Is there an Aesthetic Point of View?.
Adapted from Monroe C. Beardsley (1915-1985), “Aesthetic Point of View” in Perspectives in Education, Religion, and the Arts: Contemporary Philosophic Art, edited by Howard E. Kiefer and Milton K. Munitz (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press1970).
But what is the nature of aesthetics has been elusive, widely debated, and surprisingly motivating in philosophy.
a. We judge it in relation to its kind.
But the “point of view” terminology is more elastic than the “good of its kind” terminology. To consider a bridge or music or sculpture as an aesthetic object is to consider it from the aesthetic point of view but what about a mountain, sea shell, or a tiger? But if A sea shell can’t be good sculpture if it is not sculpture at all.
“This is a conceptual work of art and is as much valid as something you can actually see. Everything is art if it is chosen by the artist to be art. You can say it is good art or bad art, but you can’t say it isn’t art. Just because you can’t see a statue doesn’t mean that it isn’t there” (pg. 222).
“A work of art (in the broad sense) is any perceptual or intentional object that is deliberately regarded from the aesthetic point of view.”
“Regarding” would include “looking”, “listening”, “reading”, and other similar acts of attention, and “exhibiting”-picking up an object and placing it where it readily permits such attention, or presenting the object to persons acting as spectators (pg. 222).
“To adopt the aesthetic point of view with regard to X is to take an interest in whatever aesthetic value X may possess” (pg. 222).
Rather, a broader definition for Beardsley may be better:
“To adopt an aesthetic point of view with regard to X is to take an interest in whatever aesthetic value that X may possess or that is obtainable by means of X” (pg. 223).
a. Judging (estimate value of X) by appealing to certain canons of reasoning, rules of evidence.
But which are the aesthetic rules of evidence?
a. Provides aesthetic gratification which other kinds of values do not.
1. Unity, complexity, and intensity (pg. 225).
The above definition is substantiated by the following statement:
“The amount of aesthetic value possessed by an object is a function of the degree of aesthetic gratification it is capable of providing in a particular experience of it.”
a. What a work does provide, it clearly can provide?
1. Unrecognized masterpiece problem, i.e., the problem of falsification (jewels buried in the ground);
2. LSD problem; i.e., the problem of illusion;
3. Edgar Rice Burroughs problem; i.e., the problem of devaluation. Devaluation is due to the shift in our value grades caused by enlargement of our range of experience; we can overestimate the aesthetic gratification of X;
4. Also have the range of aesthetic value to consider: Some take it too widely (e.g., art is a junkyard) and others too possibly too narrowly (should we consider The Deputy by Rolf Hochmuth as being art?).
(2) If aesthetic value involves capacity, then its presence can no doubt be sufficiently attested by a single realization. What a work does provide, it can clearly provide” (pg. 227).”
“The aesthetic value of X is the value that X possesses in virtue of its capacity to provide aesthetic gratification when correctly experienced” (pg. 228).
Be a reliable or dependable source of gratification and a repeatable experience. But there are time when we see object X only once. Are they reliable? They certainly could be.
But we need to acknowledge as well there are is the possibility that there may be situations in which it is morally objectionable to adopt the aesthetic point of view (e.g., The Deputy by Roth Hochmuth’s play) (pg. 234).
A. There are occasions on which it would be wrong to adopt the aesthetic point of view because there is a conflict of values and the values that are in peril are, in that particular case, clearly higher (235-6):
(e.g., taking pictures of a murder while it is taking place or assisting the victim, ending the potential crime).
B. There is nothing-no object or event- that is per se wrong to consider from the aesthetic point of view. This, I think is part of the truth in the art-for-art’s-sake doctrine. To adopt this view is simply to seek out a source of value. There can be no moral error to realize value.