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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Reading Aesthetics And Philosophy Of Art.: Selected Texts with INteractive Commentary edited by Christopher Janaway (Reading Philosophy: Blackwell Publishers) `Aesthetics' and `Philosophy of Art' can seem to be competing names for the same field of enquiry. But if that were the case in any simple way, there would be little point in conjoining the two terms as in the title of this hook. The real situation is more complex. The philosophy of art has a history stretching hack to Plato and Aristotle — or may be said to have such a history if one is prepared to overlook the fact that our concept art emerged in recognizable form only in the eighteenth century. Questions that philosophers have asked about art are many and varied. One may be concerned with defining or giving an essence for art, or indeed questioning whether there is any such essence. One may ask what kind of entity an art work is: is it a physical thing, a mental state or event, a universal, or something with a characterization more complex and elusive than any of these, such as an institutional entity, which relies for its existence on a set of conventions and practices? One may ask what the value of art is, or what its most characteristic values are if, as is likely, it has more than one: does art entertain, does it give us knowledge and insight, does it offer consolation and confirmation of our feelings, does it help us by mirroring reality or help us by creating illusions? Does art have autonomous value, unrelated to questions of ethics or social utility or knowledge, is it a supreme form of play or freedom that expresses the true potential of human beings? How does art relate most characteristically to the human mind: is it that it arouses our emotions, that it brings us pleasure, or that it expresses emotions, embodies imagination, or allows us to confront pain in a palatable way? How do we interpret and respond to the particular art forms, and why are they of value or interest to us? Why do we value the apparently negative experiences of tragedy and horror? What makes something a picture as opposed to another kind of symbol or representation? What makessome writing literary and other writing not, one piece of music expressive and another not?

You would find all of these philosophical questions about art – some ancient, others recent in provenance – within the scope of a course or textbook entitled `Aesthetics'. So what distinguishes aesthetics from philosophy of art? For much of its history, art became entangled with the concept of the aesthetic, which came into use in the eighteenth century, its inauguration usually credited to the German philosopher Alexander Baumgarten. The Greek word from which `aesthetic' derives applies to sensation, feeling, or perception. The thought is that there are certain ways of responding to our experience of objects in which we have feelings of pleasure or liking, and that these felt responses lead us to regard objects as beautiful, or as having other qualities such as elegance or sublimity, or in general (as we would now put it) aesthetic value. The idea of this kind of response and its link with the notion of aesthetic judgement was important in establishing aesthetics as a distinct branch within philosophy.

But what has become increasingly unclear in recent aesthetics is whether aesthetic response is distinctive of encounters with works of art. For one thing, aesthetic responses would seem to occur in encounters with other kinds of thing, for example ordinary kinds of human artefact that we do not classify as art, and more importantly natural objects. Since aesthetic value is attributed to many more things in the world than just art works, we might seek a more general account of aesthetic value (as Kant appears to be doing in his seminal Critique of Judgement). However, such generality brings the risk of submerging what is really distinctive of art, and a complementary worry that, in taking art works as our paradigm of things with aesthetic value, we may ignore or falsify the aesthetic value that nature has for human beings.

A more fundamental doubt about this approach is whether `aesthetic response' is even central to the existence and use of most art works. For art is often political, didactic, critical, knowledge-forming and attitude-changing; it is discordant, shocking, exploratory of the ugly, the repressed, the inchoate. Art is polyvalent and diverse, apparently always changing and challenging its own assumptions. Our reactions to art are both playful and serious, pleasurable, emotional, ethical, cognitive, and interpretive, so the idea that the value of art can be captured by investigating something called `aesthetic response', something that we also feel when appreciating natural beauty or an ordinary wallpaper design, begins to seem at best too narrow, and at worst an irrelevance. Some recent writers have accordingly objected to the term `aesthetics' and wish their subject to be referred to as the philosophy of art.

On the other hand, unless we deny that there is any such practice as attributing aesthetic value to things, we have to face questions about the nature of that value, of the kinds of judgement in which it is attributed and the kinds of experience on which such judgements might be founded. There is, or should he, therefore, a philosophy of the aesthetic, even if we reserve judgement about the extent to which art is accounted for when we think

about the aesthetic. And under the concept of beauty there has arguably been a philosophy of the aesthetic for almost as long as there has been philosophy. Once again Plato's writings contain foundational passages on the subject of beauty, which remained a topic for philosophers right through the ancient and medieval periods. Secondly, much art has been produced under the assumption that beauty or aesthetic value is an important dimension of achievement for artists, and if we theorize the aesthetic out of our conception of art altogether (perhaps influenced by some dominant trends among artists of the late twentieth century), we may lose sight of the breadth of what constitutes art. Thirdly, there are still theorists today who would want a comprehensive definition of art that makes essential reference to the intention to bring about aesthetic experience, however that is defined. In other words, the aesthetic remains a topic for philosophy, and the place of the aesthetic within the philosophy of art is still a matter for debate.


