I've seen in ordinary eyes
a special twinkling glow.
In rough and sinewy muscle
I've seen a grace in throe.
From rotund torsos, I have seen
a lithesome prance or strut.
I've seen a thing called character,
in schnozzes that kink or jut.
If beauty below the surface,
it finds you splendor-blind.
Then defect 's not in the object
but in the viewer's mind.
This book combines a biography of the German philosopher Hegel with a quick and dirty overview of his most well-known philosophical ideas. Today, Hegel is best known for his approach to dialectics (thesis confronts antithesis, resulting in synthesis,) and for having a profound influence on the thinking of Karl Marx. However, the book addresses a broad collection of philosophical ideas including those in aesthetics, political philosophy, philosophy of history, and philosophy of religion. (With respect to the latter, it should be noted that Hegel was a believer [of the Protestant Christian persuasion,] lest one think that, given frequent co-utterances of Hegel and Marx [of the “religion as opiate of the masses” persuasion,] that the two philosophers were in complete lockstep; they were not.)
I found this book to be readable, and to be successful in conveying Hegel’s philosophical ideas – at least in a rudimentary form. It’s useful that the book wraps up by reflecting upon whether Hegel is even relevant in the world as we know it, and – if so – why? Hegel might have been a name lost to time if he hadn’t come to be so enthusiastically cited by Marx, a scholar who left a huge imprint on twentieth century history.
If you’re interested in the life and philosophy of Hegel, but don’t want to be inundated by minutiae or complexity, this is a fine work to investigate.
This isn’t so much a book about what beauty is as where we find it, and in what kind of traits we find it, including the question of whether all that is aesthetically pleasing is beauty (or is beauty one element among multiple sources of aesthetic pleasure.) Scruton proposes four major locations of beauty: the human form (and face,) nature, everyday objects, and art. Each of these four has its own chapter (ch. 2-5,) and those chapters form the core of the book. Other chapters examine related questions such as: whether (/how) we can judge beauty, whether it means anything to say someone has good or bad taste, and how / why we find aesthetic appeal in places often consider devoid of beauty (e.g. the profane, the kitsch, the pornographic, etc.)
I found this book to be well-organized and thought-provoking. I liked that the author used a range of examples from literature and music as well as from the graphic arts. (Though the latter offer the advantage of being able to present the picture within the book — which the book often does.) I felt that the questions were framed nicely and gave me much to think about.
Some readers will find the occasional controversial opinion presented gratuitously to be annoying, as well as the sporadic blatant pretentiousness. I forgave these sins because the overall approach was analytical and considerate.
If you’re looking for an introductory guide to the philosophy of aesthetics and beauty, this is a fine book to read. [Note: there is a VSI guide (from the same series) on aesthetics that (I assume) has a different focus (though I haven’t yet read it.)]