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Durham University

Department of Philosophy

Philosophy and Aesthetic Psychology

This conference was the culmination of a research project, the general aim of which was to delineate the concerns and tasks of aesthetic psychology conceived as a branch of philosophical aesthetics.

More specifically, it set out to examine questions to do with aesthetic perception, representation, emotion, and cognition as explored in other disciplines (including psychology; cognitive science; anthropology) in order to establish whether, and if so how, philosophy can benefit from it.

The approach adopted was inter-disciplinary, and principally aimed to strengthen the accounts that have been and are being developed in philosophical aesthetics.

Related disciplines of interest include:

  • (Social) Anthropology
  • Biology/Darwinian theory
  • Cognitive and developmental psychology
  • Cognitive science
  • Developmental psychology of perception and emotions
  • Evolutionary psychology of perception and emotions
  • Neuro-science
  • Psychiatry

Examples of concerns include:

  • Does (i) creating and (ii) appreciating art have an evolutionary function to do with our emotional responses?
  • What emotional and/or intellectual deficits (e.g. autism) inhibit the use and/or understanding of aesthetic/artistic representation?
  • In what way(s) is the use of our imagination significant for the development of aesthetic assessment?
  • How do normal children learn to appreciate art?
  • How, if at all, can pretend-play contribute to the way in which we learn to refine our aesthetic experiences?
  • How can neurological models of visual perception be applied to the case of aesthetic perception?

Conference Programme

  • Peter Lamarque (York): 'On Keeping Psychology Out of Literary Criticism'
  • Noel Carroll & Margaret Moore (Temple): 'Music and Dance: Feeling Movement'
  • Dorothy Singer (Yale): 'Contributions of Pretend Play to Later Adult Consciousness'
  • Gregory Currie (Nottingham):  'The Body's Response to Pictures'
  • William Seeley (Franklin & Marshall): 'Imagining Crawling Home: A Case Study in Cognitive Science and Aesthetics'.
  • Thomas Cochrane (Geneva): 'A Simulation Theory of Musical Expression'
  • Ellen Dissanayake (Washington): 'Genesis and Development of "Making Special": Is The Term Relevant to Aesthetic Psychology and Philosophy?'      
  • Chris McManus (UCL): 'Beauty is Instinctive Feeling'.
  • Stephen Davies (Auckland): 'Cross-Cultural Sensitivity to Music's Expressiveness'.
  • Jesse Prinz (Chapel Hill, North Carolina): 'Emotion and Aesthetic Value'.  
  • David Cooper (Durham): 'Beautiful People and Beautiful Things'.
  • Norman Freeman (Bristol): 'Varieties of Pictorial Judgement: Issues of Representational Authority'.
  • Dahlia Zaidel (UCLA): 'Neuroscience of Visual Art, Biology, and Brain Evolution'.
  • Amy Coplan (Fullerton): 'The Low Road to Affect: Why Movies Are So Good at Arousing Emotion'.
  • Johan Veldeman (Antwerp): 'Pictorial Twofoldness and Perceptual Psychology'.
  • Nick Zangwill (Durham): 'Musical Experience and Realism'.

Resources