Review: Studies in the History of the Renaissance

4 Star, Consciousness & Social IQ, Culture, Research, History, Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design, Philosophy
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Walter Pater, Matthew Beaumont

4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Literary Minutia–Not At All What I Expected,November 20, 2011

I bought this book on the basis of a rave mention of it in one of the other books I reviewed, it might have been a year ago. It’s been sitting in my airplane pile for a while.

At a professional level of erudite literary dissection and amplification, this is clearly both a supreme professional accomplishment and a labor of love. From the note to the bibliography to the chronology, this is one of the best constructed and presented “packages” I have ever held in my hands.

It leaves me cold. I simply do not see, feel, or comprehend the bru-ha-ha over this being a clarion call to flagrant abandon, an ode to homosexuality, a challenge to the ruling class, etcetera.

I *do* see the celebration of the senses and the emphasis on appreciation in context, each piece is different for each person, it is the interaction of the person, the piece, and the moment that “creates” the unique sensory experience.

I *do* see the challenge to the Church and traditions (mostly very hypocritical as the prudes in public often turned out to be libertines in private).

I *do* learn at aestheticism has been associated with homosexuality in the past, and have to look up the word to learn that its secular meaning is (Merriam Webster Online:

1: a doctrine that the principles of beauty are basic to other and especially moral principles
2: devotion to or emphasis on beauty or the cultivation of the arts

I *do* get that the author (Pater) strives to celebrate both the human intellect and the human body as in “sound mind in sound body” but I do not see where this makes the book any kind of celebration of manly love.

I paid special attention to the conclusion, and found it bland in relation to all the bru-ha-ha.

One great quote:

QUOTE (119): The service of philosophy, and of religion and culture as well, to the human spirit, is to startle it into a sharp and eager observation. … Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself is the end.

I love to read. I am now working my way through The Order of Things, a Catholic appreciation of philosophy, reality, and the cosmic, and I have to say that in relation to that and to Will Durant’s Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition, I cannot recommend this book for anyone other than a fanatic student of the author, the literature on the literary history of the renaissance (not the same as the history of the renaissance).

Seize the day–got it. Love it. That does not make this book, in my view, a manifesto for homosexuality.

Instead of this book, I’d recommend the two above books, and these that struck me as much more valuable to the general reader:
Mapping the Moral Domain: A Contribution of Women’s Thinking to Psychological Theory and Education
Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics
Radical Man

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