Aesthetics refers to the branch of philosophy that deals with questions of beauty, art, and perception. As far back as the time of Plato and Aristotle, philosophers have discussed the social value and role of art. It wasn't until the eighteenth century, however, that philosophy began to investigate aesthetic experience and judgment as discrete and independent categories of perception, grounded in the human subject. In the eighteenth century, aesthetic experience was associated with nonutilitarian objects like art and nature. Since the onset of consumer capitalism, however, qualities associated with aesthetic experience, such as beauty, form, and sensual pleasure, have become central to the marketing and consumption of consumer goods.

During the eighteenth century, a period known as the Enlightenment, the social and ideological order of feudal ...

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