This page features a collection of the best resources on aesthetics. Just to be clear, there is no single best resource on aesthetics. The best one will depend on your preferred learning style and the amount of time you want to spend learning about it.
To get started, simply choose one of the links below:
If you want a comprehensive overview of the idea of aesthetics:
- Read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Aesthetic Judgement. However, you should keep in mind that the Stanford Encyclopedia in often quite technical and this article may be difficult for beginners. It’s also quite long at around 9000 words. Here’s a short excerpt that introduces the idea of aesthetic judgement:
“Beauty is an important part of our lives. Ugliness too. It is no surprise then that philosophers since antiquity have been interested in our experiences of and judgments about beauty and ugliness. They have tried to understand the nature of these experiences and judgments, and they have also wanted to know whether these experiences and judgments were legitimate. Both these projects took a sharpened form in the 20th century, when this part of our lives came under a sustained attack in both European and North American intellectual circles. Much of the discourse about beauty since the 18th century had deployed a notion of the “aesthetic”, and so that notion in particular came in for criticism. This disdain for the aesthetic may have roots in a broader cultural Puritanism, which fears the connection between the aesthetic and pleasure. Even to suggest, in the recent climate, that an artwork might be good because it is pleasurable, as opposed to cognitively, morally or politically beneficial, is to court derision. The 20th century was not kind to the notions of beauty or the aesthetic. Nevertheless, there were always some thinkers — philosophers, as well as others in the study of particular arts — who persisted in thinking seriously about beauty and the aesthetic. In the first part of this essay, we will look at the particularly rich account of judgments of beauty given to us by Immanuel Kant. The notion of a “judgment of taste” is central to Kant’s account and also to virtually everyone working in traditional aesthetics; so we begin by examining Kant’s characterization of the judgment of taste. . . .”
If you’re looking for a somewhat shorter and more engaging introduction:
If you’d prefer a video introduction:
- Watch Philosophy Tube’s Intro to Aesthetics [7:48 mins]
If you prefer audio and podcasts:
If you’d just like to casually browse a few quotes:
Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can learn by using free online resources. If you want to learn more, check out this list of the best books on Aesthetics
And for more introductory philosophy resources and reading lists, check out this collection of Resources and Reading Lists.