Aesthetic Value and Beauty - its Language and Phenomenology

  1. Aesthetic Experience - The Objective Side
  2. The Subjective Side of Experience
  3. Components of aesthetic experience
  4. The Basic Aesthetic Attitude
  5. Objective and Subjective Aesthetic Experience
  6. Distinguishing Aesthetic Response from Aesthetic Attitude
  7. Two Basic Types of Evoked Aesthetic Experience
  8. Two Primary Types of Aesthetic Attitude and Judgment
  9. The Intuitionist Theory
  10. The Emotion Justification of Beauty
                                       
  1. Different Meanings and Kinds of Aesthetic Value
  2. Objectivism vs. Subjectivism
  3. Real and Universal Aesthetic Value
  4. A teenage disagreement
  5. Positive and Negative Evidence
  6. Our Aesthetic Sense
  7. Objective Criteria:
  8. Neutral Aesthetic Properties
  9. Balance and Order -
  10. Phenomenal Beliefs
  11. Secondary Clarifications and Notes

I intend to analyze the concept of aesthetic value, and I will show how there are some different meanings under this general concept. An understanding of aesthetic value will fundamentally require a phenomenological understanding of aesthetic experience, it’s derivative ground. The study of aesthetic experience will reveal various essential aspects and primary concepts, as well as their empirical and analytical relations. It will also be important to acknowledge some possible problems and confusions in aesthetic value-judgments, and lastly, the question will be considered regarding real, objective, and universally true aesthetic value.

During the course of analysis, the concept of aesthetic value will need to be understood within an examplary sentence or propositional context. It must then be analytically unpacked, to clarify its implicit presuppositions and reveal the fullness of its meaning. For example, I believe (and state) that certain trees behind my house have aesthetic value. We can first of all notice from the sentence that ‘aesthetic value’ is a property, or at least a qualification, attributed to the trees. Then we need to uncover the meaning of both aesthetic and value in relation to the intensional object, the trees, and in relation to my inward experience. The value term will need to have some empirical justification for its expression, in order for it to be coherent and make sense. And we will find that aesthetic value, as a special form of praise and worth regarding an object or environment, implies at least some degree of positive appreciation and valued emotion, either directly or indirectly.

It will also be important to know whether or not I am suggesting that the trees have value for everyone, or if I am only suggesting that they have value for me. The statement itself could suggest either, so I’ll have to clarify that I would expect other observers to agree that the object does, in fact, have such a value - that is, if they are in a proper frame of mind and are sensitive enough. In other words, I believe the trees truly have this aesthetic value, that this value is publically real and universally true, discoverable by experience.

But before jumping ahead into problems of universal meaning regarding value statements, we need some understanding about the kind of experience responsible for beliefs and expressions about aesthetic value. We need to know about the experiential context of this aesthetic value. For if an aesthetic value is derived from experience, we must comprehend the different aspects and conditions of this experience. To do this we first need a helpful phenomenology of aesthetic experience and a critical analysis of aesthetic judgments deriving from such experience. We need a foundational conceptual system to make sense of aesthetic experience and judgment.


Aesthetic Experience - The Objective Side

About aesthetic experience, two major aspects can be noted and juxtaposed. One is the perceptual or sensed aspect of experience, what we can call objective experience. The other side of experience is our subjective response to what is given in perception. This polar model of sensible and aesthetic experience seems the more common view, and I believe it is fundamentally appropriate, yet after understanding this simple model of objective stimulus and subjective response we can then expand it to accommodate more of the facts involved in aesthetic experience.

In aesthetic experience the objective side can conveniently be called the aesthetic object, the overall object of one’s aesthetic attention or focus. Some have preferred to call this the aesthetic field or field of attention. The aesthetic object is the whole perceptual complex of an aesthetic contemplation or experience. A partial field of one’s environment becomes unified into one whole perceptual complex or object of attention. This ‘object’ may be composed of many discrete objects or pieces of the perceptible environment, without any necessary physical connectivity, but what makes various pieces unified as ‘an object’ is the work of our own attentional interest directing the unity/gestalt-making process of perception. The object of our attention or perceptual interest may not be clear and distinct, its boundaries may be blurred and somewhat fluid, but there is always a perceptual sense of part of the external environment being in-view or attended, while much that would be possible to view is not in-view but is rather in the shadows surrounding the field-in-view. Also, this objective aspect of aesthetic experience, the perceptual complex, is composed of non-aesthetic, ordinary sensual properties, and this composite only becomes aesthetic when it is regarded as so, under certain mental preconditions which we’ll be calling the aesthetic attitude.

To help avoid a possible confusion, two logical meanings of aesthetic object can be distinguished, the real and the phenomenal. The real object is that certain reference in the world to which the speaker is describing or discussing. The phenomenal object is how the real object is perceived, apprehended or interpreted. This may be called the perception or interpretation of the public object-reference. It can also be called the appearance of the real object. And the real object is that time/space reality of which the appearance depends. The real object supervenes the appearance or phenomenal experience of this object.

When we speak of an aesthetic object, we are speaking both of the phenomenal object experience and the physical object reality causing this experience. We are referring to a real object, something public and independent of any one personal experience, though any objective experience of this object may be called phenomenal or interpretive. So any aesthetic description or evaluation of a [real] object will be based on a phenomenal object of experience or based on how this public object is perceived or interpreted. But any attributed property or value is in respect to the real object of reference (assumed as the cause of the phenomenal experience).

If we need to distinguish one of these two meanings from the other, we can speak of the phenomenal aesthetic object as the object-appearance or as the perceptual object, while calling the other the real object or objective reality-referent. Important to the phenomenal object, or object-appearance, is that it must at least appear to be out there, independent of one’s mind and intention. And even if the perceptual object is not at all like its external [physical] counterpart, as for example a sunset, the perceptual object must be assumed as causally dependent on some real physical properties. In aesthetic experience the observer just perceives an object, but does not question the difference between this phenomenal experience and what is the real object. That is, whatever is phenomenally perceived is naturally assumed to be the real. This is our natural experience of the ordinary and also natural to aesthetic experience. In the experience itself there are not two objects, the real and the phenomenal. The real object is not actually in experience, nor part of it, but rather it is the public reference of the experience.

Also, the appearance or interpretation depends on the real, the public reference. This dependency, though, does not mean that the real and the appearance are perfectly reflective. Nor does it mean that only one appearance is true for any one real object. Any one real object, or field of the environment, may generate a multitude of possible differing appearances, perceptions, interpretations, or phenomenal objects. This generation of multiple possible appearances or interpretations, resulting from just one real object, is because of the fact that perceptions of real objects depend on conditions of the perceiver as well as conditions of the object perceived.

Thus, an appearance or interpretation is relationally dependent on both the real object of reference and the subjective mechanism of perception. Yet, though there is relational dependency, the real object dependency still stands. One real object may generate many different interpretations, but each of these interpretations depend on the real object properties. This is shown by the fact that if an object-appearance suddenly changes, this [phenomenal] change is due to a change in the real object, which shows causal dependency between an appearance and its generating reference. In other words, any change in a perception or appearance must be accounted for. There must be a sufficient reason for the change. So if the perceiver has not consciously forced the change, or made himself see in a different way, the cause of the change could only be (reasonably inferred) from the external reality independent of the perceiver.

Of course, we should always consider the possibility of the perceiver intentionally changing his perspective, interpretation, or way of seeing and understanding a field of the environment; but we ought to accept facts as experienced by the perceiver, so if the perceiver has no conscious intention for changing his perception we should reasonably assume that a change has not originated from him. Also, it is usually true that one cannot change the perception-at-hand even if one tries. One can sometimes change an interpretive understanding of things, but sensory perceptions are not so changeable.

We can also assume that if an appearance remains stable, the referential public reality must be sufficiently stable. Though this assumed truth may be sometimes blurred by the fact that perceptions and interpretive views sometimes take a while to change even after their corresponding reality has already changed. That is, perceptions or interpretations often tend to remain conservative or stable, in spite of real environmental changes, due to our conservative mental habits and expectations. Even pure sensory perceptions may sometimes lag in keeping up with real environmental changes, like when we see what has usually been in a certain place even though it has been removed because we see what we expect to see. This does happen at times, but it is still rare.

So, by reasonable inference the perceptual complex or object-appearance can be assumed to be caused by (or at least dependent on) the object-of-reference, rather than conjured by the imagination or created by intention. There is certainly no intention to invent a perception, and we are not able to alter a given perception, so I think we should accept that this objective aspect of experience is not self-imagined, self-constructed, or intentional. Of course, hallucinations are possible, but I am not concerned here with abnormal or extremely rare cases. I’m merely speaking of ordinary human perception, perceptual properties, or how world objects and events are sensibly known. These perceptual properties are not part of the physical composition of an object and are not independent of our human senses or mind. Locke called them secondary properties, not primary to the object, but nonetheless determined by (or dependent on) the physical or primary properties.



The Subjective Side of Experience

In opposite to the objective aspect of aesthetic experience is the emotion-response or the object-evoked subjective state. Here, though, I am not speaking about intentional mental states (or states involving intention), but rather a spontaneous and natural response to the objective experience or the perceptual properties of an object. This distinction between intentional/willful emotion (or thought) and unintentional emotional response is especially critical in the analysis of aesthetic value.

A valid judgmentof aesthetic value will depend on an un-premeditated (or un-intentional) response/reaction to the aesthetic object. For if we allowed premeditated or intentional responses, the proposed aesthetic value would reduce to some conscious logic or ulterior desire. It would then be a contrived value, rather than a natural value, and the value would lose significance. So as part of a judgment criteria, any premeditated or intentional emotions/responses are unacceptable. Also, as part of this response aspect of experience we should not include prevailing moods or emotions lingering on from earlier experiences, emotions that are not immediate responses to the aesthetic object.

We can define some general boundaries, or a-priori rules, regarding this emotion-response aspect of aesthetic experience, the response to the objective-perceptual aspect. For example, an aesthetic response must be unpremeditated, unintentional, directly evoked by the immediate aesthetic object, and unconditioned by moods (and also thoughts) previous to the immediacy of the aesthetic object. Then we can stipulate that aesthetic judgment, and value, must be derived from (and dependent on) this conditional response. These a priori conditions for a proper aesthetic response would have to be part of the necessary criteria for any aesthetic value-judgment, and any judgment of value that does not follow from these pre-conditions cannot be accepted as a valid judgment

The emotion-response can be generally called the subjective aspect of aesthetic experience, but really there are other subjective aspects and factors involved. So we must define and take into consideration the various sub-aspects of subjective experience, as well as any unconscious subjective factors influencing the experience. One of the primary aspects of aesthetic experience, in relation to the perceptual and response aspects, is the mental/emotional attitude of the experiencer which is distinguishable from the aesthetic response by its intentionality and self-control. An important factor possibly involved in aesthetic experience would be prejudice, though this may be hidden from consciousness and immediate introspection.

So the emotion-response has to be distinguished from any intentional emotions, intentional attitudes, pre-existing moods, and any associational or aesthetically-biased subjective factors that may be influential to the response but pre-dispositional in the observer/subject. These latter subjective factors will be problematic for the aesthetic non-relativist, if they cannot be empirically distinguished from a ‘pure’ object response.

Prejudices in an observer (or aesthetic critic) might originate from cultural or educational sources, or they may have developed from peculiar personal experiences. Some may argue that there could also be predispositional aesthetic inclinations, not originating from any experiential basis, but natural to each person like their own natural distinct tastes.

