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Reviews201 Analytic Aesthetics, edited by Richard Shusterman; New York: Basil Blackwell, 1989, $34.95. This collection of ten essays (including the introduction) grew out of a special issue of TL· fournal of Aesûietics and Art Criticism which was guest-edited by Richard Shusterman. From the mid-century until quite recendy analytic aesthetics was the philosophical approach which dominated Anglo-American philosophy of the arts. In Shusterman's introduction he makes it clear that determining the nature and scope of analytic philosophy is problematic, but he still manages to characterize the major preoccupations and themes of analytic aesthetics. Most of the essays retain the style and spirit of the analytic tradition. The exceptions are those by Charles Altieri, Pierre Bourdieu, and Christopher Norris. Altieri's article is a critique of both the analytic tradition and its poststructuralist rivals. Both approaches have their limitations and both can learn from the deficiencies of the other. However, the focus of the essay is on die analytic tradition's failure to cope with the notion of style. Bourdieu criticizes the movement's ambition to capture the transhistorical (essential) nature of art and aesthetic experience. This criticism may seem rather surprising given that a common complaint ofanalytic aestheticians was that earlier aesthetic traditions assumed that the arts shared a common essence. What Bourdieu identifies as a preoccupation with an essential nature is a commitment to the "autonomy" ofart and aesthetic experience. Here "autonomy" means both that art is without function and aesthetic experience an end-in-itself and that they are significant only because of internal relations. Although he does not point it out, this belief is intimately involved with the Neo-Kantian nature of the analytic movement. Christopher Norris's article is about the work of Donald Davidson; certainly an analytic philosopher, but not one known for an interest in aesthetics. Norris considers that Davidson's antirelativist views about truth constitute a challenge to the relativist themes in poststructuralism. He distinguishes two conflicting Davidsons within the corpus of the work. Both are antirelativist. Davidson I is interested in theories ofmeaning for natural language, but, according to Norris, believes in "the logical primacy of sentences that do 'correspond' or refer to factual states of affairs" (p. 110). This is a misrepresentation of Davidson I's opinions about truth and seems to be based on a failure to understand both the Tarskian notionoftruth and the role it plays in Davidson I's system. Davidson I claims that a Tarskian dieory of truth is adequate as a theory of meaning for a language. A Tarskian theory of truth recursively characterizes a truth-predicate . Truth is not a relation between sentences and anything else, even odier sentences. Davidson II is interested in theories of interpretation, which for him involve identifying the behavioral attitude of "holding-true" a sentence and the con- 202Philosophy and Literature ditions under which a person has this attitude. Interpretation is a holistic enterprise which involves such widespread agreement in judgments about truth and value between interpreter and interprétée that radical relativism (i.e., that which involves incommensurability) is impossible. Sometimes Davidson appears to be arguing not that an interpreter must attribute a basically similar conceptual scheme to whomever he interprets but that the distinction between a conceptual scheme, i.e., a framework ofprinciples which organize and structure, and something which is organized or structured (content, the world, experience, or sense data) is to be abandoned. In this mood he is one ofthe trio ofmajor deconstructors from within the analytic movement. The others are Willard Quine and Wilfred Sellars. Nicholas Wolterstorff's essay contains a description of this self-deconstruction and the alternatives of realism and pragmatism which resulted. He claims that the reason why philosophy of art and aesthetics were not central to the analytic movement was because "concepts " are not central to art whereas they were the chief interest of analysis. This seems rather ironic when one realizes how important concepts and conceptual schemes are to poststructuralist approaches to the arts. Some of the reason must lie in the analytic aesthetician's conviction that the "meaning of the arts" was not a matter of the signifying practices in a society, not...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 201-202
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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