Elisabeth Schellekens is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Durham University. She is an Associate Editor of the British Journal of Aesthetics and a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Her areas of research include aesthetics, emotions, ethics (including moral psychology), Kant, and the philosophy of mind.
Aesthetic Displeasure and Artistic Appreciation: Feeling Bad about Good Art
Wednesday 22 February 2012
16:00-18:00 at Senate House, Room 104
Sponsored by the British Society of Aesthetics.
The notion of pleasure has long played a dominant role in our philosophical reflections about how we respond to art and the aesthetic. But the fact that we tend to take some aspects of this assumption for granted weakens our approach in two ways: first, we tend not to work with a particularly sophisticated conception of aesthetic pleasure and the different forms that enjoyment can take in artistic experience; second, cases where displeasure occurs are usually subsumed under more conventional explanations which do eventually refer to aesthetic pleasure.
This paper targets works which seem to challenge orthodoxy of this kind and which cannot adequately be addressed in the context of what has become known as the ‘paradox of tragedy’ or the ‘paradox of horror’. The argument focuses on cases where an emotional response to a good artwork is fundamentally negative (i.e. where that response remains negative throughout). After establishing that such cases are indeed possible, an explanation is provided of what it means to say that negative emotional responses can play a non-transient role in our aesthetic experiences of good art. Finally, we turn to examine the different kinds of pleasure that good art can afford.