Prejudices would have to be regarded as subjective, but they are often inconspicuous, rather than conspicuously evident as is an aesthetic response. The attitude should be introspectable, but the prejudices may not. Yet both stand as underneath or behind apparent experience, which is why I do not include these in my main division of aesthetic experience -because they are not commonly described in answer to the question: “What is your aesthetic experience?” Of course, though, the aesthetic attitude and [possible] subject-inherent prejudices are very significant in any phenomenological analysis, or any discussion about real aesthetic properties or value.


Components of aesthetic experience

The following is a brief summary or outline of the components of aesthetic experience, or any sensual experience:

1. The real object, external object, or real environmental field.

2. The phenomenal object of experience, the perception, perceptual complex, sensory experience, appearance, or object-interpretation.

3. The perceptual intention, the attentional interest or consideration.

There is usually this aspect of subjective direction involving attention, that is, we usually direct our attention to a field or object, which is the intentional part of perception. Intention can direct or focus perception, but it cannot construct or decide on perceptual content. But ‘intention’ may not always be the appropriate description. Often the direction of our attention is not by intention so much as by a habit of interest, that is, we often do not try to direct our perceptual attention but instead, our attention moves according to natural or habitual interest. I mean here aesthetic interest or just primary attentional interest. So the phrase attentional interest may be better, as it includes intentional cases but not necessarily. Sometimes an object or field of the external world will seem to capture my attentional interest, or hold my attention/interest, in which case this object can be attributed with a special aesthetic value or property - that, for example, it has the proven capacity to enthrall and sustain aesthetic interest.



The Basic Aesthetic Attitude

One of the primary aspects of aesthetic experience is the aesthetic attitude. This makes a relation between the objective-perceptual aspect of experience and the subjective-response aspect. The aesthetic attitude is the right and best mental and emotional orientation to the objective side of experience, for the primary purpose of having an aesthetic experience, emotionally responding to an aesthetic object, and making a qualified/valid aesthetic judgment If one looks again at the emotion-response criteria, one will find much of what is needed for a proper aesthetic attitude. A proper aesthetic attitude will be defined by fixed rules (pre-conditions or a-priori agreements), based on: a)what is best for a fuller (or richer) aesthetic experience, and b)what is most pragmatic for a logically qualified meaning of aesthetic experience and judgment

The proper/required aesthetic attitude should regulate the emotion-response to follow the above rules of a proper aesthetic response, but the proper aesthetic attitude will not manipulate the response content. The aesthetic attitude is what basically regulates experience to be uniquely aesthetic, and it logically makes aesthetic both the perceptual object and the response. It also can regulate the factors of this aesthetic experience to derive a qualified/proper aesthetic judgment Its relation to the aesthetic response is structuring and directive, according to the predefined rules, but it never manipulates the spontaneous object-reflexive response. The proper aesthetic attitude should not demand any particular content of the response, not demanding what the response will be, but rather, demanding how the response is made.

What makes the aesthetic attitude distinct from the response aspect is its potential for intentional manipulation, like intentionally putting oneself into the right (and best) attitude for rich aesthetic experience and unbiased judgment The right aesthetic attitude may be intentional, or it may be unintentional as a kind of habit, or it may be a mixture of both. But the aesthetic response cannot involve intention; so if a response is intentional it cannot [logically] be an aesthetic response, but instead would be classed as an intentional attitude.

The aesthetic attitude makes certain demands on experience, particularly on how the mental attention and subjective emotion relate to the objective-perceptual experience (or the aesthetic object). The aesthetic attitude directs attention and response to an object, scene or event; directing this attention and response to just the perceptual properties of the object, just the appearance or just the immediate expression, in order to discover aesthetic values or aesthetic qualities formed from the perceptual properties. This special kind of attention and special kind of response is then qualified as being aesthetic, so aesthetic attention and aesthetic response are equal to attention and response governed by a proper aesthetic attitude.

We should agree on the following Basic Criteria of a Proper Aesthetic Attitude:

a) Undistracted attention to just the object appearance, the sensible scene, or the immediate expressive features of an object/scene,

b) No practical [non-aesthetic] interest in the object,

c) No moods lingering on from before the aesthetic intention or attention,

d) Suspension of any emotions and associations that are not in immediate response to the object,

e) A non-biased attitude about this kind of object/scene or its features.

This will also be the agreed (or presupposed) criteria for the aesthetic qualification or the very meaning of aesthetic, when applied to the concepts of [aesthetic] object, response, experience and judgment Fundamentally, it will define aesthetic experience - telling us what is a proper/valid aesthetic experience, by definition. Though we may want to have a definition of aesthetic experience that is looser than a tougher definition of a proper aesthetic judgment In other words, an ideal-qualified aesthetic judgment may need stricter rules, while we can be more permissive in our qualification of what is generally regarded as an aesthetic experience. This more strict qualification of a proper aesthetic judgment can simply be a stipulation added to the criteria for an aesthetic experience, that will be necessary to the aesthetic judgment but not to the aesthetic experience.

Also important is a distinction between what is merely advantageous to a richer aesthetic experience or a better-qualified value judgment, and what is advantageous and necessary. The necessary is more demanding, though it is taken from what is advantageous. For example, we could add to the above list, the advantageous condition of a clear and receptive mind, which could be called an aesthetically meditative mind, whereby aesthetic awareness and response is more successful when the mind is free and void of extraneous thoughts. In the aesthetic philosophy of zen this is sometimes called Beginner’s Mind or the New Born Mind - when the world is viewed in each immediate moment as if never viewed or known before; that is, no pre-conceptions and no habitual associations. This is a goal of zen, developed through practice. Zen teachers also prescribe “pure-open mind and pure-open heart,” in their ideal aesthetic view.

But although this meditative mind is favorable or advantageous to a richer aesthetic experience, we might not want to include this in our strict aesthetic criteria because of its difficulty to develop and master. Then again, maybe we should require this aesthetic training/development in the qualifications for a proper aesthetic response and judgment

I bring up this point to show the difference between necessary (a priori) preconditions and non-necessary but favorable preconditions. Necessary preconditions are taken from an empirical list of favorable conditions (conditions advantageously instrumental to uniquely rich experience), but not all favorable empirical conditions have to be strictly included in the a prior, necessary preconditions. Often, it is a question of how strict our decided demands are, regarding the qualified aesthetic judgment And we could demand more of a qualified/ideal judgment, than is demanded for what is qualifiably an aesthetic experience - that is, our criteria for an aesthetic experience could be looser than our criteria for a qualified aesthetic judgment.



Objective and Subjective Aesthetic Experience

Aesthetic experience is a general concept that should be phenomenologically distinguished into objective and subjective experience. Otherwise, confusions may result involving the description of an aesthetic experience. We have aesthetic experience of an external object, and we have inward aesthetic experience in relation to this object. It can be asked, “What is your [aesthetic] experience?” And you can answer in two ways, objective and subjective. You can tell me what you are objectively experiencing, the aesthetic object, or you can tell me what you are subjectively experiencing, your feelings or experiential state of being.

I am sitting at the beach aesthetically contemplating the waves rolling in. What is my aesthetic experience? Maybe I say that my experience is ‘waves rolling in’. This simply describes my objective experience. Or we can call this the aesthetic object, scene, field or environment. I can even describe this scene in more detail.

But don’t you wonder about my inward experience, like what am I experiencing besides this object-of-attention, or what am I feeling about this? What’s going on for me as I watch the waves roll in? How are the ‘waves rolling in’ affecting my inward state of experience? Now I may say something quite different. I might say that my aesthetic experience [of these waves] is engrossing, or enthralling, or intensely enjoyable, or that I feel at-one with my perception. This can be called the subjective-response of the aesthetic experience, or simply the aesthetic response. It can also be called the evoked aspect of aesthetic experience in contrast to the evocative object. This subjective aspect of aesthetic experience is either an emotion-response to the object or an evoked state-of-being in relation to the object.

So aesthetic experience needs to be distinguished into outward and inward experience. In aesthetic experience, overall, there is what seems to be external and independent to my response and intention, that is, the content of my perception or what I perceive. Then, beside this, there is what is inwardly happening to me because of the object, or how I am moved by the object. The outward affects the inward, the inward is a response to the outward, and the inward depends on the outward.

In addition to its importance in clarifying descriptions of aesthetic experience, the objective/subjective distinction is also important to the understanding of judgments concerning aesthetic value. First, one might question if a judgment or an attribution of aesthetic value is about the object-in-view, the objective aspect of experience, or about the pervading quality of the subjective, inward side of experience. If I just said that “my experience revealed a high degree of aesthetic value,” I could be speaking about the object of my experience, which is usually the case in most aesthetic talk, but it would not be incoherent if I were, instead, speaking about the quality of my [subjective] experience - how I felt, my emotions, or my evoked state-of-being. To clarify the difference, I could either say that a certain ‘object’ [of experience] has aesthetic value, or say that an ‘experience’ has aesthetic value {though not necessarily implying an object value}.

The second way that the objective/subjective distinction is important to the understanding of aesthetic value-judgments is in regards to reasons, justifications, and explanations for the judgment; for these could be either objective or subjective. Let us view a particular scene. I won’t describe the scene, so one can imagine it, but I will say that it is lovely and very beautiful, and I give it a very high aesthetic value. So you ask me why I call it lovely and beautiful and why it supposedly has so much aesthetic value. There are two basic ways to answer, two types of reason or explanation.

Maybe I say that the scene is so beautiful because of... that feature there and how the colors combine so well and how the various shapes combine to form a harmonious unity. In other words, to explain why I make certain aesthetic qualifications or judgments about a scene, I describe some features and qualities about the scene. These will be called objective reasons.

But there is a very different way to answer. Maybe I say that the scene is so lovely and beautiful because... it evokes love and joy in me. Wow. After hearing the other type of reason, this reason almost seems odd or reversed like the negative of a camera picture. But it is not odd at all. In fact, it makes perfect sense. Why do I call the scene “lovely and beautiful?” Why do I use these words? Because the scene evokes love and joy, or some other very positive emotion. This too is why I attribute the scene with high aesthetic value. Describing the emotion(s) justifying the aesthetic value or value qualifications, can be called the subjective reason for an aesthetic judgment

I will show that both of these reason types are significant to aesthetic value or value-qualifications. Aesthetic value-judgments can primarily be of either two basic types, objective-based or subjective-based. The objective-based judgment is logically based on objective criteria, on what is perceived, and no other justification is needed besides this objective criteria, rule or principle. This will also be called a [just]perception-based judgment The other type, the subjective-based judgment, is logically based on subjective criteria, criteria just regarding the subjective side of experience. This is usually an emotion, so it will often be called an emotion-based judgment

For the objective-based judgment of aesthetic value, an objective quality will be regarded a priori as sufficiently justifying; while for the subjective-based judgment, a subjective emotion-quality will be regarded a priori as sufficiently justifying. It is quite intelligible, though, for an observer/critic to make a subjective-based judgment while also describing objective reasons for the judgment For example, when asked why I say a particular scene is beautiful, I might describe certain objective-perceptual features about the object, but these may not be the final justification criteria for my judgment That is, my justification criteria may be a necessary and sufficient subjective emotion, such as enjoyment. Yet I can still cite objective-perceptual features as causal reasons involved in my judgment In other words, the perceptual features cited in my objective reason for the value-judgment are the assumed causes for the justifying emotion.

So it is particularly important in an emotion-based judgment to distinguish these two types of reason, the objective-causal and the subjective-justifying, because if I were to only give an objective reason to the question of “why does this scene have aesthetic value?” then one might falsely assume that this reason is essentially justifying to the judgment It is best to ask of objective reasons, “But why is this [objective complex or quality] valued?” Then the subjective-based judge will indicate the justifying emotion-response; “This unified diversity is valued because of its produced enjoyment.” While the objective-based judge must answer somewhat like, “This unified diversity is valued because this is one of the [presupposed/a priori] sufficient conditions for aesthetic value.” For the objective-based, this unified diversity would be one of the principles or rules for aesthetic value, and any subjective reasons for the judgment would simply be irrelevant or even illogical.

