Chapter

Beauty is Instinctive Feeling: Experimenting on Aesthetics and Art

I. C. McManus

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/9780199691517.003.0010
Beauty is Instinctive Feeling: Experimenting on Aesthetics and Art

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Recent years have seen attempts to produce grand theories of aesthetics, based in evolutionary psychology and neuroscience. This chapter argues that such theorising is mostly premature, both due to an absence of a clear foundation in well-characterised empirical phenomena, and because of a failure adequately to account for the large individual differences that typify aesthetic responses and tastes. Instead it is argued that experimental aesthetics should concentrate on exploring what Darwin called the “instinctive feeling” that is described as beauty - - an immediate recognition of attractivity manifesting as a preference for one object over another - - which occurs quickly, easily, automatically, and without obvious conscious intervention. Three topics are explored in more detail: Fechner's classical question of rectangle preferences, and the question of the Golden Section; preferences for actual paintings by Mondrian compared with pseudo-Mondrians produced by image manipulation; and the process of cropping or framing that is carried out when taking photographs.

Keywords: evolutionary psychology and neuroscience; Darwin; beauty; instinctive feeling

Chapter.  9688 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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