This article draws some lines that might indicate the direction in which one might consider the notion of medieval aesthetics. It chooses three examples that have always been at the centre of the history of medieval aesthetics and the various attempts of its conceptualization: Abbot Suger's writings on the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis; the aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas; and the Schedula diversarum atrium. These examples also indicate the difficulty in relating the question of aesthetics exclusively to philosophy or even to address it as a philosophical question.
This article examines how aesthetics became a branch of psychology during the early modern period in which new references to taste, perfection, and harmony reinforced the emphasis on personal experience and judgement that was common to the natural and the human sciences of the period. During this period the debates in art theory centred on questions of the legitimacy of artistic innovations in style and genre, and were based on interpretations of the ancient texts of rhetoric and poetics. It discusses the factors that contributed to the development of aesthetics, the question of aesthetics prior to the eighteenth century, and the post-Kantian distinction between the tasks of rhetoric and those of aesthetics.
As we move beyond earlier postmodern era debates about the alleged death of aesthetics, Art as Experience remains a key resource for multidisciplinary discussions of “everyday aesthetics,” the aesthetics of embodiment, and the dialogue between pragmatist and other traditions such as Adornean Critical Theory. Dewey’s book focuses on what artists and audiences do, but it also presupposes his view of inquiry as a kind of transformative agency. In this way Dewey’s argument suggests a further view about the nonrepresentational nature of aesthetic theorizing itself. Such theorizing occurs—to use a metaphor with multiple Deweyan-pragmatist resonances—on a landscape of different possible linkages between belief and behavior. After addressing the aforementioned subjects, this chapter concludes with further thoughts about how the metaphor of aesthetic theorizing as a “landscape” invites further discussion of the place of art and aesthetic theorizing within the developing natural order as understood by Dewey in Experience and Nature.
The chapter focuses on Dewey’s claim that art should be viewed as a model of full, unrestricted human experience. Art, in this sense, is supposed to serve as a cognitive correction of certain key trends in modernity, including the transformation of experience in line with social and scientific requirements of abstraction, quantification, and instrumentality. Drawing on Adorno’s competing account, it is argued that Dewey’s position does not sufficiently grant art autonomy and that modern art, in particular, does not offer a direct alternative to the forms of experiential deformation identified by Dewey. Unlike Dewey, Adorno views art as radically separated from the everyday and able to offer insight only in an indirect, self-negating manner. Despite the many similarities between the two thinkers, the chapter argues that Dewey did not respond with sufficient care to aesthetic modernism, which by and large resisted the organicism he attributes to art in general.
The first part of this article reviews a number of recent general approaches to the history of modern aesthetics. Some of the most prominent work on the history of the subject by philosophers working within the paradigm of analytical aesthetics has not had much to say about some historical questions, but instead has taken both the very existence of the field of aesthetics and its post-eighteenth-century identification with the philosophy of art pretty much for granted; such work has generally used interpretations of historical figures, especially from the eighteenth century, to support or criticize positions in contemporary aesthetics. The second part of the article is a bibliographical essay listing some of the most important recent work on the major movements and individual figures in aesthetics from the beginning of the eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth.
Whereas earlier scholarship has tended to undervalue Hobbes’s contributions to the field of poetry and literary criticism, recent work has argued for a more prominent role for poetry and the poet within Hobbes’s philosophy. At the time of writing Leviathan, it has been suggested, Hobbes came to believe that the poet might have a genuinely philosophical role to play, but he was inconsistent or confused in his articulation of this position. Against claims for the philosophical importance of poetry and confusions or inconsistencies in Hobbes’s thinking, this chapter argues that Hobbes was consistently clear about the nature and scope of poetry and the role of the poet, which is restricted to the creation of fictional narratives in verse built on philosophical foundations. The poet’s sphere of competence is tightly restricted, and poetry itself so narrowly defined as to exclude most of Hobbes’s original verse productions.
This article analyses Nietzsche’s commitment to the sublime. Focusing on his early writings, it demonstrates how the sublime informs both Nietzsche’s conception of philosophy and his ideas for cultural revitalization. His appreciation of the sublime is embedded in four contexts and problems: his exploration of what philosophy is in its beginnings; his attack on D. F. Strauss and cultural philistinism; his conception of culture as transfigured physis; and the critique of the science of history. Nietzsche is committed to the sublime because it captures how humans transcend certain limits.
