With this, the first volume in the Oxford Philosophical Monographs series, Paul Crowther breaks new ground by providing what is probably the first study in any language to be devoted exclusively to Kant's theory of the sublime. It fills a gap in an area of scholarship where Kant makes crucial links between morality and aesthetics and will be particularly useful for Continental philosophers, among whom the Kantian sublime is currently receiving widespread discussion in debates about the nature of postmodernism. Crowther's (...) arguments center on the links which Kant makes between morality and aesthetics, and seek ultimately to modify Kant's approach in order to establish the sublime as a viable aesthetic concept with a broader cultural significance. (shrink)
Despite the wonders of the digital world, people still go in record numbers to view drawings and paintings in galleries. Why? What is the magic that pictures work on us? This book provides a provocative explanation, arguing that some pictures have special kinds of beauty and sublimity that offer aesthetic transcendence. They take us imaginatively beyond our finite limits and even invoke a sense of the divine. Such aesthetic transcendence forges a relationship with the ultimate and completes us psychologically. Philosophers (...) and theologians sometimes account for this as an effect of art, but How Pictures Complete Us distinguishes itself by revealing how this experience is embodied in pictorial structures and styles. Through detailed discussions of artworks from the Renaissance through postmodern times, Paul Crowther reappraises the entire scope of beauty and the sublime in the context of both representational and abstract art, offering unexpected insights into familiar phenomena such as ideal beauty, pictorial perspective, and what pictures are in the first place. (shrink)
Introduction : normative aesthetics and artistic value -- Culture and artistic value -- Cultural exclusion and the definition of art -- Defining art, defending the canon, contesting culture -- The aesthetic and the artistic -- From beauty to art : developing Kant's aesthetics -- The scope and value of the artistic image -- Distinctive modes of imaging -- Twofoldness : pictorial art and the imagination -- Between language and perception : literary metaphor -- Musical meaning and value -- Eternalizing the (...) moment : artistic projections of time -- Conclusion : the status and future of art. (shrink)
This paper seeks to integrate analytic philosophy and phenomenology. It does so through an approach generated, specifically, in relation to imagination and its cognitive significance. As an Introduction, some reservations about existing phenomenological approaches to imagination—in the work of Sartre and Edward S. Casey—are considered. It is argued that their introspective psychological approach needs to be qualified through a more analytic orientation that determines essence, initially, on the basis of public discourse concerning the term ‘imagination.’ Part One then articulates this (...) orientation through an ‘analytic reduction’ that identifies imagination’s essence in public discourse as thought in its quasi-sensory mode. Part Two offers a sustained phenomenological investigation of this essence, and identifies four major intrinsic features. On the basis of this, Part Three shows how imagination is implicated, centrally, in the capacity to acquire language. In Conclusion the proceeding arguments are defended against possible objections, and a final key summarizing argument is formulated to show that imagination must be regarded, also, as necessary to perception and its capacity to articulate a world. The paper ends with a few thoughts on the further potential of post-analytic phenomenology. (shrink)
Why are the visual arts so important and what is it that makes their forms significant? Countering recent interpretations of meaning that understand visual artworks on the model of literary texts, Crowther formulates a theory of the visual arts based on what their creation achieves both cognitively and aesthetically. He develops a phenomenology that emphasizes how visual art gives unique aesthetic expression to factors that are basic to perception. At the same time, he shows how various artistic media embody these (...) factors in distinctive ways. Attentive to both the creation and reception of all major visual art forms, _Phenomenology of the Visual Arts_ also addresses complex idioms, including abstract, conceptual, and digital art. (shrink)
This paper criticizes contemporary relativist scepticism concerning the universal validity of the concepts ‘art’ and the ‘aesthetic’. As an alternative, it offers a normative definition of art based on intrinsic aesthetic meaning contextualized by innovation and refinement in the diachronic history of art media. In section I, anti-foundationalist relativism, and softer versions (found in the Institutional definitions of art) are expounded in relation to art and the aesthetic. In section II, it is argued that antifoundationalism is conceptually flawed and tacitly (...) racist, and is, in effect, a cultural expression of global consumerism. Section III analyses the scope of the aesthetic in non-western contexts, and then offers a critique of the Institutional definitions as also being conceptually flawed, tacitly racist, and consumerist in orientation. In section IV the positive basis of a normative definition of art is outlined in detail and defended at length against possible relativist objections. It is finally argued that the normative approach taken in this paper shows how cultural conservatism can be a left-wing project. (shrink)
