Aesthetics and Material Beauty: Aesthetics Naturalized

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In Aesthetics and Material Beauty, Jennifer A. McMahon develops a new aesthetic theory she terms Critical Aesthetic Realism - taking Kantian aesthetics as a starting point and drawing upon contemporary theories of mind from philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science. The creative process does not proceed by a set of rules. Yet the fact that its objects can be understood or appreciated by others suggests that the creative process is constrained by principles to which others have access. According to her update of Kantian aesthetics, beauty is grounded in indeterminate yet systematic principles of perception and cognition. However, Kant’s aesthetic theory rested on a notion of indeterminacy whose consequences for understanding the nature of art were implausible.

McMahon conceptualizes "indeterminacy" in terms of contemporary philosophical, psychological, and computational theories of mind. In doing so, she develops an aesthetic theory that reconciles the apparent dichotomies which stem from the tension between the determinacy of communication and the indeterminacy of creativity. Dichotomies such as universality and subjectivity, objectivity and autonomy, cognitivism and non-cognitivism, and truth and beauty are revealed as complementary features of an aesthetic judgment.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Jennifer A. McMahon is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     X
Introduction: Formalism and the Problem of Beauty     1
Background     1
Formalism and cognitivism     5
Beauty and desire     13
Beauty and the sublime     16
The way ahead: aims and methodology     17
Universality and Subjectivity     21
Introduction     21
Aesthetic ideas and creativity     21
Aesthetic ideas and the beauty of nature     33
The functional role of beauty and the systematicity of nature     35
Conclusion     37
Objectivity and Autonomy     39
Introduction: the principles of objectivity     39
The aesthetic characterization     41
Background knowledge     47
Unity and cohesion     50
Artistic intention     53
The aesthetic characterization of nature     57
Conclusion     58
Critical Aesthetic Realism     60
Introduction     60
Cognitivism     61
Non-cognitivism     70
Aesthetic naturalism     78
Critical aesthetic realism     80
Conclusion     84
Beauty and Truth     86
Introduction     86
Senses of "realism" in art history     87
"Realism" according to theories of pictorial realism     90
Aesthetic realism     98
The grounds of aesthetic truth     103
Conclusion     108
Natural Generativity and Systematicity     110
Introduction     110
Background themes: mind and brain     111
The aesthetic and the artistic: motivating the distinction     118
A hierarchy of constraints     120
Aesthetic form, aesthetic ideas and universality     123
The imagination and the perceptual object     129
Consciousness as structure     132
Conclusion     133
The Ubiquity of Beauty     134
Introduction     134
Re-entrant signaling, phenomenal properties and physicalism     137
The aesthetic characterization and re-entrant signaling     141
Aesthetic ideas and re-entrant signaling     142
Aesthetic concepts and supervenience     145
Aesthetic properties, style and the historical artifact     148
Conclusion     160
Ugliness     162
Introduction: the opposite to beauty     162
The structure of ugliness     164
Aesthetic properties and ugliness     166
Ugliness and displeasure     167
Horror and pleasure     167
Ugliness in art     169
Disinterested displeasure     171
Ugliness as beauty's antithesis     173
The sublime     174
Conclusion     176
Conclusion: An Ontology of Art     177
Introduction     177
Critical aesthetic realism and ontology of art     180
Critical aesthetic realism and artistic intention     182
Critical aesthetic realism and theories of art     187
Critical aesthetic realism and normativity     194
The critical aesthetic realist manifesto     195
Conclusion     197
Notes     200
Bibliography     214
Index     223
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