 - 1903) strove to link beauty to some scientific theory of psychology or biology. Early Approaches The 3rd-century philosopher Plotinus, born in Egypt and trained in philosophy at Alexandria, although a Neoplatonist, gave far more importance to art than did Plato. In Plotinus's view, art reveals the form of an object more clearly than ordinary experience does, and it raises the soul to contemplation of the universal. According to Plotinus, the highest moments of life are mystical, which is to say that the soul is united, in the world of forms, with the divine, which Plotinus spoke of as “the One.” Aesthetic experience comes closest to mystical experience, for one loses oneself while contemplating the aesthetic object. Art in the Middle Ages was primarily an expression of religion, with an aesthetic principle based largely on Neoplatonism. During the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries, art became more secular, and its aesthetics were classical rather than religious. The great impetus to aesthetic thought in the modern world occurred in Germany during the 18th century. The German critic Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, in his Laokoon (1766), argued that art is self-limiting and reaches its height only when these limitations are recognized. The German critic and classical archaeologist Johann Joachim Winckelmann maintained that, in accordance with the ancient Greeks, the best art is impersonal, expressing ideal proportion and balance rather than its creator's individuality. The German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte considered beauty a moral virtue. The artist creates a world in which beauty, as much as truth, is an end, foreshadowing that absolute freedom which is the goal of the human will. For Fichte, art is individual, not social, but it fulfils a great human purpose. Modern Aesthetics The 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant was concerned with judgments of taste. Objects are judged beautiful, he proposed, when they satisfy a disinterested desire: one that does not involve personal interests or needs. It follows from this that beautiful objects have no specific purpose and that judgments of beauty are not expressions of mere personal preference but are universal. Although one cannot be certain that others will be satisfied by objects he or she judges to be beautiful, one can at least say that others ought to be satisfied. The basis for one's response to beauty exists in the structure of one's mind. Art should give the same disinterested satisfaction as natural beauty. Paradoxically, art can accomplish one thing nature cannot. It can offer ugliness and beauty in one object. A fine painting of an ugly face is still beautiful. According to the 19th-century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, art, religion, and philosophy are the bases of the highest spiritual development. Beauty in nature is everything that the human spirit finds pleasing and congenial to the exercise of spiritual and intellectual freedom. Certain things in nature can be made more congenial and pleasing, and it is these natural objects that are reorganized by art to satisfy aesthetic demands. In Oscar Wilde’s last work, "De Profundis," written in the middle of his degradation and misery, he still believes that it is by art that he will be able to regenerate his spirit. He said that he would do such work in the future, would build beautiful things out of his sufferings that he might cry in triumph "Yes! This is just where the artistic life leads a man." The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer believed that the forms of the universe, like the eternal Platonic forms, exist beyond the worlds of experience, and that aesthetic satisfaction is achieved by contemplating them for their own sakes, as a means of escaping the painful world of daily experience. Fichte, Kant, and Hegel are in a direct line of development. Schopenhauer attacked Hegel but was influenced by Kant's view of disinterested contemplation. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche followed Schopenhauer at first, and then disagreed with him. Nietzsche concurred that life is tragic, but thought that this should not preclude acceptance of the tragic with joyous affirmation, the full realization of which is art. Art confronts the terrors of the universe and is therefore only for the strong. Art can transform any experience into beauty, and by so doing transforms its horrors in such a way that they may be contemplated with enjoyment. According to Monroe Beardsley, aesthetics is concerned with "the nature and basis of criticism, just as criticism itself is concerned with works of art". Although much modern aesthetics is rooted in German thought, German thinking was subject to other Western influences. Lessing, a founder of German romanticism, was affected by the aesthetic writings of the British statesman Edmund Burke. CONCEPTS Properties Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of art, beauty, and taste, with the creation and appreciation of beauty. Art is the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experience that can be showed with others. Beauty (is a characteristic of a person, animal, place, object, or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure or satisfaction. The experience of "beauty" often involves the interpretation of some entity as being in balance and harmony with nature, which may lead to feelings of attraction and emotional well-being. Because this is a subjective experience, it is often said that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Taste, refers to an individual's personal and cultural patterns of choice and preference. Every judgement of taste, according to Kant, presumes the existence of a ‘sensus communis’ a consensus of taste. This non-existent consensus is an idea that both enables judgements of taste and is constituted by a somewhat conceptual common spiritual humanity. A judgement does not take for granted that everyone agrees with it, but it proposes the community to share the experience. Painting is a mode of creative expression and the forms are numerous. Drawing, composition or abstraction and other aesthetics may serve to manifest the expressive and conceptual intention of a practitioner. Sculpture, an artistic form in which hard or plastic materials are worked into three-dimensional art objects. Before the 20th century, sculpture was considered a representational art, one that imitated forms of life. Since the turn of the 20th century, however, sculpture has also included nonrepresentational forms. It has long been accepted that the forms of such functional three-dimensional objects as furniture, pots, and buildings may be expressive and beautiful without being in any way representational. Photography is an art which is commonly used to preserve memories, to capture special moments, to tell stories, to send messages, and as a source of entertainment. Aesthetics and Art For some, aesthetics is considered a synonym for the philosophy of art since Hegel, 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), while artistic judgement refers to the recognition, appreciation or criticism of art or an art work.
