Rethinking Art and Values: A Comparative Revelation of the Origin of Aesthetic Experience (from the Neo-Confucian Perspectives)
In his article, "The End of Aesthetic Experience" (1997) Richard Shusterman studies the contemporary fate of aesthetic experience, which has long been regarded as one of the core concepts of Western aesthetics till the last half century. It has then expanded into an umbrella concept for aesthetic notions such as the sublime and the picturesque. I agree with Shusterman that aesthetic experience has become the island of freedom, beauty, and idealistic meaning in an otherwise cold materialistic and law-determined world. My paper starts from the main dimensions of aesthetic experience in the history of Western aesthetics as concluded by Shusterman. In terms of our experiential practices in the fragmentation of modern life and the disjointed sensationalism of the media, I also agree with Shusterman that people are losing the capacity for deep experience and feeling, especially when we are undergoing various extensive series of informational revolutions. My paper is also a response to Shusterman's claim that the concept of aesthetic experience is worth recalling, not for formal definition but for art's reorientation toward values and populations that could restore its vitality and sense of purpose. I mention the recent calls for values and life concerns in art in the Anglo-American aesthetics circles, which has also turned to the possible strength of aesthetic experience, claiming that "Aesthetics is the Mother of Ethics." Amidst the discourse is the review of John Dewey's notion of "aesthetic experience," which claims to support a transcultural view and common patterns, as the relationship is structured around human needs. A basic question posed in the article is whether this Deweyan notion still remains equally influential as in the past and whether it really provides a satisfying answer to the problem of art and value? The discussion will turn then to neo-Confucian aesthetic models for reference, and to point out some meaningful comparative revelations.
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