The aesthetic stance - on the conditions and consequences of becoming a beholder

In Alfonsina Scarinzi (ed.), Aesthetics and the Embodied Mind: Beyond Art Theory and the Cartesian Mind-Body Dichotomy. Springer. pp. 117-138 (2015)
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What does it mean to be an aesthetic beholder? Is it different than simply being a perceiver? Most theories of aesthetic perception focus on 1) features of the perceived object and its presentation or 2) on psychological evaluative or emotional responses and intentions of perceiver and artist. In this chapter I propose that we need to look at the process of engaged perception itself, and further that this temporal process of be- coming a beholder must be understood in its embodied, contextual and dynamic speci- ficity. Through both phenomenological and neuroscientific explorations I analyze what is characteristic about a more “aesthetic stance” and argue that there is a certain asym- metry between beholder and beheld, which has to do with a disengagement of goal- directed action, and which allows for other kinds of perceptual involvement than in a more “practical stance”. It is a multi-disciplinary project integrating a sensorimotor no- tion of aesthetic affordances, 18th century philosophy, and large-scale brain network findings. What ensues is a new dynamic framework for future empirical and theoretical research on aesthetic perception.
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