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Aesthetics and the philosophy of language

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M065-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2021
Retrieved July 25, 2024, from

Article Summary

Article Summary

David Hume was an early exponent of attending to the language we use to speak about objects of aesthetic and artistic interest. His remarks on this topic were largely negative and designed to warn us against being misled by such discourse. Nearly two centuries later, logical empiricists found inspiration in Hume in setting out constraints on ‘cognitively’ meaningful language, as well as in suggesting ways in which our utterances may have ‘emotive’ rather than cognitive meaning. As logical empiricism waned, Anglophone philosophers looked to ordinary language to illuminate our concepts of artistic and aesthetic phenomena as revealed by the ‘language games’ in which they figure. This approach included studying the role of evaluations (‘x is bombastic’, ‘y is eloquent’) in describing works of art, the conditions under which aesthetic descriptions (‘x is elegant’, ‘y is serene’) are justified, the sensitivity of such descriptions to the contexts in which they are used, as well as the character of disagreements about the quality of works of art and objects of aesthetic interest more generally. Current research has begun to see a productive cross-fertilisation between the fields of aesthetics and philosophy of language as scholars aim to understand how we communicate our interpretation and evaluation of works of art, artefacts, and aspects of our natural environment.

Citing this article:
Green, Mitchell. Aesthetics and the philosophy of language, 2021, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M065-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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