Issue 35/2009


  1. Editorial

Symposium on Aestheticism

Aesthetic Creation

  1. Daniel O. Nathan, On Zangwill’s Aesthetic Theory of Art
  2. Nick Zangwill, Reply to Daniel O. Nathan on Art
  3. Rafael De Clercq, The Aesthetic Creation Theory of Art
  4. Nick Zangwill, Reply to Rafael De Clercq on Art
  5. Gary Iseminger, Art and Audience
  6. Nick Zangwill, Reply to Gary Iseminger on Aesthetic Properties and Audiences
  7. Robert Stecker, Aesthetic Creation and Artistic Value
  8. Nick Zangwill, Reply to Robert Stecker on Art

The Metaphysics of Beauty

  1. John Barker, Mathematical Beauty
  2. Nick Zangwill, Reply to John Barker on Mathematics
  3. Larry Shiner, Functional Beauty, the Metaphysics of Beauty and Specific Functions in Architecture
  4. Nick Zangwill, Reply to Larry Shiner on Architecture


  1. Zofia Rosińska, Intellectual Passivity and Aesthetic Attitude
  2. Tony Benn, “Bad Painting”: An examination of the phenomena of “Bad Painting” through the work of Pragmatists

Notes on Contributors


Contemporary aestheticism has achieved a peculiar status. It has been stated many times, that the majority of contemporary artists have turned away from aesthetics, and their art works become, possibly, ‘a philosophical inquiry’ or just a piece of broader culture rather than a direct cause of aesthetic experience. These days, the aesthetic function of art seems to be controversial and obsolete. However, on the other hand, our life itself is supposed to be an aesthetic creation. So, while the majority of contemporary art refuses to rely on ‘retinal gratification’ or aesthetic ‘highs,’ our daily experiences, from wanderings around shopping centers, through existential choices, to political events, are seen as a naturalized aesthetics. We have reevaluated so-called lower, bodily, senses, such as smell, taste, and touch. The olfactory, gustatory and haptic experiences are now recognized, along with visual and auditory, as full participants of our more and more intensive existence.

Some philosophers and publicists claim that because our lives become overly aestheticized, we already enter the stage of anesthetization. Some others lament that aesthetic experience has been reduced to emotional and sensuous intoxication. But there are still some, who, brushing away the forceful anti-aesthetic approach to art, dare to maintain that art has an aesthetic purpose. But even Arthur Danto, who famously outlaws aesthetics from the ontology of art, gladly admits:

There really would be a kind of aesthetic pathology in swooning over Fountain as if it were a work like The Jewish Bride or even Bird Flight, or in saying ‘I’ll take Brillo Box’ when offered a choice between it and one of Cézanne’s compotiers or some irises of Van Gogh.

Thus, some questions beg to be asked – why do we care about aesthetic art? Why, although strongly contested, has aesthetic art never wholly disappeared from the world of art? And why does aesthetic art still matter? Many thanks to all the Contributors to this issue of Art and Philosophy (Sztuka i Filozofia), who decided to explore and discuss aesthetic art.

Intellectual Passivity and Aesthetic Attitude

Zofia Rosińska

The intention of this essay is to show the consequences different ways of understanding, the aesthetic experience, have on the philosophy of man. The understanding of the aesthetic experience as “aisthesis” – i.e., as intrinsically receptive, passive, and based on sensation – leads to a one-dimensional vision of the human mind, and to a vision of the human being with a flattened personality. The post-Kantian analysis of the aesthetic experience developed in the twenties and thirties by, among others, Polish philosophers, is based on three characteristics of this experience: “selflessness”, “contemplation”, and “enclaveness”. Within this framework, the aesthetic experience cannot be characterized by passivity. Rather, it appears as complex mental activity, which, besides providing pleasure, maintains the tension throughout all the mental functions and all distinct psychological divisions. The source of this activity is the focus of the aesthetic experience on values. The idea of the aesthetization of life – akin to aisthesis – means the transformation of an axiological stance into a psychological one. It means the change of the stance focused on values, norms, principles, criteria, and the justification of one’s beliefs, to the stance focused on impressions, feelings, emotions, and expression.

The author’s ideal is the merging of both stances. Because the stance based solely on impressions and expression without the axiological dimension is blind; while the purely axiological one without the emotional engagement – is dead.

“Bad Painting”: An Examination of the Phenomena of “Bad Painting” through the Work of Pragmatists

Tony Benn

This essay is an investigation into artist’s strategies for rule testing and critical investigation within recent painting practices, primarily within ‘bad painting’ art practices where conscious decisions are made to paint badly. The research concerns the devaluation of the body within aesthetic discourses that tend to prioritise category definition. This is both a historical problematic going back to Edmund Burke’s definitions of beauty, and an ongoing source of debate about the valorisation of visual space over haptic space within contemporary painting practices.

What are the implications for painting practice if an artist deliberately and consciously sets out to paint badly? The essay builds upon Richard Shusterman’s book Pragmatist Aesthetics and questions rationalist approaches to aesthetics developed from Immanuel Kant to Theodor Adorno. It points towards a somatic understanding of painting practice that leads away from category bound definitions of the good in art practice. Incompetence and gaucheness within the making of a bad painting are necessary correctives to the old normalising habits of aesthetic evaluation that have become acceptable disembodied orthodoxies within institutions.

back to top


Join the discussion


Website design: