cover image The Experience of Beauty: Seven Essays and a Dialogue

The Experience of Beauty: Seven Essays and a Dialogue

Harry Underwood. McGill-Queen's University Press, $29.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-7735-4801-5

In this essay collection, Underwood aims to define beauty as a functional experience that shapes people's daily lives, as well as a philosophical concept with meaning that can enrich human development. He believes that subjectivity muddles beauty as an experience, rendering it hard for people to know it when they see it. "Our sense of beauty," he writes, "reflects what we have already managed to make of ourselves... and it will in turn contribute to shaping us." Throughout these essays, Underwood ruminates over art as an expression of beauty. He also examines how Nietzsche and Plato, despite their differences across time and thought, both contended that beauty transcended mere pleasure because it facilitated self-transformation. He finishes his study with a review of beauty as expressed by Marcel Proust, followed by a discussion of the idea of inner beauty. "Beauty enhances life not as an ornament but as an inspiration," he notes, summing up the theme of his book. Underwood's writing is clear, even whimsical at times, and despite the somewhat esoteric subject matter, this book should appeal to sophisticated readers with an interest in philosophy. (Oct.)