What Is Art Good For? The Socio-Epistemic Value of Art

Authors
Clair Morrissey
Occidental College
Abstract
Scientists, humanists, and art lovers alike value art not just for its beauty, but also for its social and epistemic importance; that is, for its communicative nature, its capacity to increase one's self-knowledge and encourage personal growth, and its ability to challenge our schemas and preconceptions. However, empirical research tends to discount the importance of such social and epistemic outcomes of art engagement, instead focusing on individuals' preferences, judgments of beauty, pleasure, or other emotional appraisals as the primary outcomes of art appreciation. Here, we argue that a systematic neuroscientific study of art appreciation must move beyond understanding aesthetics alone, and toward investigating the social importance of art appreciation. We make our argument for such a shift in focus first, by situating art appreciation as an active social practice. We follow by reviewing the available psychological and cognitive neuroscientific evidence that art appreciation cultivates socio-epistemic skills such as self- and other-understanding, and discuss philosophical frameworks which suggest a more comprehensive empirical investigation. Finally, we argue that focusing on the socio-epistemic values of art engagement highlights the important role art plays in our lives. Empirical research on art appreciation can thus be used to show that engagement with art has specific social and personal value, the cultivation of which is important to us as individuals, and as communities.
Keywords empirical aesthetics  neuroaesthetics  art appreciation  art as social practice  self-understanding  other-understanding
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DOI 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00411
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References found in this work BETA

The Empathic Brain: How, When and Why?Frederique De Vignemont & Tania Singer - 2006 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 10 (10):435-441.
Neuroaesthetics.Anjan Chatterjee & Oshin Vartanian - 2014 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 18 (7):370-375.
Cortical Midline Structures and the Self.G. Northoff & F. Bermpohl - 2004 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 8 (3):102-107.
Motion, Emotion and Empathy in Esthetic Experience.David Freedberg & Vittorio Gallese - 2007 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11 (5):197-203.

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