Michael Lacewing and Richard G.T. Gipps
This introduction provides an overview of the chapters in this section, which explores the role of psychoanalysis in aesthetics. More specifically, the chapters examine some psychoanalytic concepts with which to think more deeply about human creativity and aesthetic sensibility, such as wish and wish fulfilment, the depressive position, projection, containment, and mentalization. The focus is on what Sigmund Freud thinks about art, how we should understand it (the question of criticism), what makes an experience distinctively aesthetic, and how we should understand artistic creativity. One of the chapters deals with film theory, arguing against the cognitive turn in favour of the view that ‘the creation and experience of film is driven by desire and wish fulfilment and functions so as to satisfy certain psychological, protective, expressive needs of both artists and audiences’. Another chapter considers the developmental, transformative nature of art, and the particular importance of its form in this respect.
Susan L. Feagin
This article explains the complexity argument as offered by Peter Kivy in relation to absolute music. The next section looks at a particular criticism of the complexity argument: that feelings often alert us to what is important in one's current environment (for these purposes, what is important in the work one is reading) in a way that cannot be accomplished by reason or cognition, ‘intellectual’ activity, or even by affectless perception. Such a view of feelings in general currently enjoys substantial popularity among a variety of psychologists and philosophers. The next section presents one intellectualist model for appreciation, courtesy of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five: the Tralfamadorean view, which connects the absence of time from the reading process, and from the process of living one's life, with the absence of feelings that reflect the human capacity for agency.
The theory of art in which the abiding philosophical interest in the connection between art and emotion is most explicit is expression theory, of which there have been several, significantly different, versions. Common to all of these is the thought that the value of art lies at least largely in the value of its expression of emotion; but theorists have differed markedly in how they understand the nature of such expression. On what might be called the full-blown version of expression theory — instances of which were held by Leo Tolstoy and by Clive Bell — expression is understood as a matter of the communication or transmission of emotion or feeling from artist to audience via the work of art. The value of a work of art, on this view, will be a function both of the value of the feeling that it transmits (Tolstoy, for instance, held that sincerity and individuality of feeling were crucial criteria of value in this respect), and of its ‘infectiousness’ (to use a Tolstoyan metaphor) and the clarity with which it transmits that feeling.
Drawing on Ronald de Sousa’s account of emotional learning through paradigm scenarios, this article argues that literature is an important means through which we develop our conception of romantic love. Milan Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being serves as an example of a literary work that helps to shape our understanding of this kind of love. The narrator offers theoretical observations about love and its preconditions, but the novel also educates us about love through vignettes and scenarios that explore relationships between particular characters. Significantly, the imaginative, often metaphoric views that the characters have of themselves and other characters have a powerful impact on whether incipient romantic relationships proceed to flourish or to wither. The essay concludes with an analysis of the means through which fictional narratives educate us about romantic love, with illustrations from Kundera’s novel.
This chapter discusses the way in which Wollheim recruits the insights of psychoanalysis to develop a distinctive approach to philosophy of art in particular, and other branches of philosophy more generally, such as philosophy of mind and ethics. Wollheim develops an original approach to artistic expression and expressive perception of emotion by drawing on psychoanalysts’ treatment of projection. He also develops an original approach to art criticism which he dubs criticism as retrieval, and which involves what he dubs the ‘repsychologization’ of pictorial meaning.
Dominic McIver Lopes
Pictures are valuable partly because they engage perception in distinctive ways. This chapter surveys recent accounts of depiction, of the distinctive content and phenomenology of our experiences of images, and of the artistic or aesthetic value that these experiences afford. Particular attention is paid to recent research on the relationship between seeing a flat image surface and having an experience as of the scene it represents.
Damian Cox and Michael Levine
Those who believe that the psychoanalytic understanding of human nature is broadly correct will also likely believe that there are essential aspects of film that cannot be adequately understood without it. Among these are film’s power; the nature of film spectatorship; and the characteristics of specific films and genres. Why are we attracted to certain kinds of films—horror films and those depicting violence we abhor? The most basic claim underlying psychoanalytic approaches to film is that the creation and experience of film is driven by desire and wish-fulfilment and functions to satisfy certain psychological, protective, expressive needs of artists and audiences. Psychoanalytic explorations of film tend to draw together aspects of artistic creation and spectatorship, as well as accounts of film’s power to move audiences and the nature of film spectatorship in general—the affective and cognitive significance of the nature of film experience itself.