Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Distance, disinterestedness, and beauty are not defining characteristics of the aesthetic experience

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Although distance, disinterestedness, and beauty may affect the characteristics of the aesthetic experience, the actual experience cannot be defined by those factors.

Colin Leathe claims that the “aesthetic experience requires an interest in having the experience” (Leathe 3), hence being disinterested is something one can’t even do subconsciously when trying to experience something. For example, Leathe describes the experience of Kant who believes that his appreciation of “flowers, free patterns, [and] lines aimlessly intertwining as pleasing despite… he having a disinterested and free delight in the experience” (Leathe 3). However, Leathe argues that because he is fascinated in his own enjoyment, there is some degree of interest and Kant cannot then truly be disinterested.

Additionally, beauty also cannot be a part of the aesthetic experience due to how subjective it can be. In the text Colin uses the example of one man that perceives fog as beautiful and another man that perceives fog as terrifying. Both characters are varying distances ‘away’ from the fog, as one is a sailor leisurely sailing through, while another is a character shouting into the fog to find his friend. As a result, the beauty of the experience is actually determined by such aspects such as distance and disinterestedness, and is actually not the ‘cause’ of an experience but the ‘effect’ of the experience on the feelings of an individual.

Finally, distance is most definitely not capable of defining the aesthetic experience because it merely helps us “[understand] the positive aesthetic experience”(Leathe 4). Bullough uses the example of being in a theatre distant from the actions that are happening on stage. Although we may be experiencing the play happening we have “no desire of control” (Leathe 3) it.

All in all, these three categories can help us understand the aesthetic experience but are simply not defining features about it.

Questions for extension/discussion:

Is distance always necessary for appreciation of the aesthetic experience?

Is there a point where too much distance actually detracts from the aesthetic experience?

Why would distance be beneficial in the aesthetic experience?

Can you be disinterested in something and consciously observe and experience it at the same time?


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