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The epistemic of aesthetic knowledge and knowing: implications for aesthetic education curricula and rational pedagogy in Nigerian secondary schools.


Epistemological aesthetics like philosophical aesthetics harbors numerous issues and arguments most of which often lack consensual agreement. The plausible reason for this is not un connected with the way the aesthetic permeates almost all aspects of human life and knowledge. It is this plethora of ideas, argument and issues as was noted elsewhere (Aghaosa, 2013), not only make aesthetic and epistemological aesthetics not only a mine field of a arguments but also an interesting thought provoking area of scholarship.

Specifically with respect to epistemological aesthetics, the first argument to confront, is what exactly is the aesthetic, among the phenomena, subject (spectator) and experiences (emotions) and other sundry issues about natural and artificial phenomena that should count as aesthetic experiences. Some of These arguments have been dwelt extensively upon in earlier explorations. (Aghaosa, 2014)

Among the many other arguments in epistemological aesthetics is that of aesthetic knowledge and how it should be classified, evaluated, and packaged as experiences for cultivation in school learning. What aspects of the cognitive faculties of human learning does aesthetic knowledge apply for cultivation? In the layman term, is aesthetic knowledge consisting mainly or solely, the cognitive, (intellectual) or the psycho motive, and the affective domains of learning or all of them. If solely for specifics, which amongst the aforementioned domains is principally addressed by aesthetic knowledge? If for all, in what dosage(s) and order, does it occur? It is pertinent to mention that because of this confusion about what type of knowledge epistemologically is aesthetic knowledge-whether prepositional i.e. 'Knowing that' or procedural--'knowing how' there are also fall outs from this. First among these centre on the status and classification of the various components of aesthetic learning in schools' curricula. Enmeshed in it also is the question of time allocation to aesthetic learning subjects. What amount of time should be allotted respectively to the theoretical and practical aspects of aesthetic learning endeavors? These confusions in the extreme do sometimes end up creating apathy and subsequently, neglect of aesthetic learning activities in schools. There are also some other opinions which aver that since creative art, and other allied aesthetic subjects are often inborn and natural talents among learners, they should be given only salutary or symbolic attention in schools' academic activities. For these people aesthetic learning activities lack intellectual depth and should be the preoccupation of intellectually dull students. A counter argument to this is from serious professional practitioners of the various aspects of aesthetic endeavors who are strongly of the view that aesthetic learning encompasses serious intellectual and practical works - the prepositional as well as the procedural aspects of learning and knowledge.

In addressing some of these arguments and their fall- outs, it is pertinent for any critical teacher to pause and reflect about what epistemologically are esthetic learning experiences and how should they be classified and evaluated for curriculum and pedagogy? In effect, the problem of this intellectual exercise was to ascertain what epistemologically constitute aesthetic knowledge; and how should the various aspects of aesthetics knowledge be packaged and cultivated in learners. In other words, what are the prepositional and procedural aspects of aesthetic knowledge and their implication for aesthetic curricula and rational pedagogy?

The purpose of this paper was to epistemologically analyze aesthetic knowledge in terms of modes of, and appropriation of knowledge. This is to enable aesthetic practitioners and teachers know the underlying modes of knowledge and principles of learning involved in any aesthetic learning encounter.

The significance of this paper would be determined by the extent it could help achieve: clarity of the fundamental concepts, and issues involved in the categorization of aesthetic knowledge and learning; deepen awareness about the various modes of aesthetic knowledge and their curricula and pedagogical implications for rational teaching and learning; and help make aesthetic knowledge and learning more learners- and teacher-friendly.

Epistemological Analyses of Aesthetic Knowledge and Knowing

Clear-cut demarcation of the various aesthetic experiences (Broudy, 1975) and therefore, classification into the various modes of knowledge could be elusive. In this sphere, there is the tendency that the prepositional as well as the procedural dimensions of knowledge are often implicit in the different theoretical and practical approaches of aesthetic knowledge and learning. These are often in varying degrees of emphases. Succinctly in Reimer's (1991) words: "the modes of knowing are always complementary in most aesthetic learning encounter". (P.13)

Modes of Aesthetic Knowing

Succinctly, perceiving the world of feeling is equivalent to "knowing". How then do people know through feelings? Reimer (1991) advances two essential, and two supplementary interconnected modes of knowing in music --which also conveniently applies to other aesthetic vehicles. The two essential modes of knowing are:

"Knowing Of' and "Knowing How". They are supplemented by: "Knowing About" (or "Knowing that") and "Knowing why". Before elaborating on the above mentioned modes of aesthetic knowing it is necessary to note that Broudy's (1975) three approaches: perceptual, studio practice, and expressive to aesthetic education encapsulates the classificatory nature of aesthetic knowing.

