Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

AFB’s Terms of Art (Pandemic Special!), #1: Aesthetics


Now that increasing numbers of people are stuck at home and sheltering in place, I figured I’d do a little series. Every weekday for the duration of this intense period, I’ll post a short definition of some term in/related to aesthetics and philosophy of art. Let’s see how this goes! [UPDATE: This was called Word of the Day initially, but it quickly became obvious that ‘word’ was too restrictive and that there were cleverer titles.]

Terms of Art #1:
aesthetics (sometimes esthetics*)


Artist Frederick Burr Opper’s cartoon skewering Oscar Wilde (1882), detail [source]

Pronunciation: ess-THEH-tiks (not: ess-TEH-tiks)

Definition: Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy about topics like beauty and taste. Comes via German from the Greek aisthetikos: perceptible or relating to sense perception.

Not to be confused with:
(1) what the person who gives you facials does (also sometimes called aesthetics)
(2) a e s t h e t i c – a recent internet phenomenon wherein for some reason teenagers use this word and orthography to indicate … I don’t know, something cool? Possibly something to do with vaporwave, Tumblr, or SoundCloud rappers. A fuller investigation is needed.

*aesthetics vs. esthetics?
See what Google Ngrams has to say (“aesthetics” in blue; “esthetics” in red):


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