Ta'ajjub: A Rationalist Aesthetic

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The inquiry into the nature of beauty as it developed in eighteenth-century German philosophy under the term aesthetics theorized the beautiful as a judgment of taste and the senses in contradistinction to cognition and reason. Indeed, the term aesthetics was first introduced in 1735 by Alexander Baumgarten from the Greek (aisthētikós), meaning “of sense perception,” as a counterpart to thought and logic (Guyer 25). Accordingly, the aesthetic object produces a feeling in the perceiver that leads one to deem it beautiful. In classical Arabic culture, aesthetic judgment also depended on an emotional experience that beauty produces in the perceiver. However, the theorization of this experience in Arabic philosophy and literary theory was instead rooted in reason and logic. And it is through an understanding of (ta'ajjub; “wonder”), which is linked with discovery, that the classical Arabic conception of poetic beauty gave rise to a rationalist theory of aesthetics by the eleventh century. Not only does ta'ajjub represent an alternative way of conceptualizing beauty-one that attributes aesthetic experience to cognition-but the rationalist approach through which ta'ajjub was theorized also lends it a degree of universality that makes it especially portable beyond Arabic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-143
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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