An Aesthetic Definition of Art

A second disjunctive hybrid definition with historical occupation, Robert Stecker`s historical functionalism, states that an object is a work of art at time t, where t does not predate the time the object is made, if and only if it is in one of the art forms central to t and is produced with the intention of: to fulfill a function that has art at t, or it is an artifact to achieve excellence in such a function (Stecker 2005). One question for Stecker`s point of view is whether it provides an adequate representation of what it means for a function to be an artistic function, and whether it can therefore accommodate anti-aesthetic or non-aesthetic art. The reasons to believe that this is possible are that if the original functions of art were aesthetic, these functions and the intentions with which art is made can change unpredictably. Moreover, aesthetic properties are not always at the forefront of previous art concepts (Stecker 2000). One concern is that if the operational hypothesis is that if x belongs to a predecessor tradition of T, then x belongs to T, the possibility is not excluded that, for example, if the tradition of magic is a predecessor tradition of the scientific tradition, then the entities that belong to the magical tradition but have none of the standard characteristics of science, scientific units. A third major theme in the study of aesthetic judgments is how they are united through art forms. For example, the source of the beauty of a painting has a different character from that of beautiful music, suggesting that its aesthetic differs in nature. [25] The pronounced inability of language to express aesthetic judgments and the role of social construction further obscure this problem. Several responses have been given to this criticism.

First of all, the less restrictive conception of aesthetic properties mentioned above, on which they can be based on non-perceptual formal properties, can be used. From this point of view, conceptual works have aesthetic characteristics, similar to what is often claimed in mathematical entities (Shelley 2003, Carroll 2004). Second, a distinction can be made between time-critical properties whose standard observation conditions contain an essential reference to the observer`s temporal location and non-critical properties in time that do not. Higher-order aesthetic qualities such as drama, humour and irony, which are an essential part of the appeal of Duchamp and Cage`s works, would derive from critical properties of the time from this point of view (Tsemakh 1997). Third, it could be argued that it is the creative act of placing something unknown in the relevant sense in a new context, the art world that has aesthetic properties. Or fourth, one could argue that (Zangwill`s “secondary” strategy) works like Ready-Mades have no aesthetic functions, but are parasitic because they are meant to be considered in the context of works that have aesthetic functions and therefore represent marginal cases of borderline art that do not deserve the theoretical precedence often given to them. After all, it can be categorically denied that ready-mades were works of art (Beardsley 1982). Skeptical doubts about the possibility and value of a definition of art have played an important role in the discussion of aesthetics since the 1950s, and although their influence has diminished somewhat, unease about the proposed definition remains. (See section 4 below as well as Kivy 1997, Brand 2000 and Walton 2007). This is another key theme of aesthetics – a theme that curators and exhibition selection committees around the world constantly have to face. For example, how much of the artistic value of a painting results from its visual impact and how much of its intellectual content? Are realistic or naturalistic paintings better than abstract paintings? Not surprisingly, these questions have countless answers! Different intuitions, commonly associated with beauty and its nature, are at odds with each other, creating certain difficulties of understanding.

[34] [35] [36] On the one hand, beauty is attributed to things as an objective and public characteristic. On the other hand, it seems to depend on the subjective and emotional reaction of the viewer. It is said, for example, that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. [37] [31] It may be possible to reconcile these intuitions by confirming that they depend on both the objective characteristics of the beautiful thing and the subjective reaction of the viewer. One way to do this is to pretend that an object is beautiful when it has the power to evoke certain aesthetic experiences in the perceiving subject. This is often combined with the idea that the subject must have the ability to correctly perceive and judge beauty, sometimes called a “sense of taste.” [31] [35] [36] Various ideas on how beauty can be defined and understood have been proposed. Classical notions emphasize the objective side of beauty by defining it in relation to the relationship between the beautiful object as a whole and its parts: the parts must be in the right relationship with each other, thus forming an integrated harmonious whole. [31] [33] [36] Hedonistic conceptions, on the other hand, focus more on the subjective side by establishing a necessary link between pleasure and beauty, for example: That an object is beautiful means that it causes altruistic pleasure. [38] Other ideas include defining beautiful objects in terms of value, loving attitude toward them, or function. [39] [33] [31] The last European aesthetic capable of distinguishing good art from bad art was that used by the Nazi government to identify “degenerate art.” At the same time, Stalin and Andrei Zhdanov used the aesthetics of “socialist realism” to establish guidelines for artists in Soviet Russia. Both examples illustrate the dangers of a powerful elite minority trying to impose aesthetic standards on the rest of society.

As Berys Gaut and Livingston summed up in their essay “The Creation of Art”: “Structuralist and post-structuralist theorists and critics have sharply criticized many aspects of the new critique, beginning with the emphasis on aesthetic appreciation and the so-called autonomy of art, but they have repeated the attack on the hypothesis of biographical criticism that the artist`s activities and experiences were a privileged critical theme.  [41] These authors state: “Anti-intentionists, such as formalists, believe that the intentions associated with the production of art are irrelevant or peripheral to the correct interpretation of art. Therefore, the details of the act of creating a work, although they may be of interest in themselves, do not affect the correct interpretation of the work. [42] The most important and influential institutionalism is that of George Dickie.