I am slightly sceptical of the feasibility of the kind of practical aesthetics you describe. This is in part because, I think, aesthetics as a discipline is primarily concerned with a theory of judgements, specifically, of judgements about 'the beautiful', or about beautiful things. What you seek, on the other hand, is a theoretically grounded account of a praxis. The two need not be mutually exclusive, but there would appear to be significant obstacles to reconciling the two objectives within a unified theory.
Notwithstanding these reservations, I personally would urge any such course to begin with, or at least deal as early as possible with, Kant's theory of aesthetic judgement, specifically as it refers to the beautiful (rather than the sublime, which latter would seem to me to fall outside the confines of design). This is partly because Kant more or less defines the parameters for all successive discourses on aesthetics; & partly because there is a significant normative strain running throughout his text. Also, he thematises problems relating to the principles of interest & disinterest, the subjectivity of taste & the objectivity of judgment, and the issues of purposiveness and of form. For all of these reasons, I think there is a genuinely rich potential within Kant's work for critically addressing the potential of the project you outline.
all the best
Dr Robin Durie
Senior Lecturer in Political Theory
Department of Politics
From: CEPHAD - Centre for Philosophy and Design on behalf of Per Galle
Sent: Tue 2/26/2008 7:34 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Any ideas for a practical aesthetics?
I have the privilege of teaching design theory to hundreds of bright young people at Danmarks Designskole about 60% of my time, while the remaining 60% are dedicated to research. For some time I have been entertaining the idea of taking up research on aesthetics, as a subject within design theory, and potentially as a subject for future teaching. I am aware that there is a huge literature on aesthetics, though I am not familiar with much of it so far; but I also have the impression that it tends to be of little relevance to practical design work. If that impression is right, something ought to be done about it, I think.
What I wish I could offer my students would be some sort of explicit theory of "practical aesthetics". A theory, that is, which would be of instrumental value to designers who want to design artefacts of aesthetic quality. A theory useful to designers who want to design "beautiful things" in an informed manner, relying not only on their intuition and talent, but on a solid theoretical basis as well. I wonder if such a theory is conceivable at all, and what it would look like? I wonder if it's possible to come up with something more solid, general and operational than mere artistic manifestos? I wonder if explicit and sharable knowledge can be a road to beauty, or if beauty can only be reached by the darker and narrower path of sheer volition? (And I am not thinking of those rather technical theories that are based on statistical analysis of consumer responses to various product properties, but rather a theory offering a somewhat deeper understanding.)
I suppose it may be considered terribly na´ve to ask questions like these, but then so be it! Needless to say, if any of you have suggestions, comments or pieces of advice to offer, I'd be very interested. If you would like to share them with us on this list, for an online discussion, it would obviously be even better.
All the best,
Per Galle, Ph.D., FDRS
Centre for Philosphy and Design
Centre for Design Research
DK-2100 Copenhagen OE
Telephone: +45 3527 7500.
Direct line: +45 3527 7633.
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