Philosophical aesthetics has not only to speak about art and to produce judgments about art works, but has also to give a definition of what art is. Art is an autonomous entity for philosophy, because art deals with the senses (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 or art as action, but aesthetics is neither epistemology nor ethics. ART
“Art” is a subject of constant contention. Theodor Adorno claimed in 1969 “It is self-evident that nothing concerning art is self-evident.” The main recent sense of the word “art” is roughly as an abbreviation for creative art or “fine art.” Here we mean that skill is being used to express the artist’s creativity, or to engage the audience’s aesthetic sensibilities, or to draw the audience towards consideration of the “finer” things. Often, if the skill is being used in a functional object, people will consider it a craft instead of art, a suggestion which is highly disputed by many Contemporary Craft thinkers. Looking at Art Art can be difficult at the metaphysical and ontological levels as well as at the value theory level. Perhaps every person involved should be judged separately on his or her own merits, and each costume or line is its own work of art. Similar problems arise for music, film, dance, and even painting. Is one to judge the painting itself, the work of the painter, or perhaps the painting in its context of presentation by the museum workers? These problems have been made even more difficult by the rise of conceptual art since the 1960s. Many goals have been argued for art, and aestheticians often argue that some goal or another is superior in some way. Clement Greenberg, for instance, argued in 1960 that each artistic medium should seek that which makes it unique among the possible mediums and then purify itself of anything other than expression of its own uniqueness as a form. The Dadaist Tristan Tzara on the other hand saw the function of art in 1918 as the destruction of a mad social order. “We must sweep and clean. Affirm the cleanliness of the individual after the state of madness, aggressive complete madness of a world abandoned to the hands of bandits.” Formal goals, creative goals, self-expression, political goals, spiritual goals, philosophical goals, and even more perceptual or aesthetic goals have all been popular pictures of what art should be like. The Value of Art Tolstoy defined art (and by no coincidence also characterized its value) as the following: "Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them." The value of art, then, is one with the value of empathy. Other possible views are these: Art can act as a means to some special kind of knowledge. Art may give insight into the human condition. Art relates to science and religion. Art serves as a tool of education, or indoctrination, or enculturation. Art makes us more moral. It uplifts us spiritually. Art is politics by other means. Art has the value of allowing catharsis. Aesthetic Judgement Judgments of aesthetic value rely on our ability to discriminate at a sensory level. Aesthetics examines our affective domain response to an object or phenomenon. Immanuel Kant, writing in 1790, observes 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 of taste". 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." 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 instinctual ways to facial expressions, and even behaviors like the gag reflex. 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 nor beards are themselves disgusting. Aesthetic judgments may be linked to emotions or, like emotions, partially embodied in our physical reactions. Seeing a sublime view of a landscape may give us a reaction of awe, which might manifest physically as an increased heart rate or widened eyes. These unconscious reactions may even be partly constitutive of what makes our judgment a judgment that the landscape is sublime. Likewise, aesthetic judgments may be culturally conditioned to some extent. Victorians in Britain often saw African sculpture as ugly, but just a few decades later, Edwardian audiences saw the same sculptures as being beautiful. Evaluations of beauty may well be linked to desirability, perhaps even to sexual desirability. Thus, judgments of aesthetic value can become linked to judgments of economic, political, or moral value. In a current context, one might judge a Lamborghini to be beautiful partly because it is desirable as a status symbol, or we might judge it to be repulsive partly because it signifies for us over-consumption and offends our political or moral values. A third major topic in the study of aesthetic judgments is how they are unified across art forms. We can call a person, a house, a symphony, a fragrance, and a mathematical proof beautiful. What characteristics do they share which give them that status? What possible feature could a proof and a fragrance both share in virtue of which they both count as beautiful? What makes a painting beautiful is quite different from what makes music beautiful, which suggests that each art form has its own language for the judgment of aesthetics. VIEWS Philosophers of Art and Aestheticians Immanuel Kant Plato Francis Hutcheson Georg Friedrich William Hegel Bibliography
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Wreen, M. (2005). Beardsley’s Aesthetics. Retrieved September 2012.
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Cline, A. (2000). What is Aesthetics? Aesthetics is the Philosophy of Art, Beauty, and Perception. Retrieved September 2012.http://atheism.about.com/od/philosophybranches/p/Aesthetics.htm