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Having the same root as aesthetic, the word "aesthete" refers to a person who professes a superior appreciation of what is beautiful. Oscar Wilde, who dedicated his life and work to a love of art and beauty, is often cited as an aesthete. Wilde believed that art should be valued for itself alone and not for any purpose or function .

Wilde attempted to preserve an area of aesthetic experience - the appreciation of beauty - apart from utilitarian values fostered by Capitalist economics. The trad ition of philosophical aesthetics on the Continent went further than Wilde by questioning whether experience could be represented or assigned a moral value. This tradition had its origins in the 18th century.

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