Feeling, emotion and imagination: in defence of Collingwood's expression theory of art

Nick Wiltsher
University of Antwerp
ABSTRACTIn ‘The Principles of Art’, R. G. Collingwood argues that art is the imaginative expression of emotion. So much the worse, then, for Collingwood. The theory seems hopelessly inadequate to the task of capturing art’s extension: of encompassing all the works we generally suppose should be rounded up under the concept. A great number of artworks, and several art forms, have nothing to do with emotion. But it would be surprising were Collingwood philistine enough to think that art is only ever concerned with communicating quotidian affective states, like anger, fear or love. Surely he has some more sophisticated notion of emotion in mind, and quite probably of expression too. And it turns out that those sophisticated notions can be pushed towards a version of the expression theory that meets the extensional challenge. If we interpret Collingwood as saying that expression is a particular application of imagination, and that imagination is the faculty that refines ideas of emotions, and that ‘emotions’...
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Reprint years 2017, 2018
DOI 10.1080/09608788.2017.1379001
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