CHAPTER NINE: Aesthetics

Consider a work of art or music, a landscape, a piece of music, or even a person you find particularly beautiful. Notice that already in your mind you have made a judgment. You have separated that person place or thing from other possibilities, determining that he/she/it is more beautiful than other, comparable examples. How is it that you can make such a distinction at all? Have you ever considered why you find certain objects or people more beautiful and others less so? Pondering questions like this brings us to aesthetics.

Aesthetics (also spelled “esthetics”) is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of beauty and the nature of taste; the philosophy of art. Aesthetics studies natural and artificial sources of experiences and how people form a judgment about those sources of experience. It considers what happens in our minds when we engage with objects or environments such as viewing visual art, listening to music, reading poetry, experiencing a play, watching a fashion show, movie, sports or exploring various aspects of nature. The study of aesthetics grapples with abstract philosophical questions like: What is art? What is beauty? How do we experience creative works? What responsibilities do artists have to society? Engaging with these complex questions can be intellectually stimulating. The philosophy of art specifically studies how artists imagine, create, and perform works of art, as well as how people use, enjoy, and criticize art. Aesthetics considers why people like some works of art and not others, as well as how art can affect our moods and our beliefs. Both aesthetics and the philosophy of art try to find answers to what exactly is art and what makes good art.


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PPSC PHI 1011: The Philosopher's Quest by Daniel G. Shaw, Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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