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Why We Do Not Perceive Aesthetic Properties

Abstract

This chapter examines whether there are genuine cases of aesthetic perception, and hence whether aesthetic judgements depend on the perception of aesthetic properties. My response will be negative. Specifically, I will argue that although our access to aesthetic ‘properties’ does appear to resemble perception in certain respects, it differs in two key ways from cases of ordinary everyday perception: (a) in its opacity (i.e. its lacking transparency) and (b) in its partly nonattributive phenomenology.

Keywords

  • Perception
  • Aesthetic
  • Properties
  • Phenomenology
  • Evaluative

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Perhaps also we can also sometimes see just that something is aesthetically good, without knowing in virtue of what. Such cases complicate matters and fall beyond the scope of the present discussion, though see the view of Sibley discussed below.

  2. 2.

    See for example Scruton (2007) for a sceptical view about the capacity of tastes and smells to be of aesthetic value. For the contrary view see Sibley (2001, Chap. 15).

  3. 3.

    Although strong intentionalism does not strictly speaking require transparency (Byrne 2001), its proponents argue that it is best placed to account for it, so any reasons for doubting the transparency of perceptual experience are at least prima facie reasons to doubt the plausibility of the view. See also Speaks (2010).

  4. 4.

    The difficulty is multiplied when the possibility of cognitive penetration is taken into account.

  5. 5.

    I intend the phenomenology of the experience to be understood very broadly, encompassing cognitive reflection on the nature of our experiences, and on the nature of their relation to the world.

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Acknowledgments

This chapter was completed while on research leave funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. In addition to them, I would like to thank Kevin Mulligan for his always lucid, illuminating, and provocative comments in many discussions on many topics, including the one presented here. I would also like to thank Anne Reboul for her tireless work on this collection.

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Todd, C. (2014). Why We Do Not Perceive Aesthetic Properties. In: Reboul, A. (eds) Mind, Values, and Metaphysics. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-05146-8_7

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