Philosophy is often confused with aesthetics, and vice versa. Both share some beliefs and some differences. However, when it comes to education, philosophy gets an unfair advantage. This article examines the similarities and differences between aesthetics and philosophy, and why educational philosophy might be better equipped to provide students a deeper understanding of these concepts.
Philosophy as an academic discipline has two main theories: one is that we live in a purely rational, objective reality, and the other is that we live in a highly subjective, self-justifying, and mutually disinterested world. Rawls’ Theory of Universal Multiple Comparisons is one theory of this. According to this view, all possible comparison can be made within the framework of universal knowledge; that is, one can make a comparison of anything to anything else without reference to its own existence, just as they can compare a square root to a circle or a triangle to a square pentagon. The other major idea underlying both Rawls and the competing theories of aesthetics is that each person in a society has a prior aesthetic or psychological orientation, and that this aesthetic affects decisions regarding appropriate self-standing or self-image.
In addition to these important theoretical ideas, there are also many important connections between philosophy and aesthetics. Most people associate philosophy with the discipline of aesthetics, especially when it comes to painting, literature, and sculpture. However, aesthetics are also intimately connected with metaphysics of society. For example, many philosophers believe that art creates or manifests the very ideas and beliefs of a society. This idea is most closely associated with the work of such philosophers as aesthetics professor Alfredo Balzac, who is thought to have lived a largely solitary life, rarely interacting with other people and often creating his own characters. Indeed, his novels often seem like philosophical novels because they deal with philosophical themes and issues.
Philosophy and aesthetics also share many common ideas about how to live. All societies are composed of individuals who each contribute their own creative ideas and emotions to the production of culture. Each society also exists in a constant process of survival of the fittest, where the strongest will survive and culture will pass from one generation to the next. It is through this process that each society creates its own unique social animal, which often precludes changes from universal norms. In this way, the idea of philosophy becomes a necessary move for a society’s survival.
Similarly, all social sciences are related in their methods of investigation, observation, and explanation. Philosophy of the social sciences generally takes a communal approach, connecting science with society. Philosophy of the social sciences thus seeks to give social science a unified framework through an appropriate assessment of the interrelations of diverse disciplines.
In addition to these commonalities, many philosophers draw on personal experience, especially in the areas of philosophy of mind and psychology, in formulating their theories. This personal experience, or fantasy, can be seen as emerging from the concrete aspects of daily life. For instance, social ontology concerns itself with how we relate to the natural world, and how our social relationships affect this relationship. Social philosophy of the social sciences applies research techniques to the study of society, focusing on the interactions among people. Politics, like social philosophy, is concerned with how we can manage our collective existence, creating laws and principles to govern it.
The philosophy of the social animal maintains that human beings are a social animal, developed through history in response to the needs of living societies. Individuals are shaped by the cultures in which they participate and are influenced by established social orders, including family structures and groups. The shared notions of community and trust, for example, are products of socialization processes that are culturally conditioned in all human beings. When science comes to speak of culture, however, it usually refers to the general characteristics of a society, including its language, customs, norms, and political systems. Culture is not a product of individual life but rather a complex interaction of a highly complex system of interacting individuals.
Philosophy of the social interactionist school of thought holds that there is a close relationship between how a person thinks and feels and the quality of his/her social interaction with others. People’s personal qualities, such as their attitudes toward money, power, language, beauty, leisure time, and so forth, reflect their individualism and therefore influence the quality of their social interactions. In turn, these interpersonal relations produce a society and a civilization. The process of socialization enables people to learn to interact with each other and develop their own individual styles. The nature of philosophy of the social animal is closely related to the philosophy of the human nature. Both philosophies attempt to explain why individuals choose to live amongst one another and why they come to have particular personalities and behaviors.