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Philosophy and Esthetics. Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Does art reflect the values of the artist? Can a life be a work of art?. Esthetics Defined. The Esthetic Experience. Descriptive What is it? Pragmatic Is it useful? Emotive Do I like it?. The Object of Esthetic Experience.

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Philosophy and esthetics

Philosophy and Esthetics

Is beauty in the eye of the beholder?

Does art reflect the values of the artist?

Can a life be a work of art?

The esthetic experience
The Esthetic Experience

  • Descriptive

    • What is it?

  • Pragmatic

    • Is it useful?

  • Emotive

    • Do I like it?

The object of esthetic experience
The Object of Esthetic Experience

  • Can anything be within the esthetic domain?

  • Is there a line between ‘fine’ and ‘useful’ art?

  • Are there levels of art?

  • Are natural phenomena within the domain of art?

Esthetic objects eternal forms
Esthetic Objects & Eternal Forms

  • Plato: the Form of the Good defines all appearances of the good in our experience.


  • All things as they are are subject to esthetic experience.

Unified experience
Unified Experience

  • John Dewey: the daily interaction between the ‘live creature’ and ‘ethereal things.’

    • Objects that take on meaning in our actual experience possess the esthetic dimension.

Feeling expressionism
Feeling (Expressionism)

  • Benedetto Croce: art is the expression of the artist’s emotion.

    • Art reflects the ‘intuitive’ state of mind of the creator.

    • It is the ‘spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.’

    • Art is ‘symbolic’ of our feelings.

      • “Music is feeling, not sound.” (Stevens)

      • “Beauty is objectified pleasure.” (Santayana)

Existential possiblities
Existential Possiblities

  • The art object is pure possibility.

  • Art is a presentation (not representation).

    • Art is real, not an image of the real.

Three controversial issues
Three Controversial Issues

  • Subjectivism vs. Objectivism

    • Are esthetic judgments subjective, objective, or a combination of the two?

  • Art and Knowledge

    • What is the relation between art and epistemology?

  • Art and Morality

    • Should art serve a moral/ethical end?


  • Art objects possess no esthetic qualities—art is in the eye of the beholder.

  • Cultural values determine esthetic experience.

  • Historical conditions, and therefore esthetic judgments are always in flux.


  • Absolutists: The harmony of imagination and universal judgment prove that the esthetic realm is external to us.

  • Pragmatists: The fact that art objects produce esthetic responses proves that they themselves have esthetic quality.

  • Rationalists: Good art pleases everyone, which proves its objective truth.

Art and knowledge
Art and Knowledge

  • Can art teach me something of value?

    • My intuitive experience with art teaches me without need of reason

Art and morality
Art and Morality

  • Should art serve a social purpose?

  • Should art be a morality-producing enterprise?

  • Should art be subject to censorship?