Branch of philosophy* dealing with beauty. Socrates* regarded the beautiful as relative and as coincident with good. Plato* regarded proportion as the common element in beautiful objects. Aristotle* saw order, symmetry, and definiteness or determination as the universal elements of beauty. According to Plotinus,* beauty is the form of matter that beecomes a notion under the formative influence of objective reason; he initiated the transition to modern theories of beauty. Medieval aesthetics retained the objective nature of beauty and added the element of feeling evoked or pleasure experienced. The modern trend is to study aesthetics entirely from the subjective or psychological viewpoint. I. Kant* denied objective existence to beauty and found beauty only in the perception of the object. Present-day aesthetics centers on the aesthetic experience, which may be defined as arising from the disinterested and sympathetic attention to and contemplation of any object of awareness whatever, for its own sake alone (Stolnitz).
The chief theories of aesthetics may be classified as follows: imitation theories (Plato, Aristotle, S. Johnson*); formalism (Clive Bell, [18811964; b. East Sheffors, Berkshire, Eng.; educ. Cambridge; art critic], Roger Eliot Fry [18661934; b. London, Eng.; educ. at Clifton and King's Coll., Cambridge; painter and critic]); emotionalist theory (L. N. Tolstoi,* Ducasse [18811969; b. Angoulême, Fr.; to US 1900; naturalized citizen 1910; prof. philos.]); the theory of aesthetic fineness (Dilman Walter Gotshalk [1901; b. Trenton, New Jersey, educator]). Aesthetic evaluation and criticism is directed chiefly to painting, sculpture, architecture, literature, and music.
Aestheticism is a term applied to the theory that fails to distinguish bet. the beautiful and the good (true, to a certain extent, of the Greeks). The Bible often uses connotations of beauty in describing the good (e.g., Ps 149:4; Is 28:1; Eph 5:27; Rv 21), but it distinguishes bet. external beauty and moral uprightness (Pr 11:22; 1 Ptr 3:35).
J. Stolnitz, Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art Criticism: A Critical Introduction (Boston, 1960); C. J. Ducasse, Art, the Critics, and You (New York, 1944); J. L. Jarrett, The Quest for Beauty (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1957); T. Munro, The Arts and Their Interrelations (New York, 1949); M. C. Beardsley, Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism (New York, 1958); M. Weitz, Problems in Aesthetics: An Introductory Book of Readings (New York, 1959); K. E. Gilbert and H. Kuhn, A History of Esthetics (Bloomington, Indiana, 1953). WHW
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