Guide Aesthetic Experience

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To say that a property is inherently positive is not to say that any work having it is so much the better, but rather that its tout court attribution implies value. So although a work may be made worse on account of its comical elements, the simple claim that a work is good because comical is intelligible in a way that the simple claims that a work is good because yellow, or because it lasts twelve minutes, or because it contains many puns, are not.

But if the simple claim that a work is good because comical is thus intelligible, comicality is a general criterion for aesthetic value, and the principle that articulates that generality is true. But none of this casts any doubt on the immediacy thesis, as Sibley himself observes:.

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Hence aesthetic judgments are immediate in something like the way that judgments of color, or of flavor, are:. But Sibley recognizes—as his eighteenth-century forebears did and his formalist contemporaries did not—that important differences remain between the exercise of taste and the use of the five senses.

Central among these is that we offer reasons, or something like them, in support of our aesthetic judgments: by talking—in particular, by appealing to the descriptive properties on which the aesthetic properties depend—we justify aesthetic judgments by bringing others to see what we have seen Sibley , 14— It is clearer, perhaps, that he does not succeed in defining the term this way, whatever his intentions. Aesthetic concepts are not alone in being non-condition-governed, as Sibley himself recognizes in comparing them with color concepts.

But there is also no reason to think them alone in being non-condition-governed while also being reason-supportable, since moral concepts, to give one example, at least arguably also have both these features. Isolating the aesthetic requires something more than immediacy, as Kant saw. Given the degree to which Kant and Hume continue to influence thinking about aesthetic judgment or critical judgment, more broadly , given the degree to which Sibley and Isenberg continue to abet that influence, it is not surprising that the immediacy thesis is now very widely received.

The thesis, however, has come under attack, notably by Davies and Bender See also Carroll , who follows closely after Davies , and Dorsch for further discussion. Isenberg, it will be recalled, maintains that if the critic is arguing for her verdict, her argumentation must go something as follows:. Since the critical principle expressed in premise 1 is open to counter-example, no matter what property we substitute for p, Isenberg concludes that we cannot plausibly interpret the critic as arguing for her verdict.

Rather than defend the principle expressed in premise 1, Davies and Bender both posit alternative principles, consistent with the fact that no property is good-making in all artworks, which they ascribe to the critic. Davies proposes that we interpret the critic as arguing deductively from principles relativized to artistic type, that is, from principles holding that artworks of a specific types or categories—Italian Renaissance paintings, romantic symphonies, Hollywood Westerns, etc.

Bender proposes that we interpret the critic as arguing inductively from principles expressing mere tendencies that hold between certain properties and artworks—principles, in other words, holding that artworks having p tend to be better for having it Bender , Each proposal has its own weaknesses and strengths. Though it is clear that such relativizing reduces the relative number of counterexamples, we need good reason for thinking that it reduces that number to zero, and Davies provides no such reason.

If the critic argues from the truth of a principle to the truth of a verdict—as Davies and Bender both contend—it must be possible for her to establish the truth of the principle before establishing the truth of the verdict. How might she do this? It seems unlikely that mere reflection on the nature of art, or on the natures of types of art, could yield up the relevant lists of good- and bad-making properties.

At least the literature has yet to produce a promising account as to how this might be done. Observation therefore seems the most promising answer. To say that the critic establishes the truth of critical principles on the basis of observation, however, is to say that she establishes a correlation between certain artworks she has already established to be good and certain properties she has already established those works to have.

But then any capacity to establish that works are good by inference from principles evidently depends on some capacity to establish that works are good without any such inference, and the question arises why the critic should prefer to do by inference what she can do perfectly well without. The answer cannot be that judging by inference from principle yields epistemically better results, since a principle based on observations can be no more epistemically sound than the observations on which it is based. None of this shows that aesthetic or critical judgment could never be inferred from principles.

It does however suggest that such judgment is first and foremost non-inferential, which is what the immediacy thesis holds. The Kantian notion of disinterest has its most direct recent descendents in the aesthetic-attitude theories that flourished from the early to mid 20th century. For Kant the pleasure involved in a judgment of taste is disinterested because such a judgment does not issue in a motive to do anything in particular. For this reason Kant refers to the judgment of taste as contemplative rather than practical Kant , But if the judgment of taste is not practical, then the attitude we bear toward its object is presumably also not practical: when we judge an object aesthetically we are unconcerned with whether and how it may further our practical aims.

Hence it is natural to speak of our attitude toward the object as disinterested. To say, however, that the migration of disinterest from pleasures to attitudes is natural is not to say that it is inconsequential. According to Schopenhauer, we lead our ordinary, practical lives in a kind of bondage to our own desires Schopenhauer , This bondage is a source not merely of pain but also of cognitive distortion in that it restricts our attention to those aspects of things relevant to the fulfilling or thwarting of our desires. Aesthetic contemplation, being will-less, is therefore both epistemically and hedonically valuable, allowing us a desire-free glimpse into the essences of things as well as a respite from desire-induced pain:.

