Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art

Only a Promise of Happiness The Place of Beauty in a World of Art Neither art nor philosophy was kind to beauty during the twentieth century Much modern art disdains beauty and many philosophers deeply suspect that beauty merely paints over or distracts us from hor

  • Title: Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art
  • Author: Alexander Nehamas
  • ISBN: 9780691095219
  • Page: 440
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Neither art nor philosophy was kind to beauty during the twentieth century Much modern art disdains beauty, and many philosophers deeply suspect that beauty merely paints over or distracts us from horrors Intellectuals consigned the passions of beauty to the margins, replacing them with the anemic and rarefied alternative, aesthetic pleasure In Only a Promise of HappiNeither art nor philosophy was kind to beauty during the twentieth century Much modern art disdains beauty, and many philosophers deeply suspect that beauty merely paints over or distracts us from horrors Intellectuals consigned the passions of beauty to the margins, replacing them with the anemic and rarefied alternative, aesthetic pleasure In Only a Promise of Happiness, Alexander Nehamas reclaims beauty from its critics He seeks to restore its place in art, to reestablish the connections among art, beauty, and desire, and to show that the values of art, independently of their moral worth, are equally crucial to the rest of life.Nehamas makes his case with characteristic grace, sensitivity, and philosophical depth, supporting his arguments with searching studies of art and literature, high and low, from Thomas Mann s Death in Venice and Manet s Olympia to television Throughout, the discussion of artworks is generously illustrated.Beauty, Nehamas concludes, may depend on appearance, but this does not make it superficial The perception of beauty manifests a hope that life would be better if the object of beauty were part of it This hope can shape and direct our lives for better or worse We may discover misery in pursuit of beauty, or find that beauty offers no than a tantalizing promise of happiness But if beauty is always dangerous, it is also a pressing human concern that we must seek to understand, and not suppress.

    One thought on “Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art”

    1. A very weird but very good book on aesthetics. Argues that beauty offers us the promise of happiness and that this promise-this continual seeking after-simply is happiness itself. He argues against Kant's claim that aesthetics is judgment given the subjective nature of judging something beautiful. Also argues against Plato, Elaine Scarry, and Nietzsche's connection of beauty and morality, showing that beauty leads to individuation whereas morality leaders to collectivity. Perhaps the best reflec [...]

    2. One of the things that the author has noticed is that philosophers hardly think about values other than morality. Since morality is be a type of value that is by nature impartial and extends universally to all other people. So he emphasized on other types of values such as the value of friendship and artworks that don't seem to be subsumable under the category of morality yet make an important contribution to a well-lived human life. Not only does he separate them from morality but he also makes [...]

    3. Extraordinary book. One of the deepest things I've read, on love and friendship and beauty, in a long time.

    4. Beautifully written meditation on the nature of beauty; likens our relationship to a beautiful (art) object to that of a friendship with someone we love: "'Beauty' is the name we give to attractiveness when what we already know about an individual seems too complex for us to be able to describe what it is and valuable enough to promise that what we haven't learned is worth even more, perhaps worth changing ourselves in order to come to see and appreciate it" (70).

    5. I read it during my Undergraduate Psychology classes. It gave me some good insights to prepare my course project paper, "What is Beauty: I’ll Eat You Orange Lips".

    6. Easily the best contemporary philosophical essay that I have encountered in a long while. A lucid and iconoclastic defense of the much maligned concepts of love and beauty.

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