Dessoir, Max(mäx dĕswär,`), 1867–1947, German philosopher. He earned doctorates from the universities of Berlin (philosophy, 1889) and Würtzburg (medicine, 1892). He was a professor at Berlin from 1897 until 1933, when the Nazis forbade him to teach. He worked mainly in the area of aesthetics, trying to foster a general science of great art. Dessoir understood an aesthetic object to be one occurring either in nature or in art, the parts of which are related to each other with an intensity beyond that of normal experience. He defined five primary forms of aesthetic experience: beauty, ugliness, comedy, tragedy, and the sublime. He saw the role of art as moral an social and regarded "art for art's sake" as a futile and fatuous maxim. Dessoir was also interested in parapsychology. Among his few works translated into English are Outlines of the History of Psychology (tr. 1912) and Aesthetics and Theory of Art (tr. 1970).
Born Feb. 8, 1867, in Berlin; died July 19, 1947, in Königstein. German philosopher and psychologist. Professor at the University of Berlin from 1897.
In opposition to the psychological approach to a work of art, Dessoir introduced into aesthetics the conception of art as the objective process of creating form. He was one of the founders of the so-called general science of art, which he contrasted as a descriptive positive science with aesthetics as an evaluative discipline. In 1906 he began to publish the journal Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft. In psychology he was occupied with the critical study of so-called occult phenomena, introducing the term parapsychology, which subsequently became widespread.
WORKSÄsthetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft. Stuttgart, 1906; 2nd ed., 1923.
Vom Jenseits der Seele. Stuttgart, 1917; 6th ed., 1967.
In Russian translation.
Ocherk istorii psichologii. St. Petersburg, 1912.