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Recommended Readings: Aesthetics from Classical Greece to the Present. A Short History


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Recommended Readings is the new column of in[+]frame, in which we will attempt to introduce certain books of interest related more or less to photography or visual arts in general. Our first selection is the book ‘Aesthetics from Classical Greece to the Present. A Short History’ written by Monroe C. Beardsley in 1966.


Beardsley was an American art philosopher (1915-1985) best known for his work in aesthetics and new criticism. His book can be seen as an introductory text in order to gain insight on key concepts of art that could be proven helpful for a deeper understanding of visual arts. Beardsley introduces us to concepts such as the beauty, the sublime, the taste, aesthetics and art criticism, art movements and many more, all in their relative historical context and through the approaches of great philosophers, scholars and artists. He begins with Plato and Aristotle in ancient Greece, he passes through Plotin and the later classical philosophers, he delineates the contribution of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas in the middle age, he outlines the neo-platonism in the Renaissance, the Cartesian rationalism and empiricism of Enlightenment, he introduces us to Kant’s German idealism, to Shopenhauer’s and Nietzsche’s Romanticism, and he concludes with contemporary developments of 19th and 20th century. He covers a great part of aesthetics’ history in a clear, cohesive and concise way, and that is why he received many positive reviews and is still considered a classical book on the subject, appropriate for art students but also for the general public.

Selected reviews:


The Philosophical Review:

"For those of us who want to know what philosophers have said about beauty and the arts, this book will be especially useful.

The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism:

“Beardsley’s book accomplishes to perfection what the writer intended. It illuminates an area of history from a certain perspective as was never done before… The distinguishing feature of his book is an excitement over everything I aesthetics that has to do with symbols, meanings, language, and modes of interpretation. And this excitement has brought to light facets of the history of the subject never noticed before, or at least, not so clearly.”

The Journal of Aesthetic Education:

“Anyone familiar with the history of aesthetics will be struck at once by two remarkable features of Beardsley’s book: (1) its brevity, proclaimed in the subtitle and unnecessarily apologized throughout the book and (2) its lack of dogmatism, evidenced partly in the very terse critical reference to his own contribution to aesthetics…”

Book Summary:

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