Aesthetic Experience and Intellectual Pursuits
The main aim of this paper is to examine the practice of describing intellectual pursuits in aesthetic terms, and investigate whether this practice can be accounted for in the framework of the standard conception of aesthetic experience. Following a discussion of some historical approaches, the paper proposes a way of conceiving of aesthetic experience as epistemically motivating and epistemically inventive. It is argued that the aesthetics of intellectual pursuits should be considered as central rather than marginal to our philosophical accounts of aesthetic experience, and that the relation between the aesthetic and cognitive domains should be reconfigured accordingly.
Arthur Danto argued from the premise that artworks are essentially cognitive to the conclusion that they are incidentally aesthetic. I wonder why Danto, and the very many of us he persuaded, came to believe that the cognitive and the aesthetic oppose one another. I argue, contrary to Danto’s historical claims, that the cognitive and the aesthetic did not come into opposition until the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, and that they were brought into opposition for reasons of art-critical expediency rather than philosophical necessity. I conclude that a robustly cognitive notion of the aesthetic remains an option for us.
Elisabeth Schellekens is Chair Professor of Aesthetics in the Philosophy Department at the University of Uppsala. She is the author of Aesthetics and Morality (Continuum), Who’s Afraid of Conceptual Art (Routledge, with Peter Goldie), and several articles on aesthetic properties, the normativity of aesthetic judgement, Hume, Kant, aesthetic taste and sensibility, and the interaction of cognitive, moral, historical and aesthetic value in art. She has led several research projects, including on aesthetic perception and cognition, the philosophy of archaeology, the ethics and aesthetics of cultural heritage, and the philosophy of art criticism. Currently, she is working on a book manuscript on aesthetic value and epistemic gain. From 2007 to 2019, she was Editor (with John Hyman) of the British Journal of Aesthetics.
James Shelley is Professor of Philosophy at Auburn University. His papers apply the history of philosophical aesthetics, particularly that of the eighteenth century, to questions about the nature of aesthetic value, the aesthetic status of artworks, and the value of tragedy. He is currently working on two book manuscripts: The Aesthetic Value Question, which proposes a unified theory of aesthetic value, and Hume and the Idea of the Perfect Beauty, which attempts a critical evaluation of Hume’s ‘Of the Standard of Taste’.