How Pleasure Works

Ok, so it’s not an art book per say. But it is a book about art! Art is something that gives most viewers pleasure, and why? That question is explored by Paul Bloom in a humorous but scientifically probing way. He makes the case that art, along with other things, has a bit of an essence to it. How we perceive that essence is how we determine our feelings toward a particular work of art. Bloom explains an experiment in which Joshua Bell, the virtuoso violinist, once played in a subway on his Stradivarius after performing at Boston’s Symphony Hall. He only made $30 that night, proving that the context and the setting of a performance is extremely crucial to the perception of the performance itself. When art isn’t in a museum, do you see it the same way? Bloom also covers forgeries and emphasizes that even if the forgery is identical to the original, it is worthless. It’s the picture, but it’s perceived differently, it lacks the same sort of essence. Essence seems to be something unexplainable, yet Bloom presents a number of extremely interesting and entertaining cases in which essence is proved to be something important to our way of living and seeing things. It really gets you thinking and it’s a super fun read!

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