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Aesthetics in Dialogue

Applying Philosophy of Art in a Global World

Edited By Zoltan Somhegyi and Max Ryynänen

The impact of aesthetics is increasing again. For today’s scholars, aesthetic theories are a significant companion and contribution in studying and ana-lysing cultural phenomena and production. Today’s scene of aesthetics is more global than what it is in most disciplines, as it does not just include scholars from all over the world, but also keeps on applying philosophical traditions globally
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Since its seminal role in the European humanities of the 18th and 19th centuries – when the modern system of arts was established, and great minds like Kant and Hegel focused on questions of art and beauty – the impact of aesthetics as a discipline has somewhat declined, both within academia and outside it. The brand of aesthetics is – or at least for many it looks – antiquarian (for us aestheticians sometimes surprisingly), and the discipline arouses associations of marginality and of weak impact. The image of someone who problematises every concept and talks as if everyone should read Hegel or some other historical thinker is of course not far-fetched. A little self-critically and simplifying we could say this is what aesthetics and being an aesthetician has sometimes of course been about, having a merely exegetic and/or an overtly analytical approach and personality originating in the library, having little or no real connection to either actual art production or to the art infrastructure, and perhaps even a bit hard to handle for other scholars – although one must remember that there have been and still are major geographical differences in the role and the academic importance of aestheticians.

The “antiquarian aesthetician” is not the only reason for this marginalisation, though. One reason for the decline is found in academic competition between disciplines. Examples from the history of this competition may include semiotics in the 1960s and cultural studies in the 1980s, which claimed a strong role in the field where aesthetics once...

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