Contemplating Art: Essays in Aesthetics
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Contemplating Art is a compendium of writings from the last ten years by one of the leading figures in aesthetics, Jerrold Levinson. The twenty-four essays range over issues in general aesthetics and those relating to specific arts--in particular music, film, and literature. It will appeal not only to philosophers but also to musicologists, literary theorists, art critics, and reflective lovers of the arts.
to exist. But I do not, when reading Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, take Smerdyakov to exist, and so cannot strictly be viewing or conceiving him as having properties, such as being base or being a murderer. And though my evaluative Smerdyakov-thoughts, generated as I read, may largely be what causes my hateful response, directed ostensibly at him, for that response strictly to have him as its object, and so count clearly as an instance of hatred of Smerdyakov, requires, once more, that I
production of a series of related works, then later works, however similar, do not partake of that achievement and do not exhibit that ⁶ This observation, which I owe to Richard Wollheim, abstracts from purely extrinsic or strategic considerations, such as might induce an artist to make a work a certain way to please a patron, to secure a commission, or to annoy a rival. In a sense, an artist in such cases is making a work the way he wants it to be, but not for its own sake; in other words, he is
to select within constraints has no aesthetic justiﬁcation . . . by removing choice rather than restricting it one destroys creativity rather than enhances it. (246) This strikes me as a fairly uncomprehending reaction to Cage’s work as an artist, however one rates that work in the last analysis. Cage’s creativity manifests itself, in part, in the astonishing variety of evocative means he devised to circumvent the operation of human choice at the level of sound selection, in the name of an
comporting himself in that way, what emotion is it likely he was feeling? However, perhaps it is the case that faced with such a passage we do not theorize in this manner, even subconsciously, in the aim of inferring what the music’s expressiveness must be, but that we rather try to imagine ourselves in the place of the music, that we assume as our own the musical gestures we hear the passage to be suffused with, as a consequence of which we ﬁnd ourselves feeling, in imagination, such and such
regarding-as-awork-of-art, i.e. regard in any way preexisting or prior artworks are or were correctly regarded’ (p. 24). ¹² But, it may be asked, what if Jones does intend that those other sorts of regards be taken to his act as well, those for which those ancient temples and tragedies were also intended? In that The Irreducible Historicality of the Concept of Art 17 ways of regarding art itself misﬁres. Integral ensembles of regards appropriate to past artworks in fact never become obsolete,