Review of Aesthetics and Rock Art [Book Review]

British Journal of Aesthetics 46 (2):208-210 (2006)
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The essays collected in this volume are written by scholars from a wide range of disciplines (anthropology, archaeology, art history, philosophy and psychology). The papers ostensibly address how to evaluate rock art, but can also be read in the context of offering support for the affirmative in the debate regarding whether aesthetics is a cross-cultural discipline. Two alternative conceptions of the aesthetic provide the underlying antithesis and thesis respectively to all papers. The antithesis holds that the aesthetic pertains to a conception of art that is an historical artefact of eighteenth century Europe. Most of the writers refer to this idea of art in terms of the object of a disinterested gaze (a second-hand reading of Kant), or as ‘art-for-art’s-sake’. The thesis of all papers, be it explicit or implicit, is that the aesthetic is a certain human predisposition or capacity to imbue physical properties with meaning and value; to link the sensuous with the semantic; to find meaning in form (Lamarque pp.27-8, Morphy pp.54, 59.). Some authors extend this beyond the artefact to the perception of nature (see the papers of Heyd, Ogawa, Stone).
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