'A concern for beauty would certainly make us better shapers of the world.' - Roger ScrutonThe idea of beauty is highly conflicted terrain. Does it only have to do with how things look? Is it merely prettiness? Is it entirely subjective? Does it serve a function?Historically, beauty has been held in high esteem: 'beauty is truth, truth beauty,' the poet Keats wrote. Why then do the high priests of the arts and the arguably progressive socio-political thinkers of the day shun it? Shakti Maira explains how the problem lies with the confused understanding of beauty and with beauty becoming superficially located: quite literally, on the skin. What would happen, he asks, if beauty were to become central to every aspect of our lives: environment, education, economics and governance? Maira engages eighteen eminent thinkers in a series of conversations around the difficult, enthralling notion of beauty.Scientists explore whether there is an evolutionary purpose to it. Philosophers examine its relationship to truth and goodness. Artists speak of beauty and its rejection. Brain-mind experts consider whether the experience of it strengthens certain neural pathways connected with the qualities of balance, harmony, rhythm and proportion. Activists probe how beauty works in the context of social systems. What emerges is a deeper understanding of beauty and how it is a key to our world: a radical new way of evaluating problems and finding solutions, from the personal to the political, the individual to the universal.
About the author
Shakti Maira is a critically acclaimed artist-philosopher whose work has been widely exhibited and is in the collections of the National Gallery of Modern Art in India and in private collections around the world. He speaks and writes on art, aesthetics and culture in India and abroad, and has contributed essays to three anthologies: Transmissions and Transformations edited by Kapila Vatsyayan, The Cult of the Goddess edited by Arputha Rani Sengupta, and Artistic Visions and the Promise of Beauty, which he co-edited with Kathleen Higgins and Sonia Sikka. In 2005, he helped organize the 'Learning through the Arts in Asia' symposium in New Delhi and was invited by UNESCO to formulate the 'Asian Vision of Arts in Education: Learning through the Arts'. In 2012, he co-organized an international conference, 'The End of Art and the Promise of Beauty', held in New Delhi. His first book, Towards Ananda: Rethinking Indian Art and Aesthetics (2006) focused on contemporary art and its place in the emerging global art scene. The Promise of Beauty and Why It Matters is his second book. .