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Reviewed by:
  • Everyday Aesthetics
  • Nathalie Blanc
Everyday Aesthetics, by Yuriko Saito. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. 124 pp., $49.50, cloth.

The work is divided into five chapters. The first, “Neglect of Everyday Aesthetics,” speaks of the fact that although the question of aesthetics has been enriched and enlarged by objects long ignored, with notable design, aesthetics is essentially a discourse on art. This is problematic in the sense that many implications of our aesthetic judgment escape all problematic reflexion if we stay centered on art. The aesthetic activity brings ethic choices (to prefer this or that type of environment) that are not included in the artistic appreciation; the problematic of artistic creation does not take into [End Page 122] consideration the ordinary creation, such as arranging a garden, a space, or a living space. The second chapter is about the importance of aesthetics for pragmatic reasons. The place of aesthetics matters if it is about attaching oneself to the state of the world, in the literal sense (if it is about caring about the state of the world, in the literal sense). The following chapters are centered on certain aspects of aesthetic relationships. The third chapter, “Aesthetics of Distinctive Characteristics and Ambience,” and the fourth, “Everyday Aesthetics Qualities and Transience,” concern the quality of our everyday life, such as the clean, the dirty, the messy, the organized . . . These qualities have everything to do with the problematic of passing time (transience) and with the outlook we have on these objects or environments that age. This concerns not only the outlook on these objects but also the multiple gestures made to maintain our environment, to maintain its cleanliness, its immaculate “first days” aspect. Oppositely, there exists a market of value of old objects, and even an aesthetic of aging and degraded objects. The consequences of the aesthetic rapports are extensive, and beyond the fact that they engender sometimes cruel attitudes, they are also producers of rights. The aesthetic interests the law; may it be faces, or bodies, the aesthetic engenders a great many laws and rules. In the matter of environment, who could claim that aesthetics do not intervene? In any case, who isn’t sensitive to the begging look of the baby seal, to the spectacular beauty of this or that environment, to the marvelous drama of a submerged valley? The environment that is far from being just a scientific object engenders multiple aesthetic judgments until now eluded by the research in social sciences. Can we learn from our rapport to evolution of objects and human beings in time to explain the manner in which we search for natural environments fixed in time of their original beauty, and in a state of balance that is more or less imaginary? The last chapter, finally, “Moral Aesthetics Judgement of Artifacts,” is about the values implied by the design. Even though these values (respect, care, attention, sensitivity) are inseparable from functional values and usage of environment and/ or of objects, the choice of materials is concerned, their use and disposition. A landscape that retains the attention has more chance of being preserved, a phenomenon that we could qualify by the expression of cultural durability. The author of the work takes her examples from Japanese culture, yet this culture has often bound aesthetic and moral values explicitly. To cut short the discussion, doesn’t the disjunction operated between these two domains in occidental cultures imply a real contempt for the world of appearances? Beyond this, and more critical, has it not led to forgetting that many of our behaviors are not ruled by overhanging moral values, or even by scientific precepts that might rule our minds, but by tastes or distastes, habits and cultural traits, many of which are linked to questions of aesthetic pleasure? In this sense, like the author, I think that the aesthetics include the series of our reactions toward the sensual quality of an object, environment, or human being. And if we try to link the aesthetic values to the moral values in the field of ecology and in the framework of a environmental problematic, we can not attempt to make scientific or militant values universal and fall into a...


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pp. 122-124
Launched on MUSE
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