Digital Commons@RISD Home > Division of Liberal Arts > Contemporary Aesthetics (Journal Archive) > Vol. 3 (2005)
Art and Embodiment: Biological and Phenomenological Contributions to Understanding Beauty and the Aesthetic
Increasing awareness of the crucial and complex role of the body in making and experiencing art has led to a diverse range of biological and phenomenological philosophies of art. The shared emphasis on the role of the body re-connects these contemporary theories of art to aesthetics' pre-Kantian origin as a science of sense-perception (aesthesis) and feeling. Tracing some of the current positions in such diverse thinkers as Dissanayake, Langer, and Merleau-Ponty, this paper will examine their shared interest in art as a pre-reflective, non-discursive mode of knowing, symbolizing, and being-in-the-world. This paper argues that while some biologically based theories have drawn legitimate attention to the potential role of art in human evolution, their reductive tendencies need to be corrected and complemented by both a phenomenological and a 'symbolic' approach, which situates art in a web of culturally mediated affective encounters with the world in the context of a broader horizon that lends it its meaning.