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The Aesthetics of Everyday Life

The Aesthetics of Everyday Life

Andrew Light
Jonathan M. Smith
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Aesthetics of Everyday Life
    Book Description:

    This book, a collection of newly commissioned essays by leading environmental philosophers, was originally to be published by Seven Bridges, a small scholarly press started by former editors at Stanford University Press. Seven Bridges is folding due to poor financing, and this book is now available. It is already in pages, with a cover design, and each chapter has been double-blind peer-reviewed and revised. Andrew Light is a professor of applied philosophy at NYU and a possible editor for a series in environmental philosophy.

    The aesthetics of everyday life, originally developed by Henri Lefebvre and other modernist theorists, is an extension of traditional aesthetics, usually confined to works of art. It is not limited to the study of humble objects but is rather concerned with all of the undeniably aesthetic experiences that arise when one contemplates objects or performs acts that are outside the traditional realm of aesthetics. It is concerned with the nature of the relationship between subject and object.

    One significant aspect of everyday aesthetics is environmental aesthetics, whether constructed, as a building, or manipulated, as a landscape. Others, also discussed in the book, include sport, weather, smell and taste, and food.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50935-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xviii)
    Jonathan M. Smith

    Our subject matter is everyday aesthetics, both as an extension beyond the traditional domain of the philosophical study of aesthetics, usually confined to more conventionally understood works of art, and as a step into a new arena of aesthetic inquiry—the broader world itself. This introduction summarizes the contents of the papers that follow, aiming to guide the reader on the common themes arising in the chapters and explaining the reasoning behind the organization of the volume.

    The chapters in the first section of this book make general arguments for application of aesthetic criticism to objects and events that have...

  5. I. Theorizing the Aesthetics of the Everyday

    • Chapter 1 The Nature of Everyday Aesthetics
      (pp. 3-22)
      Tom Leddy

      What is everyday aesthetics? It would be a mistake to take the term everyday too literally. A musician who practices and plays every day can justly say that her everyday aesthetic experience is mainly connected with music. A naturalist could similarly say that his everyday aesthetic experience is of nature. Yet when we talk about everyday aesthetic experience, we are thinking of aesthetic issues that are not connected closely with the fine arts or with the natural environment, or with other areas that form well-established aesthetic domains, for example, the aesthetics of mathematics, science, or religion. We are thinking instead...

    • Chapter 2 Ideas for a Social Aesthetic
      (pp. 23-38)
      Arnold Berleant

      Beauty and other aesthetic satisfactions have long been valued as inveterately personal matters. Persons, of course, are at the center of experience, and our pleasures and our pains are personal, even though they occur as part of situations that involve other things and perhaps other people. We can recount them to others, recommend the occasions that evoked them, and form judgments of taste. But as Kant reluctantly concluded, any claim for universality is logically only an assumption and volitionally but a hope.

      There can be no rule according to which anyone is to be forced to recognize anything as beautiful....

    • Chapter 3 On the Aesthetics of the Everyday: Familiarity, Strangeness, and the Meaning of Place
      (pp. 39-55)
      Arto Haapala

      One of the most recent developments in philosophical aesthetics has been the extension of the field of inquiry. Not long ago, the term “aesthetics” was being used as a synonym for “philosophy of the arts,” and even now, when reading recent introductions to aesthetics, the emphasis lies so firmly in the problems of art that other areas of aesthetic interest—nature and everyday objects—are hardly even mentioned.¹ The dominance of the high arts is still obvious, and considering the tradition of aesthetics and problems of art during our century, it is understandable. In the history of aesthetics, however, it...

    • Chapter 4 Danto and Baruchello: From Art to the Aesthetics of the Everyday
      (pp. 56-70)
      Michael A. Principe

      in this chapter I will examine the aesthetics of everyday life by beginning from the perspective of art and the artworld. Two very different figures will play important roles in this discussion. One is Arthur Danto. Specifically, I will argue that reflection upon the aesthetics of the everyday will allow us to see the limitations, both conceptual and political, of his well-known neo-Hegelian reading of the history of art. Danto’s thesis with regard to the end of art history, involving the idea that art is finally liberated from its exile by philosophy, is richly suggestive of an aesthetics of the...

