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Contemporary Aesthetics does not publish book reviews. However, to inform our readers of new publications of interest, we do publish brief descriptions extracted from information provided by the publishers. These notices do not necessarily represent the views or judgment of this journal. Readers are invited to send us such information about books they think will interest other readers of CA.



Massio Leone, On Insignificance: The Loss of Meaning in he Post-Material Age (Routledge, 2019), 234 pp.
ISBN 9781138618312

Focusing on the anthropological consequences of the disappearing of materiality and sensory embodiment, On Insignificance highlights some of the most perturbing patterns of insignificance that have seeped into our everyday lives. Seeking to explain the semiotic causes of feelings of meaninglessness, Leone posits that caring for the singularities of the world is the most viable way to resist the alienating effects of the digital bureaucratization of meaning. The book will be of interest to scholars of anthropology, cultural studies, semiotics, aesthetics, communication studies, and social theory.


Philosophical Perspectives on Ruins, Monuments, and Memorials, edited by Jeanette Bicknell, Jennifer Judkins, Carolyn Corsmeyer (Routledge, 2019), 304 pp.
ISBN 9781138504691

This collection of newly published essays examines our relationship to physical objects that invoke, commemorate, and honor the past. The recent destruction of cultural heritage in war and controversies over Civil War monuments in the US have foregrounded the importance of artifacts that embody history. The book invites us to ask: How do memorials convey their meanings? What is our responsibility for the preservation or reconstruction of historically significant structures? How should we respond when the public display of a monument divides a community? This anthology includes coverage of the destruction of Palmyra and the Bamiyan Buddhas, the loss of cultural heritage through war and natural disasters, the explosive controversies surrounding Confederate-era monuments, and the decay of industry in the U.S. Rust Belt. The authors consider issues of preservation and reconstruction, the nature of ruins, the aesthetic and ethical values of memorials, and the relationship of cultural memory to material artifacts that remain from the past. Written by a group of philosophers, art historians, and archeologists, the 23 chapters cover monuments and memorials from Dubai to Detroit, from the instant destruction of Hiroshima to the gradual sinking of Venice.

Read an interview with the editors, published in Aesthetics for Birds: https://aestheticsforbirds.com/2019/11/29/whats-so-interesting-about-the-past-an-interview-about-ruins-monuments-and-memorials/


The Philosophy of Rhythm, eds. Peter Cheyne, Andy Hamilton & Max Paddison (Oxford University Press, December 2019), 432 pp.
ISBN 9780199347780

Rhythm is the fundamental pulse that animates poetry, music, and dance across all cultures. And yet the recent explosion of scholarly interest across disciplines in the aural dimensions of aesthetic experience—particularly in sociology, cultural and media theory, and literary studies—has yet to explore this category. This book furthers the discussion of rhythm beyond the discrete conceptual domains and technical vocabularies of musicology and prosody. With essays by philosophers, psychologists, musicians, literary theorists, and ethno-musicologists, The Philosophy of Rhythm opens up wider-and plural-perspectives, examining formal affinities between the historically interconnected fields of music, dance, and poetry, while addressing concepts such as embodiment, movement, pulse, and performance. Volume editors Peter Cheyne, Andy Hamilton, and Max Paddison bring together a range of questions: What is the distinction between rhythm and pulse? What is the relationship between everyday embodied experience, and the specific experience of music, dance, and poetry? Can aesthetics offer an understanding of rhythm that helps inform our responses to visual and other arts, as well as music, dance, and poetry? And, what is the relation between psychological conceptions of entrainment, and the humane concept of rhythm and meter?
https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-philosophy-of-rhythm-9780199347780?q=cheyne&lang=en&cc=jp#


Carolyn Korsmeyer, Things: In Touch with the Past (Oxford University Press, 2019), 232 pp.
ISBN 9780190904876

Things: In Touch with the Past explores the value of artifacts that have survived from the past and that can be said to "embody" their histories. Such genuine or "real" things afford a particular kind of aesthetic experience-an encounter with the past-despite the fact that genuineness is not a perceptually detectable property. Although it often goes unnoticed, the sense of touch underlies such encounters, even though one is often not permitted literal touch.

Carolyn Korsmeyer begins her account with the claim that wonder or marvel at old things fits within an "experiential" account of the aesthetic. She then presents her main argument regarding the role of touch-both when literal contact is made and when proximity suffices, for touch is a fundamental sense that registers bodily position and location. Correct understanding of the identity of objects is presumed when one values things just because of what they are, and with discovery that a mistake has been made, admiration is often withdrawn. Far from undermining the importance of the genuine, these errors of identification confirm it. Korsmeyer elaborates this position with a comparison between valuing artifacts and valuing persons. She also considers the ethical issues of genuineness, for artifacts can be harmed in various ways ranging from vandalism to botched restoration. She examines the differences between a real thing and a replica in detail, making it clear that genuineness comes in degrees. Her final chapter reviews the ontology that best suits an account of persistence over time of things that are valued for being the real thing.


Ivan Gaskell, Paintings and the Past: Philosophy, History, Art (Routledge, 2019), 246 pp.
ISBN 978-0367189372

This book is an exploration of how art―specifically paintings in the European manner―can be mobilized to make knowledge claims about the past. No type of human-made tangible thing makes more complex and bewildering demands in this respect than paintings. Ivan Gaskell argues that the search for pictorial meaning in paintings yields limited results and should be replaced by attempts to define the point of such things, which is cumulative and ever subject to change. He shows that while it is not possible to define what art is―other than being an open kind―it is possible to define what a painting is, as a species of drawing, regardless of whether that painting is an artwork or not at any given time.

The book demonstrates that things can be artworks on some occasions but not necessarily on others, though it is easier for a thing to acquire artwork status than to lose it. That is, the movement of a thing into and out of the artworld is not symmetrical. All such considerations are properly matters not of ontology―what is and what is not an artwork―but of use; that is, how a thing might or might not function as an artwork under any given circumstances. These considerations necessarily affect the approach to paintings that at any given time might be able to function as an artwork or might not be able to function as such. Only by taking these factors into account can anyone make viable knowledge about the past.

This discussion ranges over innumerable examples of paintings, from Rembrandt to Rothko, as well as plenty of far less familiar material from contemporary Catholic devotional works to the Chinese avant garde. Its aim is to enhance philosophical acuity in respect of the analysis of paintings, and to increase their amenability to philosophically satisfying historical use. Paintings and the Past is a text for all advanced students and scholars concerned with philosophy of art, aesthetics, historical method, and art history.