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Art as Experience Paperback – July 5, 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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About the Author

John Dewey (1859-1952), philosopher, psychologist, and educator, is widely credited as the most influential thinker on education in the twentieth century. He taught philosophy at the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago , and Columbia University.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 371 pages
  • Publisher: TarcherPerigee (July 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399531971
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399531972
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As a reviewer below stated, this is a very interesting book that treats art as a means of recapturing the experience of life and trasmitting that experience to the audience. He captures a number of concepts established earlier by Leo Tolstoy in his "What is Art?" and delves deeper into them, expounding on their more practical and less esoteric uses.
Dewey, however, certainly earns his title as a pragmatist. His wording is complicated and, at times, careful. It is difficult to pin specific sayings or doctrines to him. However, once the task is completed, he has a great deal of important things to say about art and artistic experience.
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John Dewey was an American philosopher of the late 19th and 20th century best known for his espousal of a "pragmatic" philosophy and progressive political ideas, but he also wrote about Art. Art as Experience is not a book per se, but rather a rewriting of a series of lectures he gave on the "philosophy of art" at Harvard in 1931.

Dewey's pragmatic philosophy emphasizing social relations between humans was hugely influential in social sciences like sociology, where he clearly inspired writers like Erving Goffman and anthropology (see Roy Rappaport) His influence has been less notable in the field of aesthetics and art theory, and that's a shame, because in my mind, Art as Experience is the best book about the role of Art in human experience ever written.

Art as Experience starts from the observation that there can be no Art without an Audience- the two are intertwined because humans are social creatures and none of us exist in isolation. This statement about the nature of Art stands in direct contradiction to the two main schools of art philosophy: Classicism, which holds that Beauty is an objective truth that exists outside the experience of any single person and Romanticism, which postulates that the Artist stands alone in the world, without reference to his human environment.

Much of the argument of Art as Experience takes the form of the language philosophy strategy of being extremely precise about the terms being used. This gives the actual text of Art as Experience a tedious feel, even as the ideas expressed dance and sparkle with the light of discovery. Dewey works his way through defining, having an experience, the act of expression, the expressive object, substance and form, etc. I won't lie- it's dry. Boring even.
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Format: Paperback
Although somewhat dated in that what Dewey novelly stated long ago, we now accept as obvious, this is a great book to gain an understanding of art both as a producer and as a spectator.
The central theme is that life is an experience, and that the goal of art is to recapture that experience. Hence, a painting of a flower is only valuable in the way that it captures the essence of a flower, or the experience of viewing a flower. The viewing of a painting must also provide some of the experience of making that painting ( its process ).
If you can manage to finish the book ( the style is a bit archaic ), the experience is worth the effort.
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Format: Paperback
Are there times in your life that are dull and dreary, a mechanical, mindless shuffling from one tedious task to another? According to American philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952), such moments in anybody’s life lack aesthetic quality. He writes in Art and Experience, “The enemies of the aesthetic are neither the practical nor the intellectual. They are the humdrum; slackness of loose ends; submission to convention in practice and intellectual procedure.” We may ask, by Dewey’s reckoning, what will be needed to have an aesthetic experience? And when will an aesthetic experience be deemed artistic? As a way of answering these questions, we can take a look at the following example:

A woman is sitting on a bench in a city park. She listens to the children playing on a nearby playground, she feels the sun on her skin, she watches attentively as people walk to and fro. She feels connected to everyone and everything; life has such fullness and she will remember this afternoon in the park for a long time. Then, after about an hour of this very rich experience, she takes out his flute and starts playing. Since she is a world-class flutist, her wonderful music attracts a number of people who stand around and listen to her play. After playing several pieces, she nods her head and puts away her flute. The small crowd applauds and walks off.

Dewey would say the woman’s first experience of sitting in silence, fully present and awake to the richness of what life offers, has a certain completeness and aesthetic quality. Her second experience of playing the flute and sharing her music is an extension and intensification of the first experience.
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Format: Paperback
Dewey discusses making art and viewing art are not unique activities -- that discipline, engagement and commitment are basic to art in the same way they are basic to other work.

The book undermines the notion that Art is somehow arcane and academic. It's not, the book suggests. It takes work to make art, it takes work to appreciate it, but it is a democratic sort of work, and good art stands up, even when it is not cosseted in museums or galleries.
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