The Aesthetic and Cognitive Value of Surprise

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Abstract
It is a common experience to be surprised by an artwork. In this paper, I examine how and why this obvious fact matters for philosophical aesthetics. Following recent works in psychology and philosophers such as Davidson or Scheffler, we will see that surprise qualifies as an emotion of a special kind, essentially “cognitive” or “epistemic” in its nature and functioning. After some preliminary considerations, I wish to hold two general claims: the first one will be that surprise is somehow related to aesthetic appreciation, because it is often the ground to judge of a work’s value. The second point will be that a functional analysis of surprise provides support for cognitivist accounts of aesthetics. If this picture is right, surprise would generally play an important part in aesthetic experience and should also be seen as a paradigm to study the cognitive powers of art.
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First archival date: 2018-07-10
Latest version: 2 (2018-10-18)
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2018-07-10

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