An anti-realist account of aesthetic appreciation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Philip L. Peterson


Aesthetic appreciation, Informed experiences, Antirealist

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Philosophy


The aesthetic appreciation of an object is fundamentally an appreciation of certain of its properties, especially those that have a distinctively aesthetic character. What this means differs, depending on whether one is a realist or anti-realist about aesthetic properties. I argue for aesthetic property anti-realism, according to which aesthetic properties do not exist objectively in themselves, outside of our having certain kinds of experiences, and show how this bears on the issue of aesthetic appreciation. Against theorists like Marcia Eaton, Kendall Walton, Gary Iseminger, and James Anderson, I argue that aesthetic appreciation should not be defined primarily in terms of affective states or aesthetic value (though this latter notion is a necessary component of positive aesthetic appreciation). Instead, I argue that having an aesthetic appreciation of something is to have an informed aesthetic experience of it, where aesthetic experiences are defined in terms of our seeing objects as possessing aesthetic qualities, and where an informed aesthetic experience is one that is informed by a certain minimal understanding of the object's non-aesthetic properties. For example, the appreciation of a statue involves having an aesthetic experience of it, which arises out of our knowledge of its cultural/historical properties, the intentions of the sculptor, its expressive and representational properties, etc. The aesthetic appreciation of the statue is positive when we consider an informed aesthetic experience of it intrinsically valuable. I finish by applying my account to the issue of whether the (positive) aesthetic appreciation of unscenic parts of nature requires scientific knowledge.


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