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The Sense of Beauty: Being the Outline of Aesthetic Theory Paperback


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The Sense of Beauty: Being the Outline of Aesthetic Theory + Scepticism and Animal Faith + The Essential Santayana: Selected Writings (American Philosophy)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (June 1, 1955)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486202380
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486202389
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

George Santayana (1863-1952) was a professor of philosophy at Harvard University. Expressing a theme that remained a lifelong characteristic, he explains why he gave up “academic lumber” and went into retirement. The pursuit of pure philosophy became his revolt against intellectual dissolution and anarchy. His writings were substantial, including a five-volume work, The Life of Reason, and a four-volume work,Realms of Being.



John McCormick (1918-2010) taught American Studies at the Free University, Berlin, and later went on to become distinguished professor of comparative literature at Rutgers University. He is the author of numerous works, including Bullfighting, American and European Literary Imagination, Catastrophe and Imagination, and Fiction as Knowledge.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
The philosophy of Santayana is remembered mostly by his theory of aesthetics, which is discussed in detail in this book. His aesthetic theory is basically subjective, or "psychological", and if viewed from a contemporary standpoint, somewhat at odds with current developments in neuroscience, but closer than most schools of Western philosophy. All philosophical theories of aesthetics are interesting to investigate from the standpoint of comparing them to what is said about the human aesthetic faculty in modern research in neuroscience.
As in ethics, Santayana approaches aesthetics in three different ways, namely as the exercise of the aesthetic faculty, the history of art, and the psychological. The first two do not concern the author in the book, his attention devoted entirely to the third. His intention is to remove himself from the influence of the poets and of Plato, and find the out how ideals are formed in the mind, how objects may be compared with them, what properties are shared in beautiful things, and the process by which humans become sensitive to beauty and in turn value it. He is after a definition of beauty that explains its origin in human experience, and one that explains the human capacity to be sensible of beauty and the relation between a beautiful object and its ability to excite the human senses.
The author takes a different definition of aesthetics, being one that he calls "critical" or "appreciative perception", and which results from combining a notion of criticism with that of the notion of aesthetics as a theory of perception. Santayana wanted to develop a theory of aesthetics that relies on perceptions as a judgmental, critical notion. Perceptions that are not appreciations are thus to be excluded.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Yaumo Gaucho on March 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
In this book, Santayana rejects the Platonic conception of beauty is an intrinsic characteristic of a thing, and argues for beauty that exists only in the mind (and senses, hence the title) of the viewer. The pleasure that beauty gives its audience is universal, but what is beautiful is not universal across audiences. That may be old hat to us, but wasn't quite so old hat in his time. Santayana enumerates various types of beauty, and relates each to the pleasure it gives its audience. Santayana even claims that some of our other preferences -- for example, for youth over age -- are fundamentally aesthetic in nature.
The argument is Santayanaesque, and thus not exactly rigorous. A lot of the physiology ("Psychology is always physiological," he writes) is hokey to our "modern" medical minds. Some of the digressions seem to be just him taking the opportunity to say something clever, rather than advancing the main argument in any way.
Still, Santayana is a virtuoso of putting together large, complex "big think" arguments, and he writes subtly and beautifully. This book is worth it, even if only to see Santayana doing what he does best: arguing broadly and forcefully, this time for a new conception of aesthetics.
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