Popular Art, Bad Art, and the Data of Philosophical Aesthetics

  • Jonathan RobsonEmail author
Part of the The Frontiers Collection book series (FRONTCOLL)


Even those who are generally sceptical of the so called ‘empirical turn’ in recent philosophical aesthetics still accept that there is a clear sense in which aestheticians should be attentive to some empirical data. In particular, it is commonly presupposed that a careful observation of the nature of various works of art often plays a role within aesthetics which is somewhat parallel to the role which experimental data plays in certain sciences. In this paper, I suggest that aestheticians have typically failed to pay attention to the full range of artistic data. Specifically, I argue that an (almost) exclusive focus on works of artistic excellence has led to a problematic neglect of aesthetic practices relating to works of little (or no) merit. To illustrate this point, I focus on the case of the neglect of popular art and argue that even if—as I don’t myself accept—such works are uniformly worse that works of ‘high art’ this would do nothing to justify their neglect within philosophical aesthetics.


  1. Anderson, R.L.: Popular art and aesthetic theory: why the muse is unembarrassed. J. Aesthetic Edu. 24(4), 33–46 (1990)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bacharach, S.: Street art and consent. British J. Aesthetics 55, 481–495 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carroll, N.: A Philosophy of Mass Art. Oxford University Press, New York (1998)Google Scholar
  4. Cohen, T.: High and low thinking about high and low art. J. Aesthetics Art Criticism 51, 151–156 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Collingwood, R.G.: The Principles of Art. Oxford University Press, London (1938)Google Scholar
  6. Cova, F., & Réhault, S. (eds.): Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Aesthetics. Bloomsbury Publishing (2018)Google Scholar
  7. Currie, G., Kieran, M., Meskin, A., Robson, J. (eds.): Aesthetics and the Sciences of Mind. Oxford University Press (2014)Google Scholar
  8. Freeland, C. A.: Share the fantasy. In: J. Baumgardner, J. Wolfendale (eds.) Fashion. Thinking with Style, pp. 70–87. Wiley-Blackwell, Malden (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gracyk, T.: Searching for the ‘Popular’ and the ‘Art’ of popular art. Philos. Compass 2, 380–395 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hamilton, A.: Music and the aural arts. British J. Aesthetics 47, 46–63 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hepburn, R.: Data and theory in aesthetics: philosophical understanding and misunderstanding. R. Inst. Philos. Suppl. 41, 235–252 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Irvin, S.: Scratching an itch. J. Aesthetics Art Criticism 66, 25–35 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kieran, M.: Aesthetic value: Beauty, ugliness and incoherence. Philosophy 72, 383–399 (1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kivy, P.: Philosophies of Arts: An Essay in Differences. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1997)Google Scholar
  15. Korsmeyer, C.: Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy. Cornell University Press, Ithaca (2002)Google Scholar
  16. Lamarque, P.: The Philosophy of Literature. Blackwell, Oxford (2008)Google Scholar
  17. Lamarque, P.: Work and Object: Explorations in the Metaphysics of Art. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Levinson, J.: The concept of music. In: Music, Art and Metaphysics: Essays in Philosophical Aesthetics, pp. 267–78. Cornell University Press, New York (1990)Google Scholar
  19. Lopes, D.: A Philosophy of Computer Art. Routledge, New York (2009)Google Scholar
  20. Lopes, D.: Beyond Art. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2014)Google Scholar
  21. Lopes, D.M.: Aesthetics on the Edge: Where Philosophy Meets the Human Sciences. Oxford University Press (2018)Google Scholar
  22. Meskin, A.: Comics as literature? British J. Aesthetics 49, 219–239 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Novitz, D.: Ways of artmaking: the high and the popular in art. British J. Aesthetics 29, 213–229 (1989)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Paddison, M.: The critique criticised: adorno and popular music. Popular Music 2, 201–218 (1982)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ridley, A.: The philosophy of medium-grade art. British J. Aesthetics 36, 413–424 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Robson, J., Tavinor, G. (forthcoming). The Aesthetics of Videogames. RoutledgeGoogle Scholar
  27. Saito, Y.: The aesthetics of unscenic nature. J. Aesthetics Art Criticism 56, 101–111 (1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Scruton, R.: Photography and representation. Crit. Inq. 7(3), 577–603 (1981)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Scruton, R.: The decline of musical culture. In A. Neill, A. Ridley (eds.) Arguing about Art: Contemporary Philosophical Debates, pp. 121–36. McGraw-Hill, New York (2002)Google Scholar
  30. Schellekens, E., & Goldie, P. (Eds.). (2011). The Aesthetic Mind: Philosophy and Psychology. Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  31. Shusterman, R.: Form and funk: the aesthetic challenge of popular art. British J. Aesthetics 31, 213 (1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sibley, F.: Aesthetic concepts. Philos. Rev. 68, 421–450 (1959)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sibley, F.: Aesthetic and nonaesthetic. Philos. Rev. 74, 135–159 (1965)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Smuts, A.: Popular art. In: A.C. Ribeiro (ed.) The Continuum Companion to Aesthetics, pp. 215–227. Continuum, London (2012)Google Scholar
  35. Smuts, A.: The ethics of singing along: the case of “Mind of a Lunatic”. J. Aesthetics Art Criticism 71, 121–129 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Urmson, J.O.: Saints and heroes. In: Melden, A.I. (ed.) Essays in moral philosophy, pp. 198–216. University of Washington Press, Seattle (1958)Google Scholar
  37. Young, J.O.: Art and Knowledge. Routledge (2001)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts, Department of PhilosophyUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK

Personalised recommendations