David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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British Journal of Aesthetics 45 (4):323-341 (2005)
Burke is an important exception to Nietzsche's claim that philosophical aesthetics ignores physiology and the role of practical interest. Grounded on the powerful interest of survival, Burke's theory of the sublime also offers a physiological explanation of our feelings of sublimity that explicitly defines certain conditions of our nerves as the ‘efficient cause’ of such feelings. While his general account of sublimity is widely appreciated, its somatic dimension has been dismissed as hopelessly misguided. In examining Burke's views in relation to contemporary somaesthetics, cognitive psychology, and physiology, this paper shows that though Burke's somatic arguments can be criticized as overly simplistic and mechanistic, his recognition of the crucial bodily dimensions of aesthetic experience should be taken more seriously. In refining Burke's insight that bodily factors can help explain our aesthetic reactions, somaesthetics further urges that improved somatic understanding and performance can provide valuable means for enhancing our aesthetic response.
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