Dessoir, Max

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Dessoir, Max

Max Dessoir (mäx dĕswär,´), 1867–1947, German philosopher. He earned doctorates from the universities of Berlin (philosophy, 1889) and Würtzburg (medicine, 1892). He was a professor at Berlin from 1897 until 1933, when the Nazis forbade him to teach. He worked mainly in the area of aesthetics, trying to foster a general science of great art. Dessoir understood an aesthetic object to be one occurring either in nature or in art, the parts of which are related to each other with an intensity beyond that of normal experience. He defined five primary forms of aesthetic experience: beauty, ugliness, comedy, tragedy, and the sublime. He saw the role of art as moral an social and regarded "art for art's sake" as a futile and fatuous maxim. Dessoir was also interested in parapsychology. Among his few works translated into English are Outlines of the History of Psychology (tr. 1912) and Aesthetics and Theory of Art (tr. 1970).

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