  6. II. Appreciating the Everyday Environment

    • Chapter 5 Building and the Naturally Unplanned
      (pp. 73-91)
      Pauline von Bonsdorff

      In the contexts of planning and building, architecture is mostly approached as an intentionally designed body of objects, expressive of commissioners’ and planners’ views of society and of their aesthetic ideals. Legitimate as that approach is, it makes us forget those elements of the built environment that are not the result of decision-making. As experienced, the environment is also dependent on elements that are independent of human intentions, such as topography, climate, and weather. Although these are variable, they are always present, in one version or another. These “naturally unplanned” elements are not only present in the built environments between...

    • Chapter 6 What Is the Correct Curriculum for Landscape?
      (pp. 92-108)
      Allen Carlson

      In his classic work, The Sense of Beauty, aesthetician, philosopher, and poet George Santayana characterizes the landscape as follows:

      The natural landscape is an indeterminate object; it almost always contains enough diversity to allow the eye a great liberty in selecting, emphasizing, and grouping its elements, and it is furthermore rich in suggestion and in vague emotional stimulus. A landscape to be seen has to be composed . . . then we feel that the landscape is beautiful. . . . This is a beauty dependent on reverie, fancy, and objectified emotion. The promiscuous natural landscape cannot be enjoyed in...

    • Chapter 7 Wim Wenders’s Everyday Aesthetics
      (pp. 109-132)
      Andrew Light

      An inquiry into the aesthetics of everyday life tempts a normatively social as well as a more purely aesthetic form of inquiry. For if we can argue that the world around us is beautiful or not, then we beg the question of whether we want to live in a world configured so that it preserves and respects that beauty, or else goes on indifferent to it. In this chapter I explore this intuition with respect to the representation of an aesthetics of the everyday, with strong social (even moral) overtones, in the work of the German filmmaker Wim Wenders.¹ In...

  7. III. Finding the Everyday Aesthetic

    • Chapter 8 Sport Viewed Aesthetically, and Even as Art?
      (pp. 135-155)
      Wolfgang Welsch

      There is no doubt that contemporary sport shows a highly aesthetic constitution—it can even be taken as a paradigm example of today’s aestheticization.¹ But perhaps one could go further and not only connect sport with aesthetics but even consider it to be art.

      Intuitively, it seems clear that sport isn’t art. Although most people would agree with the idea that contemporary sport is highly aesthetic, very few—if any—would say that sport is art. But when I started examining the arguments for sport’s exclusion from the sphere of art I found myself—to my surprise—in ongoing trouble....

    • Chapter 9 The Aesthetics of Weather
      (pp. 156-176)
      Yuriko Saito

      In the modern Western aesthetic practice, an aesthetic object is typically identified as a work of art. The experience of art does constitute a very significant and prominent aspect of the aesthetic life for many of us. We also invest a lot of time and energy not only to creating some works of art ourselves but also to developing and improving our artistic literacy through formalized disciplines and institutionalized practices such as art history, music theory, literary criticism, as well as philosophical aesthetics. But our experience of art, facilitated by these discourses, tends to stand out from our everyday life....

    • Chapter 10 Sniffing and Savoring: The Aesthetics of Smells and Tastes
      (pp. 177-193)
      Emily Brady

      Sniffing and savoring constitute not only a fundamental route to sensory awareness of our environment, but they also contribute to defining the quality and character of people, places, and events, as illustrated by Tom Robbins in the lines above. Despite their significance in our lives, however, smells and tastes are a neglected subject in aesthetics.¹ This stems from the belief that these senses are improper objects of aesthetic appreciation, a belief that can be traced in part to the philosophical legacy of a distinction between the higher and lower pleasures. A more general reason for the neglect of these senses...

    • Chapter 11 How Can Food Be Art?
      (pp. 194-212)
      Glenn Kuehn

      Food is art; I am convinced that this is true. Problems arise, of course, when I try to convince others just how food can be art. This project is difficult because food typically has not been considered an art form, and it certainly is not often seen as equal to others genres such as painting, sculpture, and music. In her book, Food for Thought (FT), Elizabeth Telfer takes on this challenge and contexualizes food as art through evaluation and classification.¹ Telfer uses the notion of reaction for aesthetic evaluation and a modest institutional theory for artistic classification, and concludes that...

  8. About the Authors
    (pp. 213-216)
  9. Index
    (pp. 217-224)