Four main issues have occupied center stage in the analytic-cognitivist work on horror: (1) What is horror? (2) What is the appeal of horror? (3) How does it frighten audiences? and, (4) is it irrational to be scared of horror fiction?
This essay sets out reflections on happiness that, it is argued, can be drawn from the 2013 film Blue Jasmine. In doing so, it seeks to demonstrate a certain epistemic potential of sound film, specifically, in the present case, a philosophical and psychological potential. It is argued that this kind of potential resides in a filmmaker’s ability to realistically represent aspects of the world that can otherwise rarely, if ever, be experienced so reflectively.
In this paper, I identify and provide an explanation for a heretofore unrecognized puzzle in feminist aesthetics and the philosophy of horror. Many horror movie fans have an aversion to rape scenes. This is puzzling because genre fans are not equally bothered by the depiction of other types of violence and cruelty. I argue that we can make sense of this selective aversion by appeal to the notion of ‘distance’, which philosophers of horror use to explain why people are attracted (...) to horror movies in the first place. When we consume horror, we ‘distance’ ourselves from the scary things depicted, which allows other mechanisms to kick in that lead to overall enjoyment. I argue that ‘distance’ often collapses when viewers are confronted with depictions of rape because rape is common in real life and a gendered form of violence that is implicated in social injustice. (shrink)
Many people suspect it is morally wrong to watch the graphically violent horror films colloquially known as gorefests. A prominent argument vindicating this suspicion is the Argument from Reactive Attitudes (ARA). The ARA holds that we have a duty to maintain a well-functioning moral psychology, and watching gorefests violates that duty by threatening damage to our appropriate reactive attitudes. But I argue that the ARA is probably unsound. Depictions of suffering and death in other genres typically do no damage our (...) appropriate reactive attitudes, and until we locate a relevant difference between these depictions in gorefests and in other genres, we should assume that the depictions in gorefests do no damage. I consider and reject three candidate differences: in artistic merit, meaningfulness, and audience orientation. Until genre skeptics identify a relevant difference, we should accept the taste for gory fictions as we would any other morally innocuous variation in taste. (shrink)
It has been recently argued, contrary to the received eighteenth-century view, that disgust is compatible with aesthetic pleasure. According to such arguments, what allows this compatibility is the interest that art appreciators sometimes bestow on the cognitive content of disgust. On this view, the most interesting aspect of this cognitive content is identified in meanings connected with human mortality. The aim of this paper is to show that these arguments are unsuccessful.
This paper reads Republic 583b-608b as a single, continuous line of argument. First, Socrates distinguishes real from apparent pleasure and argues that justice is more pleasant than injustice. Next, he describes how pleasures nourish the soul. This line of argument continues into the second discussion of poetry: tragic pleasures are mixed pleasures in the soul that seem greater than they are; indulging them nourishes appetite and corrupts the soul. The paper argues that Plato has a novel account of the ‘paradox (...) of tragedy’, and that the Republic and Philebus contain complementary discussions of tragic and comic pleasure. (shrink)
Carolyn Korsmeyer’s Savoring Disgust is a book that, in spite of its seemingly unsavoury subject matter, deserves to be widely read. Written in an accessible yet richly suggestive prose, it is the first systematic investigation in English-speaking contemporary philosophy of the aesthetic and artistic significance of the emotion of disgust. Korsmeyer’s book discusses a wealth of issues that it is difficult to match and presents a comprehensive and organic approach to a previously underexplored topic. The intelligence of its analysis and (...) the elegance of its prose prove that one can indeed be pleasurably absorbed in matters disgusting. (shrink)
I argue that a solution to the paradox of horror should accommodate the possibility of enjoying an aesthetic experience partly in virtue of its being painful. This possibility is typically thought to be ruled out by the very nature of pleasure and pain. I argue that this is not so for adverbial accounts of pleasure. Using Aristotle's theory of pleasure as an example of an adverbial account, I show that it is possible for to enjoy an aesthetic experience partly in (...) virtue of its being painful. (shrink)
In this essay, I discuss a few ways in which songs are used, ways in which listeners engage with and find meaning in music. I am most interested in sad songs—those that typically feature narratives about lost love, separation, missed opportunity, regret, hardship, and all manner of heartache. Many of us are drawn to sad songs in moments of emotional distress. The problem is that sad songs do not always make us feel better; to the contrary, they often make us (...) feel worse. So, why do we listen to sad songs? I argue that we seek out sad songs, partly, to intensify distress, which helps us reflect on situations of profound personal significance. (shrink)
Why do people seemingly want to be scared by movies and feel pity for fictional characters when they avoid situations in real life that arouse these same negative emotions? Although the domain of relevant artworks encompasses far more than just tragedy, the general problem is typically called the paradox of tragedy. The paradox boils down to a simple question: If people avoid pain then why do people want to experience art that is painful? I discuss six popular solutions to the (...) paradox: conversion, control, compensatory, meta-response, catharsis, and rich experience theories. (shrink)
Two assumptions are common in discussions of the paradox of tragedy: (1) that tragic pleasure requires that the work be fictional or, if non-fiction, then non-transparently represented; and (2) that tragic pleasure may be provoked by a wide variety of art forms. In opposition to (1) I argue that certain documentaries could produce tragic pleasure. This is not to say that any sad or painful documentary could do so. In considering which documentaries might be plausible candidates, I further argue, against (...) (2), that the scope of tragic pleasure is limited to works that possess certain thematic and narrative features. (shrink)
Many of the most popular genres of narrative art are designed to elicit negative emotions: emotions that are experienced as painful or involving some degree of pain, which we generally avoid in our daily lives. Melodramas make us cry. Tragedies bring forth pity and fear. Conspiratorial thrillers arouse feelings of hopelessness and dread, and devotional religious art can make the believer weep in sorrow. Not only do audiences know what these artworks are supposed to do; they seek them out in (...) pursuit of prima facie painful reactions.Traditionally, the question of why people seek out such experiences of painful art has been presented as the paradox of tragedy. Most solutions to the paradox of tragedy assume that the reason we seek out tragedies, horror films, melodramas, and the like is because they afford pleasureful experiences. From there, theorists attempt to account for the source of this pleasure, a pleasure assumed to be had from representations of events from which we do not derive pleasure in real life. I argue that this assumption is suspect: the motive for seeking out devotional religious art, melodrama, tragedy, and some horror is not clearly to find pleasure. (shrink)
L'horreur en art vise à effrayer, bouleverser, dégoûter et terroriser. Puisque nous ne sommes pas normalement attirés par de ielles expériences, pourquoi quiconque s'exposerait-il délibérément a la fiction d'horreur? Noel Carroll soutient que le caractère constant du phénomène de l'horreur en art tient à certains plaisirs d'ordre cognitif, qui résultent de la satisfaction de notre curiosité naturelle à l'ègard des monstres. Je soutiens, quant è moi, que la solution cognitive de Carroll auparadoxe de l'horreur est profondément erronée, étant donné la (...) façon dont les monsters sont représentés dans la fiction d'horreur; j'explore brievement une approche plus prometteuse, qui traite les monstres comme des moyens pour acquerir la connaissance de soi. (shrink)