Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Some questions about everyday aesthetics.from my students

Some Questions About Everyday Aesthetics from Students

Does the concept of aura introduce too much subjectivity into everyday aesthetics?  

This is a difficult question.  My basic answer would be that since aura is not taken to be wholly subjective, but rather can be an aspect of shared experience, then it is not too subjective, although of course it is subjective in a way that the truths of science are not. In general most things that are considered subjective are not totally subjective and most things considered objective or not totally so...the distinction between objective and subjective is seldom all that clear. 

Do some things count as aesthetic but with no aura at all, for example photographs in the age of mechanical reproduction?  

Some photographs in our age or mechanical reproduction do lack aura, for example most photos taken by mistake.  But actually, most of the things Benjamin discusses in his "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" have aura despite his claim to the contrary, assuming that we can allow for low-level aura.  I do not accept anything counting as aesthetic with no aura at all. 
Michael Hatzikokolakis asked me to explain my claim that "everyone experiences aura in a variety of manifestations" (128)   I am referring here to distinctions between low level aura and aura that is more intense.  But also every aesthetic term, such as beauty, grace, loveliness, prettiness, ugliness, disgusting, refers to a types of aura. 

Samson Lau has asked me whether "the definition for an aesthetic experience should be the same" for each aspect of aesthetics, aesthetics of art, nature and everyday life.  The issue is that the aesthetics of nature might require all the senses whereas the aesthetics of art may not.  Although aesthetic experiences in different domains require different senses, and sometimes more and sometimes fewer senses engaged, the common thread is that in each case there is an experience of aura.

Andre Li suggests that the way couples enjoy each others' company through laughter and playfulness can be part of everyday aesthetics.  This is an excellent thought. Lover's play is a case in which something aesthetic is shared.  The notion brings out the erotic dimension of the aesthetic, which Plato recognized, but which is sometimes neglected.  Conversation has been seen as aesthetic, for example in the work of Gadamer and Scott Stroud.  Richard Shusterman has argued for an aesthetics of erotic play.

Elena Marquez is concerned that making artists the experts of aesthetics of everyday life implies that this discipline is not for ordinary people.  She thinks saying that artists are the experts seems to contradict the purpose of everyday aesthetics.  I think that the artist's experience of everyday aesthetic phenomena, when it happens qua artist, has two features that differentiates it from everyone else's experiense:  (1) it is more intense than the usual everyday aesthetic experience, and (2) it is directed towards the possibility of current or future artistic projects.  So, part of the phenomenology of the artist's experience of a chair he is painting in a studio, for example, is in how he is seeing it as material for transformation (by way of the mediation of his eyes and hands) into a work of art.

Thomas Nguyen says that I do not focus enough on everyday aesthetic experience derived from appreciation of rare occurrences.  When he observes a puzzling chemical reaction he notes that although the phenomenon is not particularly pleasing, it still attracts his interest and his "marveling at the statistical unlikeliness before me." We are sometimes fascinated by physical phenomena that are statistically unlikely, for example coincidences.  Is there anything aesthetic about this?  I think that the object does then have a kind of aura.  Things that are really new or unusual have this quality too.  I do not go along with the idea that this fascination is not pleasing.

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