Moore Parker.  Critical Thinking 7th Ed.                                                                    
Summary of Main Points

Chapter 12                  Aesthetic Reasoning

 

Judgments about beauty and art, like moral and legal reasoning, rely on conceptual frameworks that integrate fact and value.  When we make a judgment about art we appeal to aesthetic reasoning to defend or criticize value statements, usually using one of the following eight principals:

 

1.      Objects are aesthetically valuable if they have a meaning or teach something true.                 
Such truths about life are generally overlooked due to the busy lives we lead.  This framework identifies value in art that fulfills a cultural or social function by teaching that nonart cannot provide. 

 

ex.    “More happens in one episode of “All My Children”, than happens to me in a year.”  A soap opera makes its viewers think about what they would do/feel/think in situations, without having to live through it.

 

2.   Objects are aesthetically valuable if they express the values of the cultures they arise in, or the artists who make them.  This framework also identifies value in art that fulfills cultural or social functions.

                       

ex.  “Homer’s Iliad makes a warrior’s values vivid.” You don’t have to believe what the object says or even that it has given an argument for the values it represents.

 

3.      Objects are aesthetically valuable if they can lead to social change.

This is the third principle that identifies value with art’s ability to fulfill cultural or social functions.  The social change is an improvement, although not widely recognized at first.

 

            ex.  Rock n’ Roll music led to sex, drugs and long hair.

 

4.       Objects are aesthetically valuable if they give their audience pleasure.

The art object contributes to our happiness, connecting value with a thing’s ability to produce a type of psychological experience, aesthetic hedonism. 

 

                        ex.  “There’s Something About Mary” had everyone in stitches.     

 

5.      Objects are aesthetically valuable if they give their audience certain emotions.

Again, this principle connects value to a thing’s ability to produce a type of psychological experience.  These emotions are not daily occurrences, but we value the art object for awakening them in us. 

 

            ex.   The Lincoln Memorial is awesome.

                                                -2-

 

6.      Objects are aesthetically valuable if they produce a special nonemotional experience that comes only from art, such as autonomy, or, the willing suspension of disbelief.  Here again an aesthetic value comes down to the production of a certain subjective state, and as in the above, connects to a function of art. 

 

ex.  Ansel Adams’ photos of Yosemite Valley are breathtaking.

 

7.      Objects are aesthetically valuable if they possess a special aesthetic (formal)          property, such as beauty, unity, or organization.  In its’ significant form, the art object is valuable for itself, not for function.

 

ex.  Monet’s “Water Lilies” series of oil paintings beautifully display his obsession with color and design.

 

8.      Objects are aesthetically valuable because of features that no reasons can determine, and no argument can establish.   This principle corresponds to moral subjectivism in the view that an object is aesthetically valuable if someone values it.

 

ex.  She loves the look of her antique bathtub.

 

As in moral and legal reasoning, in reasoning about art we sometimes appeal to more than one principle or framework in a single argument, but not always.  An aesthetic argument describes features of a work that are relevant and descriptively true to a principle.  Guidelines to remember when combining these principles:

 

--- #1 and #3 = compatible: object gets aesthetic value both from teaching about morality therefore influencing us to become better people.

 

---  #3 and #4 = seem to agree theoretically, but not in particular cases,

ex.  Watching “Friends” on television each evening.

would satisfy #4 (pleasure), but not #3 (social change).

 

---  #3 and #7= contrary claims: aesthetic value (#3) function vs. (#7) form,  cannot both be true, although both might be false. (Chapter 8, Sq. of Opposition).  

 

--- #1 and #5= consistent views: conveying a truth and releasing the emotion.

 

--- #5 and #6 = contradiction: #5 claims value in ordinary emotional experience, while #6 claims a special nonemotional experience.

                       

--- #8 contradicts #1-7 by denying that any good reasons exist.

 

 

                                                -3-

 

THE CHANGES IN ART HISTORICALLY AND PRESENTLY MAY MAKE THESE GENERAL PRINCIPLES OR FRAMEWORKS INADEQUATE TO THE PROCESS OF EVALUATION OF AESTHETIC VALUE JUDGEMENTS.  WHILE THESE AESTHETIC PRINCIPLES MAY NOT HAVE THE FOUNDATION THAT MORAL OR LEGAL PRINCIPLES DO, THEY DO CONTRIBUTE TO AESTHETIC EXPERIENCE BY:

 

---  capturing the definition of aesthetic value (see Chapter 2 pp.48-49) by the use of words that convey “meaning” about art which have an emotive or rhetorical force – creating certain feelings or attitudes.  Such descriptors then teach the language of art and can bring audiences into agreement (or not) with the critic. 

 

            ---  using inductive generalizations (see Chapter 10 pp.357-364) of the features of objects we have called good art to new objects.  By making an analogical argument, the accepted works of art becomes our sample and the new art our target.

 

            ---  directing our attention to certain features of a work in order to influence our reaction to it. Even if not a true claim, each principle can provide clear, relevant arguments recommending people focus their reactions in a similar way.  

 

The art object entails creativity, language, understanding, and thinking by the use of arguments from analogy --- the implied comparison between two things.  When we refer to the known as the basis for creating a unique, new, meaningful art object, we are using the analogical ability of our mind: the ability to look at one thing and see another.  The artist’s mind sees a new relationship or comparison between or among the objects or their parts.  Change takes place and newness results.  Keeping in mind this syllogism (Chapter 8):

 

P1        Logic is the mode in which our mind reasons best about our reality.

P2        Analogies are the foundation for the strongest arguments from logic.

C         Analogies are at the basis for our reasoning about reality.  

 

We can see that arguments from analogy provide us with many aesthetic value judgments – from cooking to watercolor, poetry to novels, Mona Lisa to the Golden Arches, or Mozart to Madonna.