The Affective Nature of Horror

In Max Ryynänen, Heidi Kosonen & Susanne Ylönen (eds.), Cultural Approaches to Disgust and the Visceral. Routledge. pp. 31-43 (2022)
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The horror genre (in film, literature etc.) has, for its seemingly paradoxical aesthetic appeal, been the subject of much debate in contemporary, analytic philosophy of art. At the same time, however, the nature of horror as an affective phenomenon has been largely neglected by both aestheticians and philosophers of mind. The standard view of the affective nature of horror in contemporary philosophy follows Noël Carroll in holding that horror in art (or “art-horror”) is an emotion resulting from the combination of disgust and fear. The view is also often accompanied by the view that horror in art is a distinct affect from horror in real life. This raises the question of what the relationship between horror in art and in real life might be. By looking within and outside art and the horror genre, and using a combination of historical, philosophical and empirical arguments, I argue for a departure from such standard views on the affective nature of horror. In alternative, I outline a novel view, on which horror is common to both real life and art and is primarily, typically individuated by a set of (output) affective reactions.

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Filippo Contesi
Universitat de Barcelona


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