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338 Books No psychologist I have met has claimed that the experimental approach to aesthetic and artistic problems is the only valid one. But how should an interested researcher be expected to react to a book such as Ossowski's? It was published in Polish in 1966 and is, therefore, dreadfully out-of-date. Most references are to texts published between 1920 and 1936. The choice of psychological evidence is strangely old-fashioned-Helmholtz, Fechner, Kulpe. In one section, I recognize the dead hand of W. Wundt (18321920 ), in another that of E. B. Titchener (1867-1927). Psychology may not yet have much to offer aesthetics, but it can do better than this. Those who spend a major part of their careers thinking about aesthetics are likely to have something interesting to say. Ossowski does well to remind one, for example, of the complexity of the processes involved when one looks at a picture. How is it that one can respond to the size of a mountain range drawn on a postcard? What are the characteristics of the subjective space that allow one, simultaneously, to become aware of the actual size of the range and the smallness of its reproduction? But most of Ossowski's book is not like this. Rather one has a series of comments and speculations concerning earlier comments and speculations. Much of what is said seems to me dismayingly banal. For example, 'The beauty of a work manifesting itself in the reactions of the spectators or listeners may thus be a testimony to its artism, and elsewhere, the artism of a work may be a factor of its beauty (in the psychological sense), becoming a motive (a motive and not only a cause) of aesthetic experiences' (p. 304). Or, 'Sexual factors, undoubtedly, playa very important part in art, since they playa very important part in life, but artistic creativeness cannot be deduced only from this one sphere of human impulses and feelings' (p. 353). But who, even in 1966, would defend such a deduction? What is one to do with statements like these? They explain nothing and one gains no insights from them-they are examples of the 'dreariness of aesthetics '. There is undoubtedly a readership for books of this type and enthusiasts will be able to dismiss these criticisms as an example of the harmful effects of a scientific education. It seems unfortunate, though, when theorists ignore Popper's criteria for the construction of useful hypotheses and when psychological speculation is made in ignorance of what contemporary psychology has to offer. Experimental psychologists do not claim that they can explain much of importance in the arts, but, faced with the complexity of human minds, they are at least willing to admit their ignorance. What they, and their students, require from colleagues in the arts are clearly stated problems, testable hypotheses and fresh insights. The armchair is no place from which to lead attacks on the fascinating and important problems posed by artists and their achievements. The Philosophy of Art of Karl Marx. Mikhail Lifshitz. Pluto Press, London, 1973. 118 pp. £2.70. Paper, £1.35. Reviewed by Berel Lang' This book first appeared in the U.S.S.R. in 1933; it was published in translation in the U.S.A. in 1938, and the latter translation is republished here with the addition of a brief Preface by Terry Eagleton. Lifshitz' general thesis is that the views of Marx on art and aesthetics are closely tied, not only conceptually but historically, to his economic and political analysis. This claim is not startling now, but few commentators had made it or attempted to find the evidence for it when Lifshitz was first arguing the point. The evidence that Lifshitz adduces goes well beyond the scattered and unsystematic (although almost always interesting ) references by Marx to the appearances of art; there can remain little question that Marx' thinking on art was consecutive and systematic, even if his writing about it was not. On 'Dept. of Philosophy, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06268, U.S.A. this disparity between the surfaces and depths of philosophical systems, Marx' own statement, in a letter to LaSalle, is pertinent: 'Even with...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
pp. 338-339
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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