© Art & Anamnesis Studio (NJB)

March 31, 2013

Research seeking a scientific foundation for the theory of art appreciation has raised controversies at the intersection of the social and cognitive sciences. Though equally relevant to a scientific inquiry into art appreciation, psychological and historical approaches to art developed independently and lack a common core of theoretical principles. Historicists argue that psychological and brain sciences ignore the fact that artworks are artifacts produced and appreciated in the context of unique historical situations and artistic intentions. After revealing flaws in the psychological approach, we introduce a psycho-historical framework for the science of art appreciation. This framework demonstrates that a science of art appreciation must investigate how appreciators process causal and historical information to classify and explain their psychological responses to art. Expanding on research about the cognition of artifacts, we identify three modes of appreciation: basic exposure to an artwork, the artistic design stance, and artistic understanding. The artistic design stance, a requisite for artistic understanding, is an attitude whereby appreciators develop their sensitivity to art-historical contexts by means of inquiries into the making, authorship, and functions of artworks. We defend and illustrate the psycho-historical framework with an analysis of existing studies on art appreciation in empirical aesthetics. Finally, we argue that the fluency theory of aesthetic pleasure can be amended to meet the requirements of the framework. We conclude that scientists can tackle fundamental questions about the nature and appreciation of art within the psycho-historical framework.

March 31, 2013

A psycho-historical research program for the integrative science of art

Critics of the target article objected to our account of art appreciators' sensitivity to art-historical contexts and functions, the relations among the modes of artistic appreciation, and the weaknesses of aesthetic science. To rebut these objections and justify our program, we argue that the current neglect of sensitivity to art-historical contexts persists as a result of a pervasive aesthetic–artistic confound; we further specify our claim that basic exposure and the design stance are necessary conditions of artistic understanding; and we explain why many experimental studies do not belong to a psycho-historical science of art.

December 31, 2008

Material anamnesis and the prompting of aesthetic worlds: the psycho-historical theory of artworks

Many scholars view artworks as the products of cultural history and arbitrary institutional conventions. Others construe art as the result of psychological mechanisms internal to the organism. These historical and psychological approaches are often viewed as foes rather than friends. Is it possible to combine these two approaches in a unified analysis of the perception and consciousness of artworks? I defend a positive answer to this question and propose a psycho-historical theory, which argues that artworks are historical and material artefacts designed to prompt mental activities and elicit the conscious experience of aesthetic worlds. My argument suggests that the material components of artworks--termed their ‘material substrata'--are crucial mediators between historical contexts and the mental activities elicited by the perception of artworks.

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PHILOSOPHY AND SCIENCE OF ART