The Space that Separates: A Realist Theory of Art: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Space that Separates: A Realist Theory of Art

1st Edition

By Nick Wilson


246 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781138912083
pub: 2019-08-29
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The Space that Separates: A Realist Theory of Art radically challenges our assumptions about what art is, what art does, who is doing it, and why it matters. Rejecting the modernist and market-driven misconception that art is only what artists do, Wilson instead presents a realist case for living artfully. Art is defined as the skilled practice of giving shareable form to our experiences of being-in-relation with the real; that is to say, the causally generative domain of the world that extends beyond our direct observation, comprising relations, structures, mechanisms, possibilities, powers, processes, systems, forces, values, ways of being. In communicating such aesthetic experience we behold life’s betweenness – "the space that separates", so coming to know ourselves as connected.

Providing the first dedicated and comprehensive account of art and aesthetics from a critical realist perspective – Aesthetic Critical Realism (ACR), Wilson argues for a profound paradigm shift in how we understand and care for culture in terms of our system(s) of value recognition. Fortunately, we have just the right tool to help us achieve this transformation – and it’s called art. Offering novel explanatory accounts of art, aesthetic experience, value, play, culture, creativity, artistic truth and beauty, this book will appeal to a wide audience of students and scholars of art, aesthetics, human development, philosophy and critical realism, as well as cultural practitioners and policy-makers.

Table of Contents

Part I: Foundations: Critical Realism and Experience

1. Introduction – A Realist Theory of Art

2. Critical Realism – In 21 Steps

3. Experience – A Depth Ontology

Part II: Developments: Realising Aesthetic Experience

4. Aesthetic Experience – Being-In-Relation

5. Axiological Experience – Value(s)

6. Metaxological Experience – Between

7. Cultural Experience – Value Recognition

Part III: Deepenings: Art and Aesthetic Critical Realism

8. Alethic Experience – Truth

9. Constellational Experience – Beauty

10. Living Artfully in The Space That Separates – Good

About the Author

Nick Wilson is Professor of Culture & Creativity at the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries (CMCI), King’s College London. Nick worked as a professional singer, and then in arts management, before joining the Small Business Research Centre, Kingston University, in 2000, and King’s College London in 2009. His current research embraces aesthetic critical realism, art and cultural development, creativity and cultural opportunities, and the historical performance of music.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Critical Realism

Critical Realism is a broad movement within philosophy and social science. It is a movement that began in British philosophy and sociology following the founding work of Roy Bhaskar, Margaret Archer and others. Critical Realism emerged from the desire to realise an adequate realist philosophy of science, social science, and of critique. Against empiricism, positivism and various idealisms (interpretivism, radical social constructionism), Critical Realism argues for the necessity of ontology. The pursuit of ontology is the attempt to understand and say something about ‘the things themselves’ and not simply about our beliefs, experiences, or our current knowledge and understanding of those things. Critical Realism also argues against the implicit ontology of the empiricists and idealists of events and regularities, reducing reality to thought, language, belief, custom, or experience. Instead Critical Realism advocates a structural realist and causal powers approach to natural and social ontology, with a focus upon social relations and process of social transformation.

Important movements within Critical Realism include the morphogenetic approach developed by Margaret Archer; Critical Realist economics developed by Tony Lawson; as well as dialectical Critical Realism (embracing being, becoming and absence) and the philosophy of metaReality (emphasising priority of the non-dual) developed by Roy Bhaskar.

For over thirty years, Routledge has been closely associated with Critical Realism and, in particular, the work of Roy Bhaskar, publishing well over fifty works in, or informed by, Critical Realism (in series including Critical Realism: Interventions; Ontological Explorations; New Studies in Critical Realism and Education). These have all now been brought together under one series dedicated to Critical Realism.

The Centre for Critical Realism is the advisory editorial board for the series. If you would like to know more about the Centre for Critical Realism, or to submit a book proposal, please visit

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / Criticism & Theory
PHILOSOPHY / Aesthetics
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General