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Aesthetic Perception, Attention and Aesthetic Psychology

BOWDEN, ALAN,MARK,CHRISTOPHER (2015) Aesthetic Perception, Attention and Aesthetic Psychology. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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What are the psychological foundations of aesthetic experience? Disagreements about how to answer this question underlie tensions between the experiences described by those in the developing field of everyday aesthetics and many art-centred accounts of aesthetic experience. I argue that neither has provided the psychological framework to support their arguments in favour of or against the extension of aesthetic experience into everyday life. Such a framework is required in order to reconcile the two fields. This thesis aims to develop an empirically informed aesthetic psychology which accommodates both everyday and paradigmatic aesthetic experience without compromising what is distinctive about each.

In order to understand the oft-unacknowledged assumptions in everyday and mainstream accounts of aesthetic experience I distinguish between “broad” and “narrow” aesthetic psychology. I argue that each approach differs with respect to the necessity of attention for aesthetic experience. The narrow approach to aesthetic psychology underlies many contemporary accounts and places an “attention condition” on aesthetic experience; the broad approach underlies many accounts of everyday aesthetic experience and involves no such condition.

I develop a broad psychological account of aesthetic perception as the perceptual representation of bound qualities and suggest that its minimal or “bare” form goes on in the absence of attention, whilst its “rich” form requires attention and supports characteristically appreciative activities of mind. Using contemporary empirical and philosophical work on attention and its relation to consciousness and cognition I argue that there is an attention condition on rich aesthetic perception (and aesthetic appreciation), but not on bare aesthetic perception: this establishes a broad aesthetic psychology. In this way I reconcile everyday and mainstream aesthetic experience by creating a continuum of aesthetic engagement which runs from the fleeting and unattended experiences of broad aesthetic psychology to the complex and appreciative experiences of narrow aesthetic psychology.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Philosophy, Department of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:23 Feb 2015 16:08

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