Philosophy Of Beauty

The skepticism about beauty culminated in the Critique of Judgment (1790), Immanuel Kant ‘s contribution to aesthetics. In that work, Kant analyzed the judgment of taste, that is, the judgment that a thing is beautiful. He asserted that the judgment of beauty is subjective. Before Kant, the common assumption was that beauty designated some objective feature of things. Most earlier theories of beauty had held that beauty was a complex relation between parts of a whole. Some philosophers called this relation harmony. From the time of the Greeks, a common assumption was that beauty applied not only, or primarily, to art, but that it manifested itself in cultural institutions and moral character as well as in natural and artificial objects. By the end of the 18, however, the range of accepted beautiful things was becoming more and more restricted to natural things and artworks.

Whereas theorists of beauty had generally admitted that the perception of beauty always gives pleasure to the perceiver, Kant turned the pleasure into the criterion of beauty. According to Kant, people can judge a thing beautiful only if they take pleasure of a certain kind in experiencing it. The American philosopher George Santayana took this subjectivism a step further by declaring that beauty is the same as pleasure — but pleasure then can be seen as objectified in things. Santayana ‘s work (1896) marked the virtual end, until recently, of aestheticians’ serious theoretical interest in beauty.

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