What are the commonly accepted theories of aesthetics? Other than Kant, I haven't read much work on the topic, so I wouldn't mind hearing suggestions of contemporary works on aesthetics.

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    If by aesthetics you mean the formal philosophical study of aesthetics as practiced by professional philosophers; I am wholly ignorant. But I wonder why the word doesn't include the actual state of contemporary culture, art, literature, music, politics, our way of life? That's an aesthetic too. The Nazis had a powerful aesthetic. Hugo Boss designed the SS uniforms, did you know that? And in the same way, the West has a contemporary aesthetic. The previous Pope called it a Death culture. Was he wrong? And isn't this really what the current state of aesthetics is? The real, not the academic.
    – user4894
    Jul 12, 2014 at 22:17

3 Answers 3


Shooting from the hip here a bit, but the thing with contemporary aesthetics is that few people believe there can actually be such a thing. The centrality of personal expression seems to destroy any attempt at a unified theory of aesthetics.

In that spirit, here's a few personal anecdotes. If you downvote them, you're a cultural imperialist! :D

  • At the University of Chicago, with Notre Dame, the bastion of Continental Philosophy in the United States, there was Ted Cohen, a Kantian, requiescat in pace
  • As an independent British scholar, there is Roger Scruton, who is also a Kantian

There really is no alternative to Kantian aesthetics other than multiculturalist relativism. As a student of Kant, Cohen, and Scruton, I would simply say that Kant was pretty much right, and that there has not been any substantial innovation in aesthetics.

  • Which philosophers, if any, theorise on multicultural relativism? Jul 12, 2014 at 2:44
  • For the pro I would say Michel Foucault, for the con Alasdair MacIntyre; neither of these treat aesthetics as such, but their arguments apply. Jul 12, 2014 at 2:56

Work that is sometimes called "speculative realism" or "object oriented ontology" might interest you. Most (if not all) of it is directly in dialogue with Kant. Timothy Morton in particular deals with aesthetics.

There is quite a bit of work on aesthetics since Kant. Aside from the above, Adorno's "Aesthetic Theory" comes to mind and more recently a good deal of Jacques Rancière's work focuses on aesthetics. Hope this is helpful.


These links will provide the information you are looking for:

SEP on Aesthetic Concepts, and on Aesthetic Judgement. Furthermore, here are some nice articles:

"Explaining Depiction” by Robert Hopkins

“On the Role of Imagining in Pictorial Experience” by Kathleen Stock

“Photography and Representation” by Roger Scruton

“Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism” by Kendall Walton

And an introductory book: Revealing Art, by Matthew Kieran. Routledge 2005.

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