TOWARD A UNIFIED FIELD IN AESTHETICS *

Walter Abell

The Journal of Aesthetics has recently published two articles of special value to those who are seeking to integrate the problems of art and aesthetics with the totality of modern thought. I refer to Douglas N. Morgan Psychology and Art Today: A Summary and Critique ( December 1950) and Thomas Munro Aesthetics as Science: Its Development in America ( March 1951).

Morgan reviewed recent psychological contributions to the understanding of art in terms of the psychoanalytical, the Gestalt, and the experimental approaches. He found significance in all of them, with the main theoretical gains going to psychoanalytical and Gestalt developments, and more limited practical benefits granted to experimental work in such fields as aptitude testing.

Morgan also pointed out what he considered to be certain limitations of each of the psychological approaches. Among these limitations he included the tendency of the experimentalists to accumulate data without reference to basic principles. "In the psychology of art we must imaginatively select in advance of experiment which factors, when correlated, will give us interesting and important results. This requires some hard thinking, some imagination, some kind of a theory, however tentative, some 'exploratory hypothesis.'"1 The article ends on the similar note that what is perhaps most needed in psychological aesthetics at the present time is thinking "on the level of fundamental theory."2

Morgan's survey brings the fields of art and psychology, at least as seen from the artistic point of view, into one comprehensive vista. Munro, in the second article mentioned above, directs our attention to even wider horizons. He suggests possibilities of interrelationship, not only between art and psychology, but also between them and other current developments of thought. Among the latter he notes the new universality of outlook made possible by our familiarity with the arts of all ages and of many varieties of culture, and the new instruments for interpretation offered by the social sciences.

Like Morgan, Munro urges, indeed several times reiterates,

____________________
*
[From The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vos l. X, No. 3 ( March 1952). Reprinted by permission of The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.]

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