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Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art » Aesthetics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207535.1997.x


The reflection on art and beauty is allegedly to be found in several different cultures at several different periods. The philosophical sophistication of such reflection in Ancient Greece is attested by Plato's Hippias Major and Aristotle's Poetics , which were formative texts for the Western tradition, but until very recently there was nothing in this tradition comparable with the level of Chinese reflection on painting reached in a text such as Chang Yen-yüan's ninth-century Li-Tai Ming-hua Chi (Record of Famous Paintings) . Yet it would be extremely imprudent to collect these and other examples of reflection on art and beauty under the title of “aesthetics.” The latter is not only of modern origin, but its preoccupations, direction of analysis, and consequently its internal system of division and classification are specifically European and should not be applied to either premodern or non-European materials. The term is first used in connection with art and beauty by the German rationalist philosopher Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten in his Reflections on Poetry (1735) and developed subsequently in his Aesthetica (1750–8). In the former Baumgarten introduced aesthetics at the very end of his analysis, referring to the Greek origins of the term in the contrast between aestheta or “things perceived” and noeta or “things known.” The reasons for coining the new term were ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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