A succinct philosophical discussion on the history and development of aesthetics.


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.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1470167035

Page Count: 126

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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