Aesthetic Knowledge

Philosophical Studies (forthcoming)
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What is the source of aesthetic knowledge? Empirical knowledge, it is generally held, bottoms out in perception. Such knowledge can be transmitted to others through testimony, preserved by memory, and amplified via inference. But perception is where the rubber hits the road. What about aesthetic knowledge? Does it too bottom out in perception? Most say “yes”. But this is wrong. When it comes to aesthetic knowledge, it is appreciation, not perception, where the rubber hits the road. The ultimate source of aesthetic knowledge is feeling. In this essay, we articulate and defend the very idea of affective knowledge and reveal aesthetic knowledge to be a species of the genus. We then show how the view resolves a thorny problem that has bedeviled aesthetic epistemologists: how to reconcile the seemingly direct character of aesthetic knowledge with the possibility of acquiring such knowledge from criticism. One learns from criticism, we argue, when it guides one’s engagement with an object so that one can appreciate it in virtue of those of its features that render it worthy of appreciation.
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First archival date: 2021-11-20
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