The two most influential aesthetic-attitude theories of the 20th century are those of Edward Bullough and Jerome Stolnitz. The result of such attention is a comparatively richer experience of the object, i. Bullough has been criticized for claiming that aesthetic appreciation requires dispassionate detachment:. The properly distanced spectator of a tragedy, we might say, understands her fear and pity to be part of what tragedy is about.

The notion of the aesthetic attitude has been attacked from all corners and has very few remaining sympathizers. These and all such cases will be regarded by the attitude theorist as cases of interested or distanced attention to the performance, when they are actually nothing but cases of inattention to the performance: the jealous husband is attending to his wife, the impresario to the till, the father to his daughter, the moralist to the effects of the play.

But if none of them is attending to the performance, then none of them is attending to it disinterestedly or with distance Dickie , 57— Clearly the impresario is not attending to the performance, but there is no reason to regard the attitude theorist as committed to thinking otherwise. As for the others, it might be argued that they are all attending. The jealous husband must be attending to the performance, since it is the action of the play, as presented by the performance, that is making him suspicious. The moralist must be attending to the performance, since he otherwise would have no basis by which to gauge its moral effects on the audience.

Stolnitz, it will be recalled, distinguishes between disinterested and interested attention according to the purpose governing the attention: to attend disinterestedly is to attend with no purpose beyond that of attending; to attend interestedly is to attend with some purpose beyond that of attending. But Dickie objects that a difference in purpose does not imply a difference in attention:. There is again much here that the attitude theorist can resist. The idea that listening is a species of attending can be resisted: the question at hand, strictly speaking, is not whether Jones and Smith listen to the music in the same way, but whether they attend in the same way to the music they are listening to.

But Dickie is nevertheless onto something crucial to the degree he urges that a difference in purpose need not imply a relevant difference in attention. Disinterest plausibly figures in the definition of the aesthetic attitude only to the degree that it, and it alone, focuses attention on the features of the object that matter aesthetically. And this task seems always to result either in claims about the immediate graspability of aesthetic properties, which are arguably insufficient to the task, or in claims about the essentially formal nature of aesthetic properties, which are arguably groundless.

At times we seem unable to get by without them. Consider the case of The Fall of Miletus —a tragedy written by the Greek dramatist Phrynicus and staged in Athens barely two years after the violent Persian capture of the Greek city of Miletus in BC. Herodotus records that.

How are we to explain the Athenian reaction to this play without recourse to something like interest or lack of distance? How, in particular, are we to explain the difference between the sorrow elicited by a successful tragedy and the sorrow elicited in this case?

The distinction between attention and inattention is of no use here. The difference is not that the Athenians could not attend to The Fall whereas they could attend to other plays. The difference is that they could not attend to The Fall as they could attend to other plays, and this because of their too intimate connection to what attending to The Fall required their attending to. Theories of aesthetic experience may be divided into two kinds according to the kind of feature appealed to in explanation of what makes experience aesthetic. Internalist theories appeal to features internal to experience, typically to phenomenological features, whereas externalist theories appeal to features external to the experience, typically to features of the object experienced.

The distinction between internalist and externalist theories of aesthetic experience is similar, though not identical, to the distinction between phenomenal and epistemic conceptions of aesthetic experience drawn by Gary Iseminger Iseminger , , and Iseminger , 27, Coherence, in turn, is a matter of having elements that are properly connected one to another such that. The shift from internalism to externalism has not been without costs. But a second, equally central, ambition—that of accounting for aesthetic value by tying it to the value of aesthetic experience—has been retained.

Indeed most everything written on aesthetic experience since the Beardsley-Dickie debate has been written in service of the view that an object has aesthetic value insofar as it affords valuable experience when correctly perceived. This view—which has come to be called empiricism about aesthetic value , given that it reduces aesthetic value to the value of aesthetic experience—has attracted many advocates over the last several years Beardsley , Budd and , Goldman and , Walton , Levinson and , Miller , Railton , and Iseminger , while provoking relatively little criticism Zangwill , Sharpe , D.

Davies , and Kieran Yet it can be wondered whether empiricism about aesthetic value is susceptible to a version of the criticism that has done internalism in. For there is something odd about the position that combines externalism about aesthetic experience with empiricism about aesthetic value. Externalism locates the features that determine aesthetic character in the object, whereas empiricism locates the features that determine aesthetic value in the experience, when one might have thought that the features that determine aesthetic character just are the features that determine aesthetic value.

If externalism and empiricism are both true, there is nothing to stop two objects that have different, even wholly disparate, aesthetic characters from nevertheless having the very same aesthetic value—unless, that is, the value-determining features of an experience are bound logically to the character-determining features of the object that affords it such that only an object with those features could afford an experience having that value.

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  5. But in that case the value-determining features of the experience are evidently not simply the phenomenological features that might have seemed best suited to determine the value of the experience, but perhaps rather the representational or epistemic features of the experience that it has only in relation to its object.

