Research

Much of my philosophical work finds inspiration in my love for the arts. I believe there is something fundamental about how the appreciation of artworks enables us to connect emotionally with others and better understand ourselves. As Dana Spiotta beautifully puts it in her novel Stone Arabia, "what art can do is give us a glimpse of ourselves connected with every human...It offers the consolation of recognition, no small thing". In connection to this, I also think that appreciation always entails some sort of self-transformation. How to make sense of this form of attunement between subject and object, how to adjust one's sensibility to the artistic object itself, and how to best describe the underlying aesthetic psychology of these processes are some of the main questions guiding my work.


Doctoral Dissertation Summary

Tentative title: The Epistemic Role of Emotion in Aesthetic Judgement

Emotions are thought to be an important element in our engagement with artworks and the protagonist of several classic problems in aesthetics. Think of the paradox of fiction, the paradox of negative emotions, or the question of how to make sense of musical emotions. A fourth context in which emotions are also thought to play a relevant role is that of appreciation. However, a rigorous analysis of the nature of aesthetic emotions and the specific functions they play in the grasping of value is still missing in contemporary aesthetics literature. The over-riding aim of this thesis is to fill that gap by putting forward a theory of appreciation that provides us with a systematic understanding of the affective dimension of our aesthetic judgements. My strategy will reveal that we can give a significant epistemic role to the emotions experienced during our engagement with artworks without ruling out the possibility of rationality in our appreciative practices. I will be particularly interested in providing a story about the alleged epistemic justificatory powers that emotions are thought to have in the formation of value judgements. But, as I will argue, the subtlety and cognitive complexity of our emotional responses to art poses a challenge to what it is known as the standard view on the evaluative nature of emotions. Being this a perceptual approach to emotions modelled upon the nature of the basic or primary emotions. Following recent criticism against the standard view, I will argue that emotions do not constitute reasons or evidence for our aesthetic judgements in a similar way to how perceptions constitute reasons for empirical beliefs. I propose a different model for aesthetics by focusing on the nature of the so-called intellectual emotions. As we will see, a better explanation of what emotions can do is to motivate an agent to search for the reasons that will support her aesthetic judgement. Emotions on my view are going to work as ‘mediators’ between aesthetic reasons and aesthetic explanations. This is a novel way of understanding the links between emotions, reasons, and aesthetic value that might be promising for aesthetic normativity.

Publications

  1. (2020) Non-Standard Emotions and Aesthetic Understanding, Estetika 2 (57):135–49.

For cognitivist accounts of aesthetic appreciation, appreciation requires an agent (1) to perceptually respond to the relevant aesthetic features of an object o on good evidential grounds, (2) to have an autonomous grasp of the reasons that make the claim about the aesthetic features of o true by pointing out the connection between non-aesthetic features and the aesthetic features of o, (3) to be able to provide an explanation of why those features contribute to the overall aesthetic value of o. In this framework, aesthetic emotions have traditionally been confined to the level of aesthetic perception (1) and dismissed from the process of reason- giving (2, 3). I argue that this dismissal is due, firstly, to a questionable perceptual reading of the connection between emotional experience and value, and, secondly, to a narrow focus on the basic emotions. My argument will reveal that the non- standard or ‘intellectual’ emotions, the emotions which are in fact most important to appreciation, can play a significant epistemic role in our appreciative practices. They can do this because they (a) help us to deliberately focus our attention and (b) place the appreciator in a state of second-order awareness of their mental states. I conclude the paper by showing how these two epistemic tools (a, b) can help the appreciator to meet the explanatory/justificatory conditions (2) and (3).


  1. (2019) Robinson and Self-Conscious Emotions: Appreciation beyond (fellow) feