Review of Metaphysics 48 (1):166-168 (1994)

Daniel Dahlstrom
Boston University
This engaging work presents a persuasive argument for placing a morally populist and somatic pragmatism at the center, not only of aesthetics and art, but also of what the author calls "the aesthetic life." In the opening chapter the author begins by situating pragmatist aesthetics in its philosophical context, chiefly through a contrast with analytic aesthetics. Casting the contrast as a renewal of the quarrel between Kantians and Hegelians, the author elaborates the fundamental opposition of analytic aesthetics to Dewey's naturalistic, instrumental, and self-consciously evaluational view of aesthetics, his emphasis on the centrality of art and its profound continuity with science and life in all the historico-political and socio-economic richness of the latter, his refusal to countenance an undemocratic distinction between high and low art, and finally, his insistence on privileging the aesthetic experience over the material object identified as the work of art. The contrast is deepened in the second chapter as the author argues that the currently regnant and supposedly neutral definition of art as a distinct historical practice collapses into art history, naively leaving the question of value to the inner arbitration of the art world and thereby iterating the forced separation of practice and aesthetic experience. Though the author contends that pragmatist aesthetics overcomes these shortcomings, he acknowledges that the reconstructive definition of art as experience, at least as Dewey formulates it, seems "obscurely elusive" and its revisionary aims "too quixotically ambitious". The author attempts to counter these objections by stressing that the definition is meant, not to provide criteria for judgment and not to effect a sweeping reclassification of art, but to enhance and expedite experience. In this respect, however, the author emphasizes how his project "differs from its Deweyan source". Instead of trying to effect a change through a global redefinition of art, his aim is "to make a more specific case for widening art's borders to forms of popular culture and to the ethical art of fashioning one's life". The second chapter concludes with an effective rebuttal of the challenge that theory in general, including that of a nonfoundationalist pragmatist aesthetics, is impotent and impossible.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph1994481126
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Experience as Art.Sor-Hoon Tan - 1999 - Asian Philosophy 9 (2):107 – 122.

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