Encyclopedia of Aesthetics

Version 1.0.0

Encyclopedia of Aesthetics

6 Volums Encyclopedia.

Editor in Chief: Michael Kelly, Managing Editor, Journal of Philosophy; and Adjunct Associate Professor, Columbia University.

Published by: Oxford University Press.

First Edition 1998.  400 Entries.

Second Edition 2014. 850 Entries.


What is Aesthetics


Aesthetics is a critical reflection on art, culture, and nature.

Aesthetics is a single branch of philosophy concerned with art, aesthetics is also a part of other disciplines such as art history, literary theory, law, and sociology-that reflect equally, if differently, about art in its natural and cultural contexts.  The term aesthetics is derived from the ancient Greek word aesthesis (also spelled aesthesis), which means perception or sensation. In its original usage, the word was related to perceptual or sensory knowledge, usually in contrast to conceptual or rational knowledge, but had little or no specific relevance to art.


Aesthetics emerged in the eighteenth century within philosophy, this would not have been possible without developments in art and cultural criticism that had been evolving since at least the Renaissance. Critics-whether philosophers, poets, or writers-began writing about art in general rather than just about the individual arts. Some compared the different arts, as was the case in the “Ut pictura poesis” (“as a painting, so a poem”) tradition, whereas others argued that each art form could be properly understood only on individual terms: painting is independent of poetry, which is independent of music, and so on. There was a secularization and democratization of the arts and culture in the eighteenth century that contributed to the formation of a cultural public sphere.


Criticism was the term most widely used to characterize discussions about the arts and culture; the term critique, which Kant transformed in his Critique of Pure Reason, began in part as the German translation of the English word criticism. This transformation marks the birth of aesthetics as a part of philosophy, but it also highlights the fact that philosophical aesthetics emerged out of a broader cultural context. From its inception until the present, aesthetics has continued to be distinguished by both its philosophical and cultural roles, even though some theorists have at times tempted to restrict aesthetics to just one of its roles.


Main feathers of the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics

Encyclopedia of Aesthetics is the first English-language reference work on this scale devoted to aesthetics and offers a combination of historical reference material and critical discussions of contemporary aesthetics intended for general readers and experts alike. Aesthetics did not become connected to art until the eighteenth century. Developments within art and philosophy as well as within other disciplines concerned with art-account for the eventual link between aesthetics and art that is the historical subject of this encyclopedia.


The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics has been created, and may now be received, in a skeptical environment. As a branch of philosophy aesthetics effectively died once modern art began to challenge the classical view of art as the imitation, often in the guise of beauty, of the universal qualities of nature or reality. So aesthetics is thereby relegated to the history of art and philosophy before modernism.


The purpose of the work is not to resolve the differences among the various disciplines; rather, it is to provide, as a good encyclopedia should, a comprehensive catalog of what these differences are, how they originated, what the disciplines may have in common, and what is at stake in the conflicting views contributors espouse. We have aimed to provide as much reliable information as we could assemble so that readers can make informed decisions about how best to understand “Beauty,” the “Origins of Aesthetics,” “Popular Culture,” the “Comparative Aesthetics” of the African and Western traditions, “Kant,” or any of the other topics included in the encyclopedia.


The emphasis in the entries on key figures (e.g., Plato, Kant, Heidegger) is theoretical rather than biographical. The contributors explain the subjects’ ideas about aesthetics while clarifying the historical and conceptual contexts for these ideas. References to clarify these contexts are provided in the bibliographies, along with biographical titles, where possible. In addition to the lengthy entries on major thinkers, there are short (five-hundred- word) entries on some significant but lesser-known figures (e.g., Charles Batteux and Moses Mendelssohn). The aim here is to paint a comprehensive picture of the historical background of modern and contemporary aesthetics.

Criteria for the Inclusion of Entries

Topics were chosen according to the following general criteria: (1) philosophical or critical significance in the histories of aesthetics, art, or fields related to aesthetics or art; (2) relevance to contemporary aesthetics; and (3) historical or contemporary importance in non-Western cultures. In the entries devoted to particular cultural traditions (e.g., Islamic, Latin American), the contributors were asked to address the following questions: What difference do their sovereign cultural histories make to their conceptions of aesthetics in comparison to their Western counterparts? Do they have unique ways of thinking about aesthetics as well as original art? Does their critical reflection on art and culture provide evidence of a universal aesthetic or, on the contrary, does it confirm the radical histori- cist’s claim that aesthetics, like art, is fundamentally different in each culture?


