When the 18th century German philosopher, A.G. Baumgarten first introduced 'Aesthetics' as an academic discipline to deal with the philosophy of beauty, he couldn't possibly have anticipated the controversies that have lately been raised by logical positivists, analytical schools, and even linguists - controversies questioning the validity, the very legitimacy, of a philosophical inquiry into beauty, art and creative processes. Notwithstanding the relatively more recent usage of the term proper, Aesthetics has a millennia-long history: beginning, in the West, with the old-world Greek philosophers, like Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle; and, in India, with the Vedic writings, more specifically, Bharata
Dr. Shyamala Gupta's book is indisputably a painstaking effort trying to chart the historical progression of aesthetics: both Indian and Western - with focus not only on its evolutionary landmarks, but on its important concepts and theories as well. Schematically structured into two parts, Part 1 of the book examines the status of Indian aesthetics: its theories of rasa and dhvani, and, besides these, of its world view of art. In its Part 2 are traced the development of Western theories of art and beauty, together with their attendant issues appearing, from time to time: from the days of ancient Greek philosophers to contemporary thinkers. Additionally, the authoress also tries to show how art is positioned vis-à-vis morality, science, sport and culture.
A Comprehensive, meticulously updated perspective on aesthetics, the book is sure to interest anyone concerned with the disciple: whether as a specialist, a student or a general reader.
Shyamala Gupta (b. August 1931) is Bombay University's Ph.D (Philosophy), with specialised interest in Aesthetics. And has been Research Fellow at the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla (1966-67). An untiring researcher and writer, she has published numerous papers in different journals and, in addition, has contributed as many as 27 articles to the 3-volume Marathi Encyclopaedia in Philosophy (published by MEP Council, Pune). Also, she has authored two books, namely, The Beautiful in Indian Arts, and Saundarya Tattvamimamasa (Hindi) - both prescribed by Delhi University for undergraduate-level students taking a course in aesthetics.
Involved with the teaching of philosophy for well over three decades, Dr. Gupta retired, in 1996, as Reader from Kamla Nehru College, University of Delhi, Delhi.
Cover photos Utka Nayika(Waiting for her lover); Chamba, circa 1800-10. Courtesy: Jagdish & Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art, Hyderabad.
I am delighted to write this foreword for Shyamala Gupta’s book. The book is an attempt, among other things, to bring together Indian and Western theories of art, and engage them in a constructive debate with one another. In recent philosophical thinking about art, it has been suggested that the concept of art is a local institutional concept. It is institutions located within a culture that determine-so the argument goes- whether something – an artifact – is to be treated as an object of art and whether it is good or bad art. While this may be turn of the concept of art, as it has taken the shape in modern west, there is, surely, a larger, more global concept of art which links it with our concern, the beauty, which is common to all mankind. This concern is almost a part of the natural history of man. Art, in this lager sense, may be treated as relating itself to a universal human responsive framework within which we can understand the intelligibility, of a non-utilitarian kind, of art as a distinct human activity. Art would have intelligibility, born not merely of fashionable culture-phase, but, of a universal mode of communication relating to some universally shared human sensibility.
Shyamala Gupta’s book takes this universal notion of art as a foundational concept. While major theories of art, both in the west and in the east, receive detailed authentic representation in the book, the treatment is punctuated by critical insights, which contribute much towards the originality of the book. The book will be of enormous interest to all those who are interested in the east-west philosophical dialogue in the history of mankind’s thinking about art and beauty, and in research in some of the traditional problem areas of aesthetics.
I FEEL proud and happy in presenting this book to the readers who are interested in Aesthetics.
Aesthetics is defined as a science and philosophy of beauty and art. While everyone amongst us has a natural appreciation for beauty and art, very few really know why and how a philosopher is connected with beauty an art. Is it true that we do need a philosopher to identify beauty and art and teach us to enjoy beauty and works of art. However, there is a natural curiosity to unravel the mystery and magic of art and beauty in our life. We know we enjoy beauty but do not know why it wields so much influence on our minds. We do not have to learn from the philosopher how to create a work of art and how to appreciate it, but we do have and urge to know the secret of creativity and our own mental propensity to appreciate it. Any person who gets involved in answering these questions becomes a philosopher of a kind, an aesthetician, since he makes a theoretical attempt to define and understand art and beauty, discover the norms which transform some physical object to acquire the status of art and beauty.
Thus, anyone who feels the need of doing some serious thinking on these subjects enters the portals of aesthetics, a philosophical speculation on the mysteries of existence of beauty and creation of art and the human mind-set which enables him to have a rich experience called aesthetic experience.
Since there is natural curiosity in human mind to resolve these queries, it is not surprising that the philosophical have been trying to offer theories and explanations on ‘what is art’ ‘why art’, ‘what is beauty’ ‘why do we enjoy it’ any many more related questions right from the ancient days. Like any other philosophical inquiry, the aesthetical speculation also penetrates into the problems of understanding beauty and art, an important factor of the physical world in view of the immense power they have to move us through and thought. There is beauty and human creativity on the one hand and an inquisitive mind on the other hand – the result is aesthetics.
