This paper originated as the keynote address at the conference “Aesthetics Today” organized by the Finnish Society of Aesthetics to mark its 40th anniversary and was delivered at the University of Helsinki on March 1, 2012. Written for that particular occasion the sense of an oral presentation has been maintained. Shusterman’s point of departure is the thesis that contemporary aesthetics can be characterized by a number of leading themes that mark a return to older aesthetic perspectives, after these perspectives (...) have been neglected in modern philosophical discussions. The paper briefly outlines and explores three of these themes whose increasing importance in current aesthetics can appeal to historical antecedents, namely: a focus on perception, the expansion of the aesthetic field beyond the philosophy of fine art, and the close connection of the aesthetic and the practical. After that, Shusterman formulates a fourth theme in aesthetics today which incorporates the first three and whose value for contemporary aesthetics he seeks to highlight, namely: the somatic, as exemplified by somaesthetics. (shrink)
��Disoriented 4-year-old children use a distinctive container to locate a hidden object, but do they reorient by this information? We addressed this question by testing children’s search for objects in a circular room containing one distinctive and two identical containers. Children’s search patterns provided evidence that the distinctive container served as a direct cue to a hidden object’s location, but not as a directional signal guiding reorientation. The ﬁndings suggest that disoriented children’s search behavior depends on two distinct processes: a (...) modular reorientation process attuned to the geometry of the surface layout and an associative process linking landmarks to specific locations. (shrink)
Contemporary culture increasingly suffers from problems of attention, over-stimulation, and stress, and a variety of personal and social discontents generated by deceptive body images. This book argues that improved body consciousness can relieve these problems and enhance one’s knowledge, performance, and pleasure. The body is our basic medium of perception and action, but focused attention to its feelings and movements has long been criticized as a damaging distraction that also ethically corrupts through self-absorption. In Body Consciousness, Richard Shusterman refutes (...) such charges by engaging the most influential twentieth-century somatic philosophers and incorporating insights from both Western and Asian disciplines of body-mind awareness. (shrink)
With the increasing professionalization of philosophy, the question of what constitutes philosophical living has been largely neglected. Now one of the leading philosophers working in the pragmatist tradition aims to recover and elaborate the pragmatic idea of philosophy as a practice of living and a practical guide to living better. "How should one live and how should the practice of philosophy relate to the project of one's life?" Shusterman asks. By way of suggesting answers to this question, Practicing Philosophy (...) offers an analysis of the essential dimensions of the philosophical life as practiced in this century. He explores specific philosophical problems as treated by major twentieth-century pragmatists--Dewey, Goodman, Rorty, and Putnam--as well as by other theorists--Cavell, Habermas, Croce, and Danto--who can be assimilated into the pragmatist tradition. Shusterman concludes with a personal example of critical philosophical living by applying philosophy to the analysis and direction of a central issue in his own life. (shrink)
Underlying the stubborn hierarchical dichotomy between high and popular art, there is a far more basic contrast at work—art versus entertainment. Yet the complex network of language games deploying these concepts reveals that entertainment is not simply contrasted to art but often identified with art as an allied or subsuming category. The arts are themselves sometimes described as forms of entertainment. Because the concept of entertainment is deeply and complexly related to the concept of art, and because it is also (...) broader and older than the concept of popular art, its analysis can be instructive not only for the question of popular art but for aesthetics as a whole. This paper, which is guided by pragmatist insights, provides a genealogical analysis of the concept of entertainment and its relation to aesthetics that offers some lessons for contemporary art and theory. In providing an aesthetic defence of entertainment's multiples values, the paper re-examines two concepts—pleasure and functionality for life—that have been used to condemn entertainment for triviality and narrowness but that are central to its value and to the value of art. (shrink)
