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Notions of the Aesthetic and of Aesthetics

Essays on Art, Aesthetics, and Culture

Lars-Olof Ahlberg

The essays in the first part of this book, «Art and Aesthetics», are devoted to the invention and development of aesthetics as a discipline. The essays’ topics range from the nature of analytic aesthetics and the invention of modern aesthetics to notions of the aesthetic and of aesthetics. Further study in this part explores the «aesthetic turn», Bourdieu’s critique of aesthetics and understanding and appreciating art. The second part, «Music, Literature, and Painting», deals with questions of form and content, musical formalism, Susanne Langer’s theory of music as well as with the analogy between ornament and music and the values of literature. In addition, there is an essay on «Northern Light and Darkness in Music and Painting». The third part, «Heidegger and the Essence of Art», is devoted to Heidegger’s philosophy of art, in particular to the role he assigns to van Gogh and Hölderlin. And in the fourth and final part, «Modernity/Postmodernity and Culture», postmodern conceptions of history and Lyotard’s theory of the postmodern sublime are discussed, and in the last essay the challenge of evolutionary psychology to the humanities is addressed.
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6. Art, Literature and Value

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I. Introduction

I shall begin by considering some contemporary analyses of the concept of art, since one’s attitude to the generic concept of art is likely to influence one’s view of the nature and function of the concept of literature. The discussion of the generic concept of art is introduced (II.i) followed by an analysis of art as an open concept and its relationship to the sub-concepts of art such as literature, music, and architecture (II.ii). The next section (II.iii) is devoted to the institutional theory of art, and in particular the notion of appreciation in that theory, followed by a discussion of the problem of identifying art, in contrast to defining art (II.iv). The logical importance of a minimal concept of art as the precondition for theorizing about art and of defining art is frequently overlooked. Part III is devoted to the concept of literature, beginning with a survey of the history of the concept of literature, since the conceptual history of literature is relevant for our endeavour to understand contemporary conceptions and concepts of literature (III.i). Some of the problems involved in defining literature are discussed in the following section (III.ii), followed by an analysis of an institutional approach to literature (III.iii). In the final section (III.iv) questions concerning the evaluation of works of literature are analysed by means of examples drawn from three different literary genres. I argue that the concept of literature is not an evaluative concept in any straightforward sense, but...

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