[Videolib] [Fwd: short review of AESTHETICS - philosophy of the arts]

Steve Fesenmaier (fesenms@wvlc.lib.wv.us)
Mon, 01 Mar 2004 09:32:46 -0500

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Aesthetics: Philosophy of the Arts
a short review by Steve Fesenmaier

Films for the Humanities and Sciences have produced a new series of
documentaries about philosophy under the guidance of Rutgers philosopher
Colin McGinn. This is the first episode. I have been waiting to preview
the film since last fall when I planned on showing it at the Green Bank
Public Library in either October or November as part of the Pocahontas
County Free Libraries’ announcement of their being given the National
Library Service Award, one of three public libraries in the US.

The film is an excellent introduction to the Western tradition of
thinking about aesthetics, rightfully starting with Plato and Aristotle.
Two leading philosophers – Arthur Danto and Alexander Nehamas – give
most of the commentary, not necessarily with the most precise summaries.
Luckily the narrators do an excellent job at presenting the outline of
2,500 years of thinking on this important subject.

I was very glad to see that Hegel and Nietzsche were given their proper
places – along with Kant of course. I was also glad that some of 20th
century thought on art was presented, given the time constraint. I wish
that Danto could have discussed Picasso’s importance to 20th century art
more than John Cage and Warhol, important as they were to post-WW II
art. Neither expert discussed the vast importance of structuralism and
other European theories of art that have dominated art in the last few
decades of the 20th century, giving Wittgenstein importance I was
unaware he had in aesthetics.

The reason may be that since WWII Anglo-American thinkers have played a
much smaller role in global aesthetics than European thinkers starting
with Sartre and many French philosophers with Derrida currently being
the most famous de-constructionist.
Perhaps Films for the Humanities and Sciences plans on making a separate
film on just this subject.

I also think that both Danto and Nehamas are right to point out that
artists themselves have become the main philosophers of aesthetics in
our age – the “meta-age.” Since Picasso and before almost all great
artists have had to ask themselves new questions given the era of
reproduction – print, photography, film, etc. I wish that they could
have squeezed in a few of the great computer and/or filmic thinkers of
our age like Godard and McLuhan. But this film serves as a quick intro
to the foundations of Western aesthetics – and that is enough for any
hour-long film.

One further note – I think that the production company was Italian, and
the fine graphics used were unusual for an American educational film
production. Congrats to FHS for using their services.

Aesthetics: Philosophy of the Arts

This program examines Western philosophy’s engagement with visual and
performing arts. The ideas of key figures in the shaping and
understanding of aesthetics—Plato, Joseph Addison, Francis Hutcheson,
Lord Shaftesbury, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein,
Morris Weitz, and Dewey, as well as Leon Battista Alberti, Stendhal,
Schiller, and Tolstoy—are presented, and pivotal writings, including
Aristotle’s Poetics, are addressed. Columbia University’s Arthur Danto
and Princeton University’s Alexander Nehamas offer keen insights into
the interactions between artist, artwork, and audience as they have
evolved over the centuries. (50 minutes, color)
Part of the Series Great Ideas of Philosophy I

Item: BVL32705
Format: VHS
List Price: $149.95
Item: BVL32705
Format: DVD
List Price: $159.95
Prices include public performance rights
Copyright date: 2004
ISBN Number: 0-7365-8366-1

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