Abstract: This article explains the pragmatist project of somaesthetics in five different ways. First, it clarifies the notion of soma as encompassing both subjective intentionality and material objectivity in the world. Second, it highlights the social dimensions of somaesthetics, building on the basic insight that the soma is always shaped by the social and physical environments in which it is nested. Third, it examines the similarities and differences between somaesthetics and the Merleau-Ponty tradition of somatic phenomenology, while answering some of (...) the critical questions phenomenologists raise about the pragmatic value of reflective body consciousness. Fourth, in exploring the uses of reflective body consciousness, the article examines the continuity of learning over different levels and the different forms of evidence that can be used for empirical testing of the value of somatic reflection. It concludes with an overview of some of the main directions of future somaesthetic research. (shrink)
Advances in neuroscience and its related technologies promise significant forms of cognitive enhancement, chiefly through the development of drugs, genetic engineering and screening, and electronic devices for augmenting brain functions. Such advances, however, raise a complex cluster of ethical questions that should increasingly concern us in the future as these technologies become more prevalent, powerful, and wide ranging in their effects. Most ethical dilemmas and debates about enhanced cognition seem to focus on our relation to others. These ethical controversies typically (...) concern two kinds of issues. The first is whether our enhanced knowledge about others may be unethically used to limit their freedom .. (shrink)
: This paper explains the discipline of somaesthetics, which emerges from pragmatism's concern with enhancing embodied experience and reconstructing the aesthetic in ways that make it more central to key philosophical concerns of knowledge, ethics, and politics. I then examine Beauvoir's complex treatment of the body in The Second Sex, assessing both her arguments that could support the pragmatic approach of somaesthetics but also those that challenge its bodily focus as a danger for feminism.
The end of aesthetic experience -- Don't believe the hype -- The fine art of rap -- Affect and authenticity in country musicals -- The urban aesthetics of absence : pragmatist reflections in Berlin -- Beneath interpretation -- Somaesthetics and the body/media issue -- The somatic turn : care of the body in contemporary culture -- Multiculturalism and the art of living -- Genius and the paradox of self-styling.
Although William James wrote no philosophical treatise on aesthetics, he can be seen as an important source for pragmatist aesthetics. This paper reconstructs James's aesthetic views from his diverse writings that demonstrate a keen regard for the arts and for the central, pervasive importance of the aesthetic dimension of experience, a dimension he saw as closely linked to the rational and practical. Special attention is given to his path-blazing The Principles of Psychology which precedes James's explicit pragmatist stage but contains (...) all the most essential themes of pragmatist aesthetics that Dewey would later formulate with much greater detail and argumentation in Art as Experience . This paper elucidates James's treatment of these themes, argues for his influence on Dewey's aesthetics, and suggests how the Jamesian approach exemplifies a promising convergence of aesthetics with philosophy of mind. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
This paper explains the discipline of somaesthetics, which emerges from pragmatism's concern with enhancing embodied experience and reconstructing the aesthetic in ways that make it more central to key philosophical concerns of knowledge, ethics, and politics. I then examine Beauvoir's complex treatment of the body in The Second Sex, assessing both her arguments that could support the pragmatic approach of somaesthetics but also those that challenge its bodily focus as a danger for feminism.
In the ancient legend of Cupid and Psyche, Venus was jealous of Psyche’s beauty and plotted to punish her by binding her through love to a hideous creature that would appear once Cupid scratched Psyche with his arrow of desire while she slept, so that she would fall in love with the next thing she saw upon awakening. But when Cupid saw her beauty, he was so overwhelmed that he accidentally wounded himself with his own arrow and thus fell deeply (...) in love with her. The tale then describes how Venus unsuccessfully tried to keep Cupid and Psyche apart, which makes a nice allegory for the difficulty of separating the soul from desire. Though this mission may seem as undesirable as it is unlikely to achieve, we should .. (shrink)
Thinking through the body: educating for the humanities -- The body as background -- Self-knowledge and its discontents: from Socrates to somaesthetics -- Muscle memory and the somaesthetic pathologies of everyday life -- Somaesthetics in the philosophy classroom: a practical approach -- Somaesthetics and the limits of aesthetics -- Somaesthetics and Burke's sublime -- Pragmatism and cultural politics: from textualism to somaesthetics -- Body consciousness and performance -- Somaesthetics and architecture: a critical option -- Photography as performative process -- Asian (...) ars erotica and the question of sexual aesthetics -- Philosophy as awakened life : everyday aesthetics of embodiment in American transcendentalism and Japanese Zen practice -- Somatic style. (shrink)