In his Critical Aesthetics and Postmodernism, Paul Crowther argued that art and aesthetic experiences have the capacity to humanize. In Art and Embodiment he develops this theme in much greater depth, arguing that art can bridge the gap between philosophy's traditional striving for generality and completeness, and the concreteness and contingency of humanity's basic relation to the world. As the key element in his theory, he proposes an ecological definition of art. His strategy involves first mapping out and analyzing the (...) logical boundaries and ontological structures of the aesthetic domain. He then considers key concepts from this analysis in the light of a tradition in Continental philosophy (notably the work of Kant, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Hegel) which--by virtue of the philosophical significance that it assigns to art--significantly anticipates the ecological conception. On this basis, Crowther is able to give a full formulation of his ecological definition. Art, in making sensible or imaginative material into symbolic form, harmonizes and conserves what is unique and what is general in human experience. The aesthetic domain answers basic needs intrinsic to self-consciousness itself, and art is the highest realization of such needs. In the creation and reception of art the embodied subject is fully at home with his or her environment. (shrink)
In recent times considerable controversy has raged around the question of postmodern culture and its products. Paul Crowther attempts to overcome some of the antagonistic viewpoints involved by expounding and developing key themes from the work of Kant and Merleau-Ponty in the context of contemporary culture. His work analyzes topics such as the relation between art and politics, the problems of poststructuralist and feminist approaches to art, the re-emergence and relevance of theories of the sublime, and the continuing possibilities of (...) artistic creativity. The central theme of the book is that there are constants in human experience around which art and philosophy turn. At the same time, however, due account must be given of the ways such constants are historically mediated. By articulating various aspects of this relation, Crowther shows that the postmodern sensibility can be more than that of an alienated consumerism. Understood in the proper theoretical context, it is grounded on experience and artifacts which humanize. (shrink)
Paul Crowther argues that art can bridge the gap between philosophy's traditional striving for generality and completeness, and the concreteness and contingency of humanity's basic relation to the world. He proposes an ecological definition of art: by making sensible or imaginative material into symbolic form, it harmonizes and conserves what is unique and what is general about human experience.
This paper offers a phenomenology of the structure and scope of imagination's cognitive significance. It does so through discussing the unifying role of imagination in self-consciousness, and then the way in which this role is continued through the making of pictures in physical media such as drawing and painting. The study begins with discussion of four key features in terms of which imagination is often characterized. Particular emphasis is assigned to the quasi-sensory aspect. Part one then explains imagination as a (...) capacity subject to the will, whose exercise enables a 'blending'between the object imagined and the subjective style in which it is imagined. Through imagining, the imaginer comes to inhabit the object. Parts two and three explore this inhabiting in relation to memory and the imagining of possibility per se. Part four explains how picturing takes imaginative inhabiting to a level of completion. (shrink)
Heidegger’s paper ‘Art and Space’ (1969, Man and world 6. Bloomington: Indiana university Press) is the place where he gives his fullest discussion of a major art medium which is somewhat neglected in aesthetics, namely sculpture. The structure of argument in ‘Art and Space’ is cryptic even by Heidegger’s standards. The small amount of literature tends to focus on the paper’s role within Heidegger’s own oeuvre as an expression of changes in his understanding of space. This is ironic; for Heidegger’s (...) main thematic in the essay is the way in which space is overcome in the creation of sculpture. Of course, by virtue of its three-dimensional character, sculpture seems to be a spatial medium, par excellence. The counter-intuitive character of Heidegger’s position requires, accordingly, that his argumentative strategy be scrutinized very closely. In this paper, therefore, I will examine closely the structure of Heidegger’s argument, with the aim of understanding, rectifying, and then developing his most important insights. My ultimate aim is to show the subtle, but radical points which are at issue in Heidegger’s arguments, and to develop them much further in the clarification of sculpture’s key philosophical significance. (shrink)
This book formulates a new approach to philosophy which, instead of simply rejecting postmodern thought, tries to assimilate some of its main features. Paul Crowther identifies conceptual links between value, knowledge, personal identity and civilization, understood as a process of cumulative advance.
