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Extra info for Beautiful Democracy: Aesthetics and Anarchy in a Global Era
5 Before enabling an objective as lofty as political community, aesthetics do their work at more intimate and basic levels, investing citizens with freedom and moral capacity. ” 6 For what sort of political community is the citizen fashioned? This question often meets with Flowers and Billy Clubs . 29 cautious responses from critics who see the aesthetic citizen as the perfect calculus of a bourgeois regime that prizes an ethos of self-regulation. ” 7 This ambivalence suggests that the outcome of Scarry’s election that has people afﬁrming beauty across centuries might not be so predictable.
The untutored longing of the capmaker’s daughter for beauty is ushered by the academy into the domain of institutional aesthetics. Except that capmakers’ daughters did not often have the opportunity to attend Wellesley or Williams. Still, if aesthetics were a matter of instinct, college classrooms were not absolutely necessary to awaken ethical feelings among the populace. The physiological nature of aesthetics, bound up with species survival, allowed that the nervous system of any subject could respond positively to beauty.
9 Among more specialized students of aesthetic theory, dissertators like Edwin Lee Norton of Harvard devoted long hours and many pages toward proving that “supreme ethical value” and “supreme aesthetic value” were united in the concept of the good. 10 His colleagues spent large chunks of time in the Psychology Laboratory, examining the contraction and relaxation of eye muscles in an effort to determine how physiological stimulus conditions pleasure. Thus when Roswell Parker Angier, who later headed up the Institute of Psychology at Yale, took the question “what divisions do people like” as the central focus of his dissertation, he noticed that test subjects preferred to look at horizontal and vertical lines of equal length.