Aesthetic emotions

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Aesthetic emotions are emotions that are felt during aesthetic activity or appreciation. These emotions may be of the everyday variety (such as fear, wonder or sympathy) or may be specific to aesthetic contexts. Examples of the latter include the sublime, the beautiful, and the kitsch. In each of these respects, the emotion usually constitutes only a part of the overall aesthetic experience, but may play a more or less definitive function for that state.

Fear Basic emotion induced by a perceived threat

Fear is a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat that occurs in certain types of organisms, which causes a change in metabolic and organ functions and ultimately a change in behavior, such as fleeing, hiding, or freezing from perceived traumatic events. Fear in human beings may occur in response to a certain stimulus occurring in the present, or in anticipation or expectation of a future threat perceived as a risk to body or life. The fear response arises from the perception of danger leading to confrontation with or escape from/avoiding the threat, which in extreme cases of fear can be a freeze response or paralysis.

Wonder (emotion) emotion

Wonder is an emotion comparable to surprise that people feel when perceiving something very rare or unexpected. It has historically been seen as an important aspect of human nature, specifically being linked with curiosity and the drive behind intellectual exploration. Wonder is also often compared to the emotion of awe but awe implies fear or respect rather than joy.

Sympathy is the perception, understanding, and reaction to the distress or need of another life form. This empathic concern is driven by a switch in viewpoint, from a personal perspective to the perspective of another group or individual who is in need. David Hume explained that this is the case because "the minds of all men are similar in their feelings and operations" and that "the motion of one communicates itself to the rest" so that as affectations readily pass from one to another, they beget corresponding movements.



Visual arts and film

The relation between aesthetic emotions and other emotions is traditionally said to rely on the disinterestedness of the aesthetic experience (see Kant especially). Aesthetic emotions do not motivate practical behaviours in the way that other emotions do (such as fear motivating avoidance behaviours).

Immanuel Kant Prussian philosopher

Immanuel Kant was an influential German philosopher in the Age of Enlightenment. In his doctrine of transcendental idealism, he argued that space, time, and causation are mere sensibilities; "things-in-themselves" exist, but their nature is unknowable. In his view, the mind shapes and structures experience, with all human experience sharing certain structural features. He drew a parallel to the Copernican revolution in his proposition that worldly objects can be intuited a priori ('beforehand'), and that intuition is therefore independent from objective reality. Kant believed that reason is the source of morality, and that aesthetics arise from a faculty of disinterested judgment. Kant's views continue to have a major influence on contemporary philosophy, especially the fields of epistemology, ethics, political theory, and post-modern aesthetics.

The capacity of artworks to arouse emotions such as fear is a subject of philosophical and psychological research. [1] It raises problems such as the paradox of fiction in which one responds with sometimes quite intense emotions to art, even whilst knowing that the scenario presented is fictional (see for instance the work of Kendall Walton). Another issue is the problem of imaginative resistance, which considers why we are able to imagine many far-fetched fictional truths but experience comparative difficulty imagining that different moral standards hold in a fictional world. This problem was first raised by David Hume, and was revived in current discussion by Richard Moran, Kendall Walton and Tamar Gendler (who introduced the term in its current usage in a 2000 article by the same name). [2] Some forms of artwork seem to be dedicated to the arousal of particular emotions. For instance horror films seek to arouse feelings of fear or disgust; comedies seek to arouse amusement or happiness, tragedies seek to arouse sympathy or sadness, and melodramas try to arouse pity and empathy.

Paradox of fiction

The paradox of fiction is a philosophical problem about how people can experience strong emotions from purely fictional things, such as art, literature, and imagination. The paradox draws attention to an everyday issue of how people are moved by things which, in some ways, do not exist. Although the ontology of fictional things in general has been discussed in philosophy since Plato, the paradox was first suggested by Colin Radford and Michael Weston in 1975. After Radford and Weston's original paper, they and others have continued the discussion by giving the problem slightly differing formulations and solutions.

Kendall Walton American philosopher

Kendall Lewis Walton is an American philosopher, the Emeritus Charles Stevenson Collegiate Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Art and Design at the University of Michigan. His work mainly deals with theoretical questions about the arts and issues of philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and philosophy of language. His book Mimesis as Make Believe: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts develops a theory of make-believe and uses it to understand the nature and varieties of representation in the arts. He has also developed an account of photography as transparent, defending the idea that we see through photographs, much as we see through telescopes or mirrors, and written extensively on pictorial representation, fiction and the emotions, the ontological status of fictional entities, the aesthetics of music, metaphor, and aesthetic value.

