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Mădălina Diaconu, “Enjoyment fulfilment survival: on the value of art and beauty for life”, Popular Inquiry: The Journal of the Aesthetics of Kitsch, Camp and Mass Culture, vol. 6, issue 1, 2022

The discourse on vital values was once highly ambivalent in the history of Western aesthetics. The rationalistic mainstream condemned pleasure yet defended specific aesthetic enjoyment; only rarely was life itself uniquely seen as a source of pleasure. In the 20th century the focus shifted from pleasure and enjoyment to aesthetic experience, which was regarded as an enclave of everyday life, a process of life, and an extension of real life in the modus of as-if. Arnold Berleant’s humanism sets forth this traditional ambivalence: on one hand, he opposes the contemplative subject with the living body and defines environments as inhabited life-worlds; on the other hand, he subordinates biological vitality to the ideal of a fulfilled and humane life. Nevertheless, based upon his statement about “the survival significance of aesthetic sensibility”, I claim that the turn of aesthetics from subjective pleasure to environmental survival is imminent in the Anthropocene and that aesthetic theory will have to integrate vital values both with respect to the humans and the ecosystems.