Art as a Shelter from Science

Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 97 (1):172-201 (2023)
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In our life with science, we trust experts; we form judgements by inference from past evidence. We conduct ourselves very differently in the aesthetic domain. We avoid deferring to aesthetic experts. We form our judgements through direct perception of particulars rather than through inference. Why the difference? I suggest that we avoid aesthetic testimony and aesthetic inference, not because they’re unusable, but because we have adopted social norms to avoid them. Aesthetic appreciation turns out to be something like a game. We have laid down certain rules and restrictions in order to shape a kind of activity we cherish. And aesthetic properties turn out to be a kind of social construct. Much like the goal of a game, they are constituted in part by our obedience to certain rules. The norms of aesthetic life are different from those of science because our purposes are different. We engage in science to get the right answers; we engage in aesthetic appreciation to be absorbed in the activity of the sensuous perception of particulars. Our aesthetic practices are a constructed shelter from science; they restore to us a small domain where we may once again engage in our own sensuous perception of particulars.

Author's Profile

C. Thi Nguyen
University of Utah


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