Institut Jean Nicod

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12 December 2019, de 15h00 à 17h00 (joint ÆCS/SublimAE session)
Robert Hopkins (NYU)
Aesthetic Engagement, Imagining and the Draw of the Real



Paradigm cases of aesthetic engagement are perceptual : we engage with the aesthetic character of things by perceiving them. But is perception the only home for aesthetic engagement, or can we also aesthetically engage with things in imagination ? Can we savour beauty imagined, as well as perceived ? Intuition may suggest so. And intuition may seem to find support in Kant’s claim that what matters to aesthetic engagement is the character of our representations alone, not whether there is anything they capture. I think otherwise. Beginning with some simple thoughts about pleasure’s motivational structure, and what it motivates in the very different contexts imagining and perceiving provide, I argue that imagining supports at best a pale shadow of engagement, and perhaps nothing worthy of the name. Is there, then, a reading of Kant’s claim on which it is consistent with these facts, or must it too be rejected ?



8 October, de 15h30 à 17h30
Dustin Stokes (University of Utah)
Perceptual expertise, skill and creativity


Minimally, creativity involves psychological novelty - novelty in thought or action, relative to the agent’s past thought or action - where the agent is non-trivially responsible for the relevant achievement. Achieving vreativity, thus understood, requires skill and imaginations. Of the first, some creative acts/processes involve the execution of highly domain specific skills. Second, often ont must employ imagination of some kind, combining new ideas, applying concepts in innovative ways, taking a new angle or perspective on a familiar problem. This takes cognitive energy : it places substantial demand on working memory. This paper attempts to shed new light on these features of creativity by focusing on empirical literature on percpeptual expertise. That literature employs behavioural, neural, and psychological methods to study elite-level performance of experts in a wide array of domains—radiology, forensics, ornithology, sport, to name just a few. I argue that the best explanation of this range of study and data is that perceptual expertise sometimes involves genuine sensory perceptual improvement, where those perceptual changes depend upon the concept-rich cognitive learning specific to that domain. The expert radiologist does not just make better judgments about the contents of the radiogram, she better sees the radiogram. Perceptual expertise is genuine perceptual expertise. If successful, this explanation can contribute to a naturalistic explanation of creativity. Some creative individuals are perceptual experts within their relevant domains. This perceptual advantage implies an advantage in available cognitive resources, and this latter claim is further evidenced by studies on visual short term memory and task-evoked pupillary response. If the expert painter or elite athlete actually perceives better in her context of expertise (as a result of her previous training), this offloads some of the needed cognitive work to her visual systems, and thereby frees up cognitive load (reducing demands on working memory) to try something new, imagine a new angle, innovate, create.