In my essay, “Art and Objectivity,” I lay out a theory of how to understand the concept of objectivity in aesthetics. Rereading the essay today, almost three years after I originally wrote it, I stand by my arguments, but I also recognize there is some confusion over the meaning of subjectivity that should be clarified.
Defining Objectivity and Subjectivity
Objectivity refers to the relationship between a subject and an object which is determined by the intrinsic characteristics of both entities. For example, humans (subject) need water (object) to survive. This statement is objectively true due to the intrinsic nature of both humans and water at a physical level.
In aesthetic terms, objectivity refers to the real relationship between the individual experiencing art and the components of a particular art piece given the objective of the artist. For instance, to restate the example in “Art and Objectivity,” if an artist wanted to create a painting that evoked a feeling of calmness in its viewer, it would be objectively bad to paint a picture of a person being tortured that liberally used dark red coloring. This is because human beings, by their nature, do not mentally connect torture or dark red with calmness. Instead, the artist should use imagery and coloring associated with calmness, like a person relaxing on a comfy chair and soft yellows and blues. (For caveats to this particular example, see the original essay.)
Subjectivity refers to the relationship between a subject and an object which is determined by the intrinsic characteristics of only the subject. Aesthetically, this means that the viewer evaluates an art piece in accordance with only his own nature, and not the nature of the art piece. This subjective evaluation is the mainstream view of the nature of aesthetics, though I argue in “Art and Objectivity” that it is logically invalid.