Two (2) essential modes of knowing in aesthetics

1. 'Knowing of' in Aesthetic learning. This is the aspect of aesthetic knowing with a high degree of cognitive (intellectual) resonance. (Broudy, 1975, p,14) It helps in identifying the basic issues and concepts in aesthetic knowledge and learning, but above all it aids the imagination to actively engage itself in the aesthetic learning transaction.

2. 'Knowing how' in Aesthetic learning.

The engagement of the self in: creating music whether by composing; or performing; or improvising, captures the essence of 'knowing how' in aesthetic learning. This aspect of knowing is implicit in Broudy's (1975) proposed second approach to aesthetic education and learning. This is training in technical competence as afforded by studio practices (p.100) of the various arts e.g. music, painting, design etc or what Reimer (1991) refers to as the performance approach. (R6) This mode of knowing as also implicit in Bosanquet's (1915) views would help to expose students to the various art media and their inherent practices. This exposure not only gives students the needed practice, but also helps them understand the high-points as well as limitations of each art medium (p.100). The overall aim is to help train the expectations of the viewer about each of the media exposed to. Explaining this aspect of knowing with particular reference to music education, Reimer (1991) is of the view that listening to music is a kind of knowing how and creativity, applies equally to the creator and spectator (Pp.13-14). This is because it requires imagination to understand the work of imagination - a point advocated by David Bestman. In simple and practical terms, when students are for example, taught about painting and great painters such as Ben Enwonwu or Pablo Picasso, theoretically, they should also be asked to do some practical exercises in any painting medium e.g. water colour, acrylic, oil, pastel, etc of their choices. In music, when composers such as Handel, Mozart or Lazarus Ekwueme and their musical compositions are discussed theoretically, there should be a supplementary lesson based on the practical demonstration and rendition of the musical pieces of these composers purveyed. It is pertinent to state the caveat sounded by most of the scholars on this aspect: need for balance between theory and practice in aesthetic learning. None should be made a substitute for the other (Broudy, 1975; p.100). Assessing the state of the arts with respect to knowing 'of' and 'how' in the aesthetic learning practices of schools in the United states of America, it is Reimer's (1991) contention that:
   We particularly need to learn much
   more than we know at present about
   the "knowing how" entailed in composing
   which has been largely neglected
   in music education but over the next
   decade may become as important in
   our programme as performance has
   been (p. 14).

This view of Reimer can also be safely extrapolated on the visual as well as spatial arts of schools' aesthetic learning programmes.

Two Supplementary Modes of 'Knowing' in Aesthetics Learning
   1. "Knowing about" (or "knowing
   that"). This is the prepositional
   knowledge as applied to aesthetic
   learning. It deals mostly with verbal
   and symbolic conceptions of knowledge
   about the arts (and their various
   branches) as a phenomenon (na). In
   Broudy's (1975) view and to some
   extent, Hirst's (1973) this dimension
   of knowing is implicated in almost
   all the three approaches to aesthetic
   education and learning. This is the
   perceptual, studio training and expressive.
   Its high point of application
   is mostly in the aesthetic appreciation
   courses of aesthetic education.

