Aesthetic emotions

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.


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).

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.


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 layperson listeners as an expression of sadness in 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.


  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

Further reading

  • Chua, Daniel. Absolute Music and the Construction of Meaning (Cambridge University Press, 1999)
  • Clay, Felix. 'The Origin of the Aesthetic Emotion'. Sammelbände der Internationalen Musikgesellschaft, 9. Jahrg., H. 2. (Jan. - Mar., 1908), pp. 282–290. JSTOR 929289
  • Pouivet, Roger. 'On the Cognitive Functioning of Aesthetic Emotions'. Leonardo, Vol. 33, No. 1. (2000), pp. 49–53. JSTOR 1576761
Art and emotion

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.

Clive Bell

Arthur Clive Heward Bell (16 September 1881 – 17 September 1964) was an English art critic, associated with formalism and the Bloomsbury Group. He developed the art theory known as significant form.

Francis Grose

Francis Grose (b. before 11 June 1731 – 12 June 1791) was an English antiquary, draughtsman, and lexicographer. He was born at his father's house in Broad Street, St-Peter-le-Poer, London. His parents were Swiss immigrant and jeweller Francis Jacob Grose (d. 1769), and his wife, Anne (d. 1773), daughter of Thomas Bennett of Greenford in Middlesex. Grose was baptised on 11 June 1731 in the parish of St Peter-le-Poer.

Index of aesthetics articles

This is an alphabetical index of articles about aesthetics.

Interpretive discussion

An interpretive discussion is a discussion in which participants explore and/or resolve interpretations often pertaining to texts of any medium containing significant ambiguity in meaning.

James Mill

James Mill (born James Milne, 6 April 1773 – 23 June 1836) was a Scottish historian, economist, political theorist, and philosopher. He is counted among the founders of the Ricardian school of economics. His son, John Stuart Mill, was also a noted philosopher of liberalism, utilitarianism and the civilizing mission of the British Empire.

Although he never set foot in India at any time in his life, James Mill took upon himself the task of writing the monumental History of British India, a classic of colonial self-congratulation which contains a complete denunciation and rejection of Indian culture and civilisation and which both exhorts and extolls the civilizing mission of the British in the subcontinent. He was the first writer to divide Indian history into three parts: Hindu, Muslim and British, a classification which has proved surpassingly influential in the field of Indian historical studies, but which is seen in recent decades as being deeply problematic.

Leonid Perlovsky

Leonid Perlovsky is an Affiliated Research Professor at Northeastern University. His research involves cognitive algorithms and modeling of evolution of languages and cultures.

He served as professor at Novosibirsk State University and New York University, and participated as a principal in commercial startups developing tools for text understanding, Biotechnology, and financial predictions. He has published more than 320 papers and 10 book chapters and authored three books, includingNeural Networks and Intellect, Oxford University Press, 2000 (currently in the 3rd printing) and two books with Springer in 2007. He serves as Associate Editor for IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks, Editor-at-Large for New Mathematics and Natural Computation and Editor-in-Chief for Physics of Life Reviews. He has received national and international awards including the IEEE Distinguished Member of Boston Section Award 2005; the US AFRL Charles Ryan Memorial Award for Basic Research, 2007; the 2007 Gabor Award, the top engineering award from the International Neural Network Society; and the 2007 John McLucas Award, the highest US Air Force award for science.

His current research interests include modeling mechanisms of the mind: neural modeling fields, knowledge instinct, aesthetic emotions, cognitive dissonance, emotions of beautiful and sublime, language, language evolution, emotionality of languages, language and cognition, evolution of languages and cultures, symbols as psychological processes, evolution of consciousness, languages, and cultures, mathematical intelligence and art, role of music in evolution of consciousness and cultures, science and religion, including scientific explanations for the role of sacred values in the workings of the mind, and why religious teleology is equivalent to scientific causality.

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.

Neural modeling fields

Neural modeling field (NMF) is a mathematical framework for machine learning which combines ideas from neural networks, fuzzy logic, and model based recognition. It has also been referred to as modeling fields, modeling fields theory (MFT), Maximum likelihood artificial neural networks (MLANS).

