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Perceptual principles as the basis for genuine judgments of beauty

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This paper comments on an article written by V.S. Ramachandran and William Hirstein (1999) in which they purport to be identifying the neurological principles of beauty. I draw attention to the way the problem of beauty has been construed in the philosophical literature by Mary Mothersill (1984) and Immanuel Kant (Critique of Judgment) and, on this basis, argue that Ramachandran and Hirsteins’ principles do not address the problem of beauty. However, I argue that their general approach could prove fruitful if they were able to differentiate between the experience of beauty and other closely related phenomena like sexual titillation. I then show how one might address the problem of beauty within the framework that they have adopted. I conclude by suggesting a way of salvaging their work by way of applying it to our understanding of the relationship between artistic representation and the world out there, a problem to which their work, I argue, will prove more fruitful.

Keywords: Beauty; Kant; Mothersill; aesthetics; cognitive science; perception; philosophy

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Building 5, Division of Communication and Education, University of Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

Publication date: August 1, 2000


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