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We seem to take it for granted that some works of art or fiction have "aesthetic value", which is classed as being of higher value than mere "entertainment value". However, the two don't actually seem that different. Both are values mainly of pleasure, not usefulness or truth; both can criticize or reveal; both can be judged by fixed standards, or based on personal taste. So what is the real distinction between aesthetic and entertainment value, other than that we hold aesthetic value in higher regard?

The way you have framed the question makes it a little hard to answer, as the term "aesthetic" is often used to refer to a wide range of experiences. So, in the broadest sense of the word, the aesthetic properties of an event or thing are its affective or emotive properties, e.g. a melancholy field, joyful music, a haunting conversation. Perhaps most of our experiences have some affective dimension --even our exchange (which I hope is friendly and welcoming). In this broad sense of 'aesthetic,' entertainment films, books, plays all have aesthetic features and values (some are witty, joyful, insipid, sexy, etc). I suspect that the question behind the question concerns what some might call "high art" versus the works one finds in popular or mass culture (the world of entertainment). On this general topic, philosophers today seem to be having a field day doing philosophy in the context of popular culture. There are dozens (at least 50 and growing) books out now by professional philosophers on such...

Is the natural human body considered art? I guess one would have to define art first, and in what context it is being called art. Also, who is the artist? The creators of the human, or the human? Perhaps art is simply creation with creative intent. Would the parents be the sculptors where the genes would create a piece of art, or is it only a canvas they created? What would some arguments be, for and against this idea?

Well, some theists have considered all human beings as works of art, though in their view the real artist is God. And some artists have made art work out of their bodies (body art) and some philosophers (Nietzsche) have thought that one should view one's whole life as a work of art in which the person is the artist. But our current concepts of art would make it very difficult for parents to understand themselves as actually making artwork when they give birth to and raise children. Our art institutions (currently) have little room for framing or housing children to be observed (as in a gallery or museum or in a theatre or in nature as part of environmental or earth art). Perhaps, though, there is one sense in which a child may be considered LIKE a work of art insofar as it is natural to take aesthetic delight in one's child (finding her or him beautiful, for example). Still, the child has a life of his or her own, and thus the child would be profoundly different from actual works of art. For...

On the subject of art - I have done only little research regarding different philosopher's opinions on the validity and place of art in society. It seemed some pre-Socratic philosophers believed art and tragedy were the only worthwhile endeavors in life, and contrariwise, that philosophers have since decided reason is the only valid way to approach life. Can you provide a more recent overview of the philosophical place of art in society, and/or classic/recent texts where I could read more?

Actually, art and tragedy in particular had an ambivalent role in some ancient Greek philosophy. In the Republic and the Ion, Plato presented a critique of art based on his imitation (mimetc) account of art. For Plato, art was merely imitatory and tragedy in particular involved the magnification of evil. Plato held that if X is evil, the imitation of X is evil. In the Republic he spoke of the warefare between poetry and philosophy. But art and tragedy had a major defender in Aristotle who thought imitation is itself the key to education and he further proposed that tragedy was an essential instrument in the purification of our moral judgments. In the history of philosophy, outside the ancients, probably the leading defender of Greek tragedy is Nietzsche. Among more recent philosophers, you might consult Gadamer on art.

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