I was wondering whether philosophers consider aesthetic experiences to be something that permeate through a range of day to day experiences or if they're limited to art.

For example, can learning/realisation be considered an aesthetic experience e.g. a eureka moment, can sports be aesthetic or can kindness be considered aesthetic.

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    No. In such sense, aesthetic is a sensation, which can be experienced due to many types of interactions, like appreciating a work of art, a flower, an athletic body or simply a rainbow. A smell can excite aesthetic sensations.
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Jul 16, 2022 at 18:01
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    Everything is an esthetic experience, in non-dual awareness. "I can see it. Can you see it? It is beautiful"
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Jul 16, 2022 at 23:13
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    Natural scenery for instance? Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 10:42
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    Let's also be careful to not assume that music is not a form of art (although perhaps by "art" you specifically meant fine art such as painting and sculpture).
    – Tom
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 17:24
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    Any really valuable aesthetic experience if exists first necessarily depends on if one can find meaning out of it, be it a book, a sentence, word, symbol, fine art, music... However, this sometimes could be extremely floating and indeterminate for different people due to the well-known Wittgenstein's rule-following paradox emphasized by contemporary philosopher Saul Kripke. And yesterday there's a post discussing this for further reference... Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 18:17

7 Answers 7


The short answer is no. For instance, in a topic dear to me, there is talk of the aesthetics of mathematics. From WP:

Mathematical beauty is the aesthetic pleasure typically derived from the abstractness, purity, simplicity, depth or orderliness of mathematics. Mathematicians often express this pleasure by describing mathematics (or, at least, some aspect of mathematics) as beautiful. They might also describe mathematics as an art form (e.g., a position taken by G. H. Hardy1) or, at a minimum, as a creative activity. Comparisons are often made with music and poetry.

If you do a search for aesthetics of mathematics on PhilPapers.org, you can see the topic is actively researched. How is this possible? Well, according to WP's article on aesthetics:

Aesthetics, or esthetics (/ɛsˈθɛtɪks, iːs-, æs-/), is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and taste, as well as the philosophy of art (its own area of philosophy that comes out of aesthetics).1 It examines aesthetic values, often expressed through judgments of taste.2

There is no restriction on the mode of experience one can apply "beauty" and "taste", and that is why aesthetics, which may be highly visual because the brain is a highly visual organ of the body, can be applied directly and indirectly as a philosophers see fit. Aesthetics is just one form of personal preference, with axiology being a broader study of human value. According to a naturalized epistemology, humans have evolved to choose and prefer, and in philosophy, the greater study of standards that humans devise in a language community are studied under the topic of normativity.

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    Related to mathematics, I take aesthetic pleasure from "elegant" code. Well formatted, easy to read, understandable, not a lot of unnecessary redundancy, reusable, as simple as possible, etc.
    – JAB
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 18:23
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    @JAB Don't forget the aesthetic of good modularity and design patterns. : )
    – J D
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 18:27

Aesthetics is a sufficiently broad term, which in my opinion can by employed in everyday activities.

For example, there is a growing number of people who live their lifes as if creating a work of art. This is aesthetics in everyday activities. Usually those people are themselves artists. But anyone can be an artist, at least in this respect.

What does it mean to live life as a work of art? It means to employ concepts such as "beauty", "pleasure", "creativity" and "originality" in everyday activities. Making "life beautiful to live". In the same way a work of art gives pleasure and not pain, the same way "life as art" should be pleasurable and not painful to oneself or others. This has direct relation to existential philosophies and ethics and philosophies of pleasure which are closely related to aesthetics, at least in this sense.

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    The ethics of pleasure! Two overlapping questions of normativity. Fecund for new ideas I suspect. :D
    – J D
    Commented Jul 16, 2022 at 16:12
  • @JD One can add that it has relations to existential philosophies as well. Since originality/authenticity is employed.
    – Nikos M.
    Commented Jul 16, 2022 at 16:16
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    Nietzsche said one of the most important things in life is to develop a unique personal style, which I always interpreted along these lines.
    – Tom
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 17:15

Aesthetics permeates everything. All value judgements are on some level aesthetic judgements, because every preference is on some level a choice of what is pleasing over what is displeasing. In the Socratic sense, aesthetics are an integral manifestation of 'The Good', along with things like justice, truth, honor, and wisdom. Every sense of 'rightness' dovetails a sense of 'beauty', and vice-versa. It may not always be useful to analyze things on the level of aesthetics, but other virtues tend to pale and degrade where they produce ugliness.

