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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


              Aesthetics is an essential term for countless fields of study as it is deeply involved in the concept of human sensory and the perception of beauty. As defined by the OED, it is “the philosophy of the beautiful or of art; a system of principles for the appreciation of the beautiful, etc.; the distinctive underlying principles of a work of art or a genre, the works of an artist, the arts of a culture, etc.”

 The English word aesthetics derives from the German Ästhetisc or the French esthétique, both that are derivations of the Greek word aisthetikos, meaning “sensitive, perceptive” and aisthanesthai “to perceive (by the senses or the mind)”. Evidently, it can be observed that aesthetics referred more to the senses and the ability to use the senses as perception tools as opposed to its contemporary usage as simple beauty. Knowledge is closely related to the philosophy of aesthetics; the scientific method of empiricism is the gathering of information and data through the sensory observation. Immanuel Kant popularized the classical definition and the German philosopher Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten eventually coined its modern definition in 1735 to mean the criticism and judgment of beauty.

            Aesthetics is an ambiguous term and throughout history, the concept of a distinct separation between beauty and ugliness was debatable and discussed by many philosophers. In its modern usage as the philosophy of beauty, aesthetics poses multiple questions that challenge the ideal and judgment of those considered “beautiful”. Discussions of aesthetics date back to Plato and Aristotle, both whom believed in the objective value of beauty. They considered certain objects to have objective properties that allow it to be perceived as beautiful. David Hume refuted Aristotle and Plato’s theories and viewed the value of art as a subjective perception. During the Enlightenment period, Immanuel Kant’s “The Critique of Judgment” stated that the judgment of beauty as disinterested, necessary objective, in which humans take pleasure in something because it is viewed to be beautiful, not vice versa. Additionally, as no physical evidence can be provided to prove the aesthetic value of a subject, he sees that the collective understanding of harmony gives people the reason and ability to make judgments of beauty.

            Evidently the possibilities within the philosophy of aesthetics are endless. In both architecture and art, many eras with different characteristics within the field have emerged throughout history. All of these particular movements presented ideals that evolved and differed in according to the values and understanding of its contemporary time period. The idea of aesthetics is not definite and will continue to be. Although it originated as perception from senses, its definition has blurred and it can be seen that the nature of beauty cannot only be garnered simply from the senses but through a more philosophical and elusive solution.

"Aesthetics." Oxford English Dictionary . www.oed.com.proxy.lib.uwaterloo.ca/ (accessed November 3, 2012).

Blackburn, Simon. "aesthetics." The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. www.oxfordreference.com.proxy.lib.uwaterloo.ca/ (accessed November 2, 2012).

"Conceptual Analysis of Aesthetics." Scribd. http://www.scribd.com/doc/259698/Conceptual-Analysis-of-Aesthetics (accessed November 2, 2012).

"Kant: Aesthetics [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://www.iep.utm.edu/kantaest/#H2 (accessed November 21, 2012).

Philip's. "aesthetics." World Encyclopedia. http:/http://www.oxfordreference.com.proxy.lib.uwaterloo.ca/ (accessed November 3, 2012).

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