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Art and Essence (Studies in Art, Culture, and Communities) Hardcover – 30 Oct 2003


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?The editors have put together a thoughtfully sequenced and interrelated series of essays on art and its essence.?-Consciousness, Literature and the Arts

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The Essence of Art Explored 8 Sep 2006
By Thomas Leddy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent overview of state-of-the-art issues having to do with philosophical exploration of the essence of art and other related topics. The editors have nicely divided chapters into four parts: theoretical perspectives, historical perspectives, cross-cultural perspectives, and contemporary perspectives. The quality of the essays is surprisingly good, and in general better than that of typical collections of this sort. I found myself often coming away from an essay with some key thought that kept nagging me for days. Stephen Davies, who is widely known for an earlier work on the definition of art, gives a nice overview of the articles in the introduction, and then follows this up with a survey of the field in the first chapter. Graham McFee in a very subtle essay argues that the implications of Wittgenstein's views on essences have been misunderstood in aesthetics circles. Stephanie Ross looks at gardens as an interesting intersection between natural aesthetics and the aesthetics of art. Liberato Santo-Brienza reinterprets the concept of mimesis within a survey of ancient and medieval views on art and beauty. Dabney Townsend provides a thought-provoking analysis of why neither Hume nor Kant were really much interested in the essence of art. Robert Wicks shows intriguing similarities and dissimilarities between Hegel and Nietzsche on art and the theatrical. One of the nicest features of this anthology is that it includes cross-cultural perspectives. To that end, Ananta Sukla describes the aesthetic views of Abhinavagupta, the great Indian aesthetician of the 11th century. Yuriko Saito, in a finely nuanced essay, shows how representing the essence of the object is central to Japanese aesthetics, and then relates this to the Western fascination with disinterestedness. Larry Shiner looks into the notion of authenticity in small-scale traditional societies and how it contrasts with western notions of the same concept. In Part IV, Kathleen Stock opens with a criticism of the various historical definitions of art offered in the last part of the 20th century. Robert Stecker, a widely read philosopher, moves away a bit from the question of the essence or definition of art to that of the ontology and interpretation of art, arguing as he often does against constructivist views of interpretation. Monique Roelofs weighs in from a feminist perspective arguing for something she calls aesthetification, which tries to feminize art and make feminist subjectivity artful. Finally, Dennis Dutton argues for an aesthetic universalism in which the term "art" can be applied cross-culturally based on evolutionary commonality amongst humans. Drawing ultimately from Darwin he sees art as mainly a form of sexual advertisement. It is a shame that this book is not yet out in paperback, as it is a must-read for anyone interested in the topic.
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