Art and imagination, a study in the philosophy of mind
Scruton, Roger Vernon
Tanner, M. K.
Anscombe, G. E. M.
University of Cambridge
Faculty of Philosophy
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Scruton, R. V. (1973). Art and imagination, a study in the philosophy of mind (doctoral thesis).
My intention is to show that, starting from an empiricist philosophy of mind, it is possible to give a systematic account of aesthetic experience. I argue that empiricism involves a certain theory of meaning and truth; one problem is to show how this theory is compatible with the activity of aesthetic judgment. I investigate and reject two attempts to delimit the realm of the aesthetic: one in terms of the individuality of the aesthetic object, and the other in terms of 'aesthetic properties'. I go on to argue that aesthetic descriptions must not be thought to ascribe properties to their objects, and I show how the suggestion that they are non-descriptive need not conflict with the empiricist view of meaning. The problem is then seen to lie with the analysis of the 'acceptance-conditions' of aesthetic descriptions. I counter certain idealist objections to this approach, and then present a theory of imagination, in terms of which the acceptance conditions of aesthetic judgments may be described. This theory attempts to explain how the element of thought in aesthetic appreciation may become inseparable from an experience of its object, and how the aesthetic emotions are both like and unlike their equivalents in life. The first part concludes with an analysis of the general conditions of aesthetic experience. I try to show that aesthetic experience can be described in terms of certain 'formal' properties, independently of its material object. In the second part I am concerned to show that this empiricist theory of aesthetics does not, like most empiricist theories, make nonsense of our appreciation of art. First, I attempt to show that 'understanding' art is not merely a cognitive process, but involves certain experiences that can be accounted for in terms of the previous theory. I then analyse the concepts of representation and expression, and in the course of this analysis I attempt to refute what I take to be the most serious rival analysis of our appreciation of art - the semantic theory.
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