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Aesthetics As Philosophy Of Perception



This entry concerns the ways in which work in cognitive science,broadly conceived, is or may be of importance for work inphilosophical aesthetics. Our focus is largely on analytic, primarilyAnglophone, aesthetic writing and its ancestry in the empiricaltradition. Aesthetic work occurs elsewhere, inside philosophy andbeyond, but it is within the analytic tradition that connections withthe sciences of mind have been most investigated, and it is thattradition which has been most receptive to empirical theories andresults (the work of Merleau-Ponty in the phenomenological traditionis an exception; for his influence see, e.g., Solli & Netland2021).




Aesthetics as philosophy of perception


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To the extent that aesthetics in this period was influenced bythinking about the mind it was more often prompted by ideas frompsychoanalysis (Wollheim 1993). The last thirty years have seen ashift back towards empirical inquiry, assisted by a resurgence ofinterest in the imagination, now often treated as a capacity with anevolutionary and developmental history (Fuentes 2020; Harris 2000) andas subject to selective damage (Currie 1996).


many, maybe even most traditional problems in aesthetics are in factabout philosophy of perception and can, as a result, be fruitfullyaddressed with the help of the conceptual apparatus of the philosophyof perception.


This is a stronger claim than many would make (see Margolis 1960;Sibley 1965; Schellekens 2006; and Robson 2018) but theses inaesthetics do sometimes depend on claims, including scientificallytractable claims, about the nature of perception. A notable example isthe debate about whether perception is cognitively penetrable; if itis, the way a picture looks or a piece of music sounds may depend onwhat the observer knows about contextual factors (for the rejection ofcognitive penetrability see Danto 2001; for criticism see Rose &Nanay 2022).


Recently the link between aesthetic effects and pervasive features ofperception and cognition has been highlighted again by the theory ofpredictive processing: the idea that the fundamental activityof the brain is to make predictions and test and revise them againstincoming information from the senses, the goal being the reduction inpredictive errors or what is also called reduction in uncertainty (fora survey of philosophical applications of this idea see Hohwy . It issuggested that positive affect is the product of such reductions,while negative affect results when uncertainty is increased. Works ofart are said to provide the brain with exercises, sometimeschallenging ones, in error reduction (van de Cruys & Wagemans2011). But why should we seek more exercises in prediction errorreduction than the many that the world throws at us continually? Whatis to say that the eventual reduction in error outweighs the initialincrease posed by a work of art?


It seems that when we are looking at a picture we see not one but two things: the depicted apple and the picture of the apple. The two- dimensional picture surface (which is the actual object in front of you) and the three-dimensional object depicted in the picture. So one crucial question any account of picture perception needs to clarify is whether we really do see both of these things and if so, how it is possible to see two things at the same time (at the same region of my visual field).


As we shall see, Kant uses the particular investigation into judgments about art, beauty and the sublime partly as a way of illuminating judgment in general. Aesthetic judgments exhibit in an exemplary fashion precisely those features of judgment in general which allow one to explore the transcendental principles of judgment. But Kant has still higher concerns. The whole problem of judgment is important because judgment, Kant believes, forms the mediating link between the two great branches of philosophical inquiry (the theoretical and the practical). It had been noted before (for example, by Hume) that there seems to be a vast difference between what is, and what ought to be. Kant notes that these two philosophical branches have completely different topics, but these topics, paradoxically, have as their object the very same sensible nature. Theoretical philosophy has as its topic the cognition of sensible nature; practical philosophy has as its topic the possibility of moral action in and on sensible nature.


Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and appreciation of art, beauty and good taste. It has also been defined as "critical reflection on art, culture and nature". The word "aesthetics" derives from the Greek "aisthetikos", meaning "of sense perception".


