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Ten Questions about Aesthetic Categories

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1. What are categories anyway?  They are like super-concepts right? 

2.What does it mean when we say that a category is universal?  Does it have to be?

3.What is special about aesthetic categories?  Is Kant right that they are not rule-based but they make claims to being true and false? 

4.Why do aesthetic judgments matter? 

5.Why do we judge people upon whether or not they share our aesthetic judgments?

6.Are aesthetic judgments universalizable in a different way than empirical judgments?  It seems like I can accept the idea that somebody just doesn’t get music more than I can get the idea of someone who just doesn’t get causation.

7.Kant talks about the sublime and the beautiful.  John Austin draws our attention to the dainty and the dumpy.  Sianne Ngai wrote a book about the cute, the zany, and the interesting.  What is a complete list of aesthetic categories?  I can think of: the awesome, the horrifying, the uncanny, the disgusting, the ugly, the funny, the weird, the disturbing, the creepy…Can you think of more?

8.Where do religious categories — Otto’s “the holy” — or Mircea Eliade’s “the sacred” fall in this list?

9.Sianne Ngai makes a distinction between catharsis-inducing aesthetic responses — the beautiful and the sublime — and minor responses that don’t provoke to action — the irritating or the cute for example.  Is this right?

10.Does the question “is the beauty in my response or in the object?” even make sense?  If it does, what does it mean?  If it doesn’t why did people think it makes sense?

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One thought on “Ten Questions about Aesthetic Categories

  1. Shane Allen Sigbjorn Stranahan says:

    1) Maybe categories are symbols, and symbols are categories? Usually ‘category’ = ‘meta-symbol’ but this might just be a… categorization. Language = categorized categories, which (sometimes are able to) represent bundles of phenomena, associating and informing each other?

    4&5) Maybe they a) represent evaluations, which affect our actions in the world, and b) are cultural linchpins, which we use to determine whether or not we should trust another person (or our own thoughts)?

    6) Maybe it depends upon how tightly a certain person or group ties their aesthetic judgments with their ethical judgments with their empirical judgments? For instance, certain communities place great spiritual emphasis on dietary restriction, a concern which straddles the (maybe nonexistent) gap between aesthetic preference and biological(/empirical) necessity. Some communities would be very offended by my eating certain foods; some would be mildly offended if I were to be offended by somebody else’s eating certain foods. Maybe it isn’t the judgment itself which is qualitatively important, but how a person or an impersonal collective perceives that judgment (and its contingent decision)?

    10) Maybe beauty and aesthetics is found in the relationship between the object and its observer, and not in one or the other?

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