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Conceptualizing aesthetics from Plato to Danto by Noelle Leslie dela Cruz

Activity: What is art?


Consider the following examples. What do you think

makes each one art? Can you think of any possible objections to it being labeled as art?

Monastery Graveyard in the Snow by Caspar David Friedrich (1817)

Oedipus Rex, Sophocles, c. 429 BC

The Iliad by Homer, c. 1194 B.C.

Mara Clara, ABS-CBN TV series (2010)

Avatar by James Cameron (2010)

Wax figure of Michael Jackson at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

The Third of May, Francisco Goya, 1808

The Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault, 1818

Flamenco dancing

Kiss Alive 35 concert tour CD

Filipino handicrafts

Bookcase by Martino Gamper (2007)

Japanese bent box (food art)

Princess Beatrices royal wedding hat (2011)

Dancing Building, Prague (1996)

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich (1818)

Fire and Ice by Robert Frost (1920)


Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I've tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice.

Ode to Joy by Ludwig van Beethoven (1824)

David by Michelangelo (1501)

Japanese rock garden

The Fountain, Marcel Duchamp (1917)

Number 8 by Jackson Pollock (1949)

Wheatfield with Crows by Vincent van Gogh (1890)

Campbells Soup Cans by Andy Warhol (1962)

The Emperors New Sonnet by Jose Garcia Villa

Activity 1: Examining my attitudes about art and beauty


The stereotype of an artwork is one which hangs in a museum,

typically a painting (e.g. the Mona Lisa), famous, represents something, and costs a lot The definition, role, and function of art varies in different times and places Changing technology and changing cultures affect art There are different kinds of art: painting, architecture, music, poetry, sculpture, etc. There are also various (debatable) classifications for the arts such as high art/low art, the fine arts, crafts, popular art, mass art, etc. There are philosophical issues involved in thinking about art, e.g.:
Can we define art? Are there artistic universals? What is the value of art?

Activity 2: Getting into the aesthetic experience


Attend to the object in the next slide. Dont ask yourself whether it is art or non-art. Dont try to evaluate it based on what you think a good painting ought to be. Simply look at it closely, and pay attention to the impressions it makes in your mind. Then jot down words, phrases, or statements that describe this object for you.

Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet (1872)

Aesthetics and the philosophy of art


The word aesthetics comes from the Greek aisthetikos

which means sensitive, and from aisthanesthai which means to perceive, to feel It was coined by the German philosopher Alexander Baumgarten, who classified human thought into two broad categories: Logic - classifies things in useful ways; intellectual and cognitive Aesthetic - looks at things for their own sake; the intuitive, sensual way of knowing things by the feel of them

Aesthetics and the philosophy of art


Thus, it is the aesthetic experience that defines art and beauty, not the other way around

Aesthetics and the philosophy of art


Aesthetics is the philosophical study of art and natural beauty
It is the youngest branch or area of philosophy, taking shape in the early 1700s in England and Germanyover 2,000 years after the other branches of Western philosophy developed in 600 BC in Greece

Aesthetics and the philosophy of art


Period/era How art was viewed Pre-modern/preThe Greek word for art is techne, whose Latin aesthethic: Ancient equivalent is ars, both of which mean skill. Art was Greece and Rome equated with craft or the sciences. Modern/aesthetic: 1700s to mid1900s, in particular Germany and England Postmodern/postaesthetic: Mid1900s up to the present During the Enlightenment, the natural sciences were emancipated from the arts. A system of the fine arts was established. Aesthetics became a separate discipline in philosophy. The aesthetic experience was seen as the proper way to approach art and beauty. Art was to be appreciated for arts sake. Various modern theories were rejected, such as aesthetic universalism, the aesthetic attitude, aestheticism, innovation and creativity (genius), and the canon of art

Aesthetics and the philosophy of art


In his monumental book,

Critique of Judgment (1790), Immanuel Kant synthesized the British taste theories and the German attempts to define the aesthetic against the logical The philosophical issues prevailing at the time concerned taste and sentiment, genius, originality, and creative imagination