So any emotion-based judgment can have objective-causal reasons (or explanations), as well as its inherent justifying condition. But in any perceptual-based judgment, there is only an objective-justifying condition and explanation.

An objective (or just perceptual) based judgment must always have some objective reason that will be the judgment’s justification or sufficient condition. One might say that a scene has aesthetic value because of its unified and complimentary diversity. Assuming this is an objective-based judgment, its justifying sufficient condition is a unified and complimentary diversity. The aesthetic value is justified by this perceived condition, which implies that this condition is presupposed (or predefined) as sufficient for aesthetic value. If the judgment were subjective-based, the scene might still be perceived as a unified and complimentary diversity, but the judgment’s final justification would be some form of enjoyment rather than a perceived condition.

For the subjective-based judgment, the subjective response of enjoyment is the judgment’s justifying sufficient condition. While the unified and complimentary diversity is not sufficient at all, though it may certainly be viewed as good - just not good in itself. That is, the above objective quality will be regarded as instrumentally good - instrumental to the justifying condition of enjoyment. The objective quality is not simply good-in-itself, but only good because of its instrumental or causal relation to what is good in itself - the enjoyment response. An objective quality can also be regarded as the objective reason for a subjective-based judgment, but this will be the causal reason - not be the justifying reason. In other words, the unified and complimentary diversity is assumed as causally instrumental to the value-justifying condition of enjoyment, but it is not regarded as a final justification.

It is still possible, though, for an objective-based judgment to describe an emotion-response, such as enjoyment. For example, I could say that I enjoy the unified and complimentary diversity of an aesthetic object, even though this good emotion is not actually essential or justifyingly relevant to its aesthetic value. In other words, enjoyment is really unnecessary and insufficient to this judgment of value, but it may well be present in the experience. Though if I’m asked why I believe this object has aesthetic value, I would not say, “because of enjoyment.” The enjoyment is not a reason for the aesthetic judgment; it is there but irrelevant.



Distinguishing Aesthetic Response from Aesthetic Attitude

There may possibly be some confusions in distinguishing aesthetic-response content from aesthetic-attitude content, but this is resolvable using the following rules. An aesthetic-response cannot be intentional, but the aesthetic attitude can be, and usually is, intentional. But even if the aesthetic attitude is not apparently intentional, like I don’t recall making it happen, it can always be controllable and adjustable by self-will. While the aesthetic response is not controllable, but rather spontaneous or involuntarily reflexive. An aesthetic-attitude cannot dictate the response content. The aesthetic attitude can only set up favorable and impartial subjective-observer conditions (or subject-relations) to an aesthetic object external to the observer. And the aesthetic response must at least feel as (or seem as) dependent on the aesthetic object, feeling passively responsive to the evocative aesthetic object. Though an aesthetic response may not always be strong, intense and overwhelming; it may be rather light or weak, but still apparent, detectable, and seemingly dependent on the object.

Let me cover a few examples to make the problem and resolution more clear. First, consider aesthetic interest. I have aesthetic interest in an object. Or, there is aesthetic interest in my experience [regarding an object]. But from what is just said above, can it be known whether this is a response-interest or an attitude-interest? One needs to further clarify.

Aesthetic interest can be one kind of emotion-response to an object, whereby this response is not intentional and seems to depend on the object - that is, the object alone seems to evoke this interest-response. The object sort of captures my interest, so to speak. And there is nothing in my mental attitude, prior and immediate to this response, that dictates or forces this interest-response. My mental attitude may be open to aesthetic interest, and it may be favorable to this response, but it does not compel this response.

Yet, accepting all of the above, there is still the possibility of an aesthetic attitude that includes aesthetic interest, and this can be called an interest-attitude. This is when I intentionally hold aesthetic interest in an object. I can intentionally create the interest, like “I’m now going to take interest in this here object,” and I can intentionally maintain this contemplative interest - unless I am vulnerable to outer distractions or inner-thought distractions. Holding some degree of this attitude-interest in a given object may, in fact, be favorable and instrumental to an aesthetic experience (and eventual response) regarding the object. And here is where a possible problem may arise confusing the two types of interest.

But an interest-response is still distinguishable from an interest-attitude. I can discern the difference in my aesthetic experience. The interest-attitude is like giving adequate attention to the object, or taking some interest in the object in order to aesthetically describe or evaluate it. I am making the interest. While an interest-response definitely seems to be elicited by the object, whereby the object seems to make my interest. The object seems to grab my interest and pull me to it, so I know that this is an interest-response. But the interest-attitude is not pulled by the object; rather, it pushes my attention to the object.

A stronger example would be an engrossed-attitude. I could force myself to be aesthetically engrossed, to get fully immersed into a complete experience of the object, as a form of aesthetic contemplation. But this is different from an aesthetic response of the object captivating my mental and emotional attention. Like the interest-response I am pulled to the object, but now it captures and enthralls me. I become enchanted by the object, as though it has a certain mystical power of seduction.

And this seeming power of enchantment, coming from the object, should be a measure of the object’s aesthetic value, since the object itself feels to be responsible for this arising emotion or state of experience. If the emotion or state seems caused by the object, rather than caused by observer’s attitude, then a value-property can be ascribed to the object. Then the object is engrossing or enchanting. But if the observer creates the engrossment of aesthetic experience, this cannot be a measure of the object’s value or any justification of an object property. The more powerful an object seems, in evoking or producing an aesthetic response or subjective state, without influence from the mental attitude, the greater the ascribable magnitude of a particular aesthetic property or value-qualification. For example, we could attribute beauty (or extremely high aesthetic value) to objects only if they powerfully evoke enthrallment and delight, or only if the object pulls our feelings toward it, seducing us into enchantment beyond our self-control and will.

So this discernment between the aesthetic response and aesthetic attitude becomes very significant to object properties or value. In final conclusion, there is possible confusion between response content and attitude content, in aesthetic experience, but the two aspects of experience can be self-discerned.




Two Basic Types of Evoked Aesthetic Experience

We can distinguish different types of subjective evoked-experience in relation to the aesthetic object, varying from a distant relation to a completely engrossed relation. So I will distinguish one type as distant. This is when the observer-experiencer remains emotionally and experientially distant from the aesthetic object. The subjective response may be quite weak, though still apparent and recognizable. Yet the response could be strong, rather than weak, but still distinctly distant.

It has been suggested (Bullough) that aesthetic critics ought to remain distant from the object, in order to be impartial. But this is actually in reference to the aesthetic attitude, not the evoked-experience; for it could be that the aesthetic object forces the observer into a collapse of contemplative distance, in spite of an original distancing aesthetic attitude. Again, I am speaking about spontaneous aesthetic responses or evoked-experiences, not intentional aesthetic attitudes.

In opposite to the distant type of aesthetic experience is the absorbed or engrossed experience. Here, the objective and subjective aspects of experience merge together in unity, rather than remain distinctly separate as in the distant type. When contemplating waves at the beach, my perceptual-objective experience merges in unity with my subjective experience (my feeling or self experience). The distance is lost between the perceptual content, the waves-on-beach, and subjective experience - my feelings and sense of self. I lose myself (and feelings) in the waves-perception. The aesthetic experience here is unitive. The objective and subjective distinction empirically collapses and ceases to be apparent. Of note, it might be that certain aesthetic qualities, either regarding the object or regarding the experience, cannot be realized unless the experience is of this absorbing/unitive type, rather than the distant/divided type of experience.

The absorbed, unitive aesthetic experience can be quite extreme, though the extreme case is probably rare and it may be called mystical. Yet I am not suggesting that the only possible types of aesthetic experience are the extreme distant and extreme absorbed types. It is simply helpful and clarifying to distinguishably polarize the possible extremes, but in reality aesthetic experience will mostly vary between these extremes.

For some people, “having an aesthetic experience” necessitates at least some degree of collapsing object-distance or objective/subjective unitive experience; that is, aesthetic experience means having “An Experience”, implying some degree of an extra-ordinary quality, rather than merely a distanced attention to aesthetic qualities of an object or a distanced emotion-response. We might call these people ‘subjective types’, emotional minglers or mystically prone. For them, perceptual experience is only specially aesthetic when it is at least somewhat unitive or emotionally absorbing. And they will usually hold an emotionally-open and self-vulnerable aesthetic attitude.

The exemplary opposite extreme would be the ‘objective type’ of person, who views aesthetic objects from an emotionally uninvolved distance and always tries to maintain self-separation from the aesthetic object (and its potential seductive power). Though the distancing observer can still experience an emotion-response to the object, his full aesthetic experience will always maintain a separation between the objective-perceptual aspect and the subjective-feeling aspect.

Different intentional aesthetic attitudes, such as a distancing attitude versus an involving (or emotionally open-vulnerable) attitude, will influentially favor one extreme over the other; but we need to (and can) distinguish the intentional attitude from the unintentional subjective response/experience. To make note of the difference, it is possible for a person to become absorbed, enthralled and self-united with an aesthetic object, even though this person held a distancing type of aesthetic attitude just prior to “this experience,” as though the perceived object captivated and actually destroyed the intended aesthetic distance. This would be fine evidence of the object’s special aesthetic power (which could be called its seductive and captivating beauty, and which ancients called the goddess Beauty).

Yet, in opposite to this, it is possible for a person to feel quite distant, separate and emotionally uninvolved with an aesthetic object or environment, even though this person held an open-vulnerable aesthetic attitude just prior to this experience. That is, the aesthetic experience was of the distant type, even though the aesthetic attitude was intending to be involved, or at least open to an absorbing aesthetic experience, rather than distancing. Here, the object or environment obviously failed to produce any enchantment or unitive aesthetic experience. So the aesthetic value of the former object/environment would be greater than that of the latter object/environment.

Briefly now, I want to clear up a possible confusion between the distant/engrossed distinction and distant perceptual/emotion distinction, relating to both aesthetic attitudes and aesthetic judgments I have distinguished between emotion-based judgments and [just] perceptual-based judgments There is also the corresponding distinction between emotion-responsive attitudes and [just] perceptual-responsive attitudes. Since the emotion-based judgment presupposes the essential significance of an emotion-response, the overall aesthetic attitude involved in this type of judgment would [favorably] be emotionally-open or emotion-responsive. While since the perceptual-based judgment presupposes the irrelevance of any emotion-response, the overall aesthetic attitude involved in this type of judgment would be emotionally-closed or response-indifferent.

The emotion-closed attitude might seem the same as a distant attitude, but I actually meant the distant/engrossed distinction as a sub-distinction under the emotion-open and emotion-based category. Still it would seem alright to say that an emotion-closed attitude is like a distant attitude. But an engrossed attitude would have to also be emotion-open. The main idea though, in making the distant/engrossed distinction, in both aesthetic experience and aesthetic attitudes, is that the emotionally relevant experience and attitude could possibly be either distant or engrossed.

So the distant attitude can still derive an emotion-based judgment One can be emotionally distant from a scene or environment, yet still respond emotionally and thus derive an emotion-based judgment But a perceptual-based judgment must always demand a distant attitude that is not only emotion-distant but emotionless. An emotion-based judgment can be derived from either an emotionally engrossed attitude or an emotionally distant attitude. While a perceptual-based judgment must derive from only a distant attitude.

