Controversy about Aesthetic Attitude: Does Aesthetic Attitude Condition Aesthetic Experience?

  • Bohdan Dziemidok
Part of the Martinus Nijhoff Philosophy Library book series (MNPL, volume 14)


The origin of the notion of aesthetic attitude is usually derived from I. Kant and English eighteenth-century philosphers (A. Shaftesbury, E. Burke and others). Historians of philosophy, however, have discovered that the first one to use the notion of aesthetic attitude was Arthur Schopenhauer in his work of 1818, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (Book III, paragraph 38). Characterizing aesthetic experience, Schopenhauer came to the conclusion that it is a contemplation in which the subject concentrates exclusively on what stands in front of him, getting immersed in the object of contemplation and leaving behind his ordinary practical attitude. The experiencing subject’s state of mental surrender to an object Schopenhauer labelled contemplation, aesthetic enjoyment, (aesthetisches Wohlgefallen), i.e., aesthetic attitude (aesthetische Betrachtungsweise). Even though there has never been a unanimity among the twentieth-century theoreticians as to the precise meaning of this notion, it has become a popular claim that “aesthetic attitude” is a key notion for aesthetic considerations and that it may become an efficient epistemological tool to separate aesthetic phenomena and define their specific nature.


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  1. 1.
    It is worth noting that Beardsley who has accepted Dickie’s criticism and no longer uses the expression “aesthetic attitude,” when enumerating five basic features of the aesthetic experience still lists as the first three of them the features which are commonly ascribed to the aesthetic attitude: 1) object directedness of attention, 2) feeling of liberation from the contingencies of the past and the future, 3) emotional distance. Cf. M. C. Beardsley, The Aesthetic Point of View. Selected Essays (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982), p. 288.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    M. Cohen, “Aesthetic Essence,” in: M. Black, ed., Philosophy in America (London, 1965), p. 120.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    R. Ingarden, O poznawaniu dziela literackiego (Warszawa: PWN, 1966), p. 136.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ingarden, ibid., p. 137.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ibid., p. 136.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    A much fuller reconstruction and analysis of Ingarden’s views as to the aesthetic attitude may be found in my article “Roman Ingarden’s Views on the Aesthetic Attitude,” in: P. Graff and S. Krzemien-Ojak, eds., Roman Ingarden and Contemporary Polish Aesthetics (Warszawa: PWN, 1975), pp. 9–31.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Cf. J. Hospers, Meaning and Truth in the Arts (Chapel Hill, 1946).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
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    W. Tatarkiewicz, Droga przez estetyke (Warszawa, 1972), p. 86./ll//tGoogle Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht 1986

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  • Bohdan Dziemidok

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