Pictures and the Representational Mind

The Monist 86 (4):632-652 (2003)


Several recent books indicate that the philosophy of art has embarked upon a new alliance with cognitive science. One impetus for this is the move, beginning in the 70s and 80s, away from general aesthetics to a greater concern with the philosophies of the individual arts. Questions about the nature of art, expression, aesthetic experience and aesthetic properties as generic phenomena are still with us but many philosophers now approach them by means of specialized studies of music, literature, film, the visual arts or the performing arts. Some claim that these questions can only be answered, or can best be answered, by studying the individual art forms. This has brought aesthetics into alignment with empirical research, which has always been concerned with individual art forms, for reasons having to do both with experimental design and with views of the mind as functionally differentiated. There is no psychological work on the perception of beauty, for example, but only on the perception of visual beauty, beauty in music and the like. Now that aesthetics is equally specialized, empirical research on the individual arts can be brought to bear upon familiar problems in aesthetics.

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Dominic McIver Lopes
University of British Columbia

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