The emotion-based vs. perceptual-based distinction is more primary than the other distinction. That is, once the emotionally-open attitude is accepted (or held), there could be either a distancing attitude or an engrossing attitude. But once the emotionally-closed attitude (the just-perceptual) is accepted (or held), the engrossed attitude is simply out of the question. Also note that when the observer definitely feels distant from the aesthetic object, which is the emotionally distant aesthetic experience, an emotion-based judgment can still be derived, assuming there is some emotion-response to the distantly felt object.




Two Primary Types of Aesthetic Attitude and Judgment

The quality of any aesthetic judgment will depend on the quality of the aesthetic attitude. Also, the meaning of an aesthetic judgment will depend on the empirical conditions of the aesthetic attitude involved in that judgment So if two aesthetic judgments involved two dissimilar attitude conditions, the judgments would be of different types.

Analytically, a valid aesthetic value depends on a valid aesthetic judgment --which depends on a [presupposed] valid aesthetic attitude and response. But if any two value judgments presuppose significantly different pre-conditions (rules) for the aesthetic attitude or aesthetic experience, then the two judgments (or propositions) would differ in their meaning, and as such would be incomparable. If this were the case, there would be no actual contradiction between them, and any debate about their differing values would be meaningless. This is because any meaningful debate or comparison would have to presuppose common rules qualifying what is and what is not valid empirical evidence - that is, qualifying the implied conditions for what is (and is not) acceptable as valid experience (evidence) for the judgment

For example, if one critic makes an aesthetic value judgment under the attitude of suspending all personal emotion and determining the value according to a fixed rule regarding only the perceptual complex, then this value judgment would have a significantly different meaning from another judgment under the attitude of encouraging an emotional response and determining the value according to the value and magnitude of this response. These polarized types of judgment can be called objective-based and subjective-based, though I’ll usually distinguish them as perceptual-based and emotion-based. They are different enough to warrant a significant, primary division of value meaning.

Once the foundational aesthetic attitude (and general meaning of aesthetic experience) is accepted by both positions, as defined in the previous section, an open emotional responsiveness to the object would be added as both necessary (analytically) and favorable (causally) in the proper/best aesthetic attitude for a valid/qualified value judgment - of the emotion-based type. Though a purely perceptual, non-emotional value judgment would not demand or even allow this additional attitudinal condition.

So basically, there are those who presuppose that aesthetic value judgments may and must be emotion-based, and those who presuppose that value judgments may and must be non-emotion based or based purely on the perceptual configuration/properties. The former will hold a subjective-emotion criteria of value, such as any aesthetic value is conditional on an enjoyment response. While the latter will hold an objective-perceptual criteria of value, independent of any emotional response.

The perceptual-based critics will hold a formal rule (or possibly a habit) involving either,

a) kinds of aesthetic objects (”all sunsets are beautiful”, “all antique vases are beautiful”), or

b) certain features about objects (”its brightly coordinated color pattern”, “its delicate texture”),

or c) an essential quality (aesthetic balance or order).

This rule can be rigidly unitary (balance and order are necessary to any aesthetic value), or it can be more complex and plural (such as distinguishing fifty possible features, each sufficient but not each necessary for beauty).

There are advantages in perceptual-based values; yet good reasons for deriving emotion-based values. But neither party has to be the superior/winner in a debate over who is right. Each type of judgment is a possible path and may be exemplified by qualified critics. So we can simply divide value judgments (and the values as well) into these two basic types, and thereby accept both types as valid under their respective, presupposed, attitudinal conditions (or by what type of criteria they each use to derive value). For aesthetic qualifications, then, we should first make a primary division distinguishing the emotion-dependent from the just-perceptual dependent.

I know that my own value-judgments are emotion-based, because they are not based on any fixed rule involving just the perceptual content of my aesthetic experience, and because I would never value an object unless it evoked in me a good/valued emotion-response. And the greater the magnitude of the valued emotion, the greater is the value. So when I say that certain trees have aesthetic value, or (more specifically) have beauty, this value is based on a relation between the appearance and its evoked response. The response is the direct [analytical] justification, while the appearance is believed to be causal [and instrumental] to this response.




The Intuitionist Theory

The perceptual-rule based justification of value will demand (or fix) certain perceptual features, patterns or qualities as necessary and sufficient to aesthetic value. While the emotion-based justification will demand either one essential (unitary) emotion or a plurality of sufficient emotions. A third alternative might be that aesthetic value is directly apprehended (or intuited) from what is given in the perceptual experience. But such a justification is untenable.

The aesthetic intuitionist (or cognitivist) claims to directly apprehend an aesthetic value/property such as beauty, without any necessary emotion nor any cognitive rule involving perceptual elements. In other words, he does not justify his judgment by any essential elements, neither emotional nor perceptual. Beauty has no constituting elements; it is itself an indivisible essence - directly perceived or known. As such, its truth cannot be justified by any essences other than itself. But then, it is unprovable, unrecognizable, unknowable and incomprehensible.

An intuitionist will accept that emotional enjoyment is part of the aesthetic experience of beauty, but not analytically necessary to the beauty judgment Enjoyment or pleasure is accepted as a natural outcome of the beauty cognition, or an effect of beauty itself, rather than a necessary condition to the judgment Enjoyment is evoked by the direct perception (or cognition) of beauty. One “naturally enjoys beauty”, or “beauty gives me so much pleasure;” this is how we often speak about beauty. But an empirical confusion may arise from this way of language, whereby we might falsely assume that a)enjoyment is a natural effect of beauty, or b)enjoyment proceeds from a beauty cognition.

The emotion-based theory of beauty, though, denies both the empirical evidence of the intuitionist assumption and the logical possibility of it. First, empirical self-inspection will show that one does not respond joyfully to beauty or to its cognition; but rather, one responds joyfully to perceptual complexes or to how objects sensually appear, then from this [empirical] relation (or condition) is beauty [analytically] realized (or the beauty-judgment made). Second, people can’t directly point out beauty and they can’t exactly describe it. And third, it is not logically possible to know the truth of beauty, without some recognizable perception justifying the very use of the term. There must be some recognized relation between an experienced essence and its public name; for its truth to be known. How would one know that they are using the right term for this, if this is an essence unessentially related to any delineated perception?

It is impossible to ever learn the term “beauty” as appropriate for a condition that one is unable to (a)directly point out or (b)describe by constituting elements. In order for one to know that the term “beauty” is linguistically appropriate or propositionally correct, in a situation, one needs some recognizable truth-condition(s) for beauty, unless it can be directly pointed out. But no one actually points out an immediate essence, beauty. What would someone point to as beauty itself (or the beauty property)? Anyone saying that they directly perceive beauty may be asked, “What exactly do you perceive?,” unless they can point it out. But beauty itself is indescribable. Yet isn’t it possible to point out or describe a)certain constituting essences, or b)essential features of beauty? Some people may regard certain perceptual qualities as essential to beauty, but if these are the complete constituting elements of beauty, then beauty reduces to just these qualities.

Beauty is not a direct object, form, property or essence of the senses. It is not a content of the senses. What we sense are colors, textures, shapes, patterns, and various complexes of these. The sense-content of any perception has been called here a perceptual complex (composed of perceptual elements or simple sensual properties). The perceptual content/complex is how a real-world object appears in our human experience. And these [ordinary] properties constitute the unified appearance of various objects, events or scenes. Beauty, like any aesthetic property or value, is not a perceptual element nor complex, but is empirically based on such elements. In fact, no aesthetic property is directly perceived or intuited; they are all inferred from what is perceived, either directly because of this perception or because of a response to this perception.

Thus, those who claim that beauty is directly intuited are obviously deluded. They have no actual perception or intuition of beauty; they just perceive what is beautiful, an example of beauty, or a perceptual complex (or quality) that is realized as beautiful. No one directly perceives beauty, or any aesthetic value. We perceive either integrated objects/events, substances/elements, patterns/features, or sensible properties like color. But beauty is none of these - though dependent on them. One may point out what is beautiful or what has beauty. And one may point out beautiful objects and beautiful perceptual patterns or complexes. But no one can actually point out or essentially describe beauty itself (or any aesthetic value-property).

To add, there is a good alternative theory to the Intuitionist. It is the theory of learned model -- whereby one learns what is beauty and also judges what is beauty by certain prime examples.



The Emotion Justification of Beauty

I maintain that we ordinarily (generally speaking) realize beauty, or believe something is beautiful, because of a certain [beauty-determining] emotion-response that is assumed to be causally determined by the object-given perceptual complex. Beauty is determined and justified by an emotion-response. In other words, an emotion-response is essential to a realization or judgment of beauty; and saying this another way, a judgment of beauty presupposes an emotion-response to that object. And to be more definite, this emotion-response must be positive, good or valued for itself. This is what makes beauty ‘a good thing’ (so to speak). Generally, we can speak of this essential emotion as enjoyment or a kind of aesthetic pleasure.

The relation between a value-judgment and its determining response is analytical, an a priori logic between the judgment and its necessary/sufficient truth-condition. But the value-judgment (say beauty) has an empirical base, because its truth-condition (the emotion-response) is causally determined by (or dependent on) the object-appearance or perceptual complex, which is, in turn, dependent on the real object of reference. This gives the judgment its objective empirical basis or objective dependency. Also, the measure or magnitude of the aesthetic value will depend directly on the magnitude of the valued emotion-response. Generally, the more enjoyment an object gives, the greater is its aesthetic value (often called beauty).

The object-in-view is attributed with this aesthetic value, beauty, because its appearance elicits a positive valued emotion, so the object-in-view has an instrumental value, instrumental to the intrinsic positive value of enjoyment. I attribute beauty to the trees, because they are instrumental to my enjoyment. But then, is this aesthetic value temporally dependent on moments of enjoyment? Do aesthetic objects, like my trees, have aesthetic value (or beauty) only at the time they are eliciting enjoyment? No, because their real aesthetic value is their capacity or power to elicit in qualified observers the self-evident human value of enjoyment. Aesthetic value is essentially an object-capacity that is instrumental to us.

It should now be clear that the meaning of beauty, or “its beautiful,” is realized when we uncover the truth-justification of its proposition or the logical reason for the qualification. To put forth a more obvious example, the judgment of “delightful” is meaningfully dependent on the emotion-response of delight. Delight is a logical reason for something being “delightful.”

I have been suggesting that beauty is justified by enjoyment, but a more exact meaning of beauty becomes clearer and less open, when the justification is more specifically defined. So rather than demand that enjoyment is essential to beauty, we can demand a heart-felt uplifting joy (in response to an aesthetic object) as necessary, to avoid the excessive inclusiveness (and ambiguity) of such a general concept as enjoyment. Maybe this is too exclusive for some people, but I’ll use it now for the purpose of example. What I want to avoid is the over-inclusivity of enjoyment, in relation to the beauty qualification. For instance, someone may experience a ‘sense of enjoyment’ over a horror film, or maybe some “enjoy” being frightened or grossed out. But I want to exclude this [weird] sense of enjoyment from justifying beauty, so I make a more strict criteria, such as heart-felt uplifting joy.

It could also be suggested that the empirical justification for beauty is any of the following sufficient conditions of emotion-response: joy, serenity, charmful attraction, or fond affection. I believe one can find an essential similarity relating these emotions together in one class... sufficient to beauty. Though these four emotions are uniquely distinguishable as well.

This overall analysis of meaning, regarding aesthetic qualifications such as “beautiful” or “delightful”, might seem to suggest that these attributes are reducible (in meaning) to personal emotive responses. Some analytical philosophers, originally lead by Carnap and Ayer, have argued that aesthetic statements, such as “That is truly beautiful,” are simply just emotive expressions telling that the speaker enjoys the object’s appearance. This is the emotivist position on aesthetic value.

