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The Paradoxes of Art: A Phenomenological Investigation Paperback – July 7, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0521733182 ISBN-10: 0521733189 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (July 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521733189
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521733182
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,894,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"By the unique application of the phenomenological notion of being-in-the-world, he is able to expand and clarify people's understanding of the situations in which transactions with art take place, thus shedding light on questions of interpretation, artistic ambiguity, aesthetic attitude, and the definition of artworks."
-R.M. Davis, Albion College, Choice

"Paskow's book is lucid and well written...the book remains an important contribution to the literature on our engagement with art."
Sarah Worth, Furman University, Notre Dame Philosophical Review

"...Paskow aims to establish the 'ontological status of fictional beings' and pursue the bold and ambitious claim that fictional beings are 'quasi-real.' Mindful of the fact that many readers will be skeptical of such a position, he carefully rehearses the relevant problems in analytic philosophy before unfolding the challenge his undertaking presents. He does this in an altogether engaging and lucid prose that not only makes the book accessible to readers unfamiliar with its debate but also provides scholars with a precision often lacking in such writing."
Michael Belshaw, Loughborough University, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

"This, I believe, is a significant contribution, not just to the debate about why art matters to us but also to the wider question of how we consciously inhabit the world...[The Paradoxes of Art] is of particular relevance given that the discourses of art, philosophy, and consciousness are rapidly converging..."
Robert Pepperell, Leonardo On-line

Book Description

In this study, Alan Paskow first asks why fictional characters, such as Hamlet and Anna Karenina, matter to us and how they emotionally affect us. He then applies these questions to painting, demonstrating that certain paintings beckon us to view their contents as real. As emblematic of the fundamental concerns of our lives, paintings, he argues, are not simply in our heads but in our world. Paskow also situates the phenomenological approach to the experience of painting in relation to contemporary schools of thought, particularly Marxist, feminist, and deconstructionist.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Leddy on August 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Alan Paskow managed to give us philosophical "page-turner" shortly before his untimely recent death. The question is, "what is a painting" not in the sense of searching for a definition in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions but in terms of asking what it means to us (when it means a lot to us, that is). Included in the text are four full-color illustrations, three of which he discusses at length (all by Vermeer). Paskow gives us a phenomenological analysis of our experience of a painting (and of many other kinds of art, for example literature) in the tradition of Heidegger. However, unlike books by many Heidegger followers, this one is very clearly written. It also does a good job of responding to central analytic philosophers in the field, thus crossing boundaries between these two schools of thought that are seldom crossed. (I must also say that Paskow provides a broad analysis of analytic philosophy's dependence on Cartesian dualism which shows his motive for choosing against that school of thought.)

Paskow's bold, and exciting, thesis is that fictional objects are quasi-real, or rather the distinction between the merely fictional and the actually real is not as sharp as we normally think. Moreover, we experience things that are depicted in paintings, for example chairs, as people-like. They have personalities, and they seem to speak to us (at least some of the time).

A classic question in aesthetic is why we seem to feel real emotions in response to fictional characters. Paskow argues for what he calls "realist theory" which says that the response is not to something that is simply "in one's head" even though the character is not directly perceived. Anna Karenina, like his own daughter, is an intentional object towards which he has real feelings.
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