The intersubjective validity of aesthetic judgements

British Journal of Aesthetics 47 (4):333-371 (2007)
All aesthetic judgements, whether descriptive, evaluative or some combination of the two, and whatever they might be about, whether works of art, artefacts of other kinds, or natural things, declare themselves to be, not mere announcements or expressions of personal responses to the objects of judgement, but claims meriting the agreement of others. Despite the frequent appeal in everyday life to the nihilistic interpretation of the saying ‘It's all a matter of taste’, the doctrine of aesthetic nihilism—the view that such claims are never warranted—does not merit serious attention. What is needed is an articulation of the various kinds of content of aesthetic judgements, one that will reveal what their claim to intersubjective validity amounts to and enable an assessment of what the proper limits of the claim might be. This clarification is what I attempt to provide. After some introductory definitions and classifications, the principal focus of the first part of the paper is descriptive aesthetic judgements, and one issue that figures large is the proper understanding of those judgements of this kind which are expressed in sentences that are intended to be understood metaphorically. A short bridge passage identifies an aesthetic judgement whose content is indicative of the content of evaluative aesthetic judgements of all kinds, and in particular evaluative aesthetic judgements about works of art, which the second part of the paper focuses on. Real illumination of these requires an identification of the aim of art (as such): I offer an account of this aim, which I defend against certain objections that it is liable to attract, and I use it to throw light not just on singular but also on comparative judgements of artistic value. I conclude with some remarks about purely aesthetic value and specifically artistic value and about similarities and differences between evaluative aesthetic judgements of works of art and evaluative aesthetic judgements of works of nature.
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DOI 10.1093/aesthj/aym021
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