An iconoclastic professor of literature at Oxford University named John Carey wrote a book a few years back called What Good Are the Arts? In it he examines, among other things, why people make a distinction between the so-called fine arts, and all the other kinds of arts. Are a pink flamingo on a lawn in Hampden and a Renaissance statue in the sculpture court of the Walters Art Museum fundamentally different, if both give pleasure to the person who encounters them? Is the intrinsic value of art premised in its being beautiful? And why do any of us recognize anything as being "beautiful" -- or not?
On today's edition of Midday on the Arts, we begin with a conversation about the nature of art and beauty, and what shapes our responses to art that we find appealing, and art that leaves us flat, or even infuriated.
Tom's guests are a visual artist, a brain scientist who studies what shapes our aesthetic experiences and an art historian who heads a major art museum.
Dr. Anjan Chatterjee is the Chair of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania's Pennsylvania Hospital, the founding director of the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics, and director of the Center's ChatLab. He is the author of the The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art. He joins us today from the studios of WHYY in Philadelphia.
What good are the arts to you? When you catch your breath at the sight of a beautiful a painting, or cry when you read a beautiful poem, or hear a symphony or a song that moves you mightily, have you ever thought about why you have those reactions? Our listeners weigh in...