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Art's Emotions: Ethics, Expression, and Aesthetic Experience

Damien Freeman
Copyright Date: 2012
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  • Book Info
    Art's Emotions
    Book Description:

    How is that artistic works have the power to move the human heart? Why does Manet's Woman with a Parrot evoke reverie, and an Edward Elgar cello concerto, nostalgia? What is the value of such experiences? Art's Emotions is a reflective, thought-provoking exploration of the significance that experiencing emotion through art has upon our lives. Damien Freeman reviews and evaluates three traditional approaches to understanding artistic expression and moves on to develop a new theory of emotion that resolves key questions in aesthetics. In a novel philosophical project, Freeman also establishes the ethical importance of art in nurturing humans and helping them flourish. Art's Emotions challenges readers to consider not only how art engages with emotion, but also the ways in which art can answer fundamental questions about the value and nature of experience.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9477-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xii)
    D. T. F.
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    In China, art that combines poetry, calligraphy and painting is known as a work of the three perfections.¹ The three perfections have long been regarded as the highest arts on account of their expressive qualities, and Shih-t’ao (1642–1707) was regarded as a master of all three expressive arts.² His masterpiece,Returning Home,³ is a book of twelve pairs of leaves, each consisting of a poem written in calligraphy on one leaf and a painting on the facing leaf.⁴ pair of leaves such as “Gathering Lotus Flowers” is conceived of as a single entity.⁵ What makes this a single entity?...

  5. 1 The emotional economy
    (pp. 13-38)

    When Belshazzar saw the writing on the wall he was afraid. We are provided with an account of the object of his fear: the hand that appears mysteriously at the feast and writes on the wall. We are also given an account of the occurrent states that constitute the king’s response to this stimulus: the change in his countenance, the thoughts that entered his mind, the feeling of his joints loosening, and the smiting of his knees against each other. We are told less about why he responds to the object in these particular ways. This is hardly surprising, as...

  6. 2 Perception of emotion in the world
    (pp. 39-74)

    Emily Dickinson’s poem provides us with a vignette of an experience in which the perception of “a certain slant of light” is attended by “heavenly hurt” We are told the “heavenly hurt” is an “internal difference”, a modification of our psychological condition, which gives the experience its meaning. In the poem, the perception of the emotional tone of the external object brings about the persona’s internal change. If interactions between perceptions of emotion in the world and the perceiver’s emotion are a feature of our experience of the world, then we should want to know not just what it feels...

  7. 3 The varieties of emotional experience
    (pp. 75-104)

    Chapter 2 provided an account of our two capacities for perceiving emotion in the world, and some illustrations of experiences involving both a perception of emotion and the perceiver’s emotional economy as that was described in Chapter 1. We are now ready to analyse the nature of these experiences. One means of analysing them, an approach that we shall pursue in this chapter, involves studying the different ways in which the perceived emotion can interact with the perceiver’s own emotion. Such an approach, we shall see, reveals three distinct kinds of interaction.

    It is well to begin with a disclaimer....

  8. 4 Art and the plenary experience of emotion
    (pp. 105-132)

    The argument has now reached a pivot. The two previous chapters provided an account of the varieties of emotional experience and the following chapter will address the value of art. If the previous descriptive material is to form a basis for a claim about the value of art, it will have to be because there is something valuable about the emotional experience of art. In this chapter, we shall ask whether the emotional experience of art is distinctive in a way that justifies us in speaking of a variety of emotional experience that occurs only in our perception of works...

  9. 5 The value of art and the practice of life
    (pp. 133-158)

    Two central questions that a theory of art must address, if it is to be useful to us, are “Why do we value works of art at all?” and “Why do we value some works of art more than other works of art?” These are questions to which the earlier chapters have not provided answers. We have an account of a distinctive experience that is possible only when we perceive a work of art, but we have not yet established any reason to value that experience, let alone the work of art that gives rise to it. It should be...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 159-170)

    Over five chapters we have developed the thesis that art is valuable because it can offer a plenary experience of emotion, an experience in which we are able to escape emotional isolation. As such, we can conceive of the thesis as a claim about overcoming emotional isolation, as a claim about how one might experience art, and as a particular way of thinking about emotion and perception. In each case, we can locate the claim in a broader context. How does the claim about overcoming emotional isolation sit with our intuitions about other ways in which we might overcome emotional...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 171-198)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-206)
  13. Index
    (pp. 207-210)