But I will argue that the value/attribute meaning is only partly reducible to its justifying emotion; for in a statement such as “Those trees are delightful and beautiful,” there is an added belief and implied truth-proposition that those trees do, in fact, have public aesthetic value, and that anyone disagreeing with this [real] object value is incorrect. My argument, which can be placed within the naturalist position on value (value based on natural responses), can agree that aesthetic value statements tell us of the speaker’s enjoyment, but I hold an objectivist view -- that such a statement can logically be (and is often the case) an empirical proposition, true for any qualified observer, rather than just a personal emotive-expression.

In my value-sense, enjoyment is implied, but also implied is the universal truth of this property attributed to the object. So the value-statement is not just reducible to personal enjoyment or appreciation, since it has this extra universal meaning. For if my listener disagrees, I will believe that he is either mistaken, insensitive or unqualified. Also, when I say that the trees are beautiful, or have the beauty, I mean that they truly possess this value-property - which is a real object-capacity to elicit aesthetic enjoyment. So my expressed statement is an implied proposition, not just an emotive expression.



Different Meanings and Kinds of Aesthetic Value

The meaning of any aesthetic judgment, then, depends not only on the [presupposed] necessary and sufficient pre-conditions of its inherent mental attitude, but also on its direct truth-condition (or its believed justification). These are its two levels of meaning contingency. The presupposed truth-justification is essential in the meaning of any aesthetic property (or qualification). And if the truth justifications for any two aesthetic-value qualifications are significantly different, those value expressions must be of distinctly different kinds.

I maintain that at least two distinguishable classes or kinds of aesthetic value are often used in aesthetic value judgments I call one class of aesthetic value beauty, but here the class-term merely represents a set of possible aesthetic attributions, including “beautiful”, “delightful”, “lovely” and “gorgeous”, as examples. These qualifications, or property-attributes, are in the same class because they are each justified by a similar pleasure-joy response.

But we may attribute aesthetic value to an object or event that does not evoke the same pleasure-kind-of enjoyment as elicited by beautiful objects. For example, I may express an aesthetic appreciation and attribute aesthetic value to the bloody conquest of a deer by a lion, or I may find aesthetic value in the appearance of an ugly, grotesque creature. But in these cases, there is no pleasure-joy in the way that I experience my trees or a spectacular sunset. In fact, I may feel very repulsed in my natural emotion-response to this appearance. Yet, maybe I experience an engrossed interest or fascination in the features of the grotesque, repulsive figure. And because of this natural interest-response, the figure or appearance can be regarded as having positive aesthetic value, even though it isn’t really pleasing to one’s feelings.

The grotesque, the ugly and the repulsive, can still have aesthetic value, even though they evoke bad feelings and rightly seem as opposites to beauty, IF they [also] evoke an intrinsically positive emotion, different from the positive emotion evoked by beautiful things. So some objects may not evoke a pleasing feeling, but rather evoke fascination and engrossed interest - which constitute a different kind of intrinsically valued emotion. And this unique kind of valued emotion justifies a unique kind of aesthetic value. In other words, the aesthetic value justified by this sufficient mental/emotional response, this engrossed interest or fascination, is a different kind of aesthetic value from what is justified by pleasurable joy. The analytical relation between these two kinds of value is only in that they both depend on the elicitation of an intrinsic emotional value under aesthetic conditions. This makes them both aesthetic values, in general.

I have suggested two unique kinds of aesthetic value: beauty and interest/fascination. Though I believe that a few more unique kinds can be distinguished. This division logically allows me to attribute aesthetic value to something that is obviously not beautiful (or obviously not evocative of joyful pleasure). So all aesthetic values do not necessarily imply beauty, though beauty will necessarily imply aesthetic value; for beauty is just one kind of aesthetic value. Note though, that not all aesthetic qualifications (or properties) are aesthetic values, for there are value-neutral qualities that do not necessarily imply value (ie., delicate).

What are the similarities and differences between the two classes? One similarity between the beautiful and the fascinating is that they are both aesthetic attributes - if they are derived under the [pre-defined] proper aesthetic attitude (or aesthetic experience). Their second similarity is that they are both aesthetic value attributes or value-implied properties - since their justifying emotions are self-evident values.

It is at a third level of meaning that the differences become clear. Beauty values and interest values do not have the same response-justification. Pleasurable joy is not empirically similar to engrossed fascination, and either emotion can be present without the other. Pleasurable joy is not necessarily present in aesthetic interest or fascination, and aesthetic interest/fascination is not necessarily present in aesthetic pleasurable joy, so they are not necessarily related. I am not saying that joy and fascination cannot be present together. I’m just saying that they are not necessarily together in our experience and not necessarily related analytically, so they are not implicative to one another. So the meaning and experience of fascination does not necessarily imply pleasurable joy, and vice versa. Thus, there is a meaningful difference between the two kinds of value, based on different kinds of aesthetic response.

These different kinds of aesthetic value are still necessarily related on the level of being aesthetic properties and on the level of being aesthetic values. Either aesthetic responses would be sufficient in the judgment of aesthetic value --in the most general sense of an object-value derived by being instrumental to a self-evidently valued emotion elicited by that regarded object under a pre-defined aesthetic attitude. But the general meaning of aesthetic value divides on the pluralism of unique valued emotion-responses.

The two kinds of value are also incomparable, because they each have a level of different meaning or truth justification. For example, one object might be judged as having a high aesthetic value based on a high degree of aesthetic pleasure, while another object might be judged as having a high aesthetic value based on a high degree of aesthetic interest; but since this pleasure and this interest are not necessarily implicative to one another (not always empirically conjunctive, nor analytically inclusive), their derived value measurements cannot be meaningfully compared. And neither kind of aesthetic value can be shown as superior or better - because neither pleasure/enjoyment nor interest/fascination are more intrinsically valued than the other.

Imagine two friends viewing two very different pictures or scenes: one is a rather simple but charming landscape of a peaceful lake surrounding by some rolling hills; while the other is an urban ghetto of deteriorating buildings with diverse pieces of junk laying around. One friend remarks on how beautiful and charming is the natural landscape, in contrast to the ugly and somewhat disgusting urban scene. But the other friend counters by remarking on how interesting and intriguing are the deteriorating buildings and diversity of unique junk, in contrast to the plain and boring natural scene.

It would seem, then, that the two people ascribe positive aesthetic value and negative value oppositely. But they are actually ascribing two different kinds of aesthetic value, based on different kinds of emotion-response. One scene has evoked a heart warming charm and peaceful enjoyment in person-A, while the other scene has produced interest and intrigue in person-B. So by one standard (or criteria) of value, the natural scene is valued, while the urban scene seems opposite in value because of its uncharming and turbulent emotion-response. Though by another standard, the urban scene is valued, while the natural scene seems opposite in value (ie, boring) by that same standard.

Are these comparable values? Would it make sense to argue over which scene has greater positive value? Or does it make sense to argue over who is correct? The answer to all of the above is no. Each scene, or kind of scene, has aesthetic value in its own right, by different and unique justifications.

In fact, the two friends would probably agree to each other’s description, and they would probably share the same general response, if they aesthetically observed the scenes from two different aesthetic attitudes, respectively (let’s call them open-feeling and open-interest). Because the natural scene is boring from the open-interest attitude, but peacefully pleasing from the open-feeling attitude; while the urban scene is displeasing from the open-feeling attitude, but interesting from the other attitude (or perspective). So if each friend took a second look, from the other’s perspective attitude, they would come into agreement. To summarize, the natural scene isn’t exactly fascinating, while the urban scene is certainly not beautiful; yet they each have aesthetic value, justifiably, by different response-criteria and under different attitudes.



Objectivism vs. Subjectivism

The objectivist/subjectivist debate on aesthetic value should be essentially about the question of causal dependency. The subjectivist should argue that value attributions causally depend on subjective factors, such as personal/cultural bias or diverse aesthetic tastes/predilections (unique and relative responses to the objective conditions). While the objectivist must argue that value attributions causally depend on objective-perceptual factors, or on the object’s real properties. And the objectivist must hold that various [extraneous] subjective factors, such as personal or cultural bias, can be eliminated in an ideal aesthetic attitude. Note that my position is objectivist in causal dependency, though [subjective] emotion-based in the judgment’s logical dependency (or in how the judgment is logically derived).

Logical dependency (the judgment’s justification) is sometimes confused with empirical dependency (the judgment’s causal factors). This difference is important, though often confused in aesthetic arguments. The judgment’s logical dependency can be subjective-based (using my phenomenological terminology), yet still derive an objective value (in the sense of being real) IF this critical emotion-condition is causally dependent on real properties of the object.

Emotion-based value is often classed under subjectivism (vs. objectivism), and often regarded as value relativism. These assumptions are made because an emotive response is part of the subjective aspect of aesthetic experience and this subjective response determines the aesthetic judgment I agree with this, but the emotion-response is only logically determining the judgment, or justifying it; Not causally determining the judgment! My position argues that emotion-based value can coherently be regarded as objective and universal. The value is objective if causally dependent on the object, or object-perception, and it is universal if all qualified observers experience the justifying emotion for that value.

The significant objectivist/subjectivist debate should be about causal dependency, in relation to the emotion-response.

The causal factors in aesthetic experience are either:

Objective - what the object offers to perception (or whatever is perceived), that is influential to the aesthetic response.

Subjective - what is contributed by the experiencing subject, influencing the aesthetic response.


One alternative theory is relationalism, suggesting that the aesthetic response (and hence judgment) is a relation between objective and subjective causal factors, that it is part objective and part subjective. Aesthetic relationalism is probably the more common view, and it was originally offered as a reconciliation in the debate between objectivists and subjectivists. Yet relationalism finally reduces to subjective relativism, because it accepts that relative subjective factors influence the aesthetic response, making aesthetic judgments relatively dependent on each unique observer (their unique history, associations and biases). Subjectivism must already accept that some objective conditions are triggering factors in variable personal reactions; they must accept some objective dependency, since aesthetic reactions vary according to differences in the object.

One argument made by subjective relativists, and relationalists, is that aesthetic experience is an experiential unity, whereby subjective influences and objective influences merge together in a unified experience. Thus, they argue that subjective factors are actually hidden in aesthetic experience, and aesthetic partiality is unavoidably insidious.

But the objectivist argues (and must assume) that it is introspectively possible for the aesthetic critic to empirically distinguish between objective and subjective influences within his aesthetic experience, that is, the qualified critic should be able to distinguish and finally eliminate personal, cultural and associational influences. He should be able to at least suspend (or bracket out) all extraneous subjective factors, so that the only remaining variable is a direct-instinctual aesthetic response to just the objective condition.




Real and Universal Aesthetic Value

I have attempted to analyze the meanings of aesthetic value in terms of experience, justification, and presupposition. But now, how coherent is it for an aesthetic value to be a real property of an object? We might also ask whether or not an aesthetic property/attribution is, or even can be, universally true. The two questions are intrinsically related, though not completely the same. I’ll consider the questions separately, but there will be some related threads.

One might also ask if the property/value is objective. On an intensional level, the value is objective if it is regarding an object or object-appearance that is experienced as independent of one’s imagination or subjective construction. But a stronger meaning of objective would demand more than just the intension and belief of the speaker. It would demand that this object-appearance (or perceptual complex) is, in fact, critical in the determination of the value. An even stronger meaning of objective would demand that the value is universally true for everyone, not for just one person or just one group.

Let us first examine how an object can possess an objectively real aesthetic value-property. First, it must be admitted that an aesthetic property is a relational kind of property, dependent in part on how human beings perceive and respond to world objects, or how physical properties affect human beings, under the essential aesthetic attitude. But these relational properties can still be regarded as objectively real, and also true, if qualified observers agree to the fact and if the judgment empirically depends on the physical facts of the intensional object.

