Institut Jean Nicod

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The Sublime and Aesthetic Experiences


SublimAE (the Sublime and Aesthetic Experiences) seminar, in connection with SublimAE ANR project, will focus on the interdisciplinary study of Aesthetic Experiences with an eye to the sublime by bringing together philosophy, psychology, and social sciences. We will explore, on the one hand, how the experience of the sublime connects to other similar or contrast experiences (the beautiful, terrible beauty, awe, wonder, the uncanny, …), and, on the other hand, the impact these experiences, and more specifically aesthetic ones, have on our representation of the self. The seminar will feature presentations by members of the project, as well as by invited speakers.

Venue : Institut Jean Nicod, Salle de réunion, ground floor, Pavillon Jardin 29 rue d’Ulm, 75005 Paris (you can enter also from 24 rue Lhomond)

Contact : Margherita Arcangeli, Jérôme Dokic




*CANCELLED* 9 December 2019, de 16h00 à 18h00
Joerg Fingerhut (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
The Aesthetic Self


Are our aesthetic values and the way we engage with the arts an essential part of our identity ? To what extent do our aesthetic preferences constitute who we are ? I will discuss studies on an Aesthetic Self-Effect supporting the claim that we are aesthetic selves. Here, counterfactual changes in aesthetic preferences – such as from liking pop to liking classical music – were perceived as threatening a person’s identity. The effect is as strong as the one found for moral changes – such as altering political partisanship or religious orientation. Exploring the breadth of this effect we also found evidence of an Anaesthetic Self-Effect : Scenarios that describe the initial adoption of an aesthetic preference – for instance from not caring to caring about music and art – also elicited strong judgments. I will discuss whether these effects constitute genuinely aesthetic effects or are mostly driven by social signaling attached to the art forms and genres we included in our studies. Taken together we found evidence for a genuine aesthetic self : when our taste in music and the arts or ­­our aesthetic interests change, we take these changes to severely affect our identity.



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 ?



16 December 2019, de 16h00 à 18h00
Tomas Koblizek (Department of Analytic Philosophy, Institute of Philosophy, CAS, Prague)
Contemporary Art and the Non-Perceptual Aesthetic Experience



Arthur Danto’s best known contribution to the philosophy of art is his claim (a) that the contemporary artworks, such as Andy Warhol’s Brillo Box, do not differ from ordinary objects in terms of perception and (b) that to see something as art requires an artistic theory explaining the meaning of the work. In the introductory part of my talk, I will show that Danto’s claim is right in the first part (a) but it should be refuted in the second (b). I will demonstrate that although perception cannot often discriminate between contemporary artworks and ordinary objects, the difference between the two is not articulated only by means of theory but also by means of an experience incited by the work. I will speak of non-perceptual aesthetic experience. In the second part of my talk, I will discuss James Shelley’s theory of non-perceptual aesthetic properties as a possible candidate to explain the non-perceptual aesthetic experience. I will rise an objection to this theory, saying that the alleged non-perceptual aesthetic properties may be reduced to non-intentional mental states. To conclude, I will propose a conception of non-perceptual aesthetic experience as a metacognitive feeling. This feeling is incited as a work, such as the Brillo Box, invites us to an action the awareness of which it immediately frustrates. I will give examples from the domain of conceptual sculpture, conceptual photography, and performance.


Past sessions :

8 October 2019, de 15h30 à 17h30 (joint ÆCS/SublimAE session)
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.