The historical contingency of aesthetic experience
- ISSN: 00070904
- DOI: 10.1093/bjaesthetics/40.1.73
We should grant aesthetic value and significance to the associations that become attached in our minds to the works of art we contemplate. The contemplation of a work of art is a historically contingent act that derives its distinctive content, and so its value, partly from such associations: each of us situates each object of contemplation within a personal, and/or collective, 'history', an imagined past (or present). This associative process avoids arbitrariness because it presupposes full attention to the meaning of the aesthetic object, and because any person placed at precisely the same historical locus would have access to the same value. The paper defends these claims against (or seeks to reconcile them with) Kantian, formalist and commonsense requirements for objectivity and valid judgment.