Aesthetics – Charles Tailiaferro

Taliaferro, C., 2011. Aesthetics: A beginner’s Guide. 1st ed. London, Great Britain: Oneworld Publications.

This was a recommendation from my tutor in feedback for part 2 UPM.

1 – What is Beauty?

Discusses Plato’s view of beauty as a universal goal. There was one form of beautiful that by liking or loving created its value and we should aspire to the next run of beauty as long as we are capable of lust before we get too old. Also, we only like/love those attributes which we don’t possess. This was countered by Ross’ view that “one which identifies beauty with the power of producing a certain sort of experience which we are familiar with under such names as aesthetic enjoyment or aesthetic thrill.” which stops something being automatically beautiful.

Also Frankfurt and his explanation of parental love being separate from the values of our children, we love them as our children with an understanding they are not more beautiful than others, and their value overall is not greater or existent on our love for them. So, love can be a force in itself that is separate from beauty.

Hume proposed the first recorded theory of beauty being in the eye of the beholder, Murdoch links love to a spiritual good in which there is an inherent beauty “in the warmth and light of the sun.”

the chapter ends  with Sircello “Loving beauty is of the utmost importance.”

2 – What is a work of art?

Discusses Plato’s ideas of works of art, ie the ship-builder as an artist with technical skill etc, then a poet, although this required more than apprenticeship in a single skill as it discussed other skills with some knowledge within it.

This all hinges on the object or picture eliciting an aesthetic response due to mimesis ie its recollection to something that we can recognise.

Tolstoy explained it as the artist ‘infecting’ the observer with an emotion they had lived through so that they too could feel it. You would have to be really confident in abstract art to guarantee that your infection is correct to the germ.

The next view of art was that if the artist said it was art then it was, Du Champs urinal is the key here. Although the definition of artist is someone who says they are one is a bit lame…

Art to convey an emotional response which is Tolstoy’s explanation over Dickie’s which is that it is art if the art-world says it is. Danto clarified it further as the art became art history and the observer had to have a knowledge of the symbles to decifer the signs in the art to understand them.

3- Art and Meaning

Do you look at art wholly by understanding how the artist wanted their work to be understood? This isn’t possible given the lack of writing accompanying every picture.

Brings us around to deconstruction theory and the history of the viewer looking at the work with their views rather than those of the artist, CS Lewis’s point about whether we look at art and let our views affect it over letting the picture slowly inform us is a good one.

4 – What Makes Good Art?

This chapter is really interesting in that its good to see a lot of the theories I’ve previously read about in other courses, come together into the same short (in comparison) piece of writing.

If the art produces a message that is not the same as the artist states is in the work, has the work failed? Apocalypse now has an anti war message that is overshadowed, however its still a good film. If the work has a backstory we are uncomfortable with does it invalidate the ‘worth’ of the art? Chinese view of copied art having as high a value as the original because of the value of the original, western view on forgeries as un-authentic (Benjamin) and lacking in aura. If the message the work has is one that makes us uncomfortable (Bacon) or we disagree with (Gauguin and his underage relationships with the girls he painted), again is it not good art? Value in this sense is emotive over financial.


5 – The location, ownership and dangers of works of art.

About ownership if changes have occurred to the work, also based on the fact that anyone could have made it/composed it/ written it, so working on that theory should the person who made it have any authority over it? the meaning of art if seen outside its intended location. Also, restoration, decay seen as classical or romantic, classical in that it shows the original intention, can be partially fixed and surrounding information showing it as it was originally intended, over the romantic view where the passage of time is shown as in all things must end etc.

Censorship discussed in this chapter, both  in that the artist wanted (their work to disappear or only be used for one occasion) versus society censoring work because in current times attitudes have changed and the work should not be created or historical works value as societies views have changed. I was watching something yesterday (genuinely can’t remember what) positing that art is holding feminism back because its so sexist. I still maintain there will be no issue with sexism when we stop feeling it’s necessary to study Freud.

6 – Cross Culture Aesthetics.

A look at the term aesthetics from a Chinese and Japanese view, submerging yourself as a creator in a subject enough to create without forcing as a means to create good art.

Rounds out the book well.

This is a good advert for spending the time creating lots to get the distance from your work.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s