The twelve pieces selected in this hook are deliberately varied, ranging from Plato's famous critique of art in the Republic to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century classics of the subject (Hume, Kant, Nietzsche), through to twentieth-century pieces, the most recent of which was published in 1997. R. G. Collingwood wrote in the first half of the twentieth century, and his theory of expression, still much discussed, might be said to have some affinities with both romanticism and modernism. Roland Barthes's short piece is also a classic in that it states a founding premiss of the movement in art theory that has been called postmodernism. The remaining twentieth-century pieces belong within the tradition of analytical philosophy, though the specific techniques and interests of that school of thought have probably penetrated less into aesthetics than other areas. In the issues they raise concerning interpretation, the institutional nature of art, the aesthetic, the nature of pictorial representation, and the aesthetics of nature, the pieces by Noel Carroll, Arthur C. Danto, George Dickie, Nelson Goodman, R. W. Hepburn, and Richard Wollheim challenge many traditional assumptions about art and the aesthetic.

One aim of the book is to show that there are dialogues that unite the pieces chosen, despite their disparate origins. This applies not only within a chapter, where pieces have been chosen to complement or oppose one another quite explicitly, but across different chapters as well. Notions of aesthetic experience that one may find underlying the pieces from Hume and Kant, for example, are applied and criticized in the more recent selections on art and nature that form chapter 2. Carroll's central notion of interpretive play in that chapter is taken up to some extent by the pieces on interpretation in chapter 5. Danto's claim that an artworld provides the interpretive framework that art requires in order to exist is paralleled by Dickie's definition of art in terms of institutional practices. The concern with the arousal of the emotions by artistic representations shown in different ways in the passages from Plato, Nietzsche, and

Hepburn is counter-balanced by the emphasis on expression of emotion in the piece by Collingwood, and the phenomenon of depiction that figures in Plato's notion of mimesis is given a modern analysis in the pieces by Goodman and Wollheim.

This book will serve the reader as an introduction to aesthetics. Its aim is to guide the reader into the kinds of questioning and reading that may be required in order to do the subject well. The method adopted in the interactive commentaries is designed to provoke active reading.' By following the boxed questions addressed to the reader and pursuing the trail of marginal markers that accompany each text, the reader will he assisted in developing an approach that looks for the structure of the argument in each extract and also reflects on the processes involved in reading texts in a variety of styles representative of aesthetics as it is currently studied. So the book is neither merely an anthology of texts nor a collection of essays expressing views about those texts: it is a direct induction into the practice of philosophizing about art and the aesthetic.



Reframing the Theory of the Sublime: Pillars and Modes by Cliff McMahon (Edwin Mellen Press) For most of the twentieth century the sublime was an outmoded sensibility, strongly linked to the aesthetics of Romanticism. Occasional important historical studies appeared—such as those of Samuel Monk and Walter J. Hipple, but there was no real attempt to engage with it as a potentially resurgent factor in contemporary culture.

The situation changed dramatically in the early 1980s. A first important factor in this was J-F. Lyotard's linkage of the sublime to a theory of avant-garde art and new technology. Around the same time radical transformations in literary theory, Continental philosophy, and psychoanalysis demanded an aesthetic appropriate to that excess of signifiers and signification which was now being linked to problems in the interpretation and reception of texts.

By the 1990s the literature on the sublime had eclipsed in both quantity and quality, debates about other aesthetic concepts. The field had become even more complex through the fact that more than one approach to the sublime had now been revitalized. In antiquity, Longinus described the sublimity of lofty writing, and his ideas have interesting relevance in the contemporary context.
From the eighteenth-century, Burke's and—even more influentially—Kant's theories of the sublime have been reconstructed and applied in contexts which their original authors (to say the least) would have been surprised to find them in.
Given all these exciting new avenues of investigation, Cliff McMahon's
book provides an important addition to the literature. It has the advantage of an overview which is profoundly informed by an extraordinary range of learning in literature, the visual arts, the history of philosophy and ideas, as well as aesthetics per se. McMahon is able to explain the various historical and intellectual factors described earlier and many more besides. His book is excellent in its detailed and imaginative tracing of the relation between four basic traditions of the sublime, namely, Longinus, Burke, Kant, and Nietzsche, and the complex developments of

these found in contemporary writers such as Ferguson, Zizek, Eagleton, and myself. It is a feature of great interest in itself that McMahon is able to put and develop a case for Nietzsche as a theorist of the sublime. Equally interesting and unorthodox is his mapping of the sublime in relation to Sartre and Jung.

