The Sense of Beauty: Being the Outline of Aesthetic Theory

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Courier Corporation, 1955 - Crafts & Hobbies - 275 pages
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From antiquity to the present, many have written on the subject of beauty, but precious few have done so with the capacity themselves to write beautifully. The Sense of Beauty is that rare exception. This remarkable early work of the great American philosopher, George Santayana, features a quality of prose that is as wondrous as what he had to say. Indeed, his summation remains a flawless classical statement. "Beauty seems to be the clearest manifestation of perfection, and the best evidence of its possibility. If perfection is, as it should be, the ultimate justification of being, we may understand the ground of the moral dignity of beauty. Be'auty is a pledge of the possible conformity between the soul and nature, and consequently a ground of faith in the supremacy of the good." The editor of this new edition, John McGormick, reminds us that The Sense of Beauty is the first work in aesthetics written in the United States. Santayana was versed in the history of his subject, from Plato and Aristotle to Schopenhauer and Taine in the nineteenth century. Santayana took as his task a complete rethinking of the idea that beauty is embedded in objects. Rather beauty is an emotion, a value, and a sense of the good. In this, aesthetics was unlike ethics: not a correction of evil or pursuit of the virtuous. Rather it is a pleasure that resides in the sense of self. The work is divided into chapters on the materials of beauty, form and expression. A good many of Santayana's later works are presaged by this early effort. And this volume also anticipates the development of art as a movement as well as a value apart from other aspects of life. The work is written without posturing, without hectoring. Santayana is nonetheless able to give expression to strong views. His preferences are made perfectly plain. Perhaps the key is a powerful belief that beauty is an adornment not a material necessity. But that does mean art is trivial. Quite the contrary, the good life is precisely the extent to which such "adornments" as painting, poetry or music come to define the lives of individuals and civilizations alike. This is, in short, a major work that can still inform and move us a century after its first composition.
 

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Contents

THE NATURE OF BEAUTY
11
Preference is ultimately irrational
13
Contrast between moral and ęsthetic
16
Work and play
17
All values are in one sense ęsthetic
19
Ęsthetic consecration of general principles
21
Ęsthetic and physical pleasure
23
The differentia of ęsthetic pleasure not its disinterestedness
24
Illusion of infinite perfection
90
Organized nature the source of apperceptive forms example of sculpture
94
Utility the principle of organization in nature
96
The relation of utility to beauty
97
Utility the principle of organization in the arts
99
Form and adventitious ornament
101
Form in words
103
Syntactical form
105

The differentia of ęsthetic pleasure not its universality
26
The differetia of ęsthetic pleasure its objectification
28
The definition of beauty
31
THE MATERIALS OF BEAUTY
35
The influence of the passion of love
37
Social instincts and their ęsthetic influence
40
The lower senses
42
Sound
44
Colour
46
Materials surveyed
48
FORM
53
Physiology of the perception of form
55
Values of geometrical figures
57
Symmetry
58
Form the unity of a manifold
61
Multiplicity in uniformity
62
Example of the stars
64
Defects of pure multiplicity
67
Ęsthetics of democracy
69
Values of types and values of examples
71
Origin of types
73
The average modified in the direction of pleasure
76
Are all things beautiful?
79
Effects of indeterminate organization
82
Example of landscape
83
Extensions to objects usually not regarded ęsthetically
86
Further dangers of indeterminateness
88
Literary form The plot
107
Character as an ęsthetic form
109
Ideal characters
111
The religious imagination
114
EXPRESSION
119
The associative process
122
Kinds of value in the second term
124
Ęsthetic value in the second term
127
Practical value in the same
128
Cost as an element of effect
130
The expression of economy and fitness
132
The authority of morals over ęsthetics
134
Negative values in the second term
136
Influence of the first term in the pleasing expression in evil
139
Mixture of the expressions including that of truth
140
The liberation of self
143
The sublime independent of the expression of evil
146
The comic
150
Wit
153
Humour
155
The grotesque
156
The possibility of finite perfection
158
The stability of the ideal
160
Conclusion
162
INDEX
165
Copyright

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About the author (1955)

A gentle philosopher-poet, born and reared in Spain, educated at Harvard University and later professor of philosophy there, George Santayana resided in England, France, and Italy after 1914. At the beginning of World War II, he entered the nursing home in Rome managed by nuns known as the Blue Sisters and remained there until his death. His last book, The Poet's Testament (1953), contains a few unpublished lyrics, several translations, and two plays in blank verse. The title comes from the poem read at his funeral, which begins: "I give back to the earth what the earth gave/All to the furrow, nothing to the grave." Santayana wrote philosophy in an inimitable prose, enriched with imagery and metaphor. His meanings were always complex and often ironic. In this style, so untypical of the professionalized philosophy common in the English-speaking world during his lifetime, Santayana nevertheless articulated an epistemological critical realism and an ontology of essence and matter that drew the attention and admiration of philosophers and scholars. His first published philosophical book, The Sense of Beauty (1896), was an important contribution in aesthetics, a classic text that is still in use. His multivolume work The Life of Reason expresses his naturalistic philosophy of history and culture. It states the essence of his attitude toward nature, life, and society. Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923) presents his theory of knowledge and also serves as an introduction to his system of philosophy, Realms of Being (1927--40). The titles of the separate volumes of this remarkable work, now out of print, reveal the lineaments of his system: Realm of Essence (1927), Realm of Matter (1930), Realm of Truth (1937), and Realm of Spirit (1940). His ideas were "popularized" in his only novel, The Last Puritan, which became a surprise bestseller overnight. According to the New York Times, "He came into a changing American scene with a whole group of concepts that enormously enriched our thinking. He gave a moving vitality to what had often been obscure abstractions . . . he made the whole relationship of reason and beauty, each to the other, come alive and stay alive." Although Santayana's Complete Poems (1975) is out of print, several volumes of his poetry are available and are listed below. Publication of The Complete Works of George Santayana, under the general editorship of Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr., is in progress. Conforming to the guidelines of a critical edition, The Complete Works is a long-range multivolume project of which a few volumes have already appeared to critical acclaim.

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