For the Love of Beauty: Art History and the Moral Foundations of Aesthetic Judgement

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For most of the last century the methodology of art history has followed a positivist approach, emphasizing form and style, fact and history as the means of studying works of art. By contrast the philosophical pursuit of truth, once central to the fine arts and humanities has largely been abandoned. In For The Love of Beauty, Arthur Pontynen offers a searching and ambitious critique of modern aesthetic practice that aims to restore the pursuit of the knowledge of reality—Being—to its rightful place.

Pontynen begins by addressing the question of why the pursuit of truth (be it called Dao, Dharma, God, Logos, Ideal, etc.) is no longer acceptable in academic circles even though it has been intrinsic to the purpose of art at most times and in most cultures. Lacking the pursuit of truth, of some degree of knowledge of what is true and good, the humanities necessarily lack intellectual and cultural grounding and purpose. Fields of study such as philosophy, music, art, and history are therefore trivialized and brutalized. Pontynen's focus on the study of the visual arts details the how the denial of purpose and quality in modernist and postmodernist aesthetics has denied art any possibility of transcending entertainment, therapy, or propaganda.

In place of the established narratives, Pontynen offers a counter-narrative based on a cross-cultural pursuit of the good, the true, and the beautiful. He recognizes that substantively different cultural traditions exist and that the truth claims of each may be valid in whole or in part. He shows how the history of art parallels the intellectual history of Western culture and how these parallels affect both aesthetics and ethics. Pontynen engages with those elements of modernist and postmodernist thought that might be true. His purpose is not simply to deny their validity but to engage a viewpoint that does not privilege the notion of a purposeless cosmos. For the Love of Beauty will be of interest to art historians, students of aesthetics, ethics, and intellectual historians.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is an astonishing book, one I hardly hoped to see appear in our time. It reaffirms purposeful and morally coherent reality as the ground for the pursuit of beauty, and brilliantly brings into play the ideas of thinkers ranging from Eastern and Western Church Fathers to Lao Tzu, and including such fascinating moderns as Thomas Molnar and ?tienne Gilson, whose key voices are foolishly ignored by most of today's academics. " - Jonathan Chaves, Professor of Chinese, The George Washington University "This book offers that which frustrated scholars of the humanities have been waiting: substance. Pontynen deftly connects the dots through western culture from what it is that a culture believes, to what it makes, to how it behaves. For the Love of Beauty offers a compelling defense of truth, goodness and beauty that quickens and inspires and makes one wince at the vapidity of much that passes today for scholarship." Dr. Rod Miller Associate Professor and Chair, Art Department, Hendrix College "A remarkable change is occurring in western publishing. We were used to practical and pragmatic approach on the US-side and philosophical on the European. Now, that is changing: Americans write "imperial," not to say meta-historical works and Europeans are interested in concrete figures and party-politics. [In For the Love of Beauty] Professor Pontynen joins now the American agenda; he focuses with great erudition on the artistic side of world history. In well-structured chapters, he satisfies our interest in aspects of our past and present." Thomas Molnar Professor, University of Budapest
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765803016
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/1/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 381
  • Sales rank: 1,353,351
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Arthur Pontynen, professor and former chairman of the department of art, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, is the author of For the Love of Beauty: Art, History, and the Moral Foundations of Aesthetic Judgment and co-author of Western Culture at the American Crossroads: Conflicts Over the Nature of Science and Reason.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
2 Art history and the cultural amnesia of modernity and postmodernity 11
3 Classicism : the nature of beauty, the fragility of goodness 35
4 The Laocoon : the challenge of tragedy and the metaphysics of Plotinus 89
5 The Judeo-Christian tradition : aesthetics and beauty reconciled 121
6 The Renaissance, mannerism, and the baroque : from a qualitative to a quantitative universe 187
7 The modernist-postmodernist tradition : the subjective-objectivity of the "enlightenment" and the decline of beauty 237
8 Ways of worldmaking : Nietzsche's rebirth of tragedy 303
9 Western culture at the crossroads : the history of art and the postmodern eschaton 317
10 Conclusion : subject, object, and responsible freedom in the pursuit of beauty 339
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2006

    364-page work of critical thought intended to challenge the reader

    For The Love Of Beauty: Art, History, And The Moral Foundations Of Aesthetic Judgment by Arthur Pontynen (Professor of Art History, University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh) is a challenging and scholarly view of Western art history through the touchstone of a prerequisite search, even a quest for 'the good, the true, and the beautiful.' Professor Pontynen questions the value of art in a world framed by the assumption of dogmatic aesthetics, instead of validating the search for truth, beauty, and goodness. Professor Pontynen applies this thesis or critical reference to Western art and art history from Classicism to Postmodernism. Further, he grounds his observations with examples from history, philosophy, aesthetics, and specific works of art. There are forty black and white photo reproductions of art works incorporated into the text. For The Love Of Beauty is a seminal, 364-page work of critical thought intended to challenge the reader to explore further those assumptions upon which all notions of beauty, truth, and goodness are based. It is a great scholarly text of particular interest to philosophers, art historians, as well as students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in ethics, aesthetics, and intellectual history.

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