David Hume Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian

David Hume was a Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, who is best known today for his highly influential system of philosophical empiricism, scepticism, and naturalism. Hume's empiricist approach to philosophy places him with John Locke, George Berkeley, Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes as a British Empiricist. Beginning with his A Treatise of Human Nature (1738), Hume strove to create a total naturalistic science of man that examined the psychological basis of human nature. Against philosophical rationalists, Hume held that passion rather than reason governs human behaviour. Hume argued against the existence of innate ideas, positing that all human knowledge is founded solely in experience.


In the philosophy of music, scholars have argued whether instrumental music such as symphonies are simply abstract arrangements and patterns of musical pitches ("absolute music"), or whether instrumental music depicts emotional tableaux and moods ("program music"). Despite the assertions of philosophers advocating the "absolute music" argument, the typical symphony-goer does interpret the notes and chords of the orchestra emotionally; the opening of a Romantic-era symphony, in which minor chords thunder over low bass notes is often interpreted by layman listeners as an expression of sadness in music.

Philosophy of music is the study of "...fundamental questions about the nature of music and our experience of it". The philosophical study of music has many connections with philosophical questions in metaphysics and aesthetics. Some basic questions in the philosophy of music are:

Absolute music is music that is not explicitly "about" anything; in contrast to program music, it is non-representational. The idea of absolute music developed at the end of the 18th century in the writings of authors of early German Romanticism, such as Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder, Ludwig Tieck and E. T. A. Hoffmann but the term was not coined until 1846 where it was first used by Richard Wagner in a programme to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Program music or programme music is a type of art music that attempts to musically render an extra-musical narrative. The narrative itself might be offered to the audience in the form of program notes, inviting imaginative correlations with the music. A classic example is Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, which relates a series of morbid fantasies concerning the unrequited love of a sensitive poet involving murder, execution, and the torments of Hell. The genre culminates in the symphonic works of Richard Strauss that include narrations of the adventures of Don Quixote, Till Eulenspiegel, the composer's domestic life, and an interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy of the Übermensch. Following Strauss, the genre declined and new works with explicitly narrative content are rare. Nevertheless the genre continues to exert an influence on film music, especially where this draws upon the techniques of late romantic music.

Also called "abstract music", absolute music is music that is not explicitly "about" anything, non-representational or non-objective. Absolute music has no references to stories or images or any other kind of extramusical idea. The aesthetic ideas underlying the absolute music debate relate to Kant's aesthetic disinterestedness from his Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, and has led to numerous arguments, including a war of words between Brahms and Wagner. In the 19th century, a group of early Romantics including Johann Wolfgang Goethe and E.T.A. Hoffmann gave rise to the idea of what can be labeled as spiritual absolutism. "Formalism" is the concept of ‘music for music’s sake’ and refers only to instrumental music without words. The 19th century music critic Eduard Hanslick argued that music could be enjoyed as pure sound and form, that it needed no connotation of extra-musical elements to warrant its existence.

Eduard Hanslick austrian musician and musicologist

Eduard Hanslick was a German Bohemian music critic.

Related Research Articles

The term suspension of disbelief or willing suspension of disbelief has been defined as a willingness to suspend one's critical faculties and believe something surreal; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment. The term was coined in 1817 by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who suggested that if a writer could infuse a "human interest and a semblance of truth" into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative. Suspension of disbelief often applies to fictional works of the action, comedy, fantasy, and horror genres. Cognitive estrangement in fiction involves using a person's ignorance to promote suspension of disbelief.

The contrasting and categorization of emotions describes how emotions are thought to relate to each other. Several proposals have been made for organizing them into groups.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments is a 1759 book by Adam Smith. It provided the ethical, philosophical, psychological, and methodological underpinnings to Smith's later works, including The Wealth of Nations (1776), Essays on Philosophical Subjects (1795), and Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue, and Arms (1763).

Arousal is the physiological and psychological state of being awoken or of sense organs stimulated to a point of perception. It involves activation of the ascending reticular activating system (ARAS) in the brain, which mediates wakefulness, the autonomic nervous system, and the endocrine system, leading to increased heart rate and blood pressure and a condition of sensory alertness, mobility, and readiness to respond.

<i>Critique of Judgment</i>

The Critique of Judgment, also translated as the Critique of the Power of Judgment, is a 1790 book by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Sometimes referred to as the "third critique," the Critique of Judgment follows the Critique of Pure Reason (1781) and the Critique of Practical Reason (1788).

Curiosity quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning

Curiosity is a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning, evident by observation in humans and other animals. Curiosity is heavily associated with all aspects of human development, in which derives the process of learning and desire to acquire knowledge and skill.

