I'm not quite sure of the relationship between philosophical systems and the appraisal of art. I know philosophy encompasses aesthetics, but I don't know if a system telling you how to appraise art is in the realm of philosophy and what systems there are if there's any. I know Nietzsche gave some opinions about art and music, but I have no idea if that can be considered to be philosophy and not just some random ramblings.

What is the relationship between appraising art and philosophy? Is there a philosophical system that tells you how to appraise arts?

  • 2
    Aesthetic judgment (taste) is in the realm of philosophy, and it would help if you make the question more focused after reading up on it. As is, it is too amorphous to allow for cogent answers of reasonable length, I am afraid. Encyclopedias can address such broad questions better than this site.
    – Conifold
    Nov 2, 2020 at 1:14
  • Edited to avoid the 'clarity' objection
    – J D
    Nov 8, 2020 at 16:20
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    – J D
    Nov 8, 2020 at 16:33
  • Excellent question. For particular types of aesthetics, you can search SEP for aesthetics.
    – J D
    Nov 8, 2020 at 16:36
  • Does this answer your question? Is mathematics an art?
    – user64655
    Feb 12, 2023 at 1:49

2 Answers 2


I hope this is what you expect, not quite sure. This is about art in general, not arts.

Mario Bunge's approach (can't remember which book, sorry, he writes about the subject in multiple works, but I believe this is not synthesized as I will present it) is quite interesting. Art is a part of any discipline (a branch of knowledge, as it is studied and transmitted). Arts are not precisely related to aesthetics.

In fact, any discipline has always three possible dimensions: theory, technique, and art.

  1. The theory is all the pure knowledge related to the discipline. If the discipline is "making shoes", the theory is any knowledge that you can, for example, find in books. Which is the best leather. How to create the best protection for the foot, what materials, what practices. If the discipline is "making music", the theory is everything you can learn from books. Harmony, melody, rhythm, etc. It is clear that knowing the theory is not enough to make a useful product. A lot of musicians know a lot of theory, but play horribly. I can probably learn a lot to make a simple shoe on youtube, but that does not guarantee that I can produce a shoe.

  2. Technique is applied knowledge; that is, knowing how to do what we know. The case of music is quite clear: not because I know all notes of a song I will be able to play it. Playing requires exercise, time, memory, the development of physical abilities, etc. The same happens in the case of making shoes.

  3. Art is profitable technique (perhaps this is not the precise term used by Bunge), that is, create a product that others could profit from. One can make an excellent shoe with 30,000 dollars of investment, but that doesn't guarantee other will buy it at such prize. One can create a piece of music by applying all the musical theory rules, but that does not guarantee others will profit from it. But perhaps, having the knowledge and the technique I can create a shoe that will make someone say "Wow! This is a great shoe! I love it!", or "Wow! This is an amazing piece of music! It made me cry!". That is art.

Notice that art is not only related to aesthethics, but mostly to profit in most disciplines. That act of appraising art in this sense is known as art valuation. The expression state of the art clearly summarizes such intention. In certain disciplines, nevertheless, art is strongly linked to aesthetics (thus the profit is mostly emotional). But that doesn't matter, cause all disciplines have different goals. In all cases, the goal is to develop something that others can profit of.

  • 1
    The disambiguation of art appraisal in the aesthetic and financial sense is an excellent clarification about where the boundaries of philosophy and finance mingle. I think given the ambiguity of the question, this a great response.
    – J D
    Nov 8, 2020 at 16:26

I know philosophy encompasses aesthetics, but I don't know if a system telling you how to appraise art is in the realm of philosophy...

Since aesthetics examines the nature of beauty and the apprehension of beauty, any properly developed theory of aesthetics ought to answer some basic questions with regard to the appraisal of art. An aesthetic theory will take position on: (1) whether there is any objective notion of beauty, or whether this is merely subjective; (2) whether it is possible for humans to properly perceive beauty, and if so how. Aesthetic theories generally give a specification of the purpose of art and therefore what is properly within the scope of "art". Based on a specification of the purpose of art an aesthetic theory also generally gives some principles for evaluating whether a piece of work satisfies this purpose and constitutes a "good" piece of art.

To give an example of such a theory, the Objectivist theory of aesthetics says that the purpose of art is to "concretise" metaphysical ideas, so that they can be percieved on a perceptual level instead of a conceptual level. According to Rand, "Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value judgments. Man's profound need of art lies in the fact that his cognitive faculty is conceptual, i.e., that he acquires knowledge by means of abstractions, and needs the power to bring his widest metaphysical abstractions into his immediate, perceptual awareness. Art fulfills this need: by means of a selective re-creation, it concretizes man's fundamental view of himself and of existence. It tells man, in effect, which aspects of his experience are to be regarded as essential, significant, important." (Art and Cognition, The Romantic Manifesto, p. 45). Assessment of the quality of art therefore largely depends on assessing whether or not the work effectively evokes metaphysical ideas through perceptual means. Works that do this effectively would be evaluated as "good" pieces of art and works that do not would be evaluated as "bad" pieces of art.

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