Aesthetics and the philosophy of art

The fine arts are those objects made by humans to be

enjoyed aesthetically: Painting Sculpture Architecture Music Poetry Other arts were eventually added by aestheticians: Gardening, engraving, the decorative arts, dance and theater, the opera, eloquence and prose literature, film, and photography

Aesthetics and the philosophy of art


In aesthetics, philosophers pay attention to the

practice, history, and criticism of the individual arts, and to the philosophical problems and puzzles raised by them Topics of general philosophical importancee.g. representation, imagination, emotion, and expressionare related to art, and the philosophical theories regarding them can best be applied to art

Key concepts
Plato Against art as mimesis, because art is thrice removed from reality (copy of a copy of a copy) e.g. Monastery Graveyard in the Snow, a very realistic, almost photograph-like painting by Caspar David Friedrich Against art because it encourages the wrong sorts of emotion e.g. Oedipus Rex, The Iliad, Mara Clara Aristotle Defends art as mimesis the pleasures of verisimilitude . E.g. Avatar, wax figure of Michael Jackson

Key concepts
Aristotle Extols the function of art as catharsis E.g.:

Third of May by Francisco Goya, which depicts the slaughter of Spaniards by Napoleons army; The Raft of the Medusa by Gericault, which depicts the survivors of the naval frigate Medusa that sunk in 1816. At least 147 people were set adrift on a hurriedly constructed raft; all but 15 died in the 13 days before their rescue, and those who survived endured starvation, dehydration, cannibalism and madness. (Wikipedia) Flamenco dancing more visceral; invokes the duende (compare to ballet, which is more elegant and formal) The music of the heavy metal band Kiss

Key concepts
Alexander Baumgarten Made the modern distinction between the aesthetic sensibility and the logical attitude; art for arts sake; what distinguishes art is the primacy of the aesthetic value over any other value (e.g. cognitive, utilitarian, political, etc.) E.g. Filipino handicrafts utilitarian and aesthetic at the same time (a characteristic of art and crafts) Other examples of art objects whose aesthetic value takes primacy over their practical use: Gampers bookcase, Japanese bento box, Princess Beatrices hat, the dancing building

Key concepts
Immanuel Kant The sense of beauty as disinterested subjectivity the mind can intuit beauty which is both subjective (i.e. sensual rather than cognitive) and universal E.g. Art objects generally considered to be masterful in the creation of their form: Friedrichs painting of the wanderer, Frosts short poem, Ode to Joy, David by Michelangelo, a Japanese rock garden

Key concepts
Arthur Danto The artworld (which constitutes critics, museums, consumers, etc.) is instrumental in the classification of objects as art E.g. The Fountain by Marcel Duchamp a urinal, part of the Dadaist or anti-art movement; Jackson Pollocks abstract expressionist canvasses; the painting by van Gogh which fetched millions of dollars after his death, because of his suicide; Campbells Soup Cans by Warhol (the commonplace made into art); and the poem by Jose Garcia Villa, which has no text

Summary and conclusion


Two of the main questions in aesthetics are, What is art? and What is

beauty? Our definitions of art, and our ways of thinking about it, change over time The earliest definition of art is mimesis. Plato rejected this as per his metaphysics, but Aristotle defended it, extolling its function as mimesis and as catharsis The element of beauty is a sufficient condition for art (via Baumgarten) but not a necessary condition (via Danto) An understanding of the different aesthetic theories could enhance ones appreciation of art, especially contemporary art, which requires an awareness of the discourse of the artworld A survey of art as it has evolved over time shows that a full appreciation of aesthetic objects requires both the cognitive (via Danto) and intuitive (via Kant) capacities

References
Plato The Republic
Aristotle The Poetics Baumgarten - Aesthetica Kant Critique of Judgement Danto The Transfiguration of the Commonplace,

The Artworld