Aesthetics - Essay Example

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In the eighteenth century there was significant development pertaining to judgments of aesthetic value. At one stage aesthetics was relegated entirely to the realm of subjectivism, but soon adherents to objectivism were up in arms against their detractors…
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Download file to see previous pages Those belonging to the former school of thought contest that beauty lies only "in the eye of the beholder" whereas the latter claim that aesthetic characteristics exist independently of the mind. Ultimately the question is whether the aesthetic quality is subjective or objective and if it is possible to have objective standards of taste. An attempt has been made to answer this question by comparing and critically analyzing the works of Hume, Kant and Bell on the issue of aesthetic judgment and taste.Hume was an empiricist; he believed that all knowledge was derived exclusively from the senses based on individual perception and resulting from experience. Thus his viewpoint is essentially subjective. He feels that aesthetic enjoyment comes from deep within and one needs "that delicacy of imagination" without which one will be unable to appreciate the finer points of great art. Sentiment is another factor which affects one's reaction to works of art. There is no right or wrong sentiment because it "has a reference to nothing beyond itself". Beauty is another quality that "exists merely in the mind". And yet in the midst of all this subjectivity he never implies that aesthetic judgement is entirely personal. In fact common sense which he sets much store by indicates that responses may be right or wrong but some are invariably much better than others.Hume seeks to establish a standard of taste, "a rule" that works by "confirming one sentiment, and condemning another." He prescribes five factors that are prerequisites for a true judge - "Strong sense united to delicate sentiment, improved by practice, perfected by comparison and cleared of all prejudice". This standard attempts to adhere to the universal principles of taste while smoothing out individual differences. However there are two factors which prevent the functioning of the standard mechanism - "the one is the different humours of particular men; the other, the particular manners and opinions of our age and country". And on this note we can conclude Hume's account of aesthetic judgement.
Kant is the father of modern aesthetics. His invaluable contribution to philosophy at large and aesthetics in particular has consolidated his position as one of the most influential thinkers of all time. At the very onset of the essay Kant states that beauty is discerned "by means of the imagination" in conjunction with understanding as opposed to "a view of cognition". Feelings of pleasure or displeasure play a pivotal role in aesthetic judgement. Pleasure is merely a mental state and it has nothing to do with the properties of the object that elicits the response. Thus according to Kant, the "determining ground" is largely subjective. However there is scope for objectivity under certain controlled circumstances.
Kant asserts that the element of interest in the judgement of aesthetic quality tends to be "partial and not a pure judgement of taste". A complete state of "disinterestedness" coupled with the imagination and naked perception must be preserved for effective judgement. If this state can be affected it is possible to arrive at a judgement that has "universal validity".
Bell does not mince words in his aesthetic hypothesis. He states that "The starting point for all systems of aesthetics must be the personal experience of a peculiar emotion." Of course the same work of art may provide different emotions in different people but "there is a particular kind of emotion" which is common to all kinds of "visual art". This aesthetic emotion may or may not be felt by people as it is ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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