With respect to aesthetic knowledge, experience and learning 'knowing about' will dwell on issues such as what specifically is: aesthetics, aesthetic: knowledge, objects, vehicles, and how to teach aesthetic knowledge --the fundamental issues of aesthetic education. In secondary schools' aesthetic education programme, when questions are raised and subsequently analyzed about the underlying principles and objectives of aesthetics, aesthetic: objects, experiences and vehicles (including the different arts and their media of expression) they are appraising aesthetic knowledge from the "knowing about" dimension of aesthetic learning. Applied to Broudy's (1975) perceptual approach to aesthetic education, "knowing about" can assist much in the development of students' imaginative perception or perceptive imagination. This is a pre requisite for a critical adaptation and evaluation of current and visionary arts of the society. For as earlier noted, the perceptual approach as hinged on this category of knowing will help students avoid the imposition of sterile or moribund art norms of the society on them. This is because it will acquaint them with the cognitive power to understand the underlying principles of aesthetic phenomena in their society and the world at large. This is rather than being judgmental and relying essentially on other peoples' e.g. teacher's personal and sometimes, prejudiced opinions about aesthetic phenomena. In another perspective, knowing about helps students acquire the sensitivity to the design principles, elements, and components of the various art media--e.g. painting, architecture, poetry and how to achieve desired aesthetic effects with them. This dimension of knowing is also reflected in Hirst's (1973) prognoses of evaluating aesthetic knowledge and experience from the perspective of art experience and criticism. Stressing that art criticism should be distinguished from the character of works of art it is held that:
   Art critics are not, in general, in their
   criticism creating works of art. Their
   statements are thus not themselves,
   artistic statements. Rather they make
   statements of many kinds about works
   of arts, that is, they make non-artistic
   statements about artistic statement.
   Much of what they say is descriptive of
   the observable physical characteristics
   of works of art is about the psychological
   genesis of works of art and their location
   in historical and social contexts

2. "Knowing why": This dimension of knowing, deals with the same kind of knowledge and inherent issues explicated in "knowing about" above. But here the emphases is mostly on the cultural, historical and belief systems that under gird aesthetic phenomena and the various aesthetic vehicles. These are issues dealt essentially by art theory and are enmeshed in the institutional theory of the arts. How, and for what purposes do the arts as social institutions exist? When issues about the underlying historical and cultural significance of: Benin, Ife, Nok, Renaissance, African, Medieval, Modern etc arts are raised and discussed, these are forays into the "knowing why"--an aspect of the prepositional account of knowledge in aesthetic knowledge and learning. These are questions mostly dealt with in the history and appreciation course of aesthetic education. The import of knowing why in aesthetic learning may become quite clear if the following questions are raised. What roles do the music of national anthems play in the patriotic lives of citizens? How do different types of music promote and enhance (or otherwise impede) the spiritual growth and development of persons in religious worships? How are the visual and tactile arts--paintings, sculptural pieces, relief carvings etc implicated in promoting social values and harmony? For example, how have the Benin woodcarvings, Bronze casts, etc been promoting respectively, the personality of the monarch ('oba-ship ' or 'king-ship') and social cohesion and harmony of Benin kingdom? So also are questions about why certain arts, media, production and styles existing from place to place i.e. in particular social contexts. For example why it is that African arts' media is predominated by sculpture especially wood and metal rather than the pictorial arts of painting?

A crucial question here is: what should be the philosophical i.e. epistemological agenda of aesthetic cognition? In other words, what should be the concern of epistemology in the aesthetic learning encounters and knowing? It is to clarify what each dimension consists of, so that it may be taught more carefully as both an entity and as one aspect of the larger whole to which it contributes. As elaborated by Reimer (1991):
   especially complex is the precise nature
   of the interface between the exteriority
   of "knowing about" and "why"
   on the one hand, and the inferiority of
   "knowing of' and "how" on the other,
   in that while a great deal of empirical
   evidence exist that the former does indeed
   influence the later, we know little
   about how precisely that occurs and
   therefore cannot arrange our education
   strategies as intelligently as we need
   to. I am aware, when I suggest that we
   explore that interface more intensely,
   that it raises profound and difficult
   issues relating to the nature of the
   human mind and the nature of consciousness
   itself that the issues are in
   fact education attests to the centrality
   of cognitive scholarship. It is time we
   recognize and proclaim that centrality


From our analyses, aesthetic experiences derived from aesthetic emotions are the raw materials in aesthetic learning encounters. From epistemological point of view, aesthetic learning experiences have intellectual as well as practical aspects with respect to knowledge and knowing. It is these aspects that are amendable to the 'knowing that' and 'knowing how' of knowledge in the learning transactions for all aesthetic vehicles are involved. These two-prepositional and procedural aspects of learning are supplemented by 'knowing about' ('knowing that') and 'knowing why'. These modes of learning can adequately accommodate Broudy's (1975) three approaches: Perceptual, Studio practice and Expressive to aesthetic education.


