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Trois questions...

Trois questions... Are there any influential essays on aesthetics which deal with modern rather than fine art? I have just read Kant's "Critique of aesthetic judgment" and Hume's "Of the standard of taste", which made me want to read more recent treatments of the debate. In your opinion, is aesthetics necessarily linked to visual art, or could the term equally be applied to music and literature? Finally, how far is aesthetic appreciation informed by intuition, and how much by logic (in the case of visual art - the golden mean, composition, etc)? Is there any consensus on this? Thank you.

1. Yes, there is much interesting philosophical work on modern art. I would start with Arthur Danto, who has written many interesting essays (often for the Nation) and a few fascinating books on the topic.

2. The term aesthetics is certainly applied to music -- see Theodor Adorno and currently Lydia Goehr and Peter Kivy for example -- as well as to poetry. Less frequently to literature, but this is presumably because there aesthetic quality is typically a less important component of overall quality (esp. outside fiction).

3. "Logic" is perhaps not quite the right word for what you have in mind here. Perhaps "rules"? I would think that aesthetic judgments are intuitive judgments, and that any rules laid down for composition or appreciation have standing only insofar as they are confirmed by intuitive judgments. (Intuitive judgments may differ, as they did in respect to the atonal works of Arnold Schönberg, for instance, and judgments about rules will then differ correspondingly.) To what extent can our intuitive aesthetic judgments be expressed in rules? This question has been quite interestingly addressed in modern times by reference to the apparently quite fundamental distinction between objects that are and objects that are not works of art. Is there a rule for drawing this distinction? Marcel Duchamp raised this question dramatically when, in 1917, he took an ordinary white gentlemen's urinal, called it Fountain, signed it, and put it on display. In 1962, Andy Warhol began displaying Campbell soup cans. The debate about what is art, and what is good art, is ongoing; and Arthur Danto's work offers an excellent entry into this debate.

1. Yes, there is much interesting philosophical work on modern art. I would start with Arthur Danto, who has written many interesting essays (often for the Nation ) and a few fascinating books on the topic. 2. The term aesthetics i s certainly applied to music -- see Theodor Adorno and currently Lydia Goehr and Peter Kivy for example -- as well as to poetry. Less frequently to literature, but this is presumably because there aesthetic quality is typically a less important component of overall quality (esp. outside fiction). 3. "Logic" is perhaps not quite the right word for what you have in mind here. Perhaps "rules"? I would think that aesthetic judgments are intuitive judgments, and that any rules laid down for composition or appreciation have standing only insofar as they are confirmed by intuitive judgments. (Intuitive judgments may differ, as they did in respect to the atonal works of Arnold Schönberg, for instance, and judgments about rules will then differ correspondingly.) To...

Bonjour, I am considered an attractive 26 year old woman. I have at times been

Bonjour, I am considered an attractive 26 year old woman. I have at times been asked to model but never have. I find our culture's obsession with beauty unappealing and it has led me to sort of play down my beauty in dress. Should I be worried or at least concious of society and its issues around beauty? Or should I just strive to be the most beautiful I can be, disregarding other things, purely for the sake of aesthetics?

I don't disagree with the first respondent, but I'll give you a somewhat different response, and taking my cue from the 'Bonjour' with which you open, will give it en français. (If the cue was misleading, I'll be happy to translate subsequently!) Premièrement, la beauté est une chose rare et précieuse, et ceux ou celles qui s'en réjouissent ne devrait jamais se sentir coupable à son égard. Deuxièmement, même si la beauté n'était qu'une affaire d'esthétique, qui dit que l'esthétique est moins importante que l'éthique, ou que l'esthétique ne comprend pas, d'une certaine optique, un aspect éthique? (Certainement pas Kant!) Troisièmement, personne n'arrive vraiment à négliger ou à nier complètement les valeurs de la societé entourante; de plus, ces valeurs ne sont jamais avec du moins une certaine justification. Quatrièmement, c'est vrai que la beauté ouvre beaucoup de portes qui autrement resteraient fermées, mais ce n'est pas la sagesse de refuser d'y entrer pour cette raison seule; on n'a que d'y entrer avec circonspection, et sans aveuglement. Cinquièmement, pour en finir, je dirais que la vie de mannequin n'est pas, tout bien consideré, une vie souhaitable, mais qu'on peut quand même tirer de la satisfaction du fait qu'on vous l'avait proposée...

Put otherwise: First, beauty is a rare and precious thing, and those who possess it should never be made to feel guilty about it. Secondly, even if beauty is only an aesthetic matter, who says that aesthetics is less important than ethics, or at any rate, that aesthetics does not include, viewed from a certain angle, an ethical aspect? (Certainly not Kant!) Thirdly, no one can entirely succeed in ignoring or denying the values of the society around them, and those values are also never without at least some justification. Fourthly, it's true that beauty opens many a door that would otherwise remain closed, but it's not wise to refuse to enter them just for that reason, provided one enters circumspectly and without self-deception. Fifthly, to conclude, I would say that the life of a model is not, all things considered, something to wish for, but even so, one can derive some satisfaction from the fact of having been asked...

Reading your "should" as alluding to what you owe the rest of us, I think there is no obligation either way. Perhaps some utilitarians would hold that you have a duty to maximize the general happiness, even by turning heads and upgrading others' visual fields. But such an assertion is more plausibly taken as a reductio ad absurdum of these brands of utilitarianism than as informative about your obligations. Reading your "should" as alluding to what it makes most sense for you to do, the answer depends in part on your ends and ambitions. Dressing up, you'll have a lot of silly boys and guys chasing you, which can become tedious rather quickly. Still, some of these will have money, power, connections -- and you may feel in need for one or more of these. Continuing your current practice will make you less discouraging to people who are interesting, and interested in you, in other ways; and it will also give you more time to interact with them. This is likely to make your life better, richer, than...