This framework has been developed by Leonid Perlovsky at the AFRL. NMF is interpreted as a mathematical description of mind’s mechanisms, including concepts, emotions, instincts, imagination, thinking, and understanding. NMF is a multi-level, hetero-hierarchical system. At each level in NMF there are concept-models encapsulating the knowledge; they generate so-called top-down signals, interacting with input, bottom-up signals. These interactions are governed by dynamic equations, which drive concept-model learning, adaptation, and formation of new concept-models for better correspondence to the input, bottom-up signals.

Outline of aesthetics

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to aesthetics:

Aesthetics – branch of philosophy and axiology concerned with the nature of beauty.

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.


Photography is the art, application and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film. It is employed in many fields of science, manufacturing (e.g., photolithography), and business, as well as its more direct uses for art, film and video production, recreational purposes, hobby, and mass communication.Typically, a lens is used to focus the light reflected or emitted from objects into a real image on the light-sensitive surface inside a camera during a timed exposure. With an electronic image sensor, this produces an electrical charge at each pixel, which is electronically processed and stored in a digital image file for subsequent display or processing. The result with photographic emulsion is an invisible latent image, which is later chemically "developed" into a visible image, either negative or positive depending on the purpose of the photographic material and the method of processing. A negative image on film is traditionally used to photographically create a positive image on a paper base, known as a print, either by using an enlarger or by contact printing.


Schadenfreude (; German: [ˈʃaːdn̩ˌfʁɔʏ̯də] (listen); lit. 'harm-joy') is the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.

Schadenfreude is a complex emotion, where rather than feeling sympathy towards someone's misfortune, schadenfreude evokes joyful feelings that take pleasure from watching someone fail. This emotion is displayed more in children than adults; however, adults also experience schadenfreude, but they are just better at concealing their expressions.


Sehnsucht (German pronunciation: [ˈzeːnˌzʊxt]) is a German noun translated as "longing", "pining", "yearning", or "craving". Some psychologists use the word Sehnsucht to represent thoughts and feelings about all facets of life that are unfinished or imperfect, paired with a yearning for ideal alternative experiences.

Sociology of emotions

The sociology of emotion applies sociological theorems and techniques to the study of human emotions. As sociology emerged primarily as a reaction to the negative effects of modernity, many normative theories deal in some sense with emotion without forming a part of any specific subdiscipline: Karl Marx described capitalism as detrimental to personal 'species-being', Georg Simmel wrote of the deindividualizing tendencies of 'the metropolis', and Max Weber's work dealt with the rationalizing effect of modernity in general.

Surprise (emotion)

Surprise (pronunciation ) is a brief mental and physiological state, a startle response experienced by animals and humans as the result of an unexpected event. Surprise can have any valence; that is, it can be neutral/moderate, pleasant, unpleasant, positive, or negative. Surprise can occur in varying levels of intensity ranging from very-surprised, which may induce the fight-or-flight response, or little-surprise that elicits a less intense response to the stimuli.

Swiss Center for Affective Sciences

The Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences (French title 'Centre Interfacultaire en Sciences Affectives' or 'CISA') is an interdisciplinary research centre based in Geneva. Founded in 2003, the focus of its research is the emotions or affective science. It is one of 20 Swiss Government funded NCCR (National Centres for Competence in Research). The centre was headed by Professor Klaus Scherer, is now headed by David Sander, and researches emotions in the areas of cognitive neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, philosophy, economics, archaeology and affective computing. It has project focuses in cognitive appraisal, expression, social and legal regulation, norms and values and aesthetic emotions. Over 100 researchers from different universities attend in the NCCR Affective Sciences.The Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research tries to train as many new affective young scientists as possible. They have a program devoted to the Education and Training Program which helps train and prepare researchers in the affective sciences for the future. The goal of Education and Training Program is to encourage approach towards affective phenomena without losing the punitive profession required for a professional career between disciplines.

There is an annual program called the International Summer School in Affective Sciences (ISSAS) which is available for young researchers worldwide. The summer school tries to bring together arts and emotions of students using many methods including literature, neuroscience, psychology, and musicology.

The Centre's main research goals include attempting to understand affective phenomena, such as emotions and motivation, through research and analysis. Affective phenomena are complex and difficult to understand. They are described as intricate events in human behaviour and experience.The centre focusses on three parts of emotions: emotions being complicated reactions to our surroundings, emotions as being disruptive and needing conscious control and regulation and emotions as being a regulating force of today’s society. Therefore, individual research projects are organized around three main categories of research relating to these aspects: emotion awareness and elicitation, emotion regulation and the social purposes of emotions.

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