Aesthetics: The Problem of Art and Beauty

IN recent writing on aesthetics there has been a tendency to discard the word beauty as too abstract or too identified with value supposedly already given and there in the world, instead of needing to be worked out in a work of art. Also against using beauty as the term for what is sought in art is the fact that art may present something painful or ugly, even when successful and admired. The beautiful then may seem to belong with the pretty, the sweet, the weak, rather than with the impact of art. Sometimes beauty means simply what is good in art, however divorced from what is appealing in life at first hand. But the fact that concern with aesthetics continues to be regarded as interest in beauty as well as in art, suggests that a distinction between them still holds, and that it indicates a break or bridge between value in and value out of art. Yet aesthetics is chiefly occupied with art, because beauty found elsewhere seems relatively easy and obvious, answering automatically to the fancy of the natural man or the conventional mind. Beauty aside from art becomes important to the aesthetician then only secondarily to questions of art, when he is struck by aspects of nature or life as analogous to what is of interest in art.

This essay consequently will focus on art, with the help of some of those who have been thinking most effectively about it. The conviction here is that the value of art is closely related to what is valued in life, that art is an enhancement of the heightening that gives zest to living in any case.

The organic unity of art must be acknowledged first and last. But understanding of it is helped by analytical distinctions that do not constitute or even correspond to existential cleavages. When the work of art is theoretically split into sensuous stuff, formal arrangement, and association, the emphasis may be put upon any of the three divisions, though some account must be given of the other two. The first has been stressed by Guyau,

-34-

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American Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents vii
  • List of Contributors ix
  • Introduction - Orientation of Thought xi
  • Suggested Readings xviii
  • Part I - Fields and Problems of American Philosophy 1
  • The Philosophy of Science: The Problem of Factual Truth 3
  • Suggested Readings 19
  • Axiology: the Problem Of Human Values 21
  • Suggested Readings 33
  • Aesthetics: the Problem of Art And Beauty 34
  • Suggested Readings 47
  • Ethics: the Problem of Morality 49
  • Suggested Readings 63
  • Semantics: the Problem Of Meaning 64
  • Suggested Readings 82
  • Logic: the Problem of Reasoning 84
  • Suggested Readings 97
  • Metaphysics: the Problems Of Knowledge and Existence 98
  • Suggested Readings 113
  • Philosophy of Religion: The Problem of Faith 114
  • Suggested Readings 127
  • Part II - Sources and Choices of Philosophy 129
  • Transcendentalism 131
  • Suggested Readings 137
  • Idealism 138
  • Suggested Readings 146
  • Thomism 147
  • Suggested Readings 154
  • Personalism 155
  • Suggested Readings 161
  • Pragmatism 162
  • Suggested Readings 171
  • Humanism 172
  • Suggested Readings 182
  • Logical Positivism 183
  • Suggested Readings 191
  • Realism 193
  • Suggested Readings 202
  • Naturalism 203
  • Suggested Readings 210
  • Oriental Philosophy in America 211
  • Part III - American Thinkers 221
  • American Thought: A Chart 223
  • William Penn 227
  • Samuel Johnson 230
  • Jonathan Edwards 233
  • Benjamin Franklin 235
  • Thomas Paine 238
  • Thomas Jefferson 241
  • Benjamin Rush 244
  • William Ellery Channing 247
  • John Caldwell Calhoun 250
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson 253
  • Abraham Lincoln 256
  • Henry David Thoreau 259
  • Walt Whitman 262
  • Robert Green Ingersoll 265
  • Charles Sanders Peirce 268
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 271
  • John Fiske 274
  • William James 277
  • Ambrose Bierce 280
  • Borden Parker Bowne 283
  • Josiah Royce 285
  • John Dewey 288
  • George Santayana 291
  • Morris Raphael Cohen 294
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt 297
  • Suggested Readings 300
  • Conclusion 303
  • Index 311
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