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The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art
     

The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art

by Arthur C. Danto
 
Danto simply and entertainingly traces the evolution of the concept of beauty over the past century and explores how it was removed from the definition of art. Beauty then came to be regarded as a serious aesthetic crime, whereas a hundred years ago it was almost unanimously considered the supreme purpose of art. Beauty is not, and should not be, the be-all and

Overview

Danto simply and entertainingly traces the evolution of the concept of beauty over the past century and explores how it was removed from the definition of art. Beauty then came to be regarded as a serious aesthetic crime, whereas a hundred years ago it was almost unanimously considered the supreme purpose of art. Beauty is not, and should not be, the be-all and end-all of art, but it has an important place, and is not something to be avoided.
Danto draws eruditely upon the thoughts of artists and critics such as Rimbaud, Fry, Matisse, the Dadaists, Duchamp, and Greenberg, as well as on that of philosophers like Hume, Kant, and Hegel. Danto agrees with the dethroning of beauty as the essence of art, and maintains with telling examples that most art is not, in fact, beautiful. He argues, however, for the partial rehabilitation of beauty and the removal of any critical taboo against beauty. Beauty is one among the many modes through which thoughts are presented to human sensibility in art: disgust, horror, sublimity, and sexuality being among other such modes.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Charting the disappearance of beauty as a primary artistic value in the 20th century, Danto (The Transfiguration of the Commonplace, etc.) offers a hot-and-cold mix of philosophical musings and autobiographical reflections that attempt to restore a place for beauty as an "option for art" and a "necessary condition for life as we would want to live it." To that end, the veteran art critic and Columbia University philosopher discusses and, at various points, disagrees with Hume, Kant and Hegel, building a view of beauty as one among many modes through which artworks may present thoughts to human sensibility. He distinguishes between natural and artistic beauty, between beauty and sublimity, and between beauty internal to an artwork and external to it. Although Danto clearly defines an artwork as an "embodied meaning," he does not as clearly define what he means by beauty, making much of his discussion unnecessarily vague. It is also unnecessarily meandering, too often feeling like notes from assorted lectures, which is how most of the chapters originated. "Read it as an adventure story," he says, "with a few philosophical arguments and distinctions [brought back] as trophies." But good adventure stories need a strong narrative, and there isn't one here. Still, there are trophies: philosophical insights of genuine value to anyone interested in beauty, art or the connections between the two. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Traditional beauty in contemporary art is still regarded by some as unfashionable. Nation art critic Danto (philosophy, emeritus, Columbia Univ.), the author of more than 20 books, here argues that although the "fact" of beauty is not a valid criterion for judging good art from bad, it should not necessarily be made taboo. Danto's analysis deftly weaves together historical approaches to the mutable concept of beauty, from the writings of Kant to Duchamp's urinal. He selects Warhol's Brillo Box as one of many central paradigms and ponders not simply what makes it art but how objects exactly like it-actual containers holding soap pads-are not. Danto's interpretations effectively summarize one of art's central issues of the past 150 years in a way that is bold, thoughtful, and entertaining. Like The Transfiguration of the Commonplace, arguably Danto's best-known work, this book addresses a broad shift in thinking about aesthetics. Both are highly recommended for all art collections.-Douglas McClemont, New York Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780812695397
Publisher:
Open Court Publishing Company
Publication date:
07/16/2003
Series:
Paul Carus Lectures Series , #21
Pages:
167
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.28(h) x 0.69(d)

Meet the Author

Arthur C. Danto is Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Columbia University. He is the art critic for The Nation and author of more than 20 books.

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