Aesthetics

Have we become beauty-blind? For two decades or more in the humanities, various political arguments have been put forward against beauty: that it distracts us from more important issues; that it is the handmaiden of privilege; and that it masks political interests. In On Beauty and Being Just Elaine Scarry not only defends beauty from the political arguments against it but also argues that beauty does indeed press us toward a greater concern for justice. Taking inspiration from writers and thinkers as diverse as Homer, Plato, Marcel Proust, Simone Weil, and Iris Murdoch as well as her own experiences, Scarry offers up an elegant, passionate manifesto for the revival of beauty in our intellectual work as well as our homes, museums, and classrooms.

Scarry argues that our responses to beauty are perceptual events of profound significance for the individual and for society. Presenting us with a rare and exceptional opportunity to witness fairness, beauty assists us in our attention to justice. The beautiful object renders fairness, an abstract concept, concrete by making it directly available to our sensory perceptions. With its direct appeal to the senses, beauty stops us, transfixes us, fills us with a "surfeit of aliveness." In so doing, it takes the individual away from the center of his or her self-preoccupation and thus prompts a distribution of attention outward toward others and, ultimately, she contends, toward ethical fairness.


Scarry, author of the landmark The Body in Pain and one of our bravest and most creative thinkers, offers us here philosophical critique written with clarity and conviction as well as a passionate plea that we change the way we think about beauty.

Force of Imagination
The Sense of the Elemental
John Sallis

A bold and original investigation into how imagination shapes thought and feeling.

"This is a bold new direction for the author, one that he takes in an arresting and convincing manner.... a powerful, original approach to what others call ‘ecology’ but what Sallis shows to be a question of the status of the earth in philosophical thinking at this historical moment." —Edward S. Casey

In this major original work, John Sallis probes the very nature of imagination and reveals how the force of imagination extends into all spheres of human life. While drawing critically on the entire history of philosophy, Sallis’s work takes up a vantage point determined by the contemporary deconstruction of the classical opposition between sensible and intelligible. Thus, in reinterrogating the nature of imagination, Force of Imagination carries out a radical turn to the sensible and to the elemental in nature. Liberated from subjectivity, imagination is shown to play a decisive role both in drawing together the moments of our experience of sensible things and in opening experience to the encompassing light, atmosphere, earth, and sky. Set within this elemental expanse, the human sense of time, of self, and of the other proves to be inextricably linked to imagination and to nature. By showing how imagination is formative for the very opening upon things and elements, this work points to the revealing power of poetic imagination and casts a new light on the nature of art.

John Sallis is Liberal Arts Professor of Philosophy at Pennsylvania State University. His previous books include Being and Logos: Reading the Platonic Dialogues; Shades—Of Painting at the Limit; Stone; Chorology: On Beginning in Plato’s Timaeus (all published by Indiana University Press), Crossings: Nietzsche and the Space of Tragedy and Double Truth.

Studies in Continental Thought—John Sallis, editor

Contents
Prolusions
On (Not Simply) Beginning
Remembrance
Duplicity of the Image
Spacing the Image
Tractive Imagination
The Elemental
Temporalities
Proprieties
Poetic Imagination

As synthetic biology transforms living matter into a medium for making, what is the role of design and its associated values?

Synthetic biology manipulates the stuff of life. For synthetic biologists, living matter is programmable material. In search of carbon-neutral fuels, sustainable manufacturing techniques, and innovative drugs, these researchers aim to redesign existing organisms and even construct completely novel biological entities. Some synthetic biologists see themselves as designers, inventing new products and applications. But if biology is viewed as a malleable, engineerable, designable medium, what is the role of design and how will its values apply?

In this book, synthetic biologists, artists, designers, and social scientists investigate synthetic biology and design. After chapters that introduce the science and set the terms of the discussion, the book follows six boundary-crossing collaborations between artists and designers and synthetic biologists from around the world, helping us understand what it might mean to 'design nature.' These collaborations have resulted in biological computers that calculate form; speculative packaging that builds its own contents; algae that feeds on circuit boards; and a sampling of human cheeses. They raise intriguing questions about the scientific process, the delegation of creativity, our relationship to designed matter, and, the importance of critical engagement. Should these projects be considered art, design, synthetic biology, or something else altogether?

