Aesthetic Experience and Art Appreciation: A Pragmatic Account Open Access

Robins, Alexander David (2015)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/6682x4163?locale=en
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Abstract

What is art appreciation? Although it is recognized as a positive experience by art patrons, museum educators, and scholars alike, this aesthetic phenomenon has only a limited amount of philosophic literature that attempts to explicate the experience of art appreciation. Within the existing literature there is a variety of competing theories that include cognitivist and affective approaches. This study examines writings relating to art appreciation from the tradition of American pragmatism, drawing heavily on the work of John Dewey. Dewey argues that the act of appreciation ascribed to the fine arts is not a specific form of appreciation reserved only for the arts but is instead a generalized phase of all experience. He suggests that there is no singular experience of appreciation but that experience is itself appreciative. This expanded perspective on appreciation and aesthetic experience has significant implications for several issues in the contemporary philosophy of art. This includes ascribing a naturalistic basis for aesthetic judgments, denying a rigid distinction between art and non-art objects, and advocating for an aesthetic dimension to politics as well as everyday life.

This dissertation ultimately defends and updates Dewey's position and discusses its implications in three complementary chapters. The first chapter considers a historic episode in which John Dewey collaborated with Albert C. Barnes of the art institution the Barnes Foundation to develop a curriculum for the appreciation of paintings. The philosophic writings produced in these efforts as well as the pedagogical activities implemented at the Barnes Foundation are analyzed as a practical case study of Dewey's concept of art appreciation as it relates to democratic theory. The second chapter considers Dewey's monographs in order to explain and defend the naturalistic assumptions underlying this theory of art appreciation. The final chapter takes up the conclusions of the previous two chapters in order to consider their implications for contemporary theoretical discussions in several fields. These include Dewey's place in the history of aesthetics, his applicability for the contemporary analytic philosophy of art, and contemporary art history.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:

Introduction………………………………………………………………..……… 1

Chapter 1: Applied Aesthetics

1. Introduction……………………………………………………………….. 11

2. Dewey's concept of appreciation before 1920. ………………………….. 16

3. Dewey's link between appreciation and democracy……………………… 20

4. The creation of the Barnes Foundation…………………………………… 25

5. The early activities of the foundation……………………………………. 30

6. The early writing of the foundation………………………………………. 33

7. Interpreting the connection between Dewey and the Barnes Foundation… 48

8. Conclusion………………………………………………………………… 58

Chapter 2: Dewey's Naturalistic Appreciation

1. Introduction: The Philosophy of Shakespeare and Keats ………………… 60

2. Key texts…………………………………………………………………... 62

3. Consummation and related concepts…………………………………….... 66

4. Art in and of nature……………………………………………………….. 71

5. Appreciation in the environment…………………………………………... 81

6. Appreciation as growth……………………………………………………. 90

7. The concept of adventure………………………………………………….. 97

8. Appreciation, recurrence and the Barnes………………………………….. 98

9. Summary…………………………………………………………………… 104

Chapter 3: Applying Appreciation

1. Introduction………………………………………………………………. 106

2. Dewey's Place in the History of Aesthetics…………………………….... 112

3. Contributions to the Contemporary Philosophy of Art…………………… 121

4. Contribution to Evolutionary Aesthetics….…………………………...... 144

5. Contributions to Contemporary Art Criticism………………………….... 151

6. Summary…………………………………………………………………. 161

Conclusion: Dewey's Pessimism……………………………………………….… 163

Bibliography ……………………………………………………………………... 168


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