The Idea of a Cultural Aesthetic

Dialogue and Universalism 13 (11-12):113-122 (2003)
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In this time of increasing international involvement, one cannot but be struck by the fact of sharply different traditions concerning art and its practice.3 Recognizing that the arts are a salient part of every culture may lead us to wonder about their features and may make us curious about how and why the arts of other cultures differ from what we find more familiar. Perhaps we hope that the arts will offer us some insight into different cultures and their distinctive worlds. This, then, is in part an essay in comparative aesthetics. Numerous examples of diverse artistic practices evoke our curiosity. Many of those I shall cite here are environmental and this is deliberate, for environments are a pervasive and powerful material embodiment of cultural practice and sensibility. They provide salient and inescapable evidence of this influence, and they bridge the distance sometimes assumed to lie, quite wrongly, in my opinion, between material culture and its artistic manifestations.
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