Comparative Aesthetics

Kathleen Higgins

in The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics

Published in print January 2005 | ISBN: 9780199279456
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Comparative Aesthetics

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One of the first questions that arises in efforts to conduct comparative aesthetics is whether or not the terms ‘art’ and ‘aesthetics’ are inextricably bound to certain cultures and their presuppositions. Since the Enlightenment, the dominant Western conception of ‘fine’ art is distinguished from that of ‘crafts’ used in everyday life. A work of art is understood to be designed primarily for contemplation; if it serves any other practical function, this is considered to be secondary. Theorists disagree on the criteria for judging the work of art, but typically these are linked to a state of mind in the observer (whether emotional, intellectual, or some combination of the two). Works of fine art, being geared to reflective appreciation, are at home in institutional environments that are free from the distractions of everyday life, such as the concert hall or the museum.

Keywords: comparative aesthetics; Enlightenment; fine art; work of art; judgement; reflective appreciation

Article.  6148 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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