The Science of Aesthetics, the Critique of Taste, and the Philosophy of Art: Ambiguities and Contradictions

Aesthetic Investigations 4 (2):144-162 (2021)


Aesthetics is the part of contemporary academic philosophy that is concerned with art, beauty, criticism, and taste. As such, it must address metaphysical issues, epistemic problems, and questions of value. This makes it difficult to present a coherent account of the subject matter of aesthetics. In this article, I argue that this difficulty is the result of ambiguities and contradictions that arose in disputes about the relationship between the science of aesthetics, the critique of taste, and the philosophy of art in German philosophy during the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. By reconstructing the history of these debates, I hope to shed new light on the origins of aesthetics as a discipline and to explain why its subject matter and status within philosophy are still so difficult to define.

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Colin McQuillan
St. Mary's University, Texas

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