Often defined as philosophy of the arts, the discipline of aesthetics - particularly in its modern Western development - has been concerned primarily with analyzing our experience of art. Outside the realm of art, aesthetics has been neglected in comparison with the more 'pressing' practical, economical, scientific, or social concerns. When we do attend to aesthetics in daily life, it is often dismissed as superficial fluff concerned with beautification and decoration.
This seminar starts with the premise that the realm of the aesthetic is not limited to art museums, concert halls, and theaters, and that the aesthetic is, indeed, an important aspect of our everyday life, both reflecting and shaping our world-view, cultural values, and social relationships. We intend to overcome this relative neglect of the aesthetic of the everyday life by exploring the various aesthetic issues involved in daily activities and objects: cooking and eating, making and using functional objects, taking care of ourselves and our possessions by cleaning, decorating, repairing, and renewing, as well as experiencing meteorological phenomena and environment, to name only a few examples. While the subject matters may appear non-academic, our analysis and discussion of them is theory-based and conceptually-oriented. In particular, we pursue some of the serious consequences, such as moral, social, political and environmental, of our seemingly trivial and innocuous everyday aesthetic tastes, judgments, and decisions.
The purpose of this seminar is to explore this familiar (because it's our everyday life), yet unfamiliar (because it has not been explored), territory. As such, this seminar is open-ended, raising more questions and avenues for reflection, rather than providing a set of definitive conclusions. At the same time, we collectively think about how we can improve the quality of our everyday life and society, as well as the state of the world, through aesthetic strategies, something all of you will be engaged in your profession.
As a graduate-level course, this seminar is based upon each member's contribution to the class meetings in which the instructor participates as one of the contributors rather than as a lecturer. Each member is responsible for leading class discussion at least twice during the semester. In addition, a substantial amount of independent research and individual work toward a final paper and presentation are expected.