From the analysis, it is evidently clear that aesthetic knowledge and learning have intellectual as well as practical depths. This is in the sense that prepositional as well as procedural dimensions of learning are inherent in almost all aspects of aesthetic learning. These can be discerned in the learning of aesthetic: principles, theories, studio practices and expressive aspects of aesthetic vehicles. In effect, an adequate aesthetic learning curricula, offers robust learning opportunities and by extension, a balanced education to all learners. This is because it would definitely accommodate the cognitive, psycho motive as well as the affective domains of learning and knowledge adequately to al learners.


Arising from the preceding analysis and conclusion the following are recommended to help improve aesthetic learning curricula and pedagogical strategies in schools.

1. Aesthetic teacher education programs for all levels of education in Nigeria should be structured and carried out in ways that give both breadth and depth of the perceptual, studio practice and expressive aspects of aesthetic learning to prospective teachers. This is to imbue them with both the intellectual, practical and expressive capacities to engage students in meaningful aesthetic learning encounters.

2. For students, parents, guidance counselors, teachers and school administrators, there is the dire need for attitudinal change towards aesthetic learning in schools. This is in terms of according aesthetic education its proper status as an academic subject in schools' learning. Aesthetic learning activities should be also viewed as set of activities that can adequately augment learning in all facets and domains of human knowledge and learning. Aesthetic learning should not be viewed as activities meant only for the intellectually sloppy students.

3. Aesthetic learning curricula for schools should be planned or reformed in such a way that should incorporate activities from the various aesthetic vehicles to accommodate the diverse human talents and proclivity to learning. This would also require aesthetic education teachers with a wide variety of teaching skills in their pedagogical repertoire.

4. Education policy makers and school administrators should make adequate provision for aesthetic education in schools. This is in terms of time allocation in their academic time table as well as logistics- studio space, aesthetics learning materials and teachers.

Ike P. Aghaosa, PhD

University of Benin, Nigeria


Aghaosa, I.P. (2012) Philosophical, Professional and Epistemological Aesthetics: Nexus, Fundamental Issues, Arguments; and Challenges for Aesthetic Education.. In Okuneye, O.R; Akinkuotu, Y.A, Dansu, T. & Jimoh, AS. Eds. Science and Development: A book of Readings in honour of Professor Emmanuel. O. Odubunmi. Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos Pp. 133-147.

Aghaosa, I. P. (2014) The Aesthetic vehicles, subjects, spectator, emotions and mode. Academic Research International (AR Int) Vol. 5 No. 1, January 2014. Website at Pp. 170-17

Benin Art (Nigeria) Bronze heads, figures and vessels

Beethoven's sixth symphony. Music Pastorale.

Bestman, D quoted in Reimer : (1991) "The Essential and Nonessential Characteristics of aesthetic Education". Journal of Aesthetic Education 25(3), 193-204.

Bosanquet, "The Aesthetic Attitude and its embodiments" in Three Lectures in Aesthetics. Quoted in Broudy, H 5. (1975) "The Aesthetic Dimension of Education" " in Educational Judgment--Papers in the Philosophy of Education, Ed. J.E. Doyle. London: Routledge and Keegan Paul.

Broudy, H. S. (1975) "The Aesthetic Dimension of Education" in Educational Judgment--Papers in the Philosophy of Education, Ed. J.E. Doyle. London: Routledge and Keegan Paul.

Ekwueme, L. Foremost Nigerian Modem Composer and Musicologist

Enwonwu, B Sculpture--The Risen Christ

Handel's S. Music. Messiah.

Hirst, P.H. (1973) Knowledge and the Curriculum. London; Routledge and Keegan Paul.

Ife Art (Nigeria) Bronze heads and vessels.

Nok Art (Nigeria) Terracotta heads and Bronze vessels.

Picasso's P. Painting Guernica.

Reimer, B.(l 991) "Essential and Nonessential Characteristics of Aesthetics Education" Journal of Aesthetic Education 25(3) 193-204.
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Author:Aghaosa, Ike P.
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:6NIGR
Date:Dec 22, 2015
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