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The Aesthetic Point of View

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Is there an Aesthetic Point of View?
Adapted from Monroe C. Beardsley (1915-1985),
“Aesthetic Point of View” in Perspectives in Education,
Religion, and the Arts: Contemporary Philosophic Art,
edited by Howard E. Kiefer and Milton K. Munitz (Albany,
N.Y.: State University of New York Press1970).
What is peculiarly aesthetic?
The effort to discover the uniquely aesthetic aspect, component, or
ingredient in whatever is or is experienced has been considered
greatly, thus giving evidence that there is something is peculiarly
aesthetic (pg. 219):
Aesthetic experience
Aesthetic value
Aesthetic enjoyment
Aesthetic satisfaction
Aesthetic objects
Aesthetic situations
But what is the nature of aesthetics has been elusive, widely
debated, and surprisingly motivating in philosophy.
To understand an Aesthetic Point of View:
If the notion of the aesthetic point of view can be
made clear, it should be useful from the
philosophical point of view:
1st: To understand a particular point of view, we
must envision its alternatives.
• Eg., a well-building has three conditions: commodity
(architectural; practical), firmness (engineering), and
delight (experience).
An aesthetic point of view could be in terns of being “good
of a kind.” (e.g., building. The kind is architecture, the
good is focusing on whether it is a good work of
architecture).
a. We judge it in relation to its kind.
But the “point of view” terminology is more elastic than the “good
of its kind” terminology. To consider a bridge or music or
sculpture as an aesthetic object is to consider it from the
aesthetic point of view but what about a mountain, sea shell, or a
tiger? But if A sea shell can’t be good sculpture if it is not
sculpture at all.
What about the installation of an “invisible sculpture” behind
the Metropolitan Museum of Art? The installation consisted in
digging a grave-size hole and filling it in again. Sam Green’s
comments are interesting (he is N.Y. city’s architectural
consultant):
“This is a conceptual work of art and is as much valid as
something you can actually see. Everything is art if it is
chosen by the artist to be art. You can say it is good art or
bad art, but you can’t say it isn’t art. Just because you can’t
see a statue doesn’t mean that it isn’t there” (pg. 222).
2nd Philosophical use of the notion of the aesthetic point of view is to
provide a broad concept of art that might be helpful for certain
purposes:
“A work of art (in the broad sense) is any perceptual or intentional
object that is deliberately regarded from the aesthetic point of
view.”
“Regarding” would include “looking”, “listening”, “reading”, and
other similar acts of attention, and “exhibiting”-picking up an
object and placing it where it readily permits such attention, or
presenting the object to persons acting as spectators (pg. 222).
What then is the aesthetic point of view (pp. 222-23).
“To adopt the aesthetic point of view with regard to X is to take an
interest in whatever aesthetic value X may possess” (pg. 222).
Rather, a broader definition for Beardsley may be better:
“To adopt an aesthetic point of view with regard to X is to take an
interest in whatever aesthetic value that X may possess or that is
obtainable by means of X” (pg. 223).
To adopt an aesthetic point of view would include the
following:
a.
Judging (estimate value of X) by appealing to
certain canons of reasoning, rules of evidence.
But which are the aesthetic rules of evidence?
a.
Provides aesthetic gratification which other kinds
of values do not.
1.
Unity, complexity, and intensity (pg. 225).
“Gratification is aesthetic when it is obtained primarily from
attention to the formal unity and/or the regional qualities of a
complex whole, and when its magnitude is a function of the
degree of formal unity and/or the intensity of regional quality” (pg.
225).
The above definition is substantiated by the following statement:
“The amount of aesthetic value possessed by an object is a
function of the degree of aesthetic gratification it is capable of
providing in a particular experience of it.”
a.
What a work does provide, it clearly can provide?
Three difficulties that have been raised against the capacitydefinition of aesthetic value (pp. 226-235):
1.
2.
3.
4.
Unrecognized masterpiece problem, i.e., the problem of
falsification (jewels buried in the ground);
LSD problem; i.e., the problem of illusion;
Edgar Rice Burroughs problem; i.e., the problem of
devaluation. Devaluation is due to the shift in our value
grades caused by enlargement of our range of
experience; we can overestimate the aesthetic
gratification of X;
Also have the range of aesthetic value to consider: Some
take it too widely (e.g., art is a junkyard) and others too
possibly too narrowly (should we consider The Deputy by
Rolf Hochmuth as being art?).
“What does follow is that there is a certain asymmetry between
negative and affirmative judgments, with respect to the degree of
confirmation; but this is so between negative and affirmative
existential statements in general. The experienced critic may
have good reason in many cases not only for confessing that he
finds little value in a painting, but for adding that very probably no
one ever will find great value in it” (pg. 227).”
(2) If aesthetic value involves capacity, then its presence can no
doubt be sufficiently attested by a single realization. What a work
does provide, it can clearly provide” (pg. 227).”
Given the difficulties mentioned, like the LSD and devaluation
problem, it may prove worthwhile to modify the earlier definition:
“The aesthetic value of X is the value that X possesses in virtue
of its capacity to provide aesthetic gratification when correctly
experienced” (pg. 228).
Be a reliable or dependable source of gratification and a
repeatable experience. But there are time when we see object X
only once. Are they reliable? They certainly could be.
“The aesthetic value of X is the value that X possesses
in virtue of its capacity to provide aesthetic gratification
when correctly and completely experienced.
But we need to acknowledge as well there are is the
possibility that there may be situations in which it is
morally objectionable to adopt the aesthetic point of
view (e.g., The Deputy by Roth Hochmuth’s play) (pg.
234).
Conclusion is two-fold:
A. There are occasions on which it would be wrong to adopt the
aesthetic point of view because there is a conflict of values and
the values that are in peril are, in that particular case, clearly
higher (235-6):
(e.g., taking pictures of a murder while it is taking place or
assisting the victim, ending the potential crime).
B. There is nothing-no object or event- that is per se wrong to
consider from the aesthetic point of view. This, I think is part of
the truth in the art-for-art’s-sake doctrine. To adopt this view is
simply to seek out a source of value. There can be no moral
error to realize value.
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