Aesthetic Value

Aesthetic Value

Aesthetic Value

Aesthetic Value

Synopsis

At the heart of aesthetics lie fundamental questions about value in art and the objectivity of aesthetic valuation. A theory of aesthetic value must explain how the properties of artworks contribute to the values derived from contemplating and appreciating works of art. When someone passes judgment on a work of art, just what is it that is happening, and how can such judgments be criticized and defended?In this concise survey, intended for advanced undergraduate students of aesthetics, Alan Goldman focuses on the question of aesthetic value, using many practical examples from painting, music, and literature to make his case. Although he treats a wide variety of views, he argues for a nonrealist view of aesthetic value, showing that the personal element can never be factored out of evaluative aesthetic judgments and explaining why this is so. At the same time, he argues for certain common effects of highly esteemed artworks. Along the way Goldman considers such key topics as interpretation, representation, expression, and taste. His text will be a valuable contribution to the teaching of aesthetics as well as to the understanding of these topics on the part of students and scholars in philosophy and the arts.

Excerpt

Imagine that you are in Paris (always nice to begin a book with a pleasant thought), in the Musée d'Orsay, standing before Whistler's famous portrait of his mother. You are moved by the quiet power of the work, feel its poignancy, and express to yourself surprise that the subdued, almost dull, gray and black colors and the stable, seemingly tranquil forms of the woman seated in profile against the partially curtained wall could have that effect. the nature of this positive evaluation of the work that you have just expressed to yourself is philosophically controversial. It is different from a straightforward judgment of fact, an empirical judgment, because, for one thing, evaluations of artworks are likely to prompt more disagreement from others than straightforward judgments of fact. Your judgment addresses the value in this painting and perhaps expresses your own taste. But although it concerns value, it is not a moral judgment; it does not concern Whistler's behavior toward other persons (which was itself rather controversial). You have made an aesthetic judgment, and the logic of such judgments, how they are alike and different from empirical and moral statements, is a main topic of this book.

Throughout most of its history aesthetics has been concerned with judgments like yours and with the values that can be derived from the appreciation of works of art. That this branch of philosophy should address itself primarily to the evaluation and value of artworks is not surprising. Other branches of philosophy are also concerned in large part with norms or standards of evaluation, whether of claims to knowledge, sound reasoning, or right actions. But the domain of discourse about art is different because judg-

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