Art and understanding
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The essay explores topics related to the objectivity and rationality of aesthetics. Initially, the nature of objectivity is considered. The question is raised: what is it for something to be objective? Various metaphysical objections to the view that value is an objective, feature of the world are considered. These include the idea that what truly exists is coincident with that which is subject-independent; that will and cognition are distinct autonomous mental faculties; that value is, epistemologically, a 'queer' commodity the experience of which is qualitatively distinct from sense-experience. Thereafter, aesthetic concepts are investigated more closely. The idea that the meaning of an expression is secured by a definition is challenged. It is argued that the practical impossibility of defining aesthetic terms does not preclude their having a precise meaning in discussion. In particular, the view that understanding is a mental process involving the grasp of something like a definition is criticized. The idea that the sense of a concept is, like the notes of music, influenced by its whole context is introduced. Aesthetic concepts, it is argued, are governed by conditions no less than concepts such as 'intelligent', 'resourceful', and the like. Finally, the view that aesthetic value, being a disposition of the will is cognitively ungoverned is investigated. It is concluded that in so far as the disposition of the will is sensitive to, i. e., can be modified by, means that deserve, in virtue of their wide currency, to be counted rational the will is cognitively constrained.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy
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