Essays on Art, Aesthetics, and Culture
6. Understanding and Appreciating Art: The Relevance of Experience
Art forms as we know them today, and also the theoretical and interpretative discourses on the arts which include the key concepts in the philosophy of art, emerged at the end of the eighteenth century through a process of social and cultural de-differentiation. Art and the aesthetic were gradually established as a seemingly autonomous and self-contained realm of human activity and concern. The detachment of art from a political and religious framework was not only a precondition for the emergence and development of the modern system of the arts, but also for the rise of modern philosophy of art and for the distinctly modern preoccupation with works of art as autonomous aesthetic objects.1 With different motivations and varying accents certain artistic and intellectual movements — in particular formalist movements, from Russian formalism to the New Criticism and French structuralism — have lent support to the view that art and works of art form a separate reality as it were, the understanding and appreciation of which requires a distinctive vocabulary and specific methods. The motivations for according a special status to art and works of art vary: sometimes the motivation has been narrowly artistic and aesthetic, as in the l’art pour l’art — movement; sometimes, it has been scientific, as in Russian formalism and French structuralism. These endeavours have, however, had similar effects: the erection of a barrier between the aesthetic and the non-aesthetic, between art and non-art, and between the ways of understanding art and comprehending other spheres...
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