Approach to Aesthetics: Collected Papers on Philosophical Aesthetics

Approach to Aesthetics: Collected Papers on Philosophical Aesthetics

Approach to Aesthetics: Collected Papers on Philosophical Aesthetics

Approach to Aesthetics: Collected Papers on Philosophical Aesthetics

Synopsis

Approach to Aesthetics is the complete collection of Frank Sibley's articles on philosophical aesthetics. Their appearance within a single volume will be welcome to scholars and students of aesthetics. The value of the book is greatly enhanced by the inclusion of five substantial paperswritten in his later years and hitherto unpublished. Most of the published papers are concerned with a group of related topics: the nature of aesthetic qualities and their relation to non-aesthetic qualities, the relation of aesthetic description to aesthetic evaluation, the different levels ofevaluation, the objectivity of aesthetic judgement. The later papers constitute both a continuation and a significant development of Sibley's individual approach to aesthetics. One group of papers discusses the distinction between attributive and predicative uses of adjectives, first elucidating thedistinction, and then considering its application to 'beautiful' and 'ugly'. Another major paper is an extensive study of the aesthetic significance of tastes and smells, a topic Sibley considered to be much neglected, whose examination could throw interesting light on the boundaries of the conceptof the aesthetic. This collection constitutes a wide ranging yet coherent account of aesthetics by one of the most acute philosophical minds of his generation, one which is and will continue to be a source of controversy and a model of analytical method.

Excerpt

The remarks we make about works of art are of many kinds. For the purpose of this paper I wish to indicate two broad groups. I shall do this by examples. We say that a novel has a great number of characters and deals with life in a manufacturing town; that a painting uses pale colours, predominantly blues and greens, and has kneeling figures in the foreground; that the theme in a fugue is inverted at such a point and that there is a stretto at the close; that the action of a play takes place in the span of one day and that there is a reconciliation scene in the fifth act. Such remarks may be made by, and such features pointed out to, anyone with normal eyes, ears, and intelligence. On the other hand, we also say that a poem is tightly-knit or deeply moving; that a picture lacks balance, or has a certain serenity and repose, or that the grouping of the figures sets up an exciting tension; that the characters in a novel never really come to life, or that a certain episode strikes a false note. It would be natural enough to say that the making of such judgements as these requires the exercise of taste, perceptiveness, or sensitivity, of aesthetic discrimination or appreciation; one would not say this of my first group. Accordingly, when a word or expression is such that taste or perceptiveness is required in order to apply it, I shall call it an aesthetic term or expression, and I shall, correspondingly, speak of aesthetic concepts or taste concepts.

Aesthetic terms span a great range of types and could be grouped into various kinds and sub-species. But it is not my present purpose to attempt any such grouping; I am interested in what they all have in common. Their almost endless variety is adequately displayed in the following list: unified, balanced, integrated, lifeless, serene, sombre, dynamic, powerful, vivid, delicate, moving, trite, sentimental, tragic. The list of course is not limited to adjectives; expressions in artistic contexts like telling contrast, sets up a tension, conveys a sense of, or holds it . . .

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