Stewart says that aesthetics is " the talk about the talk about art." When discussing aesthetics,
people's questions are about the essence and definitions of art, as opposed to questions of an investi-
gative purpose, as in art criticism. The questions are broad, open-ended, without prescribed answers.
These questions have prompted discussion since the time of Plato and Socrates, and continue today
in all societies.
Here are some sample questions in aesthetics :
Questions about the Nature of Art:
Why do people make things?
What makes something a work of art?
What kinds of things would you say could never be an artwork?
What makes an artwork good? Do standards for good art stay the same in all cultures
or groups?
Why will people sometimes agree about what is good art or what is not good art?
What purposes do artworks serve?
Does art mean the same thing in every culture? In every group?
In what ways do artworks tell the truth? Do all artworks tell the truth?
Who determines the meaning of an artwork, the artist or the viewer?
When people decorate things, are they making art?
Do artists have to take a lot of time to make good artworks? Why or why not?
Questions About Viewers and Viewing Art:
To interpret the meaning of an artwork should the artist be consulted. Why or why
Are titles important clues to understanding the meaning of an artwork? Why or why
Do the meanings of artworks change over time? If so, how?
Can we understand the meanings of artworks made in cultures other than our own? Is
this understand art from other cultures?
What does it mean to evaluate or judge an artwork?
Where do people obtain their beliefs about art?
Should people respond to artworks by feeling something?
Do artworks tell us about the world or culture in which they are made? How is this
What it the role of museums in culture? Are they important?
These questions can be raised as part of a general discussion of art or a specific object - any object.
They can encourage lively discussion. A class can be divided into groups who have to defend their
position on a question, or find an image or object that fits their answer to a question. Newspaper
articles on an artist or exhibit can spark a discussion or debate.