Chapter

Introduction

Elisabeth Schellekens and Peter Goldie

in The Aesthetic Mind

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199691517
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731815 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199691517.003.0001
Introduction

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Aesthetic and artistic experiences are remarkable case studies for anyone interested in the mind. Whether one is curious about the workings of highly complex neural systems, the depths of emotional sensitivity, our evolutionary past and distant ancestors’ ability for thought, or what it means to lead a rich and virtuous life, the realm of the aesthetic provides plenty of food for thought and material for scrutiny. The central question driving this volume is this: how—if at all—can the empirical work of the sciences be integrated with the more a priori investigations which have traditionally characterised philosophy, and vice-versa? More specifically, what role exactly does philosophy have to play in understanding aesthetic and artistic experience? So-called ‘experimental philosophy’ is now a significant part of normative ethics, and the philosophy of mind has for several decades been informed by work in the empirical sciences. But in aesthetics, these developments are at a much earlier stage, and many questions of principle have yet to be resolved. To some philosophers it is unclear whether empirical approaches are capable of adding anything significant to the debate at all, and whether neurology, social anthropology or developmental psychology actually get to the heart of why aesthetic experiences matter to us. And to some scientists the real answers to the aesthetic cannot ultimately be found from ‘armchair’ philosophical analysis. How are we to make progress here?

Keywords: aesthetic; artistic; experimental philosophy; normative ethics; philosophy of mind

Chapter.  2692 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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