The Eye of One Beholder

What happens to us when we encounter beauty?

By rights, Harry Underwood should not have written this book. He is a long-established Toronto civil litigation lawyer and one of the authors of Defending Class Actions in Canada. He is not a professional philosopher or specialist in aesthetics. Still, there is no reason why a thoughtful, deeply read amateur should not have valuable points to make about beauty. He may even have an at-home advantage in that he is married to the painter Denise Ireland, whose still lifes afford no shortfall of loveliness.

In a book supplied with notes, an index and a suggested reading list, the specific examples of beauty that the author adumbrates are mainly drawn from the visual arts, especially painting, less often from nature and literature, seldom from music and photography, not at all from the performing arts, filmic iconography, high fashion, architecture, interior decoration and industrial design. This may not...