The aesthetic attitude

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Alan H. Goldman, Committee Chair


It seems to be the case that when we look at a flower in the way that the scientist does, we see the flower in one way, but when we look at the flower in a way as to view it as a thing of beauty, charm, elegance, we see it in a different way; we see it as an aesthetic object. Viewing the flower in such a way as to see it, or any object, as an aesthetic object, is to be in the aesthetic attitude. What this work means to do is to formulate necessary and sufficient conditions for adoption of the aesthetic attitude.Analytically and traditionally, the aesthetic attitude is an attitude or state-of-perceiving that is entered into (voluntarily and consciously) by an agent which serves to (1) make the agent receptive to the having of an aesthetic experience, and (2) transform the object of the agent's attention from an object-in-the-world into an aesthetic object.The aesthetic attitude has figured prominently in aesthetics from the Enlightenment until the present. Its most important formulations are disinterestedness (Kant, Schopenhauer, Stolnitz), Psychical Distance (Bullough), Aldrich's Impressionistic Viewing, Scruton's Empiricistic Account, and (though these latter views are not attitude theories per se) the naturalistic work of John Dewey and Monroe Beardsley. I conclude that a naturalistic formulation of the aesthetic attitude is correct.


Fine Arts; Philosophy

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