The Science of Aesthetics, the Critique of Taste, and the Philosophy of Art

Ambiguities and Contradictions

  • J Colin McQuillan St. Mary's University
Keywords: Baumgarten, Kant, Schelling, Hegel, Science, Critique, Sensation, Taste, Feeling, Art, fa


Aesthetics is the part of contemporary academic philosophy that is concerned with art, beauty, criticism, and taste. As such, it must address metaphysical issues (distinguishing works of art from other kinds of things), epistemic problems (the experience of beauty, the standards of critical judgment), and questions of value (the difference between good and bad taste). This makes it difficult to present a coherent account of the subject matter of aesthetics. In this article, I argue that this difficulty is the result of ambiguities and contradictions that arose in disputes about the relationship between the science of aesthetics, the critique of taste, and the philosophy of art in German philosophy during the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. By reconstructing the history of these debates, I hope to shed new light on the origins of aesthetics as a discipline and to explain why its subject matter and status within philosophy are still so difficult to define.


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