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Art as Experience

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  5,329 ratings  ·  100 reviews
Based on John Dewey's lectures on esthetics, delivered as the first William James Lecturer at Harvard in 1932, Art as Experience has grown to be considered internationally as the most distinguished work ever written by an American on the formal structure and characteristic effects of all the arts: architecture, sculpture, painting, music, and literature. ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published July 5th 2005 by TarcherPerigee (first published 1934)
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Glenn Russell
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing

Are there times in your life that are dull and dreary, a mechanical, mindless shuffling from one tedious task to another? According to American philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952), such moments in anybody’s life lack aesthetic quality. He writes in Art as Experience, “The enemies of the aesthetic are neither the practical nor the intellectual. They are the humdrum; slackness of loose ends; submission to convention in practice and intellectual procedure.” We may ask, by Dewey’s reckoning, what wil
Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Some labyrinths are worth descending into just to get a glimpse of the Minotaur, even if you can't yet defeat him. Art as Experience is one of those. It will require several more descents to get the clearest picture of the Minotaur and more familiarization with the territory in order to be able to face it head on. But I have seen the face of the Minotaur, and it is beautiful and terrifying. This is my attempt to follow the threads back out of the maze.

Dewey's monstrous work - and I use this as a
this is a later later later addition: in just reading deleuze, there is the idea that 'art' of any sort is not necessarily the uncovering of 'truth', as in heidegger, that this revealing is neither cause nor effect, but rather sort of 'side-effect', something essential to the project, yet not a goal, idea, sense, otherwise expressible. so perhaps learning 'pragmatics' of art is useful.....

this is a later later addition: have i mistaken the relative connotations of 'pragmatic' and 'practical'- we
Collier Brown
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: home-inventory
Why, in all my courses on aesthetics and art history, have I not been assigned this? Might it be because Dewey takes down Kant and his continental successors with a little common sense and a few grammatically legible sentences? Well, it sure doesn't hurt. I say, "legible," but that doesn't mean the reading here is not dense. Every page is work and reward; therefore, you may find yourself poking along at a snail's pace, five or ten pages at a time. I don't think Dewey's book can be read any more ...more
Aug 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The greatest book written by an American in the 20th Century. It's not just about aesthetics. He claims, in an even harder book to read, (I know, I know, but its worth the effort) Experience and Nature, that experience itself exhibits aesthetic characteristics (rhythm, flow, spatial and temporal relationships) and only when we understand this will we understand the nature of thinking, joy and fulfillment. This book goes with that insight and further elaborates on on the form of experience best s ...more
Jun 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Perhaps this is anachronistic in our current mash-up culture (or maybe it isn't?), but I think writers should do some reading in aesthetic theory. Dewey's book, originally delivered as a series of lectures in 1932, is one I'd recommend, either to argue with or from which to seek inspiration. I first read this for a philosophy seminar and that kind of systematic studious reading is far different from how I read it now, which is to open it at random and read for a bit and then see where that takes ...more
Chris Bass
May 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Every page is brilliance--seriously, I am not exaggerating. Dewey's insights and thoughts are as refreshing and relevant to us today as when the lecture was presented at Harvard (1932). As I read through the first few chapters, I found myself copying pages of each chapter to use in my classroom. He provides necessary theory to challenge and discuss the relevancy of education and function of English Education.

Nice thoughts:

"The moment of passage from disturbance into harmony is that of intense li
Chris Beiser
Jul 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Below is a very glowing review. It's hard for me to recommend this book more. This review is fairly overwrought, because this book has given me some incredible insights, and it's made a big impact on how I see the world. It may be better for you to just stop reading, buy a copy, and struggle through it. (AAE is so dense that I was unable to read it whenever heating or air conditioning was on, because it wasn't possible for me to filter out the sound and read the book simulatenously.)

I went into
Matthew  John
Nov 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the most dense book I've read so far. Every page on this book provides rich perspectives on what we perceive as art, aesthetics and experience - each of them calling for a sound discussion. I particularly enjoyed the sections where Dewey defines what an experience is and at the end goes onto share his thoughts on criticism of art. This would be a great read for anyone who's curious about learning why they experience what they experience in the way they experience (in my opinion not limit ...more
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Dewey nicely ties art to everyday life. But he muddies evolution with a desire for integration, adopting a soft teleology with art as intended source of fulfillment.
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Dense. I love reading through this, taking time and careful reflection.
May 16, 2014 rated it did not like it
Super verbose to the point where he'd spend pages to get to a single point. The author's writing style was also very dry and hard to wrap my head around. I had to read this for a class, and I was reading it early and I'm glad I did because I could not be able to finish this quickly. I often could only read a few pages a day and call it major progress. If I wasn't reading this for a class, I'd never ever read this book and do not recommend it. ...more
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I slogged through this text, but after reading am thoroughly entrenched in Dewey's philosophy and theory about art as experience. Her writes in a manner that is accessible, but this material is dense and not exactly riveting. If you are reading Dewey with an academic or theoretical framework in mind, then you won't be disappointed. ...more
"Mountain peaks do not float unsupported; they do not even just rest upon the surface. The ARE the earth in one of its manifest operations."

