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Explanatory Dualism in Empirical Aesthetics A New Reading

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The last decade has seen a significant increase in empirical research into the nature of art and aesthetic experience in the Anglo- American scientific community. Much of the impetus for this came from the publication of three special issues of the present journal on the theme of 'Art and the Brain' (Vol. 6, no. 6-7, 1999; Vol. 7, no. 8-9, 2000; Vol.11, no. 3-4, 2004). A decade or so later, it seems timely to consider the extent to which these new approaches have filtered through into wider philosophical understanding. Many philosophers express scepticism towards empirical aesthetics. This paper seeks to re-examine the grounds for any such scepticism and proposes a new reading of the explanatory power of scientific approaches. It begins by separating the data provided by such theories into three categories. Having identified a particular conceptual problem, it argues that many empirical accounts fail to distinguish sufficiently between the aesthetic and the artistic, and that this is a source of considerable philosophical concern. It then suggests that empirical aesthetics should be divided into two branches, namely empirical aesthetics and empirical art theory. Although such a division may seem to restrict the explanatory reach of scientific accounts somewhat in philosophy, it highlights the numerous ways in which empirical investigations can nonetheless strengthen and benefit philosophical analyses.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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