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The value of art Notes
One of the most important contributions to aesthetics is from Immanuel Kant. In his
Critique of Pure Judgement 1790 he proposed the criteria for judging what is art and the
beauty of it. In this he brought forth four `moments' in which defined art. These were
Disinterestedness, were the art should not bring along any strong emotional feelings or
feelings of possession about the art itself. Universality, were the art should be beautiful to
all that behold it. Necessity, were the art should have no purpose or end. Finally,
Purposiveness, were Kant accepted that not everyone would share the same universality of
art, but they ought to.
One important issue that has to be distinguished in aesthetics is that whether the art is
objective or subjective. If it was subjective then there would be many different competing
views from different people. If the art was objective, then there would only be an absolute
true or false judgement made by one person.
There is also another issue in that if we either `know' aesthetic pleasures or if we `feel'
them. If we `know' them, then this is likely to be an intellectual process and therefore
objective, whereas if we `feel', we are gaining this experience from our senses and thus
becomes subjective. These positions are not mutually exclusive and it is possible to see
aesthetic judgements possessing both elements to some degree.
David Hume thinks that aesthetic judgement is subjective and that it is the `feeling' and
not the `knowing' of a piece that gives it its beauty, and any attempt to run this into a
rational concept comes afterwards. Nevertheless, Hume still implies that there are certain
aesthetic standards of taste. These are collective human thoughts and feelings derived from
experience that compile into a common human sentiment.
Maybe we value art because it informs us through imitation. Plato offered a very
important and famous account of art being imitation in his book, The Republic. In this he
produced his theory of the Forms. This means that for every physical object we see, there is
an original and perfect form for it. For all those objects we see, they share `some' of the
universals of the Form. Therefore, the everyday things we see are only copies of copies
one stage further from the true reality and because of this, Plato implied that art is
dangerous, as it appears to be false and it is a smokescreen that's hides real life.
Plato also held another idea that was found in his shorter dialogue `Ion', in his Symposium.
Here, he implied that another problem could arise if the artist actually produced a piece of
art that was better than the original form. Thus the artist would become some kind of
A problem the imitation theory is that it may not be able to account for all pieces of art.
For example, if we consider Jackson Pollack's drip paintings, what they imitate cannot easily
be established. It may also be the same for music, how can we be sure what the
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However, Plato and Aristotle did say that music imitates
natural sounds and emotions but others may beg to differ.
However, we can still accept Plato's idea and still regard art in a positive way because the
representation of art allows us to go beyond particular examples of a certain thing, to the
universal `truth' of that thing. For example, consider Michelangelo's David statue. It's a copy
of a copy, with the real Form of `man', elsewhere.…read more