USAO News Bureau

Simpson explores life as art; book signing April 2

Monday, March 25, 2013

 

The time was the middle of the nineteenth century. Long-standing monarchies all over Europe were crumbling. New ideas about science and society undermined commonly held ideas about the human condition that had persisted for millennia. The great thinkers of that time and the decades that followed groped insistently for some bedrock concept upon which they could base their quest for meaning.

 

Dr. Zach Simpson explores this search for an alternative to certainty in his first book, Life as Art: Aesthetics and the Creation of Self. Simpson is scheduled to share excerpts and observations from his research beginning at 7:30 p.m. on April 2 in room 124 of Davis Hall.

 

The presentation will be followed by a book signing at the Nesbitt Gallery. Copies of Simpson’s book will be available for purchase.

The event is free and open to the public.

 

Simpson is an assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies and occupies the Brad Ableson Religious Reconciliation chair at the university.

 

He earned his doctorate in philosophy of religion and theology from Claremont Graduate University in 2009 and became a member of USAO’s faculty the same year.

 

Simpson became interested in aesthetics, the foundation of his research for the book, while pursuing his graduate studies.

 

“Writers like Friedrich Nietzsche, Michel Foucault and Albert Camus were living during times of total disarray,” Simpson says.

 

“They had abandoned the certainty of faith while rejecting the promises of science to transform the world into something comprehensible.

 

They were living in the ruins of corrupt societies overrun by meaningless politics and, yet, refused to believe that life itself was meaningless.”

 

They found that final refuge in art and beauty, according to Simpson’s research.

 

Simpson’s book explores three ideas about art and beauty around which many philosophers and writers gravitated in order to find meaning that could sustain them both intellectually and spiritually.

 

“Life as art aims at creating a new self or society through thinking about the nature of art. The meaning of life is not to be found in truth or religion, but in what one creates everyday,” Simpson insists.

 

“Belief serves a function but that function is no longer guiding the process. It becomes secondary to the task of creating a beautiful life. This is, as I see it, no different than science. Science is just another tool that can be used for the advancement of the self.”

 

In addition to Life as Art, which was released by Lexington Press in September, Simpson published two other peer-reviewed articles in 2012,  “Evolution and Religion” for the Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion (Vol.3) and “The Truths We Tell Ourselves: Foucault on parrhesia” for the May edition of Foucault Studies.

 

He also co-authored an article with Dr. Stephen Weber, professor of music, titled “The Interdisciplinary Arts and Ideas Performance Model: Philosophical, Psychological, Pedagogical, and Practical Perspectives.”

 

The article was published in The Visual and Performing Arts: An International Anthology: Volume II from the Athens Institute for Education and Research.

 

More information about the presentation and book signing can be obtained by calling 574-1362.