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Langer, Susanne (1895–1985)


Subject Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art » Aesthetics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405169226.2009.x


American philosopher, best known for her contributions to philosophical anthropology and aesthetics; one of the most important aestheticians of the twentieth century. Her views on art are integrated with a general philosophical position of some intricacy. Her aesthetic theory had its genesis in her book on the nature of symbolism and meaning, Philosophy in a New Key (first published in 1942), became the focus in its sequel, Feeling and Form (1953 ), and was expanded in the three volumes of Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling (1967, 1972, 1982 ) In all these works, Langer wove together an astounding variety of influences with a sensitive understanding of art. The writings of A. N. Whitehead, Ernst Cassirer, Wittgenstein, C. S. Peirce, and Rudolf Carnap feature strongly in her work, not to mention those of biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and numerous writers on art. Only the portion of her work directly concerned with the aesthetic is considered here. Langer began by accepting the great division made by positivism between cognitive and emotive expression, but it was her intention to rescue the emotive from being dismissed as meaningless by describing how it exhibits an alternative form of meaning best illustrated by art. Human beings are essentially symbolic animals; this capacity cannot be regarded as a mere extension of animal psychology. Her last work undertook ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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