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The Artful MindCognitive Science and the Riddle of Human Creativity$
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Mark Turner

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195306361

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195306361.001.0001

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A Cognitive Account of Aesthetics

A Cognitive Account of Aesthetics

(p.57) 3 A Cognitive Account of Aesthetics
The Artful Mind

Francis Steen

Oxford University Press

This chapter asks the question: Why is it that only human beings spend time and effort to produce and acquire aesthetic experience? The chapter focuses on the rote of juxtapositions, bisociations, and blends in human cognition, and proposes that symbolic abilities are a critical basis for these kinds of mental operations. Symbolic juxtapositions force further juxtapositions of correlated emotional responses, which are presumably independent of the logic of symbolic juxtaposition. These symbolic juxtapositions can thereby induce emergent and highly novel emotional experiences. In art, we recognize two key elements: an extraction from direct instrumental communication, and a duplicitous logic of representation. Consistent with their being capacities that require considerable training and cultural support to develop, there is wide individual and cultural variability in artistic phenomena. Yet despite this cultural boundedness and a fundamental break with biology, there is surprising species universality as well. Even though artistic expression does not “come naturally”, as does language and much social behavior, it is essentially culturally universal in some form or other.

Keywords:   aesthetic experience, human beings, art, bisociations, cognition, mental operations, symbolic abilities, biology, symbolic juxtapositions, artistic expression

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