In the history of Western Philosophy, we can trace its beginning with the ancient Greek philosophy like Pythagoras, Sophists, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle who exercised tremendous influence on the later European philosophers. With changes in the philosophical outlooks many new theories emerged and developed in the course of time. The Indian aesthetics also has its beginning right from the Vedic times even though its philosophical implications were fully brought out by poeticians and art-critics. Bharata contributed the theory of rasa in the context of drama, and the later thinkers worked out theories to explain its relevance to poetry, music, dance and other arts. They emphasised the role of emotions in arousing emotional experiences resulting in aesthetic enjoyment called rasa by the dramatic techniques, and so also the poetic expression. The critical analysis of the role of language in evoking aesthetic experience has occupied a major portion of the theoretical discussions in India. They open before us a new vista an introduce concepts of rasa-dhuani, bhauanukirtanam, sadharanikarana, etc., and ultimately upstage the aesthetic experience to the level of Brahmananda, an ecstatic stage divine bliss.
All these theories have a rich application for those who practice art, meditated on art and enjoy art and beauty, whether in India or Western countries. Hence, it is far from true to say that the subject has only an academic significance since anyone who enjoys beauty is spontaneously interested in knowing the mystic of beauty, and its nature and power on human minds. It is thus for everybody since we are ail endowed with such experiences.
Aesthetics is one of the subjects taught in the courses prescribed for the students of philosophy. It is relatively a new subject compared to ethics, logic and metaphysics but getting popular in the recent times. The present book entitled as Art, Beauty and Creativity - Indian and Western Aesthetics meets the requirement of students of philosophy also. Since I have been teaching the subject for the last 30 years, I am a bit conversant with the requirements of the students. This kind of comparative studies are always helpful from every point of view. I have tried my best to give a complete and up to date reading material for scholars, researchers and students as well as a layman since it covers various topics which are of general interest.
I have great pleasure in acknowledging my gratitude to all those persons who have helped me in a substantial manner in completing this work. My friends and colleagues from the teaching community provided the guidance, books and useful hints at various junctures. I am particularly thankful to my close friend and colleague Mrs. Nirmal Kishore in this matter.
Finally, I must admit that I would never have been able to bring out this book without the help of my son Rahul in getting conversant with the operations of the computer for preparing the manuscript of the book and also the moral support of my husband Shri Jwala Prasad. My thanks are also due to Mr. Susheel K. Mittal, Director of D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd., for accepting my work for publishing.
WHEN the eighteenth-century German philosopher A. G. Baumgarten introduced ‘Aesthetics’ as a philosophy of beauty, he was not aware of the controversies which were to arise in the twentieth century particularly, There is no doubt that there is beauty in nature and that the encounter with beauty is a source of joy and delight. The controversy however is whether a philosopher can dwell upon it and treat it as an objective factor and a meaningful term at all which can be analysed philosophically. In other words, does the concept of beauty fall the scope of philosophy at all?
The later thinkers emphasised art as a human activity as a more appropriate subject for aesthetics and tried to analyse the concept and generalise theories about it. There is a challenge to this attempt or the philosopher in view of the autonomy and an immense creativity involved in the activity of making art objects. How could such an unpredictable urge to create art be bound by set definitions and theories?
whether aesthetics as a philosophical inquiry is possible at all is a major issue in the literature of aesthetics of the later part of the twentieth century writings on the subject. It is the analytical schools and the logical positivists who raised these objections and the linguistic approach to the subject tried to cut down the scope of aesthetics to merely deliberating on the meanings of various terms used in this context.
However, we should remember that aesthetics is not just what we read about it in the twentieth century writings, but that it has a long history dating from the Greek philosophy itself. Greek philosophers prior to Socrates and Plato had laid down the norms of beauty and the theory of art as imitation of nature. Socrates and Plato were critical about such theories of their predecessors and brought out the implications of such theories about art. They were talking as philosophers and not the laymen who were interested in art and beauty. It was Socrates who drew the attention of his contemporaries to the fact that art as an imitative activity could at the most make a copy of the external nature of man or any other natural object but failed to portray the soul or the essence of anything. Plato followed this line of thinking and developed a mature philosophy of beauty and art. Aristotle gave further dimensions to the entire subject in his famous work Poetics. It is thus clear that aesthetics has its birth in the ancient philosophy and the very genesis of the word ‘aesthetics’ is in the Greek word aesthesis, though the coinage of the word Aesthetics is attributed to Baumgarten, who carved out a separate status and place for aesthetics in philosophy. Aesthetics is a science and philosophy of the world contained in the perceptual realm of human experience and this is how it is related to ‘aesthesis’, an awareness caused by the sense perception.
The later philosophers in the mediaeval and recent times made valuable contributions to the subject and various theories of art were offered during this period. We shall show an outline of this historical development of pre- and post-Baumgarten aesthetics in later chapters.
In India, we do have very vitally important theories of art and aesthetic experience, a theory of rasa, in the context of poetry and performing arts, and many related issues which could be considered common to Western and Indian aesthetics. Conspicuously, the philosophers were silent on this subject though the culmination of some of the theories like sadharanikarana can be traced only in a philosophical level of thinking. The Indian theory of dhuani has a lot of potential for the contemporary linguistic analysis in the west. This can be an independent subject for research, and for the time being we can only say that there is a full-fledged Indian Aesthetics, which has been named wrongly as Saundarya Sastra in the present- day writings on Indian aesthetics.
In this book, the authoress has a plan to discuss important in Indian and Western aesthetics both from the point of view of ancient and modern thinkers. The book has been divided into two parts, Part I dealing with Indian concepts and theories and Part II with the Western. Apart from the theories of art beauty, the present book undertakes to reveal the relation between art and morality, art and science, art and sport and also art and culture. The approach is philosophical and therefore theoretical. The authoress expects that the chapters dealing with various topics might make an interesting readings for the general readers as well as students of philosophical aesthetics.
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