Aesthetic concepts and aesthetic experience

Matravers, Derek (1996). Aesthetic concepts and aesthetic experience. British Journal of Aesthetics, 36(3) pp. 265–277.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/bjaesthetics/36.3.265

Abstract

In this paper I want to return to some well-worn ideas; specifically, the attempt to show that there is a distinctive subject-matter of the aesthetic via consideration of the difference between aesthetic and non-aesthetic concepts. The classic exposition of this distinction is Frank Sibley's 'Aesthetic Concepts'. Sibley claimed that, given a set of relevant terms, there will be widespread non-collusive agreement as to which are aesthetic and which non-aesthetic. Non-aesthetic terms include 'red, noisy, brackish, clammy, square, docile, curved, evanescent, intelligent, faithful, derelict, tardy, freakish'. Aesthetic terms include 'unified, lifeless, serene, sombre, dynamic, powerful, vivid, delicate, moving, trite, sentimental, tragic'. Further examples have been given by other philosophers working in the field. Given the widespread agreement, I shall assume there is a distinction of some sort whose nature is open to be discussed.

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