It is essential to the realist position that the aesthetic value-property is dependent on objectively real conditions, that is, dependent on the non-aesthetic, primary, physical properties of the object. There must be objective (or physical) dependency, under the ideal preconditions. The aesthetic response, then, must be a direct effect of the object’s real physical conditions, rather than determined by personal bias or an improper attitude. (A)- The aesthetic response must be in direct relation to the perceptual appearance/conditions (or the object of aesthetic experience), and (B)- this aesthetic object (or perceptual appearance) must be dependent on real physical properties of the world-object in question. There isn’t much to doubt in (B), so (A) is the debatable issue.

In aesthetic experience and judgments, we should accept, by reasonable inference, that there is some external physical dependency on the perceptual conditions of experience or on the aesthetic object as perceived. So when speaking about the [ordinary] perceptual conditions of experience, we can accept that these are dependent on real-physical external conditions (or objects). Thus, if a response is dependent on perceptual conditions, it is also dependent on some external physical condition or the object/event in reference.

In order for the aesthetic value to be objectively real, the following must be true. If separate judgments differ about the same object, this difference must be explainable by either: (a)- a difference in the [two] object perceptions; or (b)- a difference in the held aesthetic attitudes, or (c)- a difference in the [two] observer’s developed sensitivities, or (d)- an actual difference in the object-reference (that is, the judgments are not actually referring to the same object or physical reality). In other words, there should be no judgment difference without a difference in the object perceptions (or their physical causes), unless the judgment differences can be explained by non-ideal (and unqualified) observations {b)or(c}. Maybe the two observers are not really perceiving the same unified object, or maybe they are focussing on different perceptual complexes or patterns. Or maybe one observer was not in the proper attitude, or lacks an adequate sensitivity. Or maybe one critic holds some prejudice toward the object. Objective dependency, central to objective realism, will pivot on these explanational accounts for judgment differences.

The realist must eliminate all extraneous subjective factors from the qualified judgment All subjective variables must be eliminated, or made uniformly constant, except for the [qualified] human emotion-response variable that is critical to the judgment Only in this way can the value judgment be a direct relation between the objective conditions (assumed as constant in any judgment comparisons) and the human emotion-response (which needs to be the only variable deriving the judgment). Only then can the realist say that only object-X causally determines Y-response -- or say that Y-response is causally dependent on just object-X. Of course there are serious empirical difficulties in this task of eliminating the extraneous subjective variables. And one anti-realist position could argue that real aesthetic value has incomprehensible meaning if this task is empirically impossible.

And now, what is the meaning of universal, in the context of aesthetic properties or value? From an intensional and psychological view, an aesthetic statement has universal meaning when the speaker believes or expects that others should agree, in order to be correct. From a philosophical view, an aesthetic statement has universal meaning if it can be clearly translated to a proposition about reality and possibly verified by many experiences.

The universal meaning stands opposite to the just-personal meaning. The universal meaning will suggest: ‘We all will find that P is true for X’, or that ‘P is a real property of X,’ given that we are similarly qualified (and share the same general human potentials).

While the just-personal meaning will only suggest: ‘I find that P is true for X’ (but I don’t know what others will or would find), or that ‘to me (and I cannot really speak for anyone else) P seems an appropriate qualification for X.’ In terms of aesthetic value, the just-personal meaning could be reducible to ‘X has value for me’ or ‘I appreciate/like/value X’ (but I assume nothing about anyone else). Somewhere in the middle between the universal and the just-personal is the just-cultural meaning, such as ‘For our group, P is true for X,’ or ‘We (our group) normally appreciates/likes/values X.’

It is the universal meaning that poses philosophical questions and debate. Many will argue that, even if the speaker intends to be universal in his meaning, a universal meaning-sense of aesthetic value is nonetheless incoherent, because of its inherent problems in showing [universal] truth over falsity.

The universal-truth meaning would not necessarily imply that all observers of an object will agree about the aesthetic properties or value. A universal truth-proposition is not falsified, simply because some observers disagree, or because some fail to find sufficient and duplicating evidence to substantiate the proposition. The disagreeing party may simply be mistaken, and failures to verify the proposition might be empirically explainable. For example, the property doubters may not be properly observing, or they may not be in the proper or best aesthetic attitude. Or they may not be sensitive enough or not capable of apprehending the value via a natural response. So, if disagreements and failures-to-verify are explainable, a universal truth is certainly tenable.

But then, can we eliminate those problems utilized to explain disagreements? We cannot always eliminate human problems and errors, but we can exclude problematic variables by analytically stipulating certain qualified/ideal preconditions for a valid judgment That is, only qualified observers (those possessing the ideal preconditions) can make qualified or valid judgments. At this point, the problems responsible for disagreement should fade away, and there should be agreement by qualified observers, --if the questionable property is real.

But now, if disagreement remains, can realism be defended? Some will argue against a realist position on aesthetic value, claiming that judgments sometimes differ, even in cases when observers are qualified (in attitude and sensitivity); so the differing judgments can only be reducible to different human tastes or emotive inclinations. This anti-realist position can also be called subjective relativism. The best counter-argument to this, though, will be to suggest that the so-called qualified critics, disclaiming the property, were actually unqualified or failed to possess the ideal preconditions for good judgment

The following is an example of an aesthetic value/property proposition: “The trees behind my house have [universal] aesthetic value”, and the evidence for this is the elicitation of intrinsically valued emotions in qualified observers. The aesthetic value will be realized if or when observers possess both an adequate/developed sensitivity and the proper/best aesthetic attitude, and this value will be evermore substantiated (publically) by more and more individual realizations. In essence, the [universal-real] aesthetic value of an object is its real capacity to elicit intrinsically valued emotion-responses in human subjects. The aesthetic value is a potential value, but not always realized; though every realization of the value under the qualified preconditions can be regarded as an [additive] empirical evidence of this value (or capacity).

In defense of universal aesthetic value, if one party realizes the value, or has the sufficient response to justify the value, while another party does not realize the value; it would be more reasonable to believe that the denying party is failing in the necessary qualifications - failing in achieving the proper and favorable aesthetic attitude, or failing in the needed sensitivity. One party have experienced a positive response to the object, thus realizing the aesthetic value. While the doubters have simply failed, for one reason or another, -- but they will realize the value... when they can... when they acquire (or develop) the needed sensitivity and proper aesthetic attitude. They would-if-they-could realize the value -- because the object has this real aesthetic value, this real capacity to evoke a valued response in qualified observers.




A teenage disagreement

Imagine teenagers listening to [calm] new-age (or classical) music and beginning to feel a calming effect but, nonetheless, not appreciating this feeling, or maybe even reacting with irritation (irritation to calm). An opposite example would be the aesthetic quality energetic or vigorous. Is this necessarily a positive value? Usually it is, but we can imagine the elderly being irritated by intensely energetic, vigorous music (or pictures). So we should be careful in what qualities are assumed to be necessarily an aesthetic value.

Now it seems that the teenagers and the elderly, in the above example, have a disagreement looming about the aesthetic value of calm aesthetic objects compared to energetic objects (think of music or pictures). The teenagers value the ENERGETIC quality, because of the energetic emotion it evokes. But the elderly do Not appreciate this quality; they agree that it is “ENERGETIC” but find it irritatingly turbulent. In contrast, the elderly value the calm quality, because of the calm emotion it evokes. But the teenagers do Not appreciate this quality; they agree that it is “calm” but find it irritatingly boring. So the disagreement is that each party attributes positive value to what the other party attributes negative value, and vice versa.

This would seem to be an example of aesthetic relativism, or at least age-group relativism. And maybe we do have to admit that aesthetic values may well alter, or even reverse, through different life-phases. But universalism of aesthetic value can still be maintained. The gist of my universalist position is that both qualities, the ENERGETIC and the calm, have aesthetic value (if not excessively expressed or exaggerated). I’m not assuming their meanings necessarily insinuate value. I’m saying that they have aesthetic value by empirical evidence!

The elderly substantiate the value of the calm quality, by their consistent appreciation and valuing of the calm emotion evoked by this quality. (Remember that we call the quality “calm” because of its calming effect.) While the teenagers substantiate the value of the ENERGETIC quality by their natural appreciation. Each group shows positive evidence for the real value of each respective quality. The problem lies with the negative evidence, or the negative evaluations. But if we do not count the negative, it ceases to be a problem, and we do not have to count the negative if it is explainable by a defect in the critic. And this is exactly the case here.

The problem is not, actually, that the teenagers are biased against the calm quality, or that they lack a receptive attitude to calm things; the problem is that they are not appreciating and valuing the calm emotion (evoked by calm objects). But this is just obstinacy! Or at least it shows their immaturity. For if they allowed themselves to get really calm and peaceful, from calm aesthetic objects, they would certainly appreciate the feeling, and so appreciate the quality.

Likewise, the problem with the elderly is that they are not appreciating and valuing the ENERGETIC emotion (evoked by ENERGETIC objects). Hey, get out of your lethargic habits! Let yourself enjoy the ENERGETIC feeling. You can enjoy calm and peace later!

The point is, the two emotions do not correspond to a dualism in aesthetic value. They may be opposite, but they are each intrinsic values on their own, realized as so when given a fair chance in experience. These emotions cannot exist at the same time, so we might have to choose one over the other at times, but each can be value-respected without diminishing the value of its opposite. So if the calm emotion (or calm aesthetic quality) is not valued, it is because of a deficiency in that critic, and if the energetic emotion (or energetic aesthetic quality) is not valued, it is because of a fault in that critic. The problematic fault is the person’s resistance in naturally appreciating the emotion-state evoked by that corresponding quality. Also, each of these qualities is a unique aesthetic value, incomparable with the other due to their unique justifications. If these qualities are valued, by their unique self-evidently valued evoked-emotions, one cannot then value-compare calm with energetic qualities, for each is good in its own way.



Positive and Negative Evidence

If one party experiences a heat from an object, while another party does not, it seems more probable to believe that the denying party lacks sensitivity and/or attention, rather than that the affirming party is imagining the heat. Granted, this is not a compelling argument. It’s just that the affirmative seems more probable than the negative.

The pivotal question is: if the judgments differ, is this because of an inadequate sensitivity and/or insufficient aesthetic attitude, or, is this because qualified tastes and preferences are relative? Based on just the facts of two differing judgments, there are epistemological problems in determining which of these reasons is the right explanation. How can we know for certain that a critic is qualified? (A)- they consistently show ‘good’ judgments (but this is judgment proving good qualification, rather than qualification proving good judgment), or (B)- they are ‘mature, experienced’ critics (but maturity cannot be proven anymore than qualification, and lots of experience may just be more delusion or incorrect habits of judgment).

Yet it could be argued that the more a person sincerely appreciates a certain kind of aesthetic object, the more evidence there is that she is qualified, in sensitivity and attitude. Though we should also demand that the qualified are well experienced with that genre or aesthetic kind, and maybe also require that qualified critics be experienced in many genres for comparison breadth.

We could apply an additive principle of truth, rather than a certainty principle, whereby truth is built on more and more positive evidence, though never reaching absolute certainty or complete consensus. That is, positive evidence of value, or an aesthetic property, will always add to a Realized Public Value, while negative (or non) evidence simply does not count. Then, objects gaining more value-realization, in comparison with other objects (not gaining as much value-realization), will acquire a relatively higher public value. In this way, aesthetic values are continually evolving.

Also, two dimensions of aesthetic value can be explicated or graphed. One is the dimension of value-measure (or magnitude), which will depend on the magnitude of the valued emotion-response (ie., how much enjoyment is produced). This rating will, of course, be relatively dependent on other responses, and so may need adjustment over future experience. For example, I might say that object-A has a 10 out-of-ten value-magnitude, but later, after experiencing a more enjoyable object-B I would have to adjust my rating of object-A to a 9 or 8.