The concept of genius—artistic genius in particular—is generally thought of as a quintessentially nineteenth-century phenomenon: the cornerstone, in fact, of German Romanticism. Kant’s treatment of the concept has always been recognized as the source from which the early Romantics drew. But the fact of the matter is that it is to the British Enlightenment that we must look for the first modern formulation of the concept of artistic genius. For it was already well formed and clearly recognizable before Kant got his hands on it. In this article, the author begins by suggesting two ancient sources for the concept of genius as it developed in eighteenth-century Britain, then goes on to discuss the contributions to the concept of Joseph Addison, Edward Young, Alexander Gerard, William Duff, and Gerard again, who dipped his oar in twice.
Kant suggests that the chief advantage of his theory of taste over Hume’s is its a priori rather than empirical foundation. But his claim to have provided such a foundation for judgments of taste is questionable, and, in the end, both authors ground judgments of taste in a canon of proven or classical objects of taste rather than in determinate principles of taste. However, Kant does go beyond Hume in sketching a theory of aesthetic production, as well as reception in the form of his theory of artistic genius, according to which works of genius can be exemplars for the originality of subsequent artists as well as stimuli for the free play of imagination and understanding in their audiences.
This article focuses on how aesthetic values permeate Nietzsche’s philosophy. Artistry is not confined to the creation of conventional works of art but occurs in the form-giving that is essential to all human forms of life. Since Nietzsche was committed to the view that the world is in some basic sense chaotic and meaningless, he held that only by imposing forms can we create a cognizable world. This close association between the conditions of life itself and the aesthetic activity of giving form belies that Kantian conception that any appreciation of aesthetic phenomena is essentially disinterested.
Jessica N. Berry
This article explores notions about Nietzsche’s career as a philologist and his fascination with the Greeks. It considers his interest in Homer and the Greek philosophers—in particular, Heraclitus and Pyrrho. For Nietzsche, ancient Greeks such as Heraclitus and Homer were interesting not because of their doctrines, but because of the example they themselves provided of certain psychological types. Like the ancient skeptics following Pyrrho, Nietzsche was generally more interested in the psychological consequences of philosophical doctrines than in their content, and like those skeptics he often rejected any ambitions to limn the true nature of reality.
This article explores Nietzsche’s philosophical aestheticism—the conception of art and the aesthetic as playing a necessary, internal, privileged role in the task of philosophy. It begins with an overview of the discussions of art and the aesthetic in Nietzsche’s writings, focusing on his early theory of tragedy. It then shows how Nietzsche’s position allows itself to be reconstructed as a distinctive and coherent form of philosophical aestheticism. The great importance Nietzsche gives to the aesthetic state is not matched by extensive treatment of art. Instead, he associates the aesthetic state with his own philosophical ideas of will to power and eternal recurrence.
This article examines Schopenhauer’s influence on Nietzsche’s work. It considers how Nietzsche adopted some of his central ideas from Schopenhauer, how he exploited some of Schopenhauer’s positions to suit his own purposes, and how he developed some of his ideas as alternatives to Schopenhauerian positions. Nietzsche’s first published book, The Birth of Tragedy, is based on a Schopenhauerian metaphysical framework. Schopenhauer’s principle of individuation applicable to the world of representations is the key element in Nietzsche’s concept of the Apollonian and Schopenhauer’s principle of the undifferentiated nature of ultimate reality of the will is the key element in Nietzsche’s concept of the Dionysian.
Ludwig Wittgenstein had a deep and enduring interest in at least two of the major art forms: literature and music. He practised, if only briefly, two others: architecture and sculpture. In truth, art did not lie at the centre of Wittgenstein's philosophical concerns. Nevertheless, it is precisely because he held the finest art in such high esteem, assigning to it an absolute value, that it eludes the net of language as articulated in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, and he confessed that because it was impossible for him to say in Philosophical Investigations one word about all that music had meant in his life, it would be difficult for him to be understood. Tractatus has only a single gnomic remark about aesthetics: ‘Ethics and aesthetics are one’. In his lectures, Wittgenstein makes a number of claims about the concept of beauty, some of which appear also in his published writings. In his later philosophy, Wittgenstein's thoughts about aesthetics appear to have been focused almost exclusively upon art, issues in the aesthetic appreciation of nature not appearing to engage him.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, hoping, in 1919, to persuade Ludwig von Ficker, the editor of the literary journal Der Brenner, to publish his controversial Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, remarked, ‘The work is strictly philosophical and at the same time literary’. In Tractatus, Wittgenstein concerns himself with tautology: ‘the fact that the propositions of logic are tautologies shows the formal — logical — properties of language, of the world’. In the much-cited Preface to Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein describes the method whereby he ordered the ‘remarks, short paragraphs, of which there is sometimes a fairly long chain about the same subject’ into the larger structure of the book. Wittgenstein's writings enact their central motive: words and phrases can be understood only in their particular context, their use. Not what one says but how one says it is the key to doing philosophy. And that, of course, is what makes it poetry as well.