    And this is what some empiricists have been urging of late:. But there is an unaddressed difficulty with this line of thought. While the representational or epistemic features of an aesthetic experience might very plausibly contribute to its value, such features very implausibly contribute to the value of the object affording such an experience. If the value of the experience of a good poem consists, in part, in its being an experience in which the poem is properly understood or accurately represented, the value of a good poem cannot consist, even in part, in its capacity to afford an experience in which it is properly understood or accurately represented, because, all things being equal, a bad poem presumably has these capacities in equal measure.

    It is of course true that only a good poem rewards an understanding of it. Other empiricists have taken a different tack. Instead of trying to isolate the general features of aesthetic experience in virtue of which it and its objects are valuable, they simply observe the impossibility, in any particular case, of saying much about the value of an aesthetic experience without also saying a lot about the aesthetic character of the object.

    So, for example, referring to the values of the experiences that works of art afford, Jerrold Levinson maintains that. There is no denying that when we attempt to describe, in any detail, the values of experiences afforded by particular works we quickly find ourselves describing the works themselves.

    Aesthetics - Wikipedia

    The question is what to make of this fact. If one is antecedently committed to empiricism, it may seem a manifestation of the appropriately intimate connection between the aesthetic character of a work and the value of the experience that the work affords. But if one is not so committed, it may seem to manifest something else. To affirm such a possibility, of course, is not to deny that the value the quartet has in virtue of its particular twists in turns is a value that we experience it as having.

    It is rather to insist on sharply distinguishing between the value of experience and the experience of value, in something like the way Dickie insisted on sharply distinguishing between the unity of experience and the experience of unity. The Concept of Taste 1. The Concept of the Aesthetic 2. The Concept of Taste The concept of the aesthetic descends from the concept of taste.

    As one such theorist put it: The way to think about a literary problem is that pointed out by Descartes for problems of physical science. A critic who tries any other way is not worthy to be living in the present century. There is nothing better than mathematics as propaedeutic for literary criticism. Terrasson , Preface, 65; quoted in Wimsatt and Brooks , It was against this, and against more moderate forms of rationalism about beauty, that mainly British philosophers working mainly within an empiricist framework began to develop theories of taste. No, this is never practiced.

    We have a sense given us by nature to distinguish whether the cook acted according to the rules of his art. The same may be said in some respect of the productions of the mind, and of pictures made to please and move us. Dubos , vol. I will stop my ears, listen to no reasons and arguments, and would rather believe that those rules of the critics are false … than allow that my judgment should be determined by means of a priori grounds of proof, since it is supposed to be a judgment of taste and not of the understanding of reason.

    Kant , But the theory of taste would not have enjoyed its eighteenth-century run, nor would it continue now to exert its influence, had it been without resources to counter an obvious rationalist objection. Here is Hume, with characteristic clarity: [I]n order to pave the way for [a judgment of taste], and give a proper discernment of its object, it is often necessary, we find, that much reasoning should precede, that nice distinctions be made, just conclusions drawn, distant comparisons formed, complicated relations examined, and general facts fixed and ascertained.

    Some species of beauty, especially the natural kinds, on their first appearance command our affection and approbation; and where they fail of this effect, it is impossible for any reasoning to redress their influence, or adapt them better to our taste and sentiment. But in many orders of beauty, particularly those of the fine arts, it is requisite to employ much reasoning, in order to feel the proper sentiment. Reid characterizes it as follows: Beauty or deformity in an object, results from its nature or structure. Abstract In this paper aesthetic experience is defined as an experience qualitatively different from everyday experience and similar to other exceptional states of mind.

    Keywords: aesthetic experience, fascination, appraisal, emotion, narrative, composition. Introduction Aesthetic experience is one of the most important but also one of the vaguest and most poorly specified concepts in the psychology of art and experimental aesthetics. Aesthetic experience: summary of preliminary definitions In the preliminary definitions of aesthetic experience and similar phenomena, three characteristics can be identified as crucial and distinctive.

    The structure of aesthetic experience In the previous paragraphs the characteristics of aesthetic experience were derived from conceptual definitions and analyses. The functional model of aesthetic experience Aesthetic information processing is usually described as a multi-stage process.

    8 Laws of Artistic Experience

    Open in a separate window. Figure 1. Aesthetic information processing Figure 2 shows the cognitive processes involved in aesthetic information processing at the main stage of the model. Figure 2. The processing of a narrative In its strict meaning, a narrative is defined as a temporal semantic structure which provides different kinds of information Chatman The processing of form and composition Every object of aesthetic processing has some physical form which determines the stylistic aspect of the artwork's identity.

    Aesthetic emotions and other emotions Silvia has pointed out that aesthetic appraisal includes a wide spectrum of specific emotions including pleasure, pride, surprise, anger, disgust, contempt, shame, guilt, regret, embarrassment, confusion, and so on Silvia ; see also Cooper and Silvia ; Silvia and Brown Integration: aesthetic awareness The processing of aesthetic information is based on cognitive structures which are capable of solving perceptually and semantically demanding tasks, such as the interpretation of multi-level symbolism, association of distant narrative frameworks into temporally and conceptually coherent structures, detection of sophisticated compositional regularities, integration of multi-level perceptual, symbolic, and affective information, and so on.

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    1. Introduction

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    The Idea of Aesthetic Experience

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