For an interesting example, Benedetto Croce once wrote an essay in which he summarized politics in terms of aesthetics: conservatism pines for the beauty of tradition while liberalism aches for the beauty of progress; each imagines a world of mainly aesthetic values that they want to foster and realize through politics. As I recall, he thought that if both sides focused on the commonality of aesthetics then politics would become less spiteful and angry.


Certainly not. I once saw our Swiss sheppard dog jump out off a thin layer of mist. It was a silent and cold winter night with a full bright Moon. As she jumped up it was a beautiful sight when the Moon lit her up.


To cite Kant:

Zwei Dinge erfüllen das Gemüt mit immer neuer und zunehmenden Bewunderung und Ehrfurcht, je öfter und anhaltender sich das Nachdenken damit beschäftigt: Der bestirnte Himmel über mir, und das moralische Gesetz in mir.

("Two things fill the soul with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and the more persistently the mind contemplates them: The starry sky above me, and the moral law within me.")

Later in the conclusion of the Kritik der praktischen Vernunft he says, still talking about the starry sky: "Die Weltbetrachtung fing von dem herrlichsten Anblicke an, den menschliche Sinne nur immer vorlegen...".

("Beholding the world starts with the most glorious view human senses can ever present to us ...")

Observing the beauty of the cosmos makes Kant as excited as Kant ever gets.

(As a side note, in the 1700s light and particle pollution must have been so low that the view of the clear night sky must have been better than it is today from dedicated dark sky places, that is, indeed awe-inspiring and magnificent in a way most of us have never experienced.)

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    I grew up spending summers in a remote part of northern Michigan, and it was very dark and clear there at night. I think if people spent more time observing their place in the universe, they wouldn't need to expend so much effort on morals.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 14:31

The aesthetic includes all art, and art includes... potentially everything

The question ends up turning into "what is art?"

That is a thorny question and there's no consensus. Here are some things we can say without venturing into controversial territory:

  • "Art" is a category term, not an evaluation. That is, a crappy painting is still properly called art even though it is crappy, and a poorly-executed sculpture is still art -- 100% art -- despite being a mess. It is always a mistake to say something along the lines of "that isn't art because it's done badly."
  • The category "art" includes vastly more things than painting and sculpture. Trivially, it also includes music, dance, origami, poetry, movies, animations, and cartoons -- and those are just some ready examples.
  • Art is intimately connected with aesthetic appreciation. Some philosophers argue that this is the heart of the most workable definition of "art," but we don't have to go quite that far. Still, the odds are that where you find one, you find the other.

Thus, without going too far outside the mainstream, we have good reason to believe that we'll find aesthetic experiences all over the place, not just among the traditional "fine arts."

So, where does it end? What's doesn't or even can't give rise to an aesthetic experience?

I can't tell you. One thing we did in Philosophy of Art was consider rival definitions of "art" to see which were more or less successful at yielding inoffensive judgments, and one of the problem cases that confounded several otherwise respectable definitions was this: a beautiful natural visa, not created by humans -- not a photograph or other representation of one, but the combination of the actual place, the specific viewing conditions, and relevant characteristics of a (typical) human observer. Basically, everything documented by the EarthPorn subreddit.

And it gets worse. I'm a computer programmer by profession, and one thing we programmers discuss semi-frequently is whether a particular chunk of code is an "elegant" solution, or is an "ugly" or "awkward" hack. The properties we're attending to in these conversations are not even visual, they are conceptual: whether the code in question engages directly with the essence of the problem in a way that is straightforward, efficient in terms of run-time computation and amount of source code, whether it causes undesirable side-effects, whether it's sturdy, etc. We don't usually discuss whether it's pretty, but any programmer who has written some elegant code can tell you it has a kind of beauty of which they are proud.

I suspect the truth is that any experience can give rise to an aesthetic experience if the person living through it is in the right frame of mind. I once saw a movie where the hero was about to be tortured by the bad guy, and the hero commented on the "poetry" of their role-reversal (they had a complicated history). I could imagine that if such a scene were to play out in real life, and if the subject of the torture reflected in a similar way, that would be an aesthetic experience.


No. As for me, a science, a computer code, any tech can be beautiful and impressing and thus give you aesthetic pleasure.

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