Art leaves the viewer with an aesthetic experience. Through art, "a truth is experienced that we cannot attain in any other way" (Gadamer 1975: xxii-xxiii). Traditional sociological methods of studying art negate both this experience and the concept of aesthetics altogether. This thesis attempts to find a method to approach the sociological study of aesthetics that acknowledges its existence and the aesthetic experience by studying the work of sociological founder, George Simmel, in his recently translated monograph Rembrandt: An Essay in the Philosophy of Art. Even though it has recently been translated into English, among German-speakers, it was the most circulated of his texts in his lifetime. An analysis of the text is included in this thesis. The editors forewarn that the text is 'reactionary' and follows automatic thinking processes, but upon reading Simmel's essay it appears that the term reactionary may not be appropriate. Instead, Simmel is moved by the work of Rembrandt, which is more than undergoing an automatic reactionary process because it requires the utilization of one's faculties. Simmel's insight to his formalistic sociology originated with these initial impressions toward art, which he finally converted to writing close to the end of his life. His text explains that all intellectual achievement is partly fashioning, and partly creating. The concept of art can be reframed to include all activity in the 'creative' side of this dichotomy. Thus, the method to study "The Sociology of Aesthetics" is to first be moved by art. This process can be used to guide innovations and discoveries in other fields as well.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Sociology



Date Submitted


Document Type





sociology, methods, art, aesthetics, Georg Simmel, Rembrandt



Included in

Sociology Commons