Philosophers have explored extensively and for many years the nature of linguistic and mental representations. But it was not until the second half of the 20th century that pictorial representation became a recurrent area of philosophical research and, for the most part, it has been developed within aesthetics and the philosophy of art. This is striking, given that pictorial representation is a topic with clear connections with other areas of philosophy. This conference aims to bring together philosophers working particularly in epistemology, the philosophy of mind and perception with philosophers working in aesthetics. We believe that this interaction will foster fruitful exchanges of ideas between participants of these disciplines. Specific topics or questions that will be addressed at this conference are the following:


In the context of modernism, formalist critics are often thought to be interested in art rather than life, a stance exemplified in their support for abstract works that exclude the world outside. But through careful attention to early twentieth-century connoisseurship, aesthetics, art education, design, and art in colonial Nigeria and India, Rose builds an expanded account of form based on its engagement with the social world. Art and Form thus opens discussions on a range of urgent topics in art writing, from its history and the constructions of high and low culture to the idea of global modernism. Rose demonstrates the true breadth of formalism and shows how it lends a new richness to thought about art and visual culture in the early to mid-twentieth century.


Although the study of pictorial representationhas connections with various areas of philosophy, for the most part, it has been developed mainlywithinthe area ofaesthetics and the philosophy of art. Theidea of this 2-day conference wasto bring philosophers working on different sub-areas of the discipline to reflect onpictorial experience or depiction from the point of view of epistemology,philosophy of mind and perception and their intersections with aesthetics.There were a total of six speakers:


This volume addresses key questions related to how content in thought is derived from perceptual experience. It includes chapters that focus on single issues on perception and cognition, as well as others that relate these issues to an important social construct that involves both perceptual experience and cognitive activities: aesthetics. While the volume includes many diverse views, several prominent themes unite the individual essays: a challenge to the notion of the discreet, and non-temporal, unit of perception, a challenge to the traditional divide between perception and cognition, and a challenge to the traditional divide between unconscious and conscious intentionality. Additionally, the chapters discuss the content of perceptual experience, the value of traditional notions of content, disjunctivism, adverbialism, and phenomenal experience. The final section of essays dealing with perception and cognition in aesthetics features work in experimental aesthetics and unique perspectives from artists and gallerists working outside of philosophy. Perception, Cognition and Aesthetics is a timely volume that offers a range of unique perspectives on debates in philosophy of mind surrounding perception and cognition. It will also appeal to scholars working in aesthetics and art theory who are interested in the ways these debates influence our understanding of art.


The New School for Social Research is a graduate institution in New York City. We generate progressive scholarship in the social sciences and philosophy. Our 75+ full-time faculty members in nine departments offer masters and doctoral degrees to 800 graduate students.


Our faculty of more than 75 full-time scholars creates active and long-lasting partnerships with students. These public intellectual are leaders in their fields of study, shaping public debate, academic research, and pushing the boundaries of social sciences and philosophy around the world.


Zed Adams joined the Philosophy department in 2008 and co-founded the Institute for Philosophy and the New Humanities in 2020. His research interests include ethics, aesthetics and philosophy of mind. Most recently he has published On the Genealogy of Color: A Case Study in Historicized Conceptual Analysis, an engagement with philosophical debates about color realism which foregrounds the history of color science. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.


Phenomenology, philosophical psychology, aesthetics, theory of psychoanalysis. Recent research includes investigations into place and space; landscape painting and maps as modes of representation; ethics and the other; feeling and emotion; philosophy of perception (with special attention to the role of the glance); the nature of edges.


Edward Casey, past chairman of the department (1991-2001), works in aesthetics, philosophy of space and time, ethics, perception, and psychoanalytic theory. He obtained his doctorate at Northwestern University in 1967 and has taught at Yale University, the University of California at Santa Barbara, The New School for Social Research, Emory University, and several other institutions. His published books include Imagining: A Phenomenological Study (Studies in Continental Thought) (Indiana University Press, 2000), Remembering: A Phenomenological Study (Studies in Continental Thought) (Indiana University Press, 2000), Getting Back into Place (Indiana University Press, 1993), and The Fate of Place (University of California Press, 1997). 041b061a72


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