2021-04Discussion Papers, Comments, Book Reviews
East and West on the Tension Between Ars Erotica and Ars Vivendi


/Commentary: Richard Shusterman, Ars Erotica: Sex and Somaesthetics in the Classical Arts of Love (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021), 436 pages./

Richard Shusterman’s Ars Erotica: Sex and Somaesthetics in the Classical Arts of Love is a masterpiece in a number of respects. With its focus on erotic love and the aesthetics of lovemaking, the book is to be admired for having the audacity to broach a topic that tends to be neglected – if not repressed – in contemporary academic scholarship. But Ars Erotica is far from being “simply” about sex and different arts of love. In exploring classical erotic theories and ideals in Western, Chinese, Indian, Islamic and Japanese cultures, it reveals an impressive amount of knowledge and erudition when analyzing, documenting, and contextualizing the various ars erotica in their different social, cultural, political, philosophical, and religious milieus. Moreover, although Shusterman’s guiding thread is the aesthetic dimension of classic ars erotica, the book also has an important ethical and spiritual dimension, as it compellingly demonstrates how the cultivation of physical beauty and sensual pleasures was – at least in classical ancient traditions – indissociable from a wider concern with the cultivation of one’s character and virtue, that is, with an art of living in which sexual practices and attitudes were strongly embedded and from which they ultimately derived their deep symbolic meaning and relevance.

How to cite:

Faustino, Marta. “East and West on the Tension Between Ars Erotica and Ars Vivendi.” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 5, no. 4 (2021): 147-151. https://doi.org/10.14394/eidos.jpc.2021.0047.


Marta Faustino
Art of Living Research Group, IFILNOVA/ Nova University of Lisbon
Avenida de Berna 26C, 1069-061 Lisboa, Portugal

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