Mohammad Rezaei Niya
Dec 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: art-critique
I believe it is a highly over-appreciated work. Dewey’s optimism (sometimes even naivety) about and appreciation of “science” and “scientific approach” and technology, his limited/biased review of philosophy literature, and reduction of definition of art to western art and most of the times only painting, cannot be easily ignored. The middle chapters are specifically more like an average art critic’s book!
sam howie
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was always going to give this book 5 stars from reading bits and pieces before actually now finally reading it front to back. It is an astounding accomplishment in aesthetic theory written with two feet placed firmly on the ground, in the true pragmatist style that Dewey involved himself with. In summation, I feel, it takes or removes the magic from art and leaves only the essence, and essence is all that is ever needed to make and/or view art.
Nov 11, 2010 rated it liked it
"Art celebrates with peculiar intensity the moments in which the past reinforces the present and in which the future is a quickening of what now is." (17)

"'Spontaneity' is the result of long periods of activity, or else it is so empty as not to be an act of expression." (75)

"There are values and meanings that can be expressed only by immediately visible and audible qualities, and to ask what they mean in the sense of something that can be put into words is to deny their distinctive existence." (
Mary Connolly
May 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
I wanted this to change my life.. not yet sure if it did or not. At least I am now aware that my life is lacking esthetic quality?
Nelson Zagalo
Masterpiece. Thanks John Dewey for writing this book, even more because it was written in 1934.

This should be obligatory read for anyone studying/researching Art Communication. Before the domain of Communication Sciences even existed, before Emotion Studies were seriously accepted by the academy, Dewey has written a profound and dense work on the subject of Art Experience. It was done from a philosophical approach, however Dewey, clearly influence by his Pragmatics companion, William James, the
Bảo Ngọc
May 16, 2019 rated it liked it
to review later
Regina Andreassen
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing

What a wonderful book! Aesthetics, as perceived by John Dewey, is more than just philosophy; is, as Baumgarten stated, the science of perception, while Art is perhaps the most sublime expression of human aesthetics. Moreover,Dewey reminds us that art is not exclusive to art galleries, museums, or expensive collections but is born in our daily experiences. A brilliant work, written in an elegant, dynamic style!
Jan 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Another text that has changed my understanding about art and living. This text helped me to continue to emphasize the importance of the arts and the imagination in school. Dewey clearly demonstrates how art is a natural and important part of life.
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So, so so wonderful. This is a work of genius and beauty.

For me this book has to be read with a pencil. I appreciate it FAR more when I read a chapter in an evening and then write notes on it. There’s a lot to integrate, enjoy, and just appreciate on an aesthetic level.

Yeah, reading this is itself an aesthetic experience for me. Again and again, reading this book takes me into flights of sublimity - actual intellectual climaxes I’ve only experienced with a few speakers and writers in my life. I
Apr 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Profound and sensible.
Dec 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Dewey shows how Art is not a specialized realm, but is rather at play in all ordinary experience.
Aug 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
Ouch, this is a tough one. Some very memorable and useful pieces swimming in the sea of concepts. I've never felt so stupid reading a book in my life! ...more
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
The opening essay of this book is one of the most inspiring I've read in philosophy. After that, the book slows down a bit, very carefully and systematically working through issues and definitions in theories of aesthetics in a manner that is always fascinating and always relatable and even simple, but with a degree of depth that made careful engagement both a necessity and sometimes a bit of a chore. Each chapter is filled with intriguing examples and relatable analogies that make most of the c ...more
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
So, I'm using this for my dissertation, which means 1. I'm not giving this book an in-depth review, as I'll be spending much time with it, and 2. It obviously wasn't too bad if I'm using it, but that doesn't mean it was enjoyable!
John Dewey is a fascinating educational figure that I did not learn about until my doctoral program, which is horrifying since I've been in education for years now and hold multiple degrees in it. He pioneered learner-center classrooms and utilizing the arts for learnin
Dec 02, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I could barely follow what he was saying. While it may be a complicated topic, I feel the author was intentionally verbose and abstruse. I can't see why they couldn't have made the topic more intelligible. If I'd gone slowly and tried to work out the exact meaning of each sentence the book would probably have taken me more than a year to read.

By the end, I had no idea what he defines as an artistic experience. I began by thinking he meant it was the feeling experienced when observing a work of a
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have read many books, treatises, and articles about the arts and aesthetics. As a musician and humanities teacher, however, many philosophic/aesthetic approaches have fallen short of my own personal experiences with performing, engaging in, and teaching the arts to students. Dewey has a wholistic approach that opens the door for many kinds of experiences and many types of art that are all valid and all deserve a place at the table. His definition of art and his wholistic, flexible approach mos ...more
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John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey, along with Charles Sanders Peirce and William James, is recognized as one of the founders of the philosophy of pragmatism and of functional psychology. He was a major representative of the progressive and progressive populist philosophies of schooli ...more

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