The book's greatest strength is that it takes the debate about the sublime to a new and complex level in terms of the categories through which the concept is analyzed. This opens up new insights concerning the internal complexity of the sublime even within each of its major forms. It also greatly illuminates the importance of connections between aesthetic and moral issues, and the various modes of transcendent experience associated with varieties of religious feeling. The upshot of all this is an especially gratifying emphasis on the sublime as a concept which is capable of still further re-invention as historical circumstances change. Cliff McMahon's book may now become a standard text for discussions of the sublime in the twenty-first century.


As the centuries turned in European and Asian culture, beginning with ancient Greece and ancient China and India, the discourse of the sublime—like that of other great core concepts such as God, cosmos, selfhood, truth, and freedom—continuously gathered to itself new models, new voices, new perspectives. One could certainly make a good case that each major cultural movement in Europe brought with it, whether articulated or not, a reframing of the sublime.

Certainly the twentieth century is no exception. It has witnessed a reframing of the sublime by interpreters such as Frances Ferguson (influenced by Deconstruction); Herbert Weiskel (influenced by Freud); Jean-Francois Lyotard (influenced by Postmodernism); Paul Crowther (influenced by Merleau-Ponty); Harold Bloom (influenced by Existentialism and myth theory); David Nye (cognizant of the new power of the technological sublime); Terry Eagleton (influenced by Marx); and Slavoj Zizek (influenced by Lacan). If one simply produced a study of these eight sublimicist theorists, one would be sketching a reframing of the sublime, and I intend to do just that. However, my aims are broader. I hope to make a constructive effort to draw from the accumulating discourse of the sublime an anatomy of the sublime, which I offer as a complex set of modes. In this process I have in mind reframings of my own, and I offer a new emphasis on modes which I call the ideational sublime, the philosophic sublime, the ideological sublime, and the culture sublime, and in perhaps a gesture toward Post-postmodernism, I offer a strong appreciation of the moral and religious sublime (encouraged by Crowther, Lyotard, Zizek, and Eagleton).

In order to make this effort toward an anatomy, in addition to these eight modern voices, I have selected four of the older seminal theorists of the sublime for a detailed treatment: Longinus, Burke, Kant, and Nietzsche. I have selected them because they are crucial to my conceptualizing of mode. These four major thinkers, in short, offer me what I am looking for. I do not give much space to Hegel, as others might, simply because his totalizing theism has not been widely accepted, and because Hegel's sublime is prefigured in what I call the ideational mode, which is located before Hegel, in Longinus and Kant. It was Kant, not Hegel, who first located the sublime in ideas of reason. Nietzsche, on the other hand, I do choose to emphasize because the well-distributed richness and variety of his thought allows him to touch on numerous modes of the sublime, and I give Nietzsche the credit for first comprehending the idea of the sublimity of culture itself, focused by Nietzsche on the blending of Apollonian and Dionysiac vectors in the culture of ancient Greece. To the best of my knowledge, my doctoral dissertation in 1998 on the sublime in Abstract Expressionism offered the first detailed reading of the Nietzschean sublime. I offer here one of the first for Lyotard, Zizek,. Crowther, and Eagleton.

If the selection of Longinus, Burke, Kant, and Nietzsche causes me to overlook any major modes of the sublime, others may correct my errors of omission. Kant himself captures many possible patterns when he designates a mathematical sublime of vast size, and a dynamical sublime of great energy. Since the Western Romantic sublime finds a parallel in ancient Taoism, and since Zizek's fantasy sublime finds a parallel in ancient Hinduism and Buddhism, I will make brief references to these correspondencies. It ought not to be surprising that I might emphasize the moral sublime, for this reason: it is very much a major perennial concern for philosophy to offer a proper conceptualization of the facultary interest, authority, and sovereignty of the ethical sense, a concern that is obvious in Kant, Crowther, Lyotard, and Eagleton. But this is a task for philosophers, not for art historians. The theory of meta-ethics has been revitalized by Michael A. Smith's 1995 study The Moral Problem.

