Stated very simply, is aesthetics a ‘thing’?
Is aesthetics a distinct category of experience (as Kant envisions), or is it only ever a means of addressing contradictions at the level of lived experience? If the latter, this entails thinking of aesethetics as a retro-fitted part – not so much something independently existing or determinable, but rather an aspect of ethos, of the problem of ways of life. This would suggest that it is only ever a fond wish to imagine that aesthetics can be distinguished from ethics. At every level they partake of the problem of value, being and identity, as well as of community and politics.
Where aesthetics does not exist – in the Ancient world, for instance – it is not that no one thought about beauty, form, play or pleasure, it is rather that there was no urgent need to elaborate these as such, as something categorically distinct. They were qualitative features of life generally.