Essay by steve001 April 2007

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Aesthetics is the theoretical study of the arts and related types of behavior and experience. It is traditionally regarded as a branch of philosophy, concerned with the understanding of beauty and its manifestations in art and nature. However, in the latter 20th century there developed a tendency to treat it as an independent science, concerned with investigating the phenomena of art and its place in human life. Yet, what in a field with a hazy line in between being classified as a science or study of beliefs is considered data for determining what can be studied? It can simply be drawn to the only three things involved in the process of art : The creator, the person experiencing, and the art itself.

Now this leads us to understand what exactly, is art. studies all the typical “arts”. This includes music, literature, theatre, dance, film, as well as painting, sculpture, and architecture.

This directs the student towards a very broad field. For example, architecture may involve the Sistine Chapel, considered one of the world’s most loved works of art. However, it may also include the landscaping in a small town square. So then, art is defined as something that deals with both the “useful” and “fine” arts, insofar as they appeal to aesthetic taste, or as long as they are created with the specific intent to cause a reaction, whether it be positive or negative.

Some disagreement about the proper definition of survives from the conflict of rival schools of thought in philosophy and art criticism during the 18th ad 19th centuries, when first achieved recognition as a distinct field of knowledge and examination. The turning point which influenced most scholars to believe that leaned toward the sciences, rather than towards philosophy began with Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Aesthetic Judgment. The approach to beauty and art became more metaphysical and transcendental.

A leader in the renewed attempt of art as science was Hippolyte Taine, who proposed that styles of art should be studied in the same way as plants are studied by botanists, and are subject to the same evolutionary development. At the same time in Germany, the name Kunstwissenschaft was applied to the historical writings of Semper, Fiedler, Burckhardt, and Riegl. In their writings, they strove for neutrality in comparative analysis in order to avoid personal judgments of art, therefore evading any biased opinions in dealing with the newly classified science of .

Kunstwissenschaft propelled more scientists , specifically G. T. Fechner to turn the definition of from “philosophy of beauty” to the empirical psychology and sociology for artistic creation and appreciation. His work emphasized the statistical study of individual aesthetic preferences for standardized types of object, such as rectangles. The subjects’ heart rate, visual reaction, and perspiration levels were monitored , thus giving “proof” of reaction to the standardized objects. After his death, Fechner’s work was carried out by C.W. Valentine in England, although is declined in activity due to more pressing matters during World War II.

General psychology also provided a framework within which can focus its special studies on the creation and appreciation of art and related varieties of experience. It includes the unconscious and preconscious realms of human experience as revealed by depth psychology, with the light it throws on dreams and creative imagination. This consists of the evolutionary account of the human species with its innate perceptual, mental and affective functions, predispositions and aptitudes, especially man’s power to learn and to accumulate “culture”. The most important contributors to the general psychology of were Freud, Jung, and most notably, K. Koffka’s and his writing, Problems in the Psychology of Art.

Early in the 20th century, Max Dessoir, professor at the University of Berlin, sought to finish off the hostility of indecision of where to classify the study of . Dessoir sought to enlist the co-operation of many different approaches under the double name “ and general science of art.” This implied that was still to be understood in the early, narrow sense as philosophy of beauty, but that a new, empirical and scientific sense of art was to be recognized as allied and parallel with it. However, it did not find favor outside of Germany, and since then the single term has been applied, however in a very broad sense, which includes all the various schools of thought and lines of research.

Contemporary does not expect to discover exact, permanent laws like those of physics, but only approximate accounts of recurrent types and tendencies, correlations and causal connections. The phenomena of art and taste are obviously among the most variable, complex, and intangible, of those presented to scientific inquiry. is not as cut and dry as the leaves of a tree, or the genetic makeup of humans. It caries from person to person, culture to culture, period to period; their changing and unique aspects are often the most important ones. They cannot be reduced to fixed, numerical formulas, but they are not completely unique or chaotic, and it is the business of to describe both their constant and their variable aspects. Along these lines, contemporary is trying to achieve the status of an experimental science of the serious difficulties involved in interpreting the data.

Although is completely unstable where concrete scientific data is concerned, many writers attempted to make sense off of one theory : art is beauty, and beauty is only art if it contains a purpose. Kant specifically utilized this theme in his Critique of Judgment, the third of his three fundamental works, applied the transcendental method of philosophical analysis to the problem of . He asked which are the conditions implied by the phenomenon of beauty? What gives validity to our aesthetic judgments? The Critique of Practical Reason had granted a glimpse into the realm of freedom where reason holds sway in the role of moral legislator. The dualism of the phenomenal world on the one hand and the noumenal world on the other, required a form of mediation, and beauty as analyzed in the first part of the Critique of Judgment furnished the connecting link. Through the harmonious design of a shell found at the beach, or a melodious sequence of sounds the effectiveness or reason in the phenomenal world is borne in upon the mind which intuitively recognizes in these forms a “purposeiveness”. This recognition gives a peculiar pleasure at the harmonious interplay of our cognitive faculties and it expresses itself in a judgment which, at the time was incapable of demonstration, but however, claimed universal validity.

Friedrich Schiller took up and transformed Kant’s idea of an interplay of faculties in his Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man. Schiller said that Man’s inner life was composed of two basic drives : “sensuous instinct” and “formal instinct”. Those two forces can only attain balance through a third force : “the play-impulse” which constitutes beauty and art. Hence art appeared to him an indispensable instrument for fashioning man into the kind of harmonious personality which he admired in Kant.

Friedrich Schlegel, one of the representatives of Christian idealism, combined the idea of play with another element of Kant’s , the notion of freedom, interpreting the latter as the freedom of the creative mind to rise by means of play above the limitations imposed by fixed form. Shclegel’s theories were shared by Friedrich von Hardenberg, who then took them a few steps further. He claimed that poetry, philosophy, and life came to be fused in the ecstatic vision of a “magic universe”. A curious reversal of the preceding development took place. Through , an area of its own had been set aside for man’s artistic creativity. Now independence turned into domination, and the tendency towards differentiation gave way to desire for total inclusiveness. Art, after liberating itself from service under alien powers, (namely the repression of artists and their art, or the lack of education in the arts) aspired in its turn to embrace life in its entirety. In everything, there is art, and in art, there is everything. Or so it was in German romantic thought.

Throughout the history of , which is arguably the length of time held within the universe, not much has been distorted. Art, along with is an incredibly difficult subject to comprehend, due to the varying nature of themes, opinions, and judgments. Not to cite all the societies, time periods, ethnicities, age and gender biased opinions. It is neither a science, nor a philosophy. It is both. within itself is a beauty, which will forever perplex the minds of the world. Art, placed in the neighborhood of philosophy and science reveals its innate inclination, (although undefined) to forever intrigue and perplex both the scientific and philosophical minds.