All collections such as this one are incomplete, otherwise they would have to be encyclopedic series of books; and they are biased, otherwise they would be without any particular principle of organization or they would constitute a smörgaþsbord sampling of every "going" position. The limitation of this anthology is evident in the absence of "definitive" positions. There is a minimum number of essays here in which questions of the form "What is so-and-so?" are asked and then categorically answered. Most of the material demonstrates the hypothetical nature of its propositions and tries only to work out some of the implications that may be tested. This characteristic is surely related to the bias of the collection, namely, a pragmatic attitude more concerned with the formulation of problems, and examination of conditions for future solutions, than with the construction of mausoleums for past achievements. If this volume is to be satisfactory as a representation of aesthetics today, it must consist primarily of such arguments as express the issues currently stimulating the minds of philosophers, historians, and critics interested in achieving a better understanding of art.
One consequence of this partiality is that instead of bits and pieces by a vast number of writers, only twenty selections are included here, and each of them, whether originally an independent essay, or a book chapter, is presented in its entirety. Another consequence is that this book of aesthetics is not a collection of writings by philosophers alone but by historians, critics of music, literature, and painting, and social scientists as well. Although aesthetics, strictly speaking, is a philosophic discipline, in practice, significant contributions to the theory of art are often made by non-professional philosophers. This is obviously as much a consequence of the haphazard training of most philosophers as it is evidence of the general nature of questions with which practitioners in other "fields" must also concern themselves.
The collection is organized to deal with the following topics: relations between the arts and general cultural purposes; relations between form and content with respect to the concept of style; problems involved in applying ideas of expression and communication to interpreting works of art; relations between art and the nature of knowledge; problems involved in the application of psychological and psychoanalytic hypotheses to the study of art; and lastly, issues currently under active consideration within aesthetics as a philosophic discipline. The editor's comments and notes are found in the introductions to the separate sections.