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Aesthetics, in modern philosophy

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DA085-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2017
Retrieved July 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

The term aesthetics is derived linguistically from the Greek term meaning sensitive or sentient. It is first used to designate a particular area of philosophical inquiry in mid-eighteenth-century Germany, though the intellectual origins of the discipline trace to earlier French and British writers, with the latter providing many founding texts of the emerging area of study. The new subject matter was distinguished by its rise coeval with the Continental Enlightenment and a focus on philosophical issues surrounding the fine arts and judgements of value captured by concepts of beauty, sublimity, and their relata.

In France, the seventeenth-century tradition of criticism divides into two strands of thought: one influenced directly by Cartesian rationalism, the other modified by principles drawn from British empiricism. German contributions to aesthetics develop within a rationalist framework derived from Leibnizian philosophy and marked an effort to systematize the newly articulated domain of knowledge. British writers follow primarily empiricist principles but fall into three groups depending on whether they emphasize an internal sense, the faculty of imagination, or psychological processes of association. The British aesthetic tradition is also distinguished by debates over the picturesque, an aesthetic drawn from landscape painting and inseparable from the history of English landscape gardening.

Citing this article:
Costelloe, Timothy M.. Aesthetics, in modern philosophy, 2017, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DA085-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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