Facets of Aesthetics
[Unism and Art]

Facets of Aesthetics

The categories of philosophical aesthetics refer to the aesthetic side of human activity as distinct from (and complementary to) its logical or ethical aspects; all such reflective characteristics are to complement the primary, material basis, that is, producing something real to become a part of human culture in general. The same categorical schemes can be revealed in any synthetic form, since they do essentially the same, projecting the findings of the art, science and philosophy onto any other activity, reflective or not. The specificity of the aesthetic approach is in the way of projection similar to what we do in the arts: a specific activity is intentionally organized to resemble some modes of analytical reflection, reproducing their overall character rather than any essential traits. Following an aesthetical principle, we act as if we were doing art, science or philosophy (or, maybe, their combination, or neither of them). This differs, say, from the logical perspective demanding the similarity of the inner organization. This difference could be compared to the distinction of an example and method, an instance and a class. Obviously, there are no impenetrable barriers, and the opposites may penetrate each other in a rather complicated manner. However, it is important that the aesthetic aspect of activity is to produce the impression of reflection rather than actually plunge in reflection; otherwise that would mean a change of activity and necessity to apply some other aesthetics, more appropriate in that new case.

For one choice, the hierarchy of aesthetical categories could reproduce some vison of the philosophical ontology, and in particular, reflect the roots and development of art. Projected back onto artistic creativity, this aesthetics will lead to various categorizations to serve as a starting point in a scientific study of the arts and their history. Of course, one could as well start from gnoseological or axiological issues, which would produce essentially the same philosophical aesthetics, in a different formulation.

For instance, the general distinction of the object, the subject and the product as the fundamental elements of any activity would suggest the subdivision of philosophical aesthetics in general into three principal domains: objective, subjective and pragmatic aesthetics. The categories of any one of these levels cannot be reduced to those of another; they refer to the different aspects of the same. One could consider a particular aesthetic phenomenon form different angles, but a comprehensive study is to combine all the three levels in an appropriate manner; in fact they will necessarily be present in any real reflection, though possibly hidden behind the foreground.

Objective aesthetics treats the implementation of aesthetic principles in human activity in an object manner, trying to indicate the specific qualities that make the product look in this or that particular way. Thus, considering the artistic side of human creativity, we might speak of such levels of the aesthetic ability as mastery, taste or artistry; the mechanisms of introducing that kind of aesthetic in human activity could be characterized as imitation, sublimation and refinement; the sphere of objective aesthetics also includes such fundamental categories as realism, beauty and artistic truth.

Subjective aesthetics will discuss issues related to the origin and manifestations of aesthetic creativity as a necessary part of the subject. This covers the development of creative qualities and the possible (historical) types of the aesthetic; one is interested in the nature of aesthetic communication and the role of co-creation in the relations between the producer and the consumer, the author and the public. Since aesthetics originally refers to the "vertical" interactions in the hierarchy of the subject, the mutual dependence of an individual and a group, the problems of collective creativity are of primary importance.

Pragmatic aesthetics approaches the aesthetic universality of the product considering its cultural forms. Here, we discuss the place of tradition and innovation, creative styles and different aesthetic schools in the history of the arts and in culture in general. The cultural determination of aesthetic creativity is in focus, including aesthetic education. Thus, treating an artist as a cultural phenomenon is not the same as studying somebody's inner world. One has to understand why the infinite diversity of the arts normally tends to concentrate around certain (often institutionalized) directions, and how these cultural structures shape creative individuals, as well as their possible audience.

As usual in philosophy, one could build a number of categorical schemes to arrange the categories of objective, subjective and cultural aesthetics in a universal way, to stress the integrity of each facet and their mutual complementarity. However, such formal constructs should not be mistaken for mere enumeration or a structured classification. Rather, they provide a general framework, a collection of conceptual tools to speak of synthetic reflection, which is certainly wider than any analytical model. Aesthetical categories are not like a scientific theories; rather, they are the typical questions to ask about any specific area of activity, whose aesthetic quality can only be expressed in its own terms.

[Art] [Philosophy] [Unism]