The Palgrave Encyclopedia of the Possible

Living Edition
| Editors: Vlad Petre Glăveanu (Editor-in-Chief)


Living reference work entry


Aesthetics is a philosophical discipline whose modern roots can be traced back to the first half of the eighteenth century, when Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten thus named the “science of sensible knowledge,” forming a noun out of the Greek adjective aisthetike. He focused on the problem of sensation, recognizing that Aesthetics much be considered as its own specific field of inquiry whose laws can be recognized and, indeed, described (Baumgarten, Meditationes philosophicae de nonnullis ad poema pertinentibus. Halae Magdeburgicae: Litteris Ioannis Henrici Grunerti, acad. Typogr, 1735; Baumgarten, Aesthetica. G. Olms, Hildesheim, 1750). Aesthetics is thus caught between philosophy, poetics, and rhetoric, which had to work hard to find its own independent location. The discipline’s relative youth does not mean, however, that one can ignore its basis in classical philosophy, with which it has always been in dialogue from the eighteenth century onward. The great issues of Aesthetics, especially its reflection on theories of beauty, are rooted in classical thought, finding a full conceptual formulation and vocabulary in the Enlightenment, while augmenting reflection on creative processes within the arts and processes of reception. Through categories such as beauty, ugliness, the sublime, and kitsch, Aesthetics must come face to face today with a form of art whose borders are increasingly blurry and accept the disciplinary challenges laid down by neuro-aesthetics and technological hyper-realism, which are reanimating classical problems and terminology. Without being absorbed into new disciplinary and cultural horizons, contemporary Aesthetics is producing its own original standpoint, using its own conceptual tools to shed light on the new challenges that art, its creation, and enjoyment force us to confront.


Aesthetics Enjoyment Taste Creation Genius Aesthetic categories 
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Università degli StudiMilanItaly

Section editors and affiliations

  • Alice Chirico
    • 1
  1. 1.Università Cattolica del Sacro CuoreMilanItaly