Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy that explores the nature of art, beauty, and taste. It doesn't just consider traditional artistic experiences such as artworks in a museum or an opera performance, but also everyday experiences such as autumn leaves in the park, or even just the light of the setting sun falling on the kitchen table. It is also about your experience when you choose the shirt you're going to wear today or when you wonder whether you should put more pepper in the soup. Aesthetics is everywhere. It is one of the most important aspects of our life.
In this Very Short Introduction Bence Nanay introduces the field of aesthetics, considering both Western and non-Western aesthetic traditions, and exploring why it is sometimes misunderstood or considered to be too elitist - by artists, musicians, and even philosophers. As Nanay shows, so-called 'high art' has no more claims on aesthetics than sitcoms, tattoos, or punk rock. In fact, the scope of aesthetics extends far wider than that of art, high or low, including much of what we care about in life. It is not the job of aesthetics to tell you which artworks are good and which ones are bad. It is not the job of aesthetics to tell you what experiences are worth having. If an experience is worth having for you, it thereby becomes the subject of aesthetics. This realisation is important, because thinking about aesthetics in this inclusive way opens up new ways of understanding old questions about the social aspect of our aesthetic engagements, and the importance of aesthetic values for our own self.
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1: Lost in the museum
2: Sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll
3: Experience and attention
4: Aesthetics and the self
5: Aesthetics and the other
6: Aesthetics and life
7: Global aesthetics