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Sunday, June 20, 2010

An Introduction to Western Aesthetics, MA Previous, 19th June, 2020, Saturday.

An introduction to key concepts of Western Aesthetics: 19th June 2010, Saturday for MA Previous.

Notes by: Sneha Sharon Mammen

The conception of the term 'west' in itself would be quite interesting. A class of twenty interpret it variously. 'West' as in the direction, evaluating in comparison to the other three directions (the East, North and South) which in turn could be qualified as the result of so many adventurous expeditions by navigators and explorers or may be Europe-the western front that is the term in the sense of geography. From this realm we could take it entirely to another shift altogether - the cultural, in terms of the western outlook/worldview, their perspective, open mindedness. Not to forget either the analysis in terms of economic, materialist standards which then makes the 'west' necessarily the first world nation keeping in mind their pace of economic growth, resources and urbanization.

However, this sort of an analysis is just a product of various interpretations that man can think of. 'West' to a particular individual would not be 'west' for another. In the definitive mapping of the globe, there is no particular 'west' for say, an Alaska. Therefore, we could gather so much as that, words are not so innocent. They carry within themselves loaded interpretations. Also, once an individual frames a word, the discourse too gets framed much to an extent that we start evaluating concepts keeping in mind the various binaries.

Also, a particular use of concept narrows down our range of evaluation. For example, if one talks of India, his level of analysis can only be grouped in terms of nations on the whole. Similarly, talking of Aryans would mean talking with respect to races. As also, 'Latin-American' further narrows and limits the scope of comparisons.

Precisely one cannot use words like 'globe', a 'planet', the 'earth' if he chooses to believe the world is flat. 'World' becomes the only selective usage in this case. Can we at this level say that to 'understand' something, we do not necessarily have to 'know' the larger picture.

As aforementioned, its quite common to talk in terms of binaries. The East is east just because it is not west or the fact that the term 'teacher' qualifies only because the term 'student' affirms such qualification and justifies it. Similarly, homosexuality is talked of because there exists in the picture heterosexuality. Therefore the simultaneous birth of conceptions. Apart from such framing which will in turn quite obviously facilitate re-framing, cultural imaginations are something which make different discourses possible.

The term 'aesthetics' brings to mind notions of balance, beauty, harmony, appeal, sensitivity, creativity,perceptions, judgement or even understanding. However, debating upon the origins and understanding of the term 'aesthetic' in itself, few would believe that it is a definitely dated concept.

'Aesthetic' comes from the Greek word 'aisthetikos' which means sensitive. This Greek term has been traced to have its origin further back in time, history and language in an imaginary language called the Proto Indo-European language or the PIE where it is understood as 'aisthemisthos' meaning to perceive. ( The commonalities between Greek, Latin and Sanskrit is thought of as coming down to us from a common parent of these languages, which is referred to as PIE.)

Immanuel Kant, a lesser pronounced name but the pioneer of the coined term 'aesthetics'. Aesthetics, as mentioned earlier could have emerged and is characterized as follows. One, it could have been a historical necessity and two, it has a definite philosophic pre-history.

Pinto, Anil. Class Lecture, Introduction to Western Aesthetics, Christ University. Bangalore, India.