This Is Your Brain on Art: What Can Philosophy of Art Learn from Neuroscience?, by David Davies
We concur with the philosopher David Davies (2014, 12) that empirical evidence of the kind provided by the new discipline might “inform” aesthetics but that “most of the significant philosophical issues cannot be resolved by appeal to this work.” For neuroaesthetics, such an objection is not even comprehensible, since its entire project assumes that aesthetics was for the most part misguided until it began to take the brain into account.
Davies considers the potential for, and scope of, appeals to the results of empirical research in the philosophy of art. He then examines, in light of these considerations, some attempts to illuminate specific issues in the philosophy of art by appeal to recent work in cognitive neuroscience on the nature and cognitive functions of ‘mirror neurons’. Such work is used to support sometimes surprising claims about how receivers respond to the manifest features of instances of artworks. Davies argues that, while the philosophy of art is richer for being informed by experimental work of this sort, the significant philosophical issues, which are often normatively inflected, are only rarely significantly illuminated by appeal to such work. Normatively inflected philosophical questions about art are not, however, to be addressed by simple appeal to armchair intuitions but require that we bring our practices and the goals of those practices into a rational equilibrium.
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