Philosophy of Art – A Brief History of Its Development

Beauty is commonly defined as a particular aesthetic quality of things which makes these things enjoyable to see. Such items include sunsets, landscapes, humans, and works of artwork. Beauty, along with aesthetic sense, is presently the most important concern of aesthetics, among the various branches of science. The word ‘beauty’ is derived from the Greek word ‘bioterroros’, which means an imperfect creation.

Philosophy of aesthetics is a branch of inquiry that studies how aesthetic qualities can be found in nature. There are two broad schools of thought within aesthetics which are naturalism and rationalism. Naturalists adhere to a purely aesthetic theory while rationalists use both aesthetics and science to examine the natural world. Aesthetics scholars argue that there are several distinct forms of aesthetic appreciation. In a more broad sense, aesthetics can be studied as a philosophical study about the relationship between the senses and the human mind.

Aesthetics scholars usually agree that beauty exists in the world as part and parcel of the human experience. However, aesthetics scholars differ on the extent to which beauty is a valued concept and some even feel that it is a value in and of itself. Some modern aesthetics philosophers compare beauty to a language and say that a good aesthetic concept is one that can be understood by everyone. According to this view, beauty is a universal aspect of life that transcends race, culture, and time.

Aesthetics scholars believe that beauty is subjective and not objective since the visual object affects only the observer. Aesthetics theories suggest that some aesthetic concepts may also be personal and that the objective meaning of beauty lies within the thinker rather than the observed object. This idea is rejected by some philosophers who argue that beauty is a criterion that cannot be objectively measured. Another group of philosophers under the label of modern aesthetics opposes what they see as the reduction of aesthetic beauty into some general or universal quality. According to this school of thought, beauty is determined by human perception and nothing else.

Modern aesthetics therefore has three basic conceptions: aesthetic experiences create or give meaning to the aesthetic concepts; aesthetic concepts are personal and independent and social; and beauty is a subjective experience. Many modern aesthetics theories are interrelated and each one contributes to the understanding of aesthetic experience. Cultural differences, for example, contribute to the development of aesthetic concepts that may differ significantly from those of another culture. Beauty themes that emerged in one country may be different when examined from those of another. The ideas of modern aesthetics were shaped by culture, art, and society in the United States. The impact of such developments as American literature and the Civil War on aesthetic ideas have become the topic of endless debate among American aesthetics scholars.

Modern aesthetics theories continue to develop and are influenced by changes in philosophy, technology, literature, and society. Three approaches to aesthetics that are prominent in American aesthetics are rationalism, aesthetic naturalism, and idealism/anti-realism. These three approaches share common notions regarding the definition of beauty, its sources, and its significance to human knowledge and life. Each of these three approaches to beauty offer important insights into the motivation of aesthetic creation and the processes through which beauty is experienced and perceived. Philosophy of art further integrates these three aesthetic concepts in the attempt to understand the unique creative process through which beauty is produced.