Synthetic biology is driven by its potential; some of these projects are fictions, beyond the current capabilities of the technology. Yet even as fictions, they help illuminate, question, and even shape the future of the field.

In provocative detail with more than one hundred illustrations, critically acclaimed author Virginia Postrel separates glamour from glitz, revealing what qualities make a person, an object, a setting, or an experience glamorous.

What is it that creates that pleasurable pang of desire—the feeling of “if only”? If only I could wear those clothes, belong to that group, drive that car, live in that house, be (or be with) that person? Postrel identifies the three essential elements in all forms of glamour and explains how they work to create a distinctive sensation of projection and yearning.

The Power of Glamour is the very first book to explain what glamour really is—not just style or a personal quality but a phenomenon that reveals our inner lives and shapes our decisions, large and small. By embodying the promise of a different and better self in different and better circumstances, glamour stokes ambition and nurtures hope, even as it fosters sometimes-dangerous illusions.

From vacation brochures to military recruiting ads, from the Chrysler Building to the iPad, from political utopias to action heroines, Postrel argues that glamour is a seductive cultural force. Its magic stretches beyond the stereotypical spheres of fashion or film, influencing our decisions about what to buy, where to live, which careers to pursue, where to invest, and how to vote.

The result is myth shattering: a revelatory theory that explains how glamour became a powerful form of nonverbal persuasion, one that taps into our most secret dreams and deepest yearnings to influence our everyday choices.
Mimesis is one of the oldest, most fundamental concepts in Western aesthetics. This book offers a new, searching treatment of its long history at the center of theories of representational art: above all, in the highly influential writings of Plato and Aristotle, but also in later Greco-Roman philosophy and criticism, and subsequently in many areas of aesthetic controversy from the Renaissance to the twentieth century. Combining classical scholarship, philosophical analysis, and the history of ideas--and ranging across discussion of poetry, painting, and music--Stephen Halliwell shows with a wealth of detail how mimesis, at all stages of its evolution, has been a more complex, variable concept than its conventional translation of "imitation" can now convey.

Far from providing a static model of artistic representation, mimesis has generated many different models of art, encompassing a spectrum of positions from realism to idealism. Under the influence of Platonist and Aristotelian paradigms, mimesis has been a crux of debate between proponents of what Halliwell calls "world-reflecting" and "world-simulating" theories of representation in both the visual and musico-poetic arts. This debate is about not only the fraught relationship between art and reality but also the psychology and ethics of how we experience and are affected by mimetic art.


Moving expertly between ancient and modern traditions, Halliwell contends that the history of mimesis hinges on problems that continue to be of urgent concern for contemporary aesthetics.

The Philosophy of Art is a highly accessible introduction to current key issues and debates in aesthetics and philosophy of art. Chapters on standard topics are balanced by topics of interest to today's students, including creativity, authenticity, cultural appropriation, and the distinction between popular and fine art. Other topics include emotive expression, pictorial representation, definitional strategies, and artistic value. Presupposing no prior knowledge of philosophy, Theodore Gracyk draws on three decades of teaching experience to provide a balanced and engaging overview, clear explanations, and many thought-provoking examples.

All chapters have a strong focus on current debates in the field, yet historical figures are not neglected. Major current theories are set beside key ideas from Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Marx, and Hegel. Chapters conclude with advice on further readings, and there are recommendations of films that will serve as a basis for further reflection and discussion. Key ideas are immediately accompanied by exercises that will test students' reactions and understanding. Many chapters call attention to ideology, prejudices, and common clichés that interfere with clear thinking.

Beautifully written and thoroughly comprehensive, The Philosophy of Art is the ideal resource for anyone who wants to explore recent developments in philosophical thinking about the arts. It is also provides the perfect starting point for anyone who wants to reflect on, and challenge, their own assumptions about the nature and value of art.