The whole question of transcendence must loom large in sublimicist theory, since the sublime is defined as an ascent into some kind of higher zone, an elevation accompanied by astonishment. Throughout my study, I develop the thesis that there is a very wide range of transcendent encounters, some very simple, and many fully secular, while others involve mystical or religious experience. For instance, the simple and fully human sense of wonderment at being, at mere existence, has been considered a major sublime experience. In this case the transcendence is simply from particular being to a sense of universal being (as in Heidegger), but this is enough to induce a sense of the grand and amazing. Or if a person falls in love, and moves from selfishness towards that higher morality which accompanies having another's fate largely in one's hands, entering into a higher modality of sacrificial love, this elevation allows one to call love a sublime passion, as it has often been declared, in a fully secular context. Mysticism itself is frequently defined in a fully humanistic sense as any kind of strong spiritual bonding between self and other, as in a relation to a treasured geographical place, or to a country, or to a family. In philosophy, as the Greeks and ancient Chinese philosophers theorized, the elevation from particular to universal constitutes a profound ascent. When modern science seeks an absolute truth about basic universal forces and seeks also the mapping of a cosmic blueprint, the sublime awesomeness involved rises very close to a religious level. And when a single complex painting, no more really than a network of simple visual signs, becomes radiant with a reasonably accurate grasp of its deepest metaphysical meanings, when signifiers explode with their proper significance, this fully human aesthetic experience is often an occasion of astonishment and awe, especially when the metaphysical ideas themselves are sufficiently profound to bring in the ideational sublime, and as Kant emphasized, a sublime wonderment can be either sudden and hot, or slow and reasoned, both modes frequent in the history of science, which focuses on both sudden intuitions, and chains of logical inferences, these modes also typical of artists and critics in their mysterious creative intuitions, followed by logical and formal structurings. It was Longinus who first argued that one source of the sublime, in art, is the recognition of the unity of parts to the whole, that harmony we would seek in the design of a great building, a great ode, or a cosmic blueprint. Transcendence, therefore, is where one finds it, and there is an enormous range of possibility. In any conceptual study of the sublime, it would be wrong to slight the religious sublime, which has played such a powerful role in world history, past and present. Even if many intellectuals resemble Sartre in trying to minimize the religious sublime, it is still true that for the religions of India, for logos Christians, and for Yin-Yang Confucianists and Taoists, as well as for Tillich and Heidegger, everything in the world carries a sacred component, and in such contextual frames, the potential for a sublime revelation would literally be found everywhere. The category of the sublime has been extremely attractive both to current political conservatives and political radicals, partly because vast social movements and wars have been called sublime, and partly because utopian models of a more just and perfect society have been called sublime, whether T. S. Eliot's model of a perfected Christian community, or Terry Eagleton's model of a perfected Marxist community. The bond of self to community is a kind of transcendence. The concept of the sublime is prominent now in aesthetics and in politics because it is so useful in addressing major aesthetic and social issues, which cannot be encompassed by the discourse of the beautiful.

And so, it is a good time for a reframing of the sublime, in the light of the intense contemporary interest from both conservative and radical thinkers. The twentieth century has turned, and the new century will launch afresh its own search for dominant pillars of metaphysical support, for sublimity-flavored modes of value and belief, as the thinkers and artists of the new age produce their unique visions of the class of things that are astonishing, grand, elevating, and timeless.

The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness by Virginia Postrel (HarperCollins) Celebrated trend-spotter, social critic, and New York Times columnist Virginia Postrel turns her razor-sharp eye toward a major new trend this fall: the triumph of style in American life in The Substance of Style. Postrel persuasively argues that aesthetics - the look and feel of people, places, and things - is increasingly essential as a source of value, both economic and cultural. Citing examples that invade nearly every aspect of our lives-from fashion to real estate, and design to economics---Postrel proves that in order to remain competitive in any forum, be it business or pleasure, we have to make the right decisions based upon our sensory experiences.  

In The Substance of Style, Postrel traces the timeline that has seen the growing assumption of function and the rapid rise of aesthetics that has permeated our society, both in intensity and variety. With function assumed, it is style that triumphs in making personal consumer choices. This, argues Postrel, is the "aesthetic imperative." A clear example might be a simple toilet brush, a definitive object of function. Going into a store like Bed, Bath and

Beyond, however, might alter one's perception of a toilet brush as merely an object of function. There are seemingly infinite varieties of stylish toilet brushes to choose from, in different shapes, colors, and sizes. The variety allows individuals to create their own aesthetic identities, deeming the choices that people make even more valuable since they represent personal taste. Postrel maintains that contrary to what we might admit to ourselves, appearance counts and aesthetic value is real.

