Book Read! Philosophies of Art & Beauty

Hofstadter & Kuhns, Philosophies of Art & Beauty. Selected Readings in Aesthetics from Plato to Heidegger, 1964.

I discovered this book only recently in a bookstore, although it was first published in 1964.  It must have always escaped my eye.

Each chapter treats of one philosopher.  Except for short but informing introductory texts preceding each chapter, the bulk of the book consists of texts written by the philosophers themselves, and so, for many readers who are interested in philosophy of art, there are perhaps no great discoveries to be made.

And yet I was not acquainted with the ideas of John Dewey (1859-1952) on art and I was surprised to see that he had some theories about form in art and about art being more moral than moralities similar to those of Clive Bell (1881-1964), about whom I wrote my masterpaper for my Master in Philosophy (people who want to read this paper can leave me a message, I will then mail it to them).  I was pretty amazed that Bell was not mentioned in this book, because he together with Roger Fry (1866-1934) are somewhat considered to be the ‘inventors’ of the formal approach to art.

But art, wherein man speaks in no wise to man,

Only to mankind – art may tell a truth

Obliquely, do the deed shall breed the thought.”

(John Dewey)

So, surprises in reading this selection of texts are not to be ruled out.  But apart from that, I find it extremely convenient to have ‘all’ philosophies of art and theories on beauty and aesthetics brought together in one book.  But why have not they updated it?


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