What is the place of materiality—the expression or condition of physical substance—in our visual age of rapidly changing materials and media? How is it fashioned in the arts or manifested in virtual forms? In Surface, cultural critic and theorist Giuliana Bruno deftly explores these questions, seeking to understand materiality in the contemporary world.

Arguing that materiality is not a question of the materials themselves but rather the substance of material relations, Bruno investigates the space of those relations, examining how they appear on the surface of different media—on film and video screens, in gallery installations, or on the skins of buildings and people. The object of visual studies, she contends, goes well beyond the image and engages the surface as a place of contact between people and art objects. As Bruno threads through these surface encounters, she unveils the fabrics of the visual—the textural qualities of works of art, whether manifested on canvas, wall, or screen. Illuminating the modern surface condition, she notes how façades are becoming virtual screens and the art of projection is reinvented on gallery walls. She traverses the light spaces of artists Robert Irwin, James Turrell, Tacita Dean, and Anthony McCall; touches on the textured surfaces of Isaac Julien’s and Wong Kar-wai’s filmic screens; and travels across the surface materiality in the architectural practices of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Herzog & de Meuron to the art of Doris Salcedo and Rachel Whiteread, where the surface tension of media becomes concrete. In performing these critical operations on the surface, she articulates it as a site in which different forms of mediation, memory, and transformation can take place.

Surveying object relations across art, architecture, fashion, design, film, and new media, Surface is a magisterial account of contemporary visual culture.
A complete and original theory of aesthetics based on Marx and Althusser in the modernist Marxist anti-humanist tradition (Brecht, Althusser, Benjamin, Adorno). The main concepts that arise from this work are: the aesthetic level of practice, aesthetic state apparatuses, aesthetic interpellation, and pseudo dialectics, all of which are used to understand the role of aesthetic experience and its place in everyday life. - In the space long thought as necessary to fill spanning the gap between Marx and Freud, the author proposes that aesthetics can be located and defined in a concrete way. We are therefore looking at a domain involving and implicating feelings, affections, dispositions, sensibilities and sensuality, as well as their social role in art, tradition, ritual, and taboo. With the classic Marxist concepts of base and superstructure divided into levels, economic, ideological, and political, the aesthetic level of practice is the area that has traditionally been mostly either missing or mislocated and, especially perhaps, misrepresented for political reasons. The importance of this level is that it fuels and supports the media, or as Althusser described it the 'traffic' (or mediation) between base and superstructure, although for Althusser this was ideological traffic. Here, this is also defined as aesthetic. From this vantage point, we begin to be able to see aesthetic state apparatuses, analyse how they function, both in the past, historically (for example firstly in art history), and today, in the contemporary political context, to grasp the role that art and feelings, along with affective alienation, plays in our culture as a complete and, in fact, cyclical reciprocating system.

A theory of the neural bases of aesthetic experience across the arts, which draws on the tools of both cognitive neuroscience and traditional humanist inquiry.

In Feeling Beauty, G. Gabrielle Starr argues that understanding the neural underpinnings of aesthetic experience can reshape our conceptions of aesthetics and the arts. Drawing on the tools of both cognitive neuroscience and traditional humanist inquiry, Starr shows that neuroaesthetics offers a new model for understanding the dynamic and changing features of aesthetic life, the relationships among the arts, and how individual differences in aesthetic judgment shape the varieties of aesthetic experience.

Starr, a scholar of the humanities and a researcher in the neuroscience of aesthetics, proposes that aesthetic experience relies on a distributed neural architecture—a set of brain areas involved in emotion, perception, imagery, memory, and language. More important, it emerges from networked interactions, intricately connected and coordinated brain systems that together form a flexible architecture enabling us to develop new arts and to see the world around us differently. Focusing on the "sister arts" of poetry, painting, and music, Starr builds and tests a neural model of aesthetic experience valid across all the arts. Asking why works that address different senses using different means seem to produce the same set of feelings, she examines particular works of art in a range of media, including a poem by Keats, a painting by van Gogh, a sculpture by Bernini, and Beethoven's Diabelli Variations. Starr's innovative, interdisciplinary analysis is true to the complexities of both the physical instantiation of aesthetics and the realities of artistic representation.

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