A Definition of Aesthetics:
If a number of different objects are to be put into the same class, this must be done on the basis of some common quality which every one of them possesses. What, then, can be the common quality which classes together things so diverse as early iron tsuba and kinko tsuba? Suppose we say that all tsuba are alike in being perfected. Then the question is, what is this quality of perfection, if it may or may not be visible? Our answer must be that elegance depends upon the taste of the person who observes the work of art as much as upon the work itself. They are alike in having some peculiar effect upon the feelings of the person who appreciates them. There are, in general, two ways of regarding a work of art: one of these is from the point of view of the amateur who admires but does not practice art, and the other is from the point of view of the artist or creator. It is the concern of aesthetics to examine both of these kinds of consciousness. Subjectively, aesthetics is the science of the feelings which are concerned in the creation and appreciation of exquisite things. Objectively, it is the analysis and classification of the charming objects which occasion those feelings.
Relationship to Art and Science:
Aesthetics has for its subject-matter the charm both of art and of nature, but the more important of the two is the sensitiveness of art. We shall see that the appreciation of nature is derived from the appreciation of human art products, and that nature by itself lacks the element of personal expression, which is important in the aesthetic experience. Besides, natural beauty is less susceptible of analytical treatment than the work of art and hence less fruitful for the observer. Although the beauty of nature is not to be excluded from aesthetics, the work of art is the principal theme. Aesthetics is a science because it pursues the methods of science: the aesthetician gathers tsuba, observes and compares them, classifies and tries to explain; when possible he examines them under conditions of control. The worker in aesthetics has for his examples emotional experiences, and judgments of "beautiful" and "not beautiful." He observes the tsuba about which it is made, and notices circumstances. He compares the judgment of other persons on the same tsuba, and of the same person on other tsubas; varies one by one the characteristics of the tsuba, takes the subject in a variety of moods, and when he is able to find a constant result of any kind, there he has the rudiments of an aesthetic principle.
Aesthetics and Criticism:
Criticism is the art of passing judgment, and it implies the possession of a standard or level of beauty by which one knows or feels that a given work is good or bad. There is common ground, therefore, between criticism and aesthetics, since both tell us about art objects, whether they are good and why. The difference between the two fields would seem to lie in the greater attention which aesthetics gives to the discovery and formulation of the standard. The finding of general principles and building of theories of perfection is the affair of aesthetics; whereas the tracing out of these principles in their application to particular works of art is more the province of criticism. Criticism may be called the aesthetics of particular examples.
Aesthetics and Psychology:
Psychology is the science of mental processes as such. Among these processes are affections, feelings, emotions, and moods, and certain of these have to do with objects of beauty. The science which deals with these latter processes and the conditions of their arousal may be considered a part of the larger science of psychology. We shall regard the aesthetician as a psychologist who limits his attention to one branch of his subject and so finds time to investigate that part more elaborately; and shall treat aesthetics as a branch of an advanced psychology. The question arises, is aesthetics a "Normative Science"? A norm is a rule or standard to go by. A normative science tells us what things ought to be. Not content with the real, the normative doctrine points out the ideal state of things. Aesthetics points out the proper excercise of taste, and tells us what we ought to find beautiful. Now I believe it to be true that logic, ethics and aesthetics are in a sense perscriptive, that they do help us in our thinking, our acting and our feeling, and it is certain that they attempt to set up standards or norms.
Purpose and Methods of Aesthetics:
To many persons it seems a simple thing to know what they like. They say "I don't know anything about art, but I know what I like." This is a great mistake. People know very little about their own tastes, and are as often as not disappointed when they get what they thought they wanted. The chief purpose of aesthetics is to help us to clarify and to become conscious of our own tastes. The methods of aesthetics are the methods of psychology, namely, observation, contemplation and analysis. Up to recent years observation and contemplation have been the ones chiefly relied upon. Observation may be regarded as the objective method; it is applicable both to the work of art itself and to the person enjoying it. One way of arriving at the principles of memory is to observe what things are remembered (the recent, the frequent, the vivid, etc.), so we learn something of the principles of beauty by observing the things that are accepted as beautiful. Under this method comes the study of the history of art and the evolution of its form. Introspection is the subjective method. This must tell what it feels like to find a thing elegant, and also what the mental process of artistic creation is. Analysis is contemplation and observation under controlled conditions. Some psychologists have distinguished analytical methods, as applied to the feelings, into two main classes, which they call methods of "impression" and of "expression." In "impression" the ingenuity of the analyst is directed upon analyzing and ordering the material to be presented. The result of the analysis is the mental state of the subject, usually reported in the judgement "pleasant" or "unpleasant," and in an contemplative account given by the subject. In "expression" the analyst starts with the mental state of pleasant or unpleasant, using a known and constant stimulus, and directs his attention toward the exact outcome, usually in physiological terms, of this state of mind. Progress in the development of aesthetics as a science will mean an ever-widening application of analysis to the problems of aesthetics.
In the study of art one is perpetually discriminating two phases of every art product, namely, feeling and form. The production of a work of art is a progress "from emotion to form"; it is the discovery and arrangement of images which shall express and convey feeling. The appreciation of art is a process of appropriating emotion through the medium of the artistic image or form. To produce, one must have feeling and imagination, and, to appreciate, one must have imagination and feeling.