THE ABUSE OF BEAUTY: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art

Arthur Coleman Danto, Author . Open Court $29.95 (167p) ISBN 978-0-8126-9539-7 ISBN 978-0-8126-9540-3

Charting the disappearance of beauty as a primary artistic value in the 20th century, Danto (The Transfiguration of the Commonplace, etc.) offers a hot-and-cold mix of philosophical musings and autobiographical reflections that attempt to restore a place for beauty as an "option for art" and a "necessary condition for life as we would want to live it." To that end, the veteran art critic and Columbia University philosopher discusses and, at various points, disagrees with Hume, Kant and Hegel, building a view of beauty as one among many modes through which artworks may present thoughts to human sensibility. He distinguishes between natural and artistic beauty, between beauty and sublimity, and between beauty internal to an artwork and external to it. Although Danto clearly defines an artwork as an "embodied meaning," he does not as clearly define what he means by beauty, making much of his discussion unnecessarily vague. It is also unnecessarily meandering, too often feeling like notes from assorted lectures, which is how most of the chapters originated. "Read it as an adventure story," he says, "with a few philosophical arguments and distinctions [brought back] as trophies." But good adventure stories need a strong narrative, and there isn't one here. Still, there are trophies: philosophical insights of genuine value to anyone interested in beauty, art or the connections between the two. (July)

Reviewed on: 05/26/2003
Release date: 07/01/2003
Hardcover - 167 pages - 978-0-8126-9539-7
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