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Eaton, Marcia Muelder. Kantian and contextual beauty
1999, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 57 (1):11-15.
Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Introduction: Two conflicting but strongly entrenched intu itions about beauty hold sway in the hearts and minds of many. On the one hand, many people believe that attributions of beauty to objects or events are unmediated-that all that matters is one’s direct, personal response. If something is beautiful, one just sees it; cognitive or ethical concerns matter little. On the other hand, many people are drawn to the view that the beautiful is not independent of other human values and atti tudes-that our attributions of beauty are related to beliefs or moral judgments. At the end of the eighteenth century, Immanuel Kant represented the former view with such cleverness that his ar guments continue to disturb even those who re main unconvinced by them. At the end of the nineteenth century, partly as a result of the influ ence of Kant’s theory of beauty, Leo Tolstoy felt forced to downplay the importance of beauty’s role in explaining the value of art-a trend that continued for several decades. At the end of the twentieth century, increasing numbers of aes thetic theorists and practitioners are persuaded that beauty does matter in art, and although many, including me, believe that beauty is a con textual property deeply connected to factual be liefs and moral attitudes, the tug of Kant’s arguments remains strong.

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