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By Marcuse Herbert

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In this respect, aesthetics retains a connection with its origin, with aisthÂsis. Of course the bond of sensation is never unqualified, but it does identify the principal component of the kind of experience we call aesthetic. It is freely applied to the pleasurable experiences evoked by the arts and by natural scenery and landscape, so that we identify that kind of appreciative experience by calling it “aesthetic”. Clearly more is involved in the appreciation of the arts and of nature than simply sensory satisfaction: personal and cultural associa- Beginning 29 tions enter immediately and color that experience.

Often challenged, this fundamental understanding is difficult to circumvent for, as a central ideological premise of Western philosophy, it undergoes many mutations and continues to reveal its presence in diverse disciplines and in theoretical accounts of all sorts. Few thinkers have been able to free themselves from its grasp. In aesthetics, Cartesian dualism occurs in the common way of speaking of appreciation as the subjective experience of a work of art, in thinking of the work of art as a separate object to which we must direct our appreciative contemplation.

11 Domains of Aesthetic Value Earlier in this chapter I observed that value is commonly associated with the aesthetic, and that value can actually originate in the aesthetic. At the same time it is important to remember that aesthetic perception is, at center, a somatic event or activity, however complex and culturally appropriated it may be, and that sensory experience, taken in itself, is an event that is value neutral. Sensation just is, but experience is screened through normative filters that usually assign moral standing.

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