Art's Emotions: Ethics, Expression and Aesthetic Experience | Teaching in Higher Education |
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews is an electronic, peer-reviewed journal that publishes timely reviews of scholarly philosophy books.


Damien Freeman takes on the monumental task of developing a theory of aesthetic experience that accounts for its emotional aspects, its ethical aspects, and the role certain kinds of aesthetic experience can play in a fulfilling life. Despite the enormity of the task, he does an excellent job in so few pages. There are, of course, problems, but the issues that I take with the argument are largely in the details and not in the big picture.


Freeman's main argument is that aesthetic experience can uniquely offer a form of what he calls a plenary experience of emotion. This particular kind of experience is significant to the aesthetic experience because it deals with our emotions as a whole (what he calls the whole emotional economy rather than just parts of the emotions) and thereby offers a unique kind of experience that plays a significant role in our overall thriving emotional life.


Freeman's argument takes as its context the expressivist theories of Tolstoy, Collingwood, and Wollheim; but I believe that he advances his argument to a more comprehensive account of the ways in which we engage with art emotionally and why it is good for us to do so.


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