In aesthetics you have to see for yourself precisely because what you have to see is not a property: your knowledge that an aesthetic feature is in the object is given by the same criteria that show that you see it. To see the sadness in the music and to know that the music is sad are one and the same thing. To agree in the judgment that the music is sad is not to agree in a belief, but in something more like a response or an experience (Eldridge 145: 2003).It has long been recognized that human beings find a variety of visual and auditory appearances to be extremely fascinating. Certain sunsets, flowers, birdsongs, and beautiful bodies, among natural things, and certain pots, carvings, vocalizations, and marked surfaces, among humanly made things, seem to engage eye or ear simultaneously with thoughtful mind. In experiencing such things, we feel we want the experience to continue for its own sake, at least for some further time. The Greek uses a phrase to kalon which means the fine, the good, or the beautiful, to describe many sorts of things that are attractive to mind and eye or ear, without sharply distinguishing natural beauty from artistic merit (or moral goodness). In the Symposium, Socrates reports that the priestess Diotima once instructed him in how a lover who goes about this matter correctly must begin in his youth to devote himself to beautiful bodies, first loving one body, then many (as he comes to understand that they are alike in beauty), next beautiful minds, beautiful laws and customs, beautiful ideas and theories, until finally he will come to love the Beautiful itself, absolute, pure, unmixed, not polluted by human flesh or colors or any other great nonsense of mortality. (Eldridge 47: 2003)
In pleasing us, natural and artistic beauty, according to Kant, serve no outer purpose. The experience of beauty does not yield knowledge, and it does not of itself enable the satisfaction of desires for material goods. Yet it is not nonetheless merely agreeable or pleasant. instead, the experience of beauty matters. Beauty in nature makes us feel as though the natural world were congenial to our purposes and projects. In feeling the beautiful natural object to be as it were intelligible or made for us to apprehend it, we further feel that nature as a whole, which seems to shine forth in beauty, is favorable to our cognitive and practical interests as subjects. To experience a beautiful sunset, according to Kant, is to feel (though not to know theoretically) that nature makes sense. Kant’s terminology may be difficult, the experience he is describing is a familiar one. Beautiful objects of nature or art engage our attention. We love them by paying active, cognitive attention to them, even if we do not get anything from them or even if it brings out the inner most emotions from us.
The above discussion brings us to compare art with emotions, the reason why identifications with artists and imaginative participation in experiences and emotions are available to us is that works of art are made things, products or instances of human action. To understand an action, including actions of artistic making, is to understand its suitable motivation by reasons in contexts. Actions of artistic making, including the making of both narrative art and non-narrative art, are concerned with the shaping of materials to hold attention on a presented subject matter. (In abstract work, the presented subject matters are often centrally the perception and gestural action of the artist and the possibility of the audience’s imaginative participation in that perception and gestural action.) Whatever emotions figure in attention to this subject matter are emotions that members of the audience are solicited to experience and explore, as they participate in the attention that is embodied in the work. The understanding of art is much related to exploring, to understand art critically is to explore it imaginatively, guided by a range of relevant