2021-02Discussion Papers, Comments, Book Reviews
Aesthetic Experience at the Borders of Art and Life: The Case of the Man in Gold


Beyond Baumgarten, the modern field of aesthetics can be seen as an attempt to go beyond the limits of older philosophies of beauty, sublimity, and taste in order to engage a much wider domain of qualities and judgments relating to our pleasurable and meaningful experiences of art and nature. The defining strategy of Hegelian aesthetics (and other aesthetic idealisms) is to take the essence of aesthetics beyond the limits of nonconceptual sensuous experience and to celebrate instead the idea of art as purveying the very highest spiritual truths, albeit in a somewhat sensuous form. The progressive revolutions of artistic forms and styles that define twentieth-century art similarly reflect the same play of dynamic movement in which art and aesthetics advance by challenging and overcoming the determination of established boundaries posited by prior aesthetic theory and practice. The limit-defying trend in aesthetics is evident in the continuing unsuccessful attempts by analytic philosophy to provide a satisfactory definition of art that will perfectly define its extensional limits by either providing its core essence or some formula that will select (for now and for all times) all and only those objects that are genuine works of art.
Like other Wittgensteinian and pragmatist-inspired philosophers, I have criticized such compartmentalizing definitions of art (which I call “wrapper theories”), not simply for their failures to provide perfect extensional coverage of all the diverse works of art, but also for these theories’ explanatory poverty in explaining art’s meanings, purposes, functions, and values. One of the problems with traditional definitions of art is that they attempt to define something that is not a natural kind but a historically constructed field composed of rather diverse practices (with their own independent, prior history). These diverse practices employ a variety of different media and issue in a variety of different works of art that appear to belong to different ontological categories.

How to cite:

Shusterman, Richard. “Aesthetic Experience at the Borders of Art and Life: The Case of the Man in Gold.” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 5, no. 2 (2021):  103-111. https://doi.org/10.14394/eidos.jpc.2021.0020.


Richard Shusterman
Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, Florida Atlantic University
777 Glades Road, Boca Raton, FL 33431, USA

Open Access Statement:

This is an open access journal which means that all content is freely available without charge to the user or his/her institution. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without asking prior permission from the publisher or the author, as long as the author and original source are properly cited. This is in accordance with the BOAI definition of open access.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Submitting a text to Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture means that the author agrees with the general conditions of this license. The author does and will maintain copyrights and publishing rights for his/her article without any restrictions.