This essay traces the steps to social aesthetics. It begins by affirming the central place of sense experience for aesthetics and its refinement in the perceptual acuity of a developed sensibility. This leads to associating aesthetic appreciation with such perceptual experience. Rejecting the identification of disinterestedness with such appreciation, the present paper proposes the full participatory involvement in the experience of appreciation as expressed by the concept of aesthetic engagement. This describes the appreciative situation as an aesthetic field in which the perceptual, creative, focusing, and activating factors are in reciprocal interaction. It characterizes not only appreciation in the arts but occurs as well in appreciating natural, built, and social environments. Aesthetic engagement in social aesthetics is exemplified by the gaze in the experience of four well-known paintings I shall consider. Following these a series of related ideas are developed that lead to the concept of a social aesthetics. Finally, the essay returns to the paintings for an enhanced understanding of social aesthetics.
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