Review of Colin Lyas, Aesthetics (The Fundamentals of Philosophy), London; University College London Press, 1997. [Book Review]

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 76 (4):647-649. (1998)
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The aim of this book is to promote understanding and enjoyment of the arts. With this aim in mind, Lyas introduces the key issues of philosophical aesthetics through examples drawn from high and popular culture, and from a variety of art forms, from music and painting to literature and poetry. The book is pitched as a springboard into undergraduate courses in aesthetics and as an introduction to philosophical aesthetics for the general reader. It is refreshing to read a book on aesthetics written by someone for whom problems in aesthetics are more than just grist for the academic mill. That this is the case shows not only in his choice of examples but also in the perspective he brings to them. Lyas argues, for example, that one must feel the merit of the work for oneself; rather then simply, as he puts it, assuming 'that certain things are worth studying ("in the canon" as they put it)' and then performing 'various classificatory dances round them' (p.75). The question for appreciation, he reminds us, is why those things in the canon deserve to be there. According to Lyas, teaching aesthetics is not simply a matter of imparting a body of knowledge to the student. Instead, the teacher's role is to develop capacities in the student for an appreciative experiencing (p.131).
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