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Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology (Blackwell Philosophy Anthologies) Paperback – 14 Sep 2007
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Steven Cahn and Aaron Meskin have put together an unrivalled collection of great work in philosophical aesthetics, encompassing historical sources ranging from Plato to Shaftesbury, modern theories from Schiller to Gadamer, and more recent work covering all the central areas in contemporary aesthetics and philosophy of art. I thoroughly recommend it.
Peter Goldie, University of Manchester<!––end––>
The go–to book for classics in aesthetics from Plato and Aristotle to Adorno and Walton. Balanced and comprehensive, each chapter selected with a keen eye for bringing out enduring themes, this volume is a landmark achievement.
Dominic McIver Lopes, University of British Columbia
From the Back Cover
The appreciation of art and the pursuit of beauty are fundamental elements of human life, and for almost as long as we have engaged in philosophical inquiry we have been theorizing about aesthetic matters. Covering nearly 2,500 years of theory and analysis, this anthology offers the most comprehensive collection of readings on aesthetics and philosophy of art currently available. From Plato′s Ion to work by contemporary philosophers of art, Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology showcases classic texts that speak for themselves in showing the development of philosophical thought about art and the aesthetic. Thorough, systematic, and flexible, this volume is an ideal guide to the field and makes an excellent textbook for a variety of courses in philosophical aesthetics.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The physical book is too big and heavy for its binding. My copy has separated at around page 270 making reading a challenge as I have to always put the book on a flat surface for the pages to stay open. This is the most expensive of the books so far that I have needed and returning it was not an option as there was no alternative recommended.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
When it comes to contemporary aesthetics, this book covers a wide range of the most influential thinkers in English-speaking and analytic aesthetics, while almost completely ignoring the work of Continental thinkers (apart from a few selections from critical theory and hermeneutics, which is treated here as "historical" and not contemporary). The most glaring omission is that there is nothing here from Derrida, who did, after all, write a number of important and highly influential pieces on aesthetics (not to mention Deleuze, or Lyotard, or Baudrillard, or Ranciere...). Still, this is the most thorough text of its kind that I've seen and I wouldn't necessarily argue for omitting anything that is here in order to include those other things (since to do them justice would probably require another kind of book - best to consider this an "Anglo-American and Analytic Approaches to Aesthetics and their Historical Predecessors" anthology).
Another thing that would make it more helpful as a textbook would be to have a very brief introduction to each selection, outlining the issues and the central contributions made within the selection to the field of aesthetics. In my class I tend to assign readings first and then have lectures and discussions, and brief introductions would help to orient my students better before we meet to discuss. In lieu of that, I try to say something briefly before the reading, but it would be helpful for them to be able to turn back to the summaries during and after each reading, and it would be helpful for them to get a different take on the overall importance of the reading than I have to offer. There are broad essays introducing each period (e.g. a brief essay on "the classical period" - from Plato to Kant, and a brief essay on "modern theories" from Schiller to Gadamer), but that's not quite the same, and not as useful, as quick intros to each reading selection.
+ The anthology covers many of the historical works (including some that were heavily influential but left out of other anthologies). I include works by philosophers such as Schopenhauer, whose work primarily served to influence Nietzsche, but also contributes far more than Nietzsche cares to use.
+ The length of the works in this anthology is an important detail. This anthology tries to provide a sample of each of the historical works so as to translate their main ideas. Yet, works such as Art as Experience and The Critique of Judgment have slightly longer lengths -- both because their authors were more prolific and because their ideas were not proposed concisely. Anyone with experience reading Kant understands that 10 pages of his critiques may as well be 40 pages of another book. The anthology does well to ensure that the reader has enough of each author to understand the primary (and numerous secondary) points of his or her work.
+ Medieval aesthetics are included among the historical section. I have enjoyed previous aesthetics anthologies (here, I am thinking of Art and Its Significance), but they have not included medieval works nor as many contemporary commentaries. The anthology presents both very well.
- There is nothing by Derrida. Deconstruction was a very important shift in aesthetic and literary theory. It is a shame that the anthology left his work out. As another reviewer noted, the book leans more toward analytic philosophy than continental, so I am sure that played a role in leaving "Of Grammatology", for instance, out.
- The anthology does not cover a lot about metaphysics of art. What is the difference between two numerically distinct yet qualitatively identical (to the very atom -- except for the fact that one was made by the artist and the other is a reproduction) works of art? This is a fascinating topic in aesthetics, and it is not adequately captured within this book.
Overall, I would rate the work an 8.5 / 10. I would gladly recommend this anthology to anyone who wishes for an introduction to aesthetics, and I may use it in my courses on aesthetics in the future.