Brutus (Important Nonsense, 2012) presents a slim, concise volume covering a broad history of aesthetics ranging from the ancient philosophers to the postmodern era.
Brutus supplies an excellent, thorough introduction to the philosophy of art. He draws upon a variety of sources across the ages, including both Eastern and Western thinkers. The author rightly notes that conversations surrounding aesthetics and art can be difficult from the start, given the various opinions on whether it’s a subject that should even be broached. Despite these difficulties and differences, Brutus uses a clear, readable style that renders this complex topic accessible. This is not surprising since he spends a fair amount of time analyzing the barriers the human language can present when attempting to grasp such a historically ungraspable concept. His selection of quotes demonstrates how even famously articulate people have trouble finding “the right words to express the urgent things we want to say.” Perhaps the author’s experience as a teacher enables him to condense so many big ideas into such tightly worded paragraphs. This may also explain his uncharacteristically passionate commentary on the efforts of totalitarian societies to restrict and reduce art to mere propaganda, especially through education. He notes, “Much of what passes for ‘education’ in human history is more accurately described as mind control by means of physical and psychological torture.” Brutus includes several pages of quotes and commentaries from those who did find the right words to express the urgent things they wanted to say about the age-old questions about art, and all of them provide rich ideas to ponder.
A succinct philosophical discussion on the history and development of aesthetics.