Section 5

Beauty and Art

Chapter 1

Esthetic(1) understanding

I have already said several times what the basis of this section is: that the appreciation of beauty is like ordinary perceptive understanding in that it knows relationships in the world "out there" based on the effects of the objects on our senses; but that it is different from other types of understanding in that the receiving instrument in question is the instinct (with its emotions) rather than some one of the normal receptor organs. Thus, like Kant, I think the esthetic experience should be able to be included in any philosophical view of human consciousness; but unlike Kant, I will be able to say that it is real understanding (not just a sensation), and that it actually gets us at facts about the world--even though they are facts that cannot be translated into perceptive facts and cannot be known by any other means than through the esthetic experience. I mentioned this back in Chapter 7 of Section 5 of the first part 1.5.7, and said that we would discuss it "much later." I think you can agree that it is much later.

Let me say before I start that the object of esthetic understanding is not quite "the beautiful," any more than the object of perceptive understanding is "the good." Beauty, in fact, is to esthetic understanding what goodness is to perceptive understanding; and just as goodness is in the eye of the beholder, so is beauty. But that does not mean that there aren't objective esthetic facts.

But with that teaser, let be launch into the subject with a couple of definitions:

Perceptive understanding is understanding that uses perceptions and/or images as the termini of the relationships it understands.

Esthetic understanding is understanding that uses emotions and/or the emotional overtones of perceptions or images as the termini of the relationships it understands.

A perceptive fact is a fact understood by perceptive understanding.

An esthetic fact is a fact understood by esthetic understanding.



1. I am going to spell "esthetic" with just an "e" instead of the ae disphthong. It seems to me less pretentious.