The book aims to marry the scientific with the humanistic. It gives an account of emotion that is grounded in empirical psychology and neuroscience, but uses it to illuminate the way emotion functions in the experience of great works of art. There are a number of sub-texts. First is that the philosophical study of the arts is more fruitful if it is based on empirical work in the cognitive sciences. Second is that we should wrest the study of music away from those who pay attention only to the quasi-mathematical analysis of structure, and hand it over to those who are just as interested in the humanistic implications of music. Third is that post-modernism has seduced academic critics of literature into highly cognitive modes of criticism that have sometimes lost touch with what ordinary readers find most compelling about literature: the way they appeal to our emotions and the way they teach through appealing to our emotions.
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