The Survival of Beauty and Art, Aguilar Press, 2013

Currently in print (as an ebook).

Currently in print (as an ebook).

The Survival of Beauty and Art develops a new theory of aesthetics and art based on up-to-date evolutionary and cognitive science.  Art is embedded in what is called “the artifactual,” i.e., things (like beehives and churches) created by some of nature’s organisms, rather than by nature itself.  Aesthetics, by contrast, is rooted in primordial susceptibilities like those of unicellular amoebas at the dawn of life, going in pursuit of what is nutritive or trying to avoid what is aversive.  In their over three billion years of evolutionary development, these primitive, or what’s here called affective, aesthetic impulses were enriched by further natural, and finally cultural ones.

From its first chapter, Survival attempts to show how artworks, instead of removing themselves into ever more rarefied spheres of the cultural, for the most part continue to draw on its more natural roots.  Wherever appropriate, it fleshes out theories by interpreting individual artworks, backed up by illustrations.  In this, Faas draws not just on evolutionary and neuroscientific insights, but on the full arsenal (familiar to him from multiple previous publications) of older interpretive, iconographic, psychological and art historical approaches.   Thus, his new theory of aesthetics/art, although grounded in the life sciences, fully incorporates whatever can be salvaged from traditional humanities disciplines.  Hence, Survival should be of interest to readers looking for the unprecedented and unfamiliar as well as to those continuing to cherish the old.

The Survival of Beauty and Art is a direct follow-up to Faas’ The Genealogy of Aesthetics (Cambridge, 2002), his Nietzschean critique of the Idealist western tradition. Genealogy met with both lavish praise and fierce rebuttal.  Professor D. Townsend, head of the American Society of Aesthetics, conceded that its thesis was “clearly and forcefully presented” (European Journal of Philosophy, 2004,4), but has since mounted The Genealogy of Aesthetics: An Attack (2010).  More positively inclined reviewers called Genealogy “interesting and far-sighted,” “well-written, polemical, and thought-provoking” (K. Harries, Review of Metaphysics,61:2 Dec 2007as well as “extensively researched and outspoken.” Ekbert Faas, writes A. J. Rindesbacher, “gives aesthetics theory a decisive push in its move from the head into the body” and “opens aesthetics to a wide array of new approaches, broadly speaking of the life sciences and neuroscience.” (European Legacy, 2005 10:5)

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4 Responses to The Survival of Beauty and Art, Aguilar Press, 2013

  1. Florian says:

    Hallo Egbert, schön, Euch heute im Franconia State Park getroffen zu haben. Da Du ja auch mal in Paris gelebt hast, (comme moi, parce que j’ai habité à Paris pendant 5 mois) empfehle ich Dir die sehr lustigen Bücher von Stephen Clarke “Ein Engländer in Paris” und die Fortsetzung “Ich bin ein Pariser”. Den dritten Teil “Merde happens” fand ich nicht so stark wie die ersten beiden. Viele Grüße, Florian (& Inga)

  2. Arash says:

    Dear Ekbert,

    Just to say that it was great meeting you the other night in Toronto. Hope our paths would collide again. Keep up the good work!


  3. Guo Yuyue says:

    Hi, Professor Ekbert Faas, I have read your book The Genealogy of Aesthetics, and I am very happy to see your new book The Survival of Beauty and Art. Could you tell me your email address? I have not found it yet. Thank you very much.

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