DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M046-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 18, 2022, from

1. Aesthetics of art

Those questions that are specific to the philosophy of art are of three kinds: ones that arise only within a particular art form or set of related arts (perhaps arts addressed to the same sense), ones that arise across a number of arts of heterogeneous natures, and ones that are entirely general, necessarily applying to anything falling under the mantle of art.

Here are some of the most salient facts about art. Not everything is art. Artists create works of art, which reflect the skills, knowledge and personalities of their makers, and succeed or fail in realizing their aims. Works of art can be interpreted in different ways, understood, misunderstood or baffle the mind, subjected to analysis, and praised or criticized. Although there are many kinds of value that works of art may possess, their distinctive value is their value as art. The character of a work of art endows it with a greater or lesser degree of this distinctive value.

Accordingly, the most fundamental general question about art would seem to be: what is art? Is it possible to distinguish art from non-art by means of an account that it is definitive of the nature of art, or are the arts too loosely related to one another for them to possess an essence that can be captured in a definition (see Art, definition of)? Whatever the answer to this question may be, another entirely general issue follows hard on its heels. It concerns the ontology of art, the kind of thing a work of art is. Do some works of art fall into one ontological category (particulars) and some into another (types) or do they all fall within the same category (see Art works, ontology of)? And a number of other important general questions quickly arise. What is a work’s artistic value and which aspects of a work are relevant to or determine this value? Is the value of a work of art, considered as art, an intrinsic or an extrinsic feature of it? Is it determined solely by the work’s form or by certain aspects of its content – its truth or its moral sensitivity, for example? Can judgments about a work’s artistic value justifiably lay claim to universal agreement or are they merely expressions of subjective preferences? And how is a work’s artistic value related to, and how important is it in comparison with, other kinds of value it may possess (see Art, value of; Formalism in art; Art and truth; Art and morality; Schiller, J.C.F.)? What is required to detect the critically relevant properties of artworks, over and above normal perceptual and intellectual powers, and how can judgments that attribute such properties be supported (see Art criticism)? What kinds of understanding are involved in artistic appreciation, and must an acceptable interpretation of a work be compatible with any other acceptable interpretation (see Art, understanding of; Artistic interpretation; Structuralism in literary theory)? In what way, if any, does the artist’s intention determine the meaning or their work (see Artist’s intention)? What is an artist’s style and what is its significance in the appreciation of the artist’s work (see Artistic style)?

Citing this article:
Budd, Malcolm. Aesthetics of art. Aesthetics, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M046-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2022 Routledge.

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