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Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy. It is the study of art and beauty. Together with ethics, it is part of axiology which is the philosophy of what people like. Aesthetic philosophers ask what people like to see, hear, feel, smell or taste, and why they like these things. Aesthetic philosophers also ask if art has any value. For example, they may ask if some art that nobody likes and that nobody wants is art at all or if it is something else. Plato, Aristotle, and Immanuel Kant are some important philosophers of aesthetics.


One theory in aesthetics is called subjectivism. Subjectivism says that each person has a sense of beauty. So, the only way of judging something's beauty is if people say it is beautiful. A common way of describing this is "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Subjectivism also says, for the same reason, that something is art simply because someone says it is art. This is backed up by the experience. Even though people feel that something is beautiful, they may not be able to explain why.


Many objectivist theories of beauty have been offered, going from the ancient ideas of Plato and Aristotle (e.g., the golden mean,) which still have great appeal in their way to neuroscience research into the brain's response to images and other sensitive information. At the moment, even though we do not know what people are thinking, brain-scan technology can identify when people are responding pleasurably to images, providing some clue as to how certain images affect some people.

Some questions

  • What is beauty? What if one person thinks a painting is beautiful, but another person thinks the painting is ugly? Can the painting be beautiful and ugly at the same time?
  • Are true things beautiful?
  • Are good things beautiful?
  • What is art? We commonly think that a sculpture in a museum is art. If a sculptor sculpts a sculpture of a rock from clay, and puts it in a museum, many would call it art. But what if a person picks up a rock from the ground - is the rock a piece of art?
  • What has value?
  • Does love, beauty, or justice hold any value?

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