Aesthetics of music branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of art, beauty and taste in music

Aesthetics of music is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of art, beauty and taste in music, and with the creation or appreciation of beauty in music. In the pre-modern tradition, the aesthetics of music or musical aesthetics explored the mathematical and cosmological dimensions of rhythmic and harmonic organization. In the eighteenth century, focus shifted to the experience of hearing music, and thus to questions about its beauty and human enjoyment of music. The origin of this philosophic shift is sometimes attributed to Baumgarten in the 18th century, followed by Kant. Through their writing, the ancient term aesthetics, meaning sensory perception, received its present-day connotation. In recent decades philosophers have tended to emphasize issues besides beauty and enjoyment. For example, music's capacity to express emotion has been a central issue.

This description of the history of aesthetics before the twentieth century is based on an article from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition.

Imagination creative ability

Imagination is the ability to produce and simulate novel objects, peoples and ideas in the mind without any immediate input of the senses. It is also described as the forming of experiences in the mind, which can be re-creations of past experiences such as vivid memories with imagined changes or that they are completely invented. Imagination helps make knowledge applicable in solving problems and is fundamental to integrating experience and the learning process. A basic training for imagination is listening to storytelling (narrative), in which the exactness of the chosen words is the fundamental factor to "evoke worlds".

Frisson psychophysiological response to rewarding auditory or visual stimuli

Frisson, also known as aesthetic chills, musical chills, and colloquially as a skin orgasm, is a psychophysiological response to rewarding auditory and/or visual stimuli that induces a pleasurable or otherwise positively-valenced affective state and transient paresthesia, sometimes along with piloerection and mydriasis. The sensation commonly occurs as a mildly to moderately pleasurable emotional response to music with skin tingling; piloerection and pupil dilation do not necessarily occur in all cases. The psychological component and physiological components of the response are mediated by the reward system and sympathetic nervous system, respectively. The stimuli that produce this response are unique to each individual.

Determination is a positive emotional feeling that involves persevering towards a difficult goal in spite of obstacles. Determination occurs prior to goal attainment and serves to motivate behavior that will help achieve one’s goal. Empirical research suggests that people consider determination to be an emotion; in other words, determination is not just a cognitive state, but rather an affective state. In the psychology literature, researchers have studied determination under other terms, including challenge and anticipatory enthusiasm; this may explain one reason for the relative lack of research on determination compared to other positive emotions.

Paula M. Niedenthal is a social psychologist currently working as a Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She also completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison where she received a Bachelor's in Psychology. She then received her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan before becoming a faculty member of the departments of Psychology at Johns Hopkins University and Indiana University. Until recently, she served as the Director of Research in the National Centre for Scientific Research at the Université Blaise Pascal in Clermont-Ferrand France. The majority of Niedenthal’s research focuses on several levels of analysis of emotional processes, this would include emotion-cognition interaction and representational models of emotion. Niedenthal has authored more than 80 articles and chapters, and several books. Niedenthal is a fellow of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

Reverence is "a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration". The word "reverence" in the modern day is often used in relationship with religion. This is because religion often stimulates the emotion through recognition of God, the supernatural, and the ineffable. Reverence involves a humbling of the self in respectful recognition of something perceived to be greater than the self. Thus religion is commonly a place where reverence is felt.

Music and emotion

The study of 'music and emotion' seeks to understand the psychological relationship between human affect and music. It is a branch of music psychology with numerous areas of study, including the nature of emotional reactions to music, how characteristics of the listener may determine which emotions are felt, and which components of a musical composition or performance may elicit certain reactions. The field draws upon, and has significant implications for, such areas as philosophy, musicology, music therapy, music theory and aesthetics, as well as the acts of musical composition and performance.

The James–Lange theory is a hypothesis on the origin and nature of emotions and is one of the earliest theories of emotion within modern psychology. It was developed independently by two 19th-century scholars, William James and Carl Lange. The basic premise of the theory is that physiological arousal instigates the experience of emotion. Instead of feeling an emotion and subsequent physiological (bodily) response, the theory proposes that the physiological change is primary, and emotion is then experienced when the brain reacts to the information received via the body's nervous system. It proposes that each specific emotion is attached to a unique and different pattern of physiological arousal and emotional behavior in reaction due to an exciting stimulus.

In psychology of art, the relationship between art and emotion has newly been the subject of extensive study thanks to the intervention of esteemed art historian Alexander Nemerov. Emotional or aesthetic responses to art have previously been viewed as basic stimulus response, but new theories and research have suggested that these experiences are more complex and able to be studied experimentally. Emotional responses are often regarded as the keystone to experiencing art, and the creation of an emotional experience has been argued as the purpose of artistic expression. Research has shown that the neurological underpinnings of perceiving art differ from those used in standard object recognition. Instead, brain regions involved in the experience of emotion and goal setting show activation when viewing art.


  1. Aesthetic emotions | Swiss Center for Affective Sciences Archived January 13, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  2. Tamar Szabó Gendler (2000). The Puzzle of Imaginative Resistance. Journal of Philosophy 97 (2):55-81

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