Review of Kirwan Beauty [Book Review]

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Kirwan identifies three kinds of beauty theory within the Western tradition. These are: ‘in the eye of the beholder’ theories; neoplatonic theories; and what he refers to as synaesthetic theories; which he discusses in chapters 2, 3 and 4 respectively. He places himself within the synaesthetic tradition whose emphasis is apparently on the interaction between the beautiful object and the perceiver. Kirwan, however, does not analyse this interaction. Nor does he concern himself with what makes the experience of beauty possible, nor what characteristics of an object make it beautiful. Instead, Kirwan’s theory of beauty amounts to a phenomenology of beauty. Kirwan is interested in “the structure of feeling involved in beauty – with respect to which the division between the perceived object and its ground is more important than any formal properties of either “ (p.39).
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