Imagination and aesthetic value

British Journal of Aesthetics 46 (3):248-258 (2006)
Abstract
One issue for theory is to account convincingly for the value of art and the significance of its specifically aesthetic character. Appeal to imagination, understood along Kantian lines as functioning to construct ‘a second nature from the material supplied by actual nature’, generates suggestive answers to both aspects of the task. The second nature that the artist inventively constructs in fine representation is one in which themes central to the inner life are revealed in ways as unestranging to us as their nature permits; then, in their aesthetic realization we take them into ourselves directly in experience, with concomitant affect. Thereby the values they convey are liable either to become our own or else to modify established ones. Whether they do so stably or not may depend on our having achieved a firmly enough rooted sense of self. Imagination has traditionally been seen as contributing aesthetically to that too in the elaboration of the sublime, as much within the realm of art as in nature itself. Forms of art resisting such modes of reflection will need to look to theory to put something no less vital in their place.
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