The other value dimension would be the value-truth or degree of public substantiation. That is, some value-measures will be more substantiated than others, whereby the value-truth will become more certain in a public sense. We could apply, here, an additive value method. Or, we might apply a percentage method in conjunction with the value-measure. For example, we could multiply a given value-measurement of 8-over-10 by the percentage of critics agreeing with this. If we do this with each value-measure, and add them all up, we will derive a public value-measure that takes into account the percentage of critical agreement.




Our Aesthetic Sense

Some philosophers have spoken about an aesthetic sense. The meaning of this can be divided into: a) an intuitive sense of aesthetic value, or b) a natural response to sensual conditions. I have already argued that the intuitive sense is untenable. But is there a human aesthetic sense, in the response-sense of meaning? Here, the arguments divide in a fundamental way.

The universalist maintains that there is but one aesthetic sense, while the relativist maintains that there are disparate aesthetic senses, or tastes. The universalist says that there is a continuum between good tastes and poor tastes, while the relativist says that there are just different or relative tastes. The universalist believes that a fundamental aesthetic sense (or taste) varies due to its degree of development or evolution. So he might remark to someone who does not appreciate the same object as he, that they simply have not developed their aesthetic taste, in relation to this kind of object, such that they have poor or unrefined taste. He might say this to someone not appreciating French-gourmet cooking or classical music. And his premise is certainly sound, for many tastes are developed and many dishes (or compositions) are better appreciated after sincere experiences. But the relativist argues that aesthetic tastes are simply disparate, such that a person thought to have poor or undeveloped/unrefined taste has, instead, different tastes incomparable with other tastes.

Empirically, there are many studies to support the supposition that aesthetic tastes can be developed or refined, such that objects previously unappreciated are later appreciated, after some experience or sensual training. But there is also empirical support that aesthetically developed persons will sometimes differ in their aesthetic tastes. The question, then, is whether this difference is due to disparate tastes or to a problem in developing the [uniform] aesthetic sense.

We could, as an alternative, divide normal from abnormal tastes. That is, if only a small percentage of critics disagree about an aesthetic value, or seem to have a different aesthetic taste/sense about somethings, we could simply list them as abnormal or aberrant behaviors. Another alternative approach would be to divide aesthetic values into three qualifications:

a) universal value - when there is sufficient abundance of world agreement.

b) cultural value - when agreement is confined to a certain culture (or historical period); the value would not be regarded as true for all cultures - the value is culturally dependent.

c) peculiar or idiosyncratic value - when persons of the same culture, race and education, cannot even agree to the value; the value is then peculiar to a small minority group.




Objective Criteria:

The non-emotion, objectivist, or cognitivist position on value has a very important argument in its favor, which is that it eliminates the problem of inconsistency in emotion-responses and it makes the rules or criteria for value universally objective. Yet the subjectivist in value theory, will arguably question the reason (why) any particular perceptual rules (or criteria) should be universally accepted, vs. other possible rules. There would be no coherent sense in critics accepting (a priori) that a certain perceptual configuration has objective aesthetic value, unless this configuration had some consistency in eliciting a valued emotion-response.

The emotion-based criteria gives experiential significance and empirical basis to aesthetic value. And it can be used as a foundation for empirical studies - finding out what kinds of aesthetic features and qualities people actually enjoy or find interest in. Then from this study, we can define an objective criteria/canon for use in aesthetic computations and comparisons. So long as objective criteria is grounded in emotion-responses, it can be practical and applicable. The practical value of objective (just-perceptual) criteria is its resistance to judgment variations that can arise from emotion-based criteria. Also, objective standards of value can applied in impartial aesthetic contests and standardized comparisons.

A problem with objective-perceptual criteria is that it can become too rigid and traditional, as would be the case if aesthetic value were solely based on ‘maximum order and balance of maximum diversity.’ For what if qualified observers began to feel an intense enjoyment viewing objects with different qualities or objects not satisfying the presupposed criteria?

The solution to this could be to make ever new studies of enjoyable perceptual features and qualities; then make continual adjustments to the objective value criteria. That is, we make the objective criteria provisional and contingent on ongoing studies of subjective responses to various aesthetic objects, features and qualities. So these value rules would never really imply ‘always’ (but rather, ‘usually’) nor ‘necessarily’ (but rather, ‘necessarily contingent on the continuing validity of the founding empirical generalization’). The rules would be analytically a priori, but open to evolution or alteration based on new empirical generalizations.




Neutral Aesthetic Properties

There are possible aesthetic attributions, or properties, which do not necessarily imply a positive value or appreciation, or any value measure for that matter, and these can be called neutral aesthetic properties. An example of a neutral property would be ‘delicate’, because I can describe an object as aesthetically delicate, its meaning related to the formal structure appearing fragile and not too hard or tenacious, while the meaning does not necessarily imply that delicate is a positive value. That is, I may not actually appreciate delicate features or a delicate aesthetic object. I might attribute a negative value to something delicate. This would not be the case, though, with beautiful or fascinating qualifications, because the very meaning of these terms imply a positive appreciation and value.

Kinds of Value-neutral properties - not necessarily implying positive value or appreciation.

a) perceptual-structural properties - justified by just perceptual structures or features. (”X looks delicate” - does not mean that X makes me feel delicate, nor does it mean that X looks like it feels delicate)

b) emotion-affective properties - justified by an evoked emotion (”X looks frightening” - means that X frightens (to some degree) the observer, or makes one frightful).

c) associational properties - justified by either emotion inference or association (”X looks sad/angry” - doesn’t mean the observer feels sad or angry; it just means the object looks this way. {Due to association or maybe empathy}


If I say, “X looks weak,” you don’t assume that X makes me feel weak - so it’s not (b). So I may be justifying this by (a) - just structural features or formal perceptual criteria; or I may be justifying this by (c) - association by look, associating this look to weak things. If I say, “X looks angry,” you don’t assume that X makes me feel angry - so it’s (a) or (c). But “X is cheerful” is more ambiguous: It might be (b)- X made me cheerful, or maybe it’s (c)- X looks like its cheerful. Or it could be (b)- X is aesthetically cheerful by some perceptual criteria (though this seems improbable). So the meaning of the word, its concept, depends how it is justified in the belief or proposition.

It is difficult to know whether or not a qualification such as calm (”X is (or looks) calm”) is an implied value-property. We might first treat it as value-neutral, then add that it is a positive value if appropriate. Because first, X may just look calm by a structural definition, in which case it may not imply positive value. And second, even if X seems to produce calm in the observer, and is justified by (b)an emotion-response of calm, it is not necessarily certain that the observer/critic actually values calmness, though I would usually assume one does intrinsically value the subjective state of calmness.

Contrast the above examples with the qualification, inspiring. Would it seem to make logical (or linguistic) sense for someone to say that object-X is aesthetically inspiring, while also saying that this object is unappreciated and lacks aesthetic value? Obviously not, for to say something is “inspiring” is to imply that it is appreciated and valued. For here, we have a quality that is necessarily a value, by its analytical meaning or by its appropriate/standard linguistic use.

Aesthetic order may be justified by (or based on) certain perceptual-structural properties.

Or is it justified by association? (It looks like [other] ordered objects) - {this is circular!}

Or it might be justified by a response-experience of order (”X gives me a feeling of order”).

And how is aesthetic balance is realized? Is aesthetic balance ultimately verified by just the object’s perceptual-structural composition or by an object-response of feeling balanced?




Balance and Order -

I include both aesthetic balance and order as value-neutral properties, because

1)- I am not certain that any given person will actually appreciate and value these qualities, unless they tell me; and 2)- there is no necessary value in the meaning of balance and order, for they can be apprehended without any valued response. It is logically possible and linguistically acceptable for a person to not appreciate balance and order - to not find any pleasure, enjoyment or fascination in the perception of aesthetic balance and order.

It is just because of the empirical fact that most people do happen to appreciate and enjoy balance and order, that we tend to suppose that these are necessary aesthetic values. It is logically possible to empirically find that balance and order are always valued, which would suggest an empirical law, but the meaning of these terms does not necessarily imply value. Generally these qualities are valued, based on empirical generalization; but we should not confuse their meaning with empirical findings.

We should only say that they are usually appreciated and valued; they are not value-properties, but they are usually valued properties. And they are only known to be valued properties when our emotion-response to them is some kind of self-evident value, like enjoyment or serenity; just as aesthetic dis-balance and disorder would be negative-value properties if the emotion-response to them is irritation, agitation, or a disoriented chaotic feeling (all of these being self-evident negative values).

It can also be noted that some people may refer to either a) non-aesthetic perceptual configurations, or b) value-neutral aesthetic qualities, when giving their reason for an aesthetic value judgment, even though their essential justification for the value is a subjective response such as enjoyment. I call these objective reasons, in contrast to subjective justifications. They may be given, even though the judgment is not simply dependent on a fixed rule necessitating that the perceptual feature or quality must be an aesthetic value.


Critics might begin applying an objective Rule that balance and order necessarily suggests value -- that balance and order will always count positive in the measurement of aesthetic value. We might even begin to measure the magnitude of balance and order, to directly determine the magnitude of aesthetic value. This is one example of the derivation of aesthetic canons; for we can notice how authorities (or folk-lineages) might turn an empirical generalization into an analytical rule (or dogmatic necessity).

Balance and order, being generally valued, could turn into necessary or sufficient measurements of value. This would be acceptable, I think, as long as we do not forget how the value of balance and order was originally derived. For it would be possible, in this Rule dogma, that balance and order continue to be necessary-values even after people stop appreciating those qualities. Then this would be the beginning of a dogmatic absurdity.

Phenomenal Beliefs in Relation to Realism and Truth I accept phenomenal beliefs - beliefs about one’s private experience. Yet these beliefs can only be expressed in public language. For example, my friend says, “That sunset has layers of brilliant orange and red in the texture of its clouds.” “Is this true?” asks the skeptic.

If we can first agree that the object of immediate discussion is appropriately called a sunset, we can then ask if the expressed attributions are appropriately true for this object. And to answer this question, we need to know the truth-conditions presupposed in the expressed statement. That is, why is this true, or what shows this to be true? Yet, these truth-conditions, justifying the proposed attributions, seem to be experiences rather than physical properties. In other words, we are not about to physically test the sky and clouds for evidence of layered orange and red color. For the truth of my friend’s statement depends on how the sky and clouds are experienced, not what these are physically made of, though we could still infer a natural and binding relation between something physical and how it is [naturally] experienced.

Now, it is obvious that we (the general public) could agree on the evidence of orange and red. We would then be agreeing that our own experiences show orange and red. Still, though, all of our evidence is phenomenal and depends on private experiences. What this amounts to is that the truth of my friend’s statement depends on phenomenal beliefs - that is, its truth depends, not only on phenomenal experience (in this case, how a physical reality is sensually known), but also on beliefs about this phenomenal experience.

So now, we need to find out how these personal beliefs are justified. But note that we do not need to be concerned, here, with public substantiation or truth-justification, but rather only with personal belief-justification. The question here is: how or why does one logically believe, or infer, that some phenomenal evidence (ie., sensual qualia) is either orange or red?

The best answer seems to be that the person previously learned that a certain private-experienced qualia (q-A) invariable corresponds to the public name of ‘orange’, when the object having this phenomenal quality is pointed out, referentially, in the external world. While the qualia q-B invariably corresponds to the public name of ‘red’, when certain other objects are referentially pointed out as possessing this particular color-quality. The external public objects, then, give phenomenal beliefs their public truth-value.

