aesthetics defined in 1939 yearaesthetics - Aesthetics (Gr. aisthetikos, perception);
aesthetics - Body of mental concepts leading to a theory of beauty. The term Aesthetic is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as "the philosophy or theory of taste or of the perception of the beautiful in nature and art." One of its purposes is to define the beautiful and to analyse the attitude to it of the human mind. The beautiful in its essence is a theme for the professed philosopher, though its concrete manifestations in nature and art appeal to the general intelligence.
Response to the perception of beauty does not move a person to action, but is contemplative, harmonious, restful, and disinterested in the sense that to enjoy beauty we do not monopolise â€” as in the pleasure of eating, for exampleâ€” but share with others the satisfaction it affords. Objects which provide aesthetic satisfaction are in several categories, e.q. beauty in the ordinary sense, the sublime, the characteristic, and even the ugly.
What is presented in the arts affects us as does a mountain cliff, but it is also to be appreciated as a purposeful work of human hands. The discussion of the beautiful in art has for its practical end the establishment of a basis for art criticism, and this is sometimes called practical aesthetic. It concerns itself with the purely artistic qualities of form, design, and technique, as distinct from utilitarian purpose, not only in architecture, painting, sculpture, ornament, etc., but in poetry, drama, and other creative literary artsâ€”although the modern development in the perception of the beauty that is inherent in fitness for purpose, has made the purely aesthetic qualities of, for example, architecture, more difficult to isolate. The devotee of "functionalism" derives equal aesthetic satisfaction from the contemplation of the lines of a sailing yacht or of a steel girder bridge like the Forth Bridge, and those of a factory building well planned for its purpose, or even a well-whitewashed wall, all of which are entirety functional in purpose, the beauty being incidental.
Art concerns itself not only with the product, but with the conditions of production, the psychology of the artist, the character of the impulse from which artistic activity proceeds. This activity, like the appreciation of the beautiful, is an unconstrained ideal activity of a disinterested kind in that it is an end in itself. The only reason for indulgence in conscious and unrestrained artistic activity is that the agent takes pleasure in it. To define the nature of this pleasure is one of the problems of aesthetics, and no theory yet commands general assent. See also Architecture; Art; Criticism; Design; Drawing; Painting; Sculpture, etc.
Bibliography: History of Aesthetic, B. Bosanquet, 1892; The Sense of Beauty, G. Santayana, 1904; Essence of Aesthetic, B. Croce, trans. Ainslie, 1918; The Theory of Beauty, E. F. Carritt, 1923.
near aesthetics in Knolik
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