Why are visual artworks experienced as having intrinsic significance or normative depth? Why are some works of art better able to manifest this significance than others? In this 2002 book Paul Crowther argues that we can answer these questions only if we have a full analytic definition of visual art. Crowther's approach focuses on the pictorial image, broadly construed to include abstract work and recent conceptually-based idioms. The significance of art depends, however, essentially on the transhistorical nature of the pictorial (...) image, the way in which its illuminative power is extended through historical transformation of the relevant artistic medium. Crowther argues against fashionable forms of cultural relativism, while at the same time showing why it is important that an appreciation of the history of art is integral to aesthetic judgment. (shrink)
This is the first volume of an impressive project on the relation of art, philosophy and social change. In an on-going argument and review ing several important aesthetic theories Paul Crow ther in this book argues for the idea that aesthetics should be a kind of critical assessment of art w orks' experiential consequences. Although I go along w ith his resistance against postmodernist reasoning, w hich functions as the starting point of his book, beyond that, our w ays often (...) part. My disagreement, how ever, does not annul the evident quality of the argument in this w ork. It is recommended reading material for all those aestheticians w ho are interested in the cognitive and non-cognitive functionality of art w orks and in the possibility of any influence of art on societal change. I w ill now discuss the most crucial steps in Crow ther's argument. Postmodernists claim to have undone the alleged rigidity of modern categories, like that of the autonomous subject, but according to Crow ther they reach this `achievement' by overemphasizing the fluidity of modes of know ledge and experience, and of their status as social constructs, but there may w ell exist flexible constants. Aesthetics can help w ith the analysis of these flexible constants, not by looking for the essences of art or aesthetic experience, but by supplementing our theoretical assessments w ith a critique of art. Crow ther proposes to view aesthetic experiences as w ell as w orks of art as functions of critical aw areness and of body-hold, an historicized version of Merleau-Ponty's much neglected notion of embodiment. Critical aesthetics actualizes the critical aw areness involved in our aesthetic experiences. Art, defined in terms of originality, roots in the body-hold of the artist, w ho moulds his medium to solve technical problems traditional art forms confront him w ith. Postmodernism involves only tw o theses, really. First, contemporary experience and sensibility are analyzed as imbued by the shocks generated by the rapid succession of mechanically reproduced events.. (shrink)
The Greek notion of beauty encompasses not only nature and artifice, but also the Good. This paper explains the connection by interpreting Plato in a way that allows his theory to be developed beyond the confines of his philosophy. It is argued that we could read his theory of beauty as based on fineness of appearance. This arises when a sensory particular transcends itself and suggests the presence of its sustaining Form, or when sophrosynē in human agency discloses the Good’s (...) power to transform the sensible world. In both cases, there is a pleasure in how certain phenomena or agents manifest the influence of the Forms at the sensory level. Beauty centres on an Ideal relation. By critically revising Plato’s position and taking it beyond the context of exegetical debate, a generally viable explanation of the grounds of Ideal beauty is formulated. This clarifies how such beauty is based on both the fundamental conditions of knowledge, as such, and our existence as free beings. Ideal beauty is shown, also, to be an aesthetic concept with enduring importance. (shrink)