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Greece – The Aesthetic Experience

Greece – The Aesthetic Experience

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve written! Mostly because I was enjoying fall break in Mykonos, Greece, and Milan, Italy for the past couple of weeks.

For those of you who think my semester abroad sounds like a nice little vacation – let me tell you – the classes I’m taking are actually pretty difficult. My “Rome: Aesthetics” class, for example, is both my most favorite course and my most challenging.

Since day one of the semester, the study of aesthetics in philosophy is a subject that took me by surprise as one of my most favorites. Perhaps it peaks my interest because in Rome, I am constantly surrounded by all sorts of aesthetically pleasing architecture, art, and people. It could also be partially due to the fact that I’m an art major. The class focuses on different philosophers and their opinions on subjects like taste, beauty, and what defines an artist. I don’t want to get too in depth, because it’s a dense sort of subject; but it delves into topics of how a person should approach beauty, what a work of art should do for a person, and how it all fits into the grand scheme of life. I truly believe this class has given me a different perspective on places I’ve traveled that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. In places like Germany, Switzerland, and Greece, I have been able to look at both natural and artistic beauty with this class in mind.

Greece, in particular, was a place where the study of aesthetics was constantly in my thoughts. Probably because it is stunning, really. Yes, for me, the beauty of Greece tops every place I have been abroad, even Switzerland. Right now, if you picture Greece in your head, I want you to multiply the beauty by 10. The houses and buildings are white as ever, stacking along the mountains and hills as close as they can get. The water is so, SO blue. You can open your eyes underwater and see everything. The Greek people always have smiles. There is not much green, but still, the desert-sort-of landscape is rich in beauty.

In relation to aesthetics in Greece, I want to talk about something that played a part in my experience there: photography. Let me start off by saying that in all my time spent in Europe, I never regretted taking my camera somewhere. I think it was our third day in Greece that I took my Canon T5i to Paradise Beach. Me and my friends wanted a break from the pool to a public place where we could get lunch and relax. As I picked up my camera to take photographs, I remembered something I learned in aesthetics class. Philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote that to view beauty and truly have an aesthetic experience from it, one must be devoid all interest. This means, in simple terms, that they stop wanting anything and everything, and are only focused on the beauty of that subject. In class, we discussed that in contemporary times, it means not taking photographs of something beautiful. For example, when seeing Michelangelo’s David, we must approach it without desiring anything from it, even something as little as a photograph.

My mind danced over that subject for a few moments before I started taking photographs. But in contrast to Kant and probably, to my professor, I do not agree.

All day, I took photographs of the beach and of my friends. And for me, this enhanced my experience. For me, photography wasn’t “throwing in interest.” For me, the art of photography WAS the aesthetic experience. It was through the lens of my camera that I was able to find the most beautiful moments in both people and in nature. They are seconds frozen in time, ones I know I will thank myself later down the road for having captured on film. I have found that in the split second of taking a picture, a person usually reveals some part of their personality. This glimpse of inner self is the most meaningful kind of photograph in my opinion. It is what makes me keep snapping them. I have to believe that all photographers feel the same way.

Enjoy some pictures I took of some of the beautiful people I have met abroad!

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While I don’t agree with Kant, it should be noted that this class allowed me to really contemplate this subject. In that sense, I am learning more about myself and what I believe in. As much as I have enjoyed my studio classes like drawing or painting, they have never revealed these sorts of things about me to myself. YES, I can confidently say that I like learning about philosophy. Trust me, I was surprised, too!

My family has been in Rome for the past week, so hopefully I can share my experience with them and our travels in my next post. Ciao!

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