But in the final analysis, we do not really know, for certain, if two people actually experience the same sensual qualia when they both say “it is orange”, because all we can really know is just that they both point to the same object and qualify it by the same color term. And they both learned to make a necessary connexion between their qualia-A and the color term ‘orange’; although it is possible that one person’s qualia-A is quite different from another person’s qualia-A. They have merely learned to make a necessary connexion between their qualia-A and the term ‘orange’, while the relation that insures public agreement is the external-object reference.

As long as oranges continue to evoke qualia-A (no matter what this experience actually is), and as long as people continue to call the color of oranges ‘orange’, the phenomenal belief that “this is orange” will equal public truth. It is also essential that some physical property of oranges will invariable cause a corresponding consistent qualia in each observer. Though, again, this evoked qualia can be different for any two observers, so long as it is at least consistent for that person. Then the qualia-A, no matter what this is for any person, becomes a functionally dependent variable that is indeterministic to the belief of what its public name is. The exact content of qualia-A is merely insignificant to any private belief or public truth.



Phenomenal Beliefs

Public language is the only bridge between external objects and our private experience of these.

I accept phenomenal beliefs - beliefs about one’s private experience. Yet these beliefs can only be expressed in public language. For example, my friend says, “That sunset is has layers of brilliant orange and red in the texture of its clouds.” “Is this true?” asks the philosopher skeptic. If we can first agree that the object of immediate discussion is appropriately called a sunset, we can then ask if the expressed attributions are appropriately true for this object. And to answer this question, we need to know the truth-conditions presupposed in the expressed statement. That is, why is this true, or what shows this to be true? Yet, these truth-conditions, justifying the proposed attributions, seem to be experiences rather than physical properties. In other words, we are not about to physically test the sky and clouds for evidence of layered orange and red color. For the truth my friend’s statement depends on how the sky and clouds are experienced, not what these are physically made of, though we could still infer a natural and binding relation between something physical and how it is [naturally] experienced. Now, it is obvious that we (the general public) could agree on the evidence of orange and red. We would then be agreeing that our own experiences show orange and red. Still, though, all of our evidence is phenomenal and depends on private experiences. What this amounts to is that the truth of my friend’s statement depends on phenomenal beliefs - that is, its truth depends, not only on phenomenal experience (in this case, how a physical reality is sensually known), but also on beliefs about this phenomenal experience. So now, we need to find out how these personal beliefs are justified. But note that we do not need to be concerned, here, with public substantiation or truth-justification, but rather only with personal belief-justification. The question here is: how or why does one logically believe, or infer, that some phenomenal evidence (ie., sensual qualia) is either orange or red? The best answer seems to be that the person previously learned that a certain private-experienced qualia (q-A) invariable cooresponds to the public name of ‘red’, when the object having this phenomenal quality is pointed out, referentially, in the external world. While the qualia q-B invariably corresponds to the public name of ‘orange’, when certain other objects are referentially pointed out as possessing this particular color-quality.


Kinds of Value properties - implying positive emotion-response value or appreciation.

a) pleasure-value properties - implying (or justified by) evoked pleasure.

b) interest-value properties - implying (or justified by) evoked interest.

c) awesome-value properties - implying (or justified by) .. awe or astonishment.

d) mystical-value properties - implying (or justified by) .. ego-absorption in object.

e) symbolic or sacred value - implying (or justified by) .. self-meaning or gnosis.


Not included here are perceptual-based values (I called these a possible type of value) - values based on recognizable objective standards or perceptual criteria. (An example would be, “X is beautiful” (by definition) because X has Y and Z perceptual properties/features.)

This value type is not included because they must logically derive from the emotion-based values. (For the questions remains, “Why are Y and Z defined as essential in the judgment of beauty?”)

As I’ve said elsewhere, objective rule-based values are practical and well-used by critics,
but they would be trivial if not based on actual aesthetic emotion evoked by the object.



Secondary Clarifications and Notes

Note that “an object perceived” must be the real-public object (the reference), rather than a phenomenal object of experience. A “perception” is a phenomenal object or appearance. It is how something real is sensibly experienced. So in experience the perception is the experienced object. But it would be misleading and incoherent to say that one “perceives a phenomenal object or an appearance.” It can be said that one experiences an appearance, or that the appearance or phenomenal object is part of experience, but it’s nonsense to say that one perceives an appearance since the perception is the appearance. We perceive real objects in different possible ways or interpretations. That is, we may have different perceptions of the same real object.

Also See Section - Phenomenal Beliefs Aesthetic qualities are cognized (or inferred) unified relations of perceptual properties.

It may be admitted that some personal or cultural prejudices would be: a) difficult to spot, and b) difficult to suspend or eliminate. The qualified attitude would at least make a sincere effort. But even if (b)suspension is too difficult a task, we can at least demand that any suspicion of prejudice, involving an emotion (or association) response, will invalidate the value-judgment.

We can also define necessary criteria for aesthetic language-use, by adding that aesthetic qualities and values, as expressed by any speaker or critic, must be about perceptual/sensible features or about how something immediately expresses itself.

I’m avoiding calling these two types of judgment simply “objective” and “subjective,” because the usual connotation is that an ‘objective judgment’ is good - being true and universal, while a ‘subjective judgment’ is bad - being a distorted or relative truth. We could call the just-perceptual based judgment simply ‘objective’, rather than objective-based, as long as it is remembered that this type is no better than its opposite, the subjective-based. One type of judgment uses strictly objective-perceptual criteria, while the other uses strictly subjective criteria. But I want to emphasize that this subjective criteria is not sloppy or whimsical, and an objective criteria may not be so precise in its actual application, even if its definition is exact.

. In the sense that ‘may’ allows and ‘must’ demands (or makes necessary) - in any analytical rule. One is inclusive; the other is exclusive.

. Though I argue that the emotion-based judgment has more significance because it directly involves human psychology, while the non-emotion position seems to lack a justifying empirical foundation. Yet both types of value justification can compliment one another. For example, empirical studies can find what perceptual features and qualities are most enjoyed by qualified critics, regarding various genres or kinds of aesthetic object; then these findings can define objective rules for application in aesthetic contests and impartial comparisons.

Please read Appendix-A for greater clarification.

. Beauty is one kind of aesthetic value. The very meaning of beauty implies positive value, appreciation and praise. So beauty implies aesthetic value, or is included in that general concept, though not all aesthetic value may imply beauty. This will be clarified later.

. Aquinas and Coleridge are examples.

. This would consist of non-aesthetic properties, because in the phenomenology of aesthetic experience there will be ordinary perceptual content prior to an aesthetic attitude making this content aesthetic. The foundational [base] content of the object-experience, or sensual complex, must be ordinary (non-aesthetic); then from this, one may study and recognize aesthetic features or qualities, under the aesthetic attitude and probably requiring some aesthetic training or developed sensibility. Also, the aesthetic emotion-response must, in final analysis, be based on (or depend on) ordinary perceptual properties, and so too with aesthetic value. For in order to show objectivity of an aesthetic judgment, we must find judgment-dependency on the non-aesthetic, ordinarily recognized, perceptual properties of the object.

. But this pleasure/enjoyment is a distinctly different experience than a sexual pleasure, for the pleasure is felt in a different place like the chest area. And this [aesthetic] kind of pleasure is also distinct from other pleasures in that it is in direct response to an aesthetic object or just-perceptual conditions - under the aesthetic pre-conditions.

. This will be one dimension of an aesthetic value, its value-measure. But I will later clarify a second dimension which is its value-truth - its degree of public verification.

. There is no need to justify joy as a human value, for it is simply self-evident, or an emotion that we naturally praise and desire. If one asks why joy is good or valued, there is no reason but that it is. So we can use this practical test for determining what is an intrinsic value.

One will find that all intrinsic values are either emotional or mental states, and nothing external to these subjective values can ever be intrinsic values. Yet, external objects can possess value when instrumental to intrinsically valued experiences. The external object, then, acquires an inherited value when instrumental to an intrinsic value. We might also say that certain objects are praised, appreciated and valued when instrumental to an intrinsic value.

. This property is an ‘effective’ capacity, rather than a distinct physical element, and it is relational to our human sensitivity.

For example, a machine can be efficient (a real property), though this property is (a)relational (it depends on relations to the independent machine itself) and (b)one cannot find it in the machines’s physical composition and also (c)the machine need not always be performing for it to still be an efficient machine. Because efficiency is a true capacity of the machine, verified by many tested performances (actualizations of capacity/potential). And the machine has this property even when un-noticed or still in its box.

So this capacity would have greater permanence than the mere instances of valued responses. Capacity substantiation can become stronger (in certainty) with every instance of enjoyment (or some kind of valued emotion-response) - though an object may also lose its capacity over time, if it begins to fail instrumentally.

The question posed by the emotivist, though, is whether or not I could logically and empirically prove that a disagreement is mistaken or unqualified. This is admittedly a problem needing some solution.

. I believe there are a few more distinctions needed, each not necessarily implying the others. One would be a category of awesome, or sublime. This would cover values determined by object-responses that might include feelings of fear and/or insignificance in the presence of a powerful environment. Here there is no charmful pleasure or mere fascination.

Another value category could be called mystical. This would cover any experiences that involve a feeling of spiritual unity with an aesthetically regarded object, event, ritual or scene. Such aesthetic objects might be regarded as sacred, spiritually animated and powerfully efficacious. So these are two more suggested classes of aesthetic values, each based on unique subjective-response conditions that are themselves self-evident values. Maybe other kinds as well?



See Section - Neutral Aesthetic Properties.

Delicate is a value-neutral aesthetic property, because its meaning is related to the formal perceptual-structure (appearing fragile?), while the meaning does not necessarily imply a positive value. Some people may, in fact, attribute negative value to aesthetically delicate objects. But it doesn’t make any sense attributing negative value to beautiful, fascinating, or inspiring objects.

. Either one can be used as the necessary criteria for a proper aesthetic judgment and valid aesthetic property, because either one would include the other. An aesthetic experience demands a proper aesthetic attitude for its aesthetic meaning; while a proper aesthetic attitude regarding objects/events will necessarily produce an aesthetic experience.

. It can be granted, I accept, that pleasurable joy in an aesthetic experience of beauty may involve some degree of engrossed interest, but this would be more like an warm enchantment involving the heart, rather than the more intellectual interest of an aesthetic interest value. So, while beautiful objects may hold our interest/attention, they may not be particularly fascinating (or ‘intellectually interesting’ from an aesthetic view).

. Yet if we compare the qualifications “beautiful” and “delightful”, they do have the same general justification which makes them both pleasure-justified value properties, rather than interest-justified values. Even we accept that joy is determining to “beautiful,” while delight is determining to “delightful,” it should be acknowledged that joy and delight are similar enough, or similar flavors or degrees of aesthetic pleasure.

. Though it is possible that some aesthetic objects could be Both pleasurable and fascinating, satisfying both our hearts and our minds. That is, some objects might justifiably have both values. Then, I suppose, it could be argued that these would be superior to objects having only one value out of the possible two. Still, there are logical problems with adding up value-measures that are incomparable.

Note that the term influence is more appropriate than determine, because causal factors may be plural and complex. Note also that the subject-contributed [proper] aesthetic attitude cannot be considered as a causally determining factor in the aesthetic response, because it sets up preconditions for a response but does not determine (or influence) what the response will be.

. Alan Goldman in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 51:1 Winter 1993.

. See Section - Our Aesthetic Sense.

. See Section - Positive and Negative Evidence For example, Beardsley suggested an objective criteria involving order, diversity, and intensity. We could say, given empirical studies of what is actually enjoyed, that maximum [aesthetic] order of maximum diversity, plus maximum intensity of these, is the measure of aesthetic value. But note that Dickie poses various problems with this method.