The Aesthetic

Stephen Davies

in The Artful Species

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199658541
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746253 | DOI:
The Aesthetic

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This chapter defends a broad view of the aesthetic—experiences of the beautiful or the sublime—against two widely accepted alternatives. The first equates the aesthetic with all pleasurable perception-based experiences. This account is too broad. Such pleasure does not always derive from the beauty or sublimity of the object of perception. By this account, even insects would be aestheticians, but it is argued that most animals are not appreciators of beauty. The second view derives from Kant. It is rejected for confining the aesthetic to largely formal properties and for requiring complexity in both the aesthetic object and the manner of its cognitive apprehension. Aesthetic appreciation can involve all the senses and encompass the everyday. We can also take aesthetic pleasure in how an object realizes its function. Aesthetic experience often is like an action-guiding emotion rather than requiring disinterested contemplation.

Keywords: the aesthetic; aesthetic experience; aesthetic property; beauty; bowerbirds; functionality; Kant; pleasure; sublime; ugliness

Chapter.  8141 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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