The topics of the composite entries were selected (1) because of their significance in the history of aesthetics, or (2) because of ongoing debates among experts in the relevant specialties who represent diverse disciplinary, philosophical, or cultural perspectives. This structure aims to achieve with these entries the comprehensiveness one expects from encyclopedia entries, but also to make the rich variety of ideas about individual aesthetic topics more accessible to one another.


With these criteria in mind, the encyclopedia has aimed to have historical depth and representative breadth to encompass (1) the key centuries (eighteenth to twentieth) and countries (Germany, France, Great Britain, United States) in the history of Western aesthetics; (2) the different disciplinary perspectives (e.g., philosophy, art history, law, sociology) on the key topics; (3) the various cultures (e.g., African, Indian, Latin American) that have a history of thinking critically on their “art” and culture without necessarily calling such thinking “aesthetics”; (4) many of the arts, traditional and new, that have had a defining impact on aesthetics; (5) various historical and contemporary critiques of aesthetics (e.g., Romanticism, hermeneutics, anti-essentialism, feminism); and (6) the few disciplines that have emerged, in part, as the result of critiques of aesthetics (e.g., cultural studies).


This encyclopedia includes more than six hundred essays, alphabetically arranged, on approximately four hundred individuals, concepts, periods, theories, issues, and movements in the history of aesthetics. The entries range from the most ancient aesthetic traditions around the world to the Greco-Roman era, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, Modernism, and Postmodernism, up to the present.


The central historical focus, however, is the genealogy of Western aesthetics from its inception in the early eighteenth century in Europe to the present. key aesthetic concepts and issues such as appropriation, autonomy, beauty, genius, iconology, ideology, metaphor, originality, semiotics, sexuality, taste, and truth are evolved in it. Coverage of many central individuals and concepts in aesthetics and most major art forms (e.g., architecture, dance, photography) has been arranged in composite entries, that is, several separate articles arranged under one headword.


The rationale for this type of entry is to give voice to (1) extensive histories of a specific topic (e.g., beauty or landscape) too broad to be handled by one contributor; (2) independent philosophical views of a single central issue (e.g., metaphor or autonomy); (3) individual perspectives on a topic (e.g., historicism) that is important in each of several disciplines (e.g., aesthetics, art history, literary theory); (4) several accounts of an activity (e.g., criticism) that is practiced differently in the particular arts (e.g., music, art, dance); (5) individuals (e.g., Kant) who are central in the history of aesthetics because of their influential accounts of key aesthetic concepts; and (6) other cases where there are significantly diverse aspects or ac- counts of a single aesthetic issue.


The entries in the encyclopedia have been written by more than five hundred philosophers, art historians, literary theorists, psychologists, feminist theorists, legal theorists, sociologists, anthropologists, and others who reflect critically on art, culture, and nature. The range of contributors is important because of the interdisciplinary nature of aesthetics, both now and throughout its history. Directory of contributors attached with volumes 4 separately. A total of 450 authors and reviewers have contributed to the creation of this encyclopedia. All these authors and reviewers are professors of globally important universities.

Editorial Practices

Entries are alphabetically arranged, strictly letter by letter. In order to explain the structure and content of the composite entries, each of them begins with an editorial head note. Brief head notes are also occasionally present in cases where the entry comprises a single essay (e.g., “Gaze.” “Theory, History of”) to clarify the topic or offer a rationale for its inclusion for the general reader. To maximize the interconnections among the entries and to guide the reader to related discussion, numerous cross-references have been included throughout the work. These are located within individual articles (mostly at the end of the discussion) as well as in the head notes to the composite entries. Aesthetics is a theoretical subject. The work of this encyclopedia has also been done by the editor in the same way. He has avoided the temptation to put too many pictures in it.

Importance of Encyclopedia of Aesthetics

The first English-language reference of aesthetics, the Encyclopaedia of Aesthetics was first published in 1998 in four volumes. Now has been updated and expanded for a six-volume second edition Include over 800 entries, the Encyclopaedia surveys the full breadth of critical thought on art, culture, and society, from classical philosophy to contemporary critical theory. Comprehensive coverage includes key figures, concepts, periods, theories, and movements in the history of aesthetics.The first edition has sold over 3,000 copies and continues to sell several sets a year despite its age, proving that it is a unique reference source of lasting value.


The second edition has been expanded coverage of international aesthetics, modern aesthetics, new media like computer art, and areas like neurasthenics that were not thoroughly covered in the first edition. Featuring 815 articles by distinguished scholars from many fields and countries, the Encyclopaedia is a comprehensive survey of major concepts, thinkers, and debates about the meaning, uses, and value of all the arts-from painting and sculpture to literature, music, theatre, dance, television, film, and popular culture. Of special interest are in-depth surveys of Western aesthetics and broad coverage of non-Western traditions and theories of art. Over 250 new entries

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