The Promiscuity of Aesthetics

Almost anything can be regarded in aesthetic terms. Any experience, any material or immaterial thing, can be regarded in terms of sensible or insensible (formal) qualities that somehow engage us. I realise that ‘engage us’ is terribly vague, but how are we to precisely limit the aesthetic? It is variously conceived as involving dimensions of sensibility, affect, play, reflection, immersion, distraction, freedom, everyday experience, interaction with art and or nature, etc. There is arguably an aesthetic aspect to totalitarian rule, walking in the country, reclining on the couch, sweeping a factory or throwing a bottle out of car. None of these things have to be conceived in aesthetic terms, but there is equally nothing that prevents them being conceived in this way.

So does this render the notion of the aesthetic utterly useless? Perhaps in terms of trying to determine something very specific, but not if the lack of clarity and the semantic promiscuity of ‘aesthetics’ become the focus of interest. In that case it is a matter of considering how the obscure multiplicity of the term my itself be meaningful. It is the imperfect, unclear means of conceiving things that we have no means of adequately expressing, things that we envisage as somehow significant, but cannot adequately determine and name.

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