S M P L C T Y: Ecological Civilisation and the Will to Art

This collection of essays presents an aesthetics of existence called the 'Will to Art'. Readers will be invited to consider the possibility that the universe is fundamentally an aesthetic phenomenon, understood as a process of creative evolution that is moving, albeit agonistically, towards ever-increasing opportunities for artistic expression and aesthetic experience. Art is defined broadly and openly as the meaningful and pleasurable expression of creative labour, and human experience can be considered 'aesthetic' if it flows from the sensuous engagement with art or nature. To speak of the Will to Art is to interpret the world as having an underlying tendency toward artistic and aesthetic flourishing, even though the outcome of this evolutionary process, due to its indeterminate nature, is unknowable in advance.

Two premises guide the development of this vision: first, that material sufficiency is all that is needed for human beings to live rich, meaningful, and artful lives; and second, that material sufficiency is all that is possible, over the long term, on a finite planet in an age of environmental limits. Based on those premises, Samuel Alexander proposes and defends a conception of ecological civilisation which he calls SMPLCTY. This is not a utopian prediction about what is a likely future for our species. Rather, it is an orienting vision, one in which individuals and communities thrive in humble conditions of material sufficiency but cultural richness, meaningfully engaged in pleasurable and creative labour in collaboration with others.

According to this vision, life itself would become an aesthetic project, a never-ending process of creative activity, sensuous experience, aesthetic engagement, and spiritual exploration. Such a society would be structured with the aim of sustainably providing opportunities for all people to find meaning and pleasure through creative labour and aesthetic experience.


Preface: The Apocalyptic Sublime



Introduction: The Aesthetic Dimension                                                                                

The Cosmos as a ‘Readymade’: Dignifying the 

Aesthetic Universe                                                                                                                                            


Creative Evolution and the Will to Art                                                                                   

Pessimism without Despair: Suffering, Desire, and 

the Affirmation of Life                                                                                                                   

An Aesthetic Justification of Existence: The Redemptive 

Function of Art                                                                                                                                  

Camus on Art and Revolt: Overcoming Nihilism in

an Absurd Universe                                                                                                                                           

Rescuing Aestheticism from the Dandies: Critical Distinctions               

Homo Aestheticus, the Artful Species: An Evolutionary 


Giving Birth to Oneself: Ethics as an ‘Aesthetics of Existence’                                   

The Politics of Beauty: Schiller on Freedom and 

Aesthetic Education                                                                                                                                          


Bad Faith and the Fear of Freedom: Can Art Shake Us Awake?              

Banish the Poets! The Power and Politics of Aesthetic Education          

Making Art While the World Weeps: Political Reflections 

on Aesthetics                                                                                                                                                        

Art Against Empire: Marcuse on the Aesthetics of Revolt 


Answering Estragon: Art, Godot, and Utopia                                                                     

Industrial Aesthetics: A Critique of Taste                                                           

Artful Descent: A Cosmodicy of SMPLCTY                                              

Poet-Farmer: A Thoreauvian Aesthetics of Sufficiency                                                  

Democratising the Poet: William Morris and the Art 

of Everyday Life                                                                                                                                


The Aesthetic State: Toward an Ecological Democracy 

of Art (forthcoming)

Conclusion: Revisiting The Glass Bead Game (forthcoming)


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