Research What Are You Reading...On Aesthetics

What Are You Reading…On Aesthetics

Earlier today I read an article in The Guardian about a movie premier at Cannes. The film in question, called The House that Jack Built, is about a serial killer and features several gruesome scenes of child and animal torture. Numerous people walked out, with one saying afterward “seeing children being shot and killed is not art or entertainment.” This caught my eye, as I believe that art, like philosophy, is constantly redefining itself. While it is not entertaining to see children shot and killed, I don’t think it is possible to say that such is not and could not be art. The number of times what was ‘not art’ became ‘art’ is significant, as is the list of art that deals with morbid and gruesome subjects (e.g. Philip Guston).

The field of aesthetics would seem to have an endless task in understanding and interpreting a body of work that will never stay the same. Yet this does not mean its work is thankless, for it provides lots of important insights into how humans deal with the world using the non-conceptual. As a philosopher, I have at times felt like the works of Plato, Kant, Nietzsche and others were more elegantly summed up in a piece of art than in the many pages they each wrote. So just as artists often seek inspiration for their works in academic disciplines like ours, we should at times meditate on their work. Here are some papers to get you started.

See the Routledge APA member page for more books on Aesthetics. APA members get a 20% discount on all books.


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  1. Interested in aesthetics? Please join us at the American Society for Aesthetics. Membership includes the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Extensive resources on our web site.

  2. One of my favorite books on aesthetics is Elaine Scarry’s “On Beauty and Being Just”. She takes an interesting approach to beauty – seeking to mend beauty and ethic’s frequent and repeated opposition to one another. It’s short and sweet, and also dips into the epistemology of beauty as well. I highly recommend it!


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