Robinson and Self-Conscious Emotions: Appreciation Beyond (Fellow) Feeling

Debates in Aesthetics 14 (1):74-94 (2019)
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Jenefer Robinson believes that feelings can play an important role in the critical evaluation of artworks. In this paper, I want to put some pressure on two important notions in her theory: emotional understanding and affective empathy. I will do this by focusing on the nature of self-conscious emotions. My strategy will be, firstly, to demonstrate the difficulty that Robinson’s two step theory of emotions has in accommodating higher cognitive emotional responses to art. Secondly, I will discuss how the tight connection to the ‘self’ involved in self-conscious emotions makes it difficult to take the emotional perspective of another person as empathy requires. From here, I suggest that Peter Goldie’s feeling-towards and his critique of perspective-shifting may give a better understanding of the role of emotions in the appreciation of art, particularly in the case of reflective emotions. This issue will be explored through a discussion of the expression of autobiographical nostalgia in the work of the avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas.

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Irene Martínez Marín
Uppsala University


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