This work may well be expected to serve as an introduction to the study of aesthetics, suitable alike to the needs of our students and the general reader. A fair part of it deals with some of the more difficult concepts and problems one encounters in contemporary Western philosophical discourse on art. At the same time, the book is studded with illustrative references to contemporary aesthetic practice in India. This is true of almost every individual chapter; and the close is provided by a critical and comprehensive, yet intelligible account of the Indian theory of rasa, to which some eminent Western aestheticians, such as Susanne K. Langer and Harold Osborne, have referred admiringly in some of their basic writings.
What should make this book especially attractive to enquiring readers is its consistent attempt to reflect on teasing aesthetical questions with clarity.
Sushil Kumar Saxena (b. 1921) is widely known today as a scholar who has shown the way to look at Indian music, rhythm, and dance in the way of contemporary Western aesthetics. As a professor of philosophy at Delhi University, he distinguished himself with his very first book; Studies in the Metaphysics of Bradley (1967) published by George Allen & Unwin, London, and Humanities Muirhead Library series of philosophical works.
Dr Saxena introduced the teaching of aesthetics at Delhi University in 1964 and, since his retirement in 1986, has published a steady stream of scholarly papers in internationally reputed journals through the 1970s and 80s. What is more, he has produced six books on Hindustani music, rhythm and Kathak dance, besides a work on philosophy of religion, Ever Unto God: Essays on Gandhi and Religion (1988). His latest book is Hindustani Sanger: Some Perspectives, Some Performers (Sanger Natak Akademi, and D.K. Printworld 2010).
For all this scholarly work, Prof. Saxena has been honoured by Sanger Natak Akademi with its Annual Award (2007) and its fellowship in 2008. He was bestowed the state honour, Padma Bhushan, also in 2008.
With the assistance of a Senior Fellowship from the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi, the manuscript of this book was completed in 2005. When, on completion, it was submitted to the Council for publication, its academic director politely regretted the Council’s inability to accede to my request, though in the same letter the work’s quality was openly acknowledged. The decision surprised me. Anyway, now that the work has appeared in its present form, following a quick positive decision by Sanger Natak Akademi, New Delhi, I am naturally happy and relieved.
The publication has been done in collaboration with D.K. Printworld (p) Ltd., where Mr Susheel K. Mittal spared no pains in expediting the production of the book. What is more, he kindly allowed me to check the proofs of the printed text as many times as I wanted to. So I have reason to be grateful to him.
As for the assistance received from the Adademi, and particularly from its publication expert, Mr A. Chatterjee and his colleague, Mr S.P. Saxena, I am only say that it has been so unremitting that no occasional acknowledgement can be adequate to it. This is quite as true of what I owe to ICPR. This national institute of philosophical research has been very liberal in awarding Senior Fellowships to me – I repeat – to undertake and finalize the writing of this book.
In the end, as I now look at its size and appearance, how can I fail to acknowledge the help given by Mr A.N. Sharma who has done all the typing, and Mr Vinay Jain who has designed the jacket in such a way that it seems to chime visibly with the general character of what the book contains, that is, philosophic reflection on matters relating to art and beauty.
I close this preface with the hope that the book will be of some definite help to our senior students of aesthetics.
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