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Philosophical study of the qualities that make something an object of aesthetic interest and of the nature of aesthetic value and judgment. It encompasses the philosophy of art, which is chiefly concerned with the nature and value of art and the principles by which it should be interpreted and evaluated. Three broad approaches to the subject have been taken, each distinguished by the types of questions it treats as foremost: (1) the study of aesthetic concepts, often specifically through the examination of uses of aesthetic language; (2) the study of the states of mindresponses, attitudes, emotionsheld to be involved in aesthetic experience; and (3) the study of objects deemed aesthetically interesting, with a view to determining what about them makes them so. Seminal works in the field include the Symposium of Plato; the Rhetoric of Aristotle; Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725), by Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746); Of the Standard of Taste (in Four Dissertations ), by David Hume; On the Sublime and Beautiful (1757), by Edmund Burke; Critique of Judgment (1790), by Immanuel Kant; The Sense of Beauty (1896), by George Santayana; The Psychology of Imagination (1948), by Jean-Paul Sartre; and two works by Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief (1966) and Culture and Value (1977).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on aesthetics, visit Britannica.com.