Autonomy and aesthetic engagement

Mind:fzz054 (forthcoming)
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Abstract
There seems to be a deep tension between two aspects of aesthetic appreciation. On the one hand, we care about getting things right. On the other hand, we demand autonomy. We want appreciators to arrive at their aesthetic judgments through their own cognitive efforts, rather than deferring to experts. These two demands seem to be in tension; after all, if we want to get the right judgments, we should defer to the judgments of experts. The best explanation, I suggest, is that aesthetic appreciation is something like a game. When we play a game, we try to win. But often, winning isn’t the point; playing is. Aesthetic appreciation involves the same flipped motivational structure: we aim at the goal of correctness, but having correct judgments isn’t the point. The point is the engaged process of interpreting, investigating, and exploring the aesthetic object. Deferring to aesthetic testimony, then, makes the same mistake as looking up the answer to a puzzle, rather than solving it for oneself. The shortcut defeats the whole point. This suggests a new account of aesthetic value: the engagement account. The primary value of the activity of aesthetic appreciation lies in the process of trying to generate correct judgments, and not in having correct judgments. *There is an audio version available: look for the Soundcloud link, below.*
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First archival date: 2019-07-30
Latest version: 4 (2019-11-06)
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2019-07-30

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