Introducing Aesthetics

Introducing Aesthetics

Introducing Aesthetics

Introducing Aesthetics

Synopsis

Introduces the discipline of western aesthetical philosophy with a focus on the central questions of aesthetics.

Excerpt

This is a great time to be reading about aesthetics and the philosophy of art. This generation is in a unique historical position to appreciate the most chal- lenging developments in art. We stand at what one of the world's leading aes- theticians and art critics, Arthur Danto, calls the "end of art" (1986). This is in part because art apparently has challenged all that it can, and the result has been a virtual erasure of the line between real life and art, between practical objects and art objects. Whether or not Danto is right, much has happened in art in the past two centuries, and here at the end of the 20th century, and the beginning of the 21 st, we have an unparalleled vantage point to study just what these developments have been and have meant. Aesthetics—the philosophy of beauty and art, the philosophy of the sensuous aspects of experience—has managed, through the diligence of aestheticians like Danto, to stay with the unfolding of the history of art, to try to answer the fascinating questions this history has offered.

In the Western tradition of philosophy, aesthetics began around the 4th century B.C. with Plato and Aristotle. But except for theories coming out of Neoplatonism and from a few medieval philosophers like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, aesthetics did not command the interest of scholars or regain an audience until the Enlightenment, or, roughly, the time following the Renaissance. This should come as little surprise, since the philosophy of art has, and probably should, follow the life of art and the art world.

Our Western historical tradition, for which this text tries to provide a thor- ough but summary introduction—a road map of sorts—finds continuity between the work of the ancient Greeks and the work of the British Empiricists.

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