chapter  20
12 Pages

THE AESTHETIC

ByALAN GOLDMAN

The term ‘aesthetic’ was first used in the eighteenth century by the philosopher Alexander Baumgarten to refer to cognition by means of the senses, sensuous knowledge. He later came to use it in reference to the perception of beauty by the senses especially in art. Kant picked up on this use, applying the term to judgements of beauty in both art and nature. The concept has broadened once again more recently. It now qualifies not only judgements or evaluations, but properties, attitudes, experience and pleasure or value as well, and its application is no longer restricted to beauty alone. The domain of the aesthetic remains broader than that of aesthetically pleasing art works: we can experience nature aesthetically as well, but understanding the nature of such experience and the properties it encompasses will take us a long way toward understanding how we evaluate and why we value art works. This discussion will focus primarily on aesthetic properties and experience, and on whether a special attitude is involved in the perception of such properties or generation of such experience.