In his famous 1935 essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," Walter Benjamin argued that the creation of traditional art forms is inherently ritualistic. This aspect is maintained by the elite by distancing art from the people, made particularly evident in the 19th century Aesthetic Movement which argued that art should exist solely for its own sake: l'art pour l'art (art for art's sake).
Benjamin labeled this a form of "negative theology," because it was an attempt to maintain the fantasy of ritual surrounding the production of art (theology) and because it defined art based upon what is was not (functional) rather than what it really was.
However, with the development of mechanical means of artistic production, like photography and film, the traditional "aura" of uniqueness can on longer be attached to technologically produced artworks. Benjamin regarded this as a great, positive advance in society because it could serve to bring art and the aesthetic experience closer to the masses in the creation of a cultural democracy rather than maintain the existence of a cultural aristocracy. As a result, art would continue to become more overtly political and, he assumed, more socialistic in nature.
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What is Aesthetics?
In philosophy, aesthetics is the study of beauty and taste, whether in the form of the comic, the tragic or the sublime. Aesthetics has traditionally been part of other philosophical pursuits like the investigation of epistemology or ethics. However, it started to come into its own and become a more independent pursuit under Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher who saw aesthetics as a unitary and self-sufficient type of human experience.
What is Philosophy?
What is philosophy? Is there any point in studying philosophy, or is it a useless subject? What are the different branches of philosophy - what's the difference between aestheitcs and ethics? What's the difference between metaphysics and epistemology?