Exploring this phenomenon not just in the realm of household objects, but in business strategies, political campaigns, children's names, hair dyes, and interior design, Postrel astutely focuses on different social and economic trends that are contributing to the growing importance of aesthetics. While incomes climb, households are getting smaller, which increases the per capita income. The ability to buy more of everything is greater, giving preference to things that "look and feel" better as the more attractive purchase. This in turn creates a higher level of competition for businesses. Since the bar for function and reliability is so high and price so low, style is often the only differentiating factor. Innovations in technology have made aesthetic variety cheaper and more widely available and as a culture we've evolved from viewing aesthetics as frivolous or deceptive and have come to embrace them as pleasurable.  

The Substance of Style is a brilliant examination of the way we live now, deftly chronicling our culture's fascination with and seduction by aesthetics. A journalist and critic with her finger on the pulse of society, Postrel exposes everyone's deep dark secret: style matters.

An interview with Virginia Postrel, Author of The Substance of Style

Q: What do you mean by the "aesthetic imperative"?

A: Aesthetics--the look and feel of people, places, and things--is increasingly important as a source of value, both economic and cultural. We see both increasing intensity and increasing variety, or pluralism.

Aesthetics shows up where function used to be the only thing that mattered, from toilet brushes to business memos to computers and cell phones. And people's expectations keep rising. New tract homes have granite countertops, so hotel rooms have to have granite countertops too. Family restaurants used to be all about price and food, but now they have to worry about their decor. We've gone from Pizza Hut to California Pizza Kitchen. If you're in business, you have to invest in aesthetics simply to keep up with the competition. That's intensity.

At the same time, people expect to have the freedom and the tools to express their own aesthetic identities. One-style-fits-all won't work. So you can choose from 1,500 different drawer pulls at The Great Indoors. Jeans come in a whole array of washes and cuts--not just different sizes or shapes, but different personalities. Bank One advertises a credit card that not only lets you pick your financial terms but also your card color. Even a basic word processing program includes hundreds of different typefaces. That's variety.

Q: What's the best example?

A: The touchstone example is Starbucks. Starbucks is to the age of aesthetics what McDonald's was to the age of convenience or Ford was to the age of mass production. Starbucks isn't just selling gourmet coffee, itself an aesthetic good. It's creating a whole sensory environment of sounds, smells, lighting, and textures.

Another famous example is Target, which has used high-design products at mass­market prices to compete with Wal-Mart's low-price strategy. Its Michael Graves line of housewares has been a big success not because Target shoppers know who Michael Graves is but because they think the toasters and picture frames look cool.

Kinko's caters to our need for slick graphics, even for such mundane purposes as finding work cleaning houses. On the supplier end, I talk about GE Plastics' global aesthetics program, which offers special-effects plastics and custom services to make the company's products more than just commodities.

Q: Why is this trend happening?

A: There isn't a single cause. A bunch of different social and economic trends are all pushing us in this direction. Incomes are rising and households are getting smaller, which means more income per person. We can buy more aesthetic goods because we can buy more of everything. But, more important, aesthetics is also becoming more prominent relative to other goods. When we decide how next to spend our time or money, considering what we already have and the costs and benefits of various alternatives, "look and feel" is likely to top our list. We don't want more food, or even more restaurant meals--we're already maxed out. Instead, we want tastier, more interesting food in an appealing environment. It's a move from physical quantity to intangible, emotional quality.

For many businesses, competition has already pushed function and reliability so high and price so low that style is the only way to stand out. All radios or trash cans work pretty much the same. Most computer buyers don't need more speed or more powerful chips. Once quality and price are already good enough, what we care about is how things look and feel. We're buying not just function but pleasure and meaning.

Innovations in technology and distribution have made aesthetic variety cheaper and more widely available. Computers and lasers have become aesthetic tools, for everything from graphic design to plastic surgery. First catalogs and now Internet sales have made niche markets big enough to be profitable.

International trade has increased stylistic variety and, combined with retail competition, lowered the costs of aesthetic goods, from clothing to Christmas lights.

Finally, we've been moving away from the Puritan idea that aesthetics is frivolous or deceptive, the Victorian notion that aesthetics is unmanly, and the 20th-century notion that there's one best style--whether it's modern architecture or whatever the fashion magazines are pushing this month. American individualism is manifesting itself in style.

The changing roles of women and gays and the increasing influence of African-American and Latino cultures also play a role. Thinking style is frivolous and effeminate is an Anglo-American prejudice. Other cultures have long seen personal style as a valuable achievement rather than something suspicious or superficial.

Q: You argue that aesthetics has value in and of itself, that surfaces are not just "superficial." Where does that value come from?

A: Pleasure and meaning--our biological response as visual, tactile creatures and our cultural memories and associations. In between is our desire for novelty. As biological creatures, we notice and appreciate changes in sensory stimuli. But culture determines what's aesthetically new. Both biology and culture drive fashion.

Q: You write mostly about economics and politics. How did you get interested in this subject?

A: The simplest answer is that I started to notice the trend all around me and wondered about its causes and implications. In some ways, it's easier for someone like me, who comes from outside the world of design or aesthetics, to realize how much things have changed. Style has never been one of my central concerns--I'm not immersed in it--so it's easier for me to see how prominent it has become for all of us.

Also, when I wrote The Future and Its Enemies I learned a lot about the world of design. I was interested in design for two reasons. First, that book was concerned with creativity and innovation--how they work and what barriers they face--and design is an example. Second, The Future and Its Enemies was also interested in the limits of conscious design, in how order can and should arise without planning. So to think about that, I needed to think about when design is valuable. Some of these themes reemerged, unintentionally, in chapter five of The Substance of Style, which is called "The Boundaries of Design."

Q: What do you mean by the "boundaries of design"?

A: As people value aesthetics more highly, they're more likely to take offense at other people's stylistic choices and try to restrict them by law. We're seeing a rise in aesthetic conflict. Some of it happens in the workplace, over dress codes and hairstyles, but the biggest area of conflict is over architecture and land use. People protest their neighbors' paint colors, their plants, their window frames, their kids' play equipment.

We increasingly treat aesthetic differences as pollution. Ten years ago, 83 percent of American towns had some sort of design review, and three-quarters of those regulations had been passed since 1980. There's no current count, but the number has grown.

The idea of "design boundaries" is a way to think about these conflicts. A "design" suggests a single, coherent purpose (or group of purposes) and a matching aesthetic. But people are different. They have different tastes, including the taste for variety versus homogeneity.

For public policy, the question is not to pick the one best design. It's to decide where the boundary is--the front yard, the block, 'the neighborhood, the city, etc.. Part of that process is recognizing that not all design choices are equally intrusive, fundamental, permanent, or costly to escape. Sometimes the easiest solution is simply to ignore what you don't like. Other times that's not practical. The difference between two styles of window frames isn't the same as the difference between setbacks or lot sizes

Aesthetic conflicts will never disappear altogether, because people find pleasure and meaning in very different styles. But the right boundaries can mitigate the problem.

Q: What interesting examples have you found since you wrote the book, things that aren't included in it?

A: My favorite new discovery is something called WacKeys. If you go to Lowes to get a key copied, you have two choices. For $1.24 you can get a standard plain-metal key. Or, for $2.97 you can choose from a half dozen different designs--flowers, butterflies, American flags, flames, tie-dye colors, etc. The blanks are exactly the same shape as the standard ones. They just have an aesthetic twist. I think they could come up with some better designs, but the concept is great, and they're getting a huge premium for it.

Lowe's also has a paint "Color Design Center" whose slogan is "Autograph Your Home with Signature Colors," which is a nice expression of the way we use aesthetics to express individual identity.

In terms of places, a broad trend that didn't make it into the book is the growth of "fast casual" restaurants like Panera, Cosi, Baja Fresh, and Chipotle. Unlike traditional family restaurant chains like Chili's or TGI Friday's, they don't offer waiter service. Instead, they sell fresh food in a stylish environment. They're selling not just food-as-fuel but an aesthetic experience, but they're almost as fast and convenient as fast food chains. They're taking customers from both ends of the mass-market restaurant business.

Finally, we've seen the explosion in makeover shows on TV. I talk in the book (and in this column) about home makeover programs, like Trading Spaces and Design on a Dime. Now we're now seeing more, and more successful, people-makeover shows: Extreme Makeover on ABC, What Not to Wear on TLC, and Bravo's new smash hit Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which does both personal and room "make betters." These kinder, gentler reality shows appeal to our desire for aesthetic self-improvement and for the expertise to make it happen. The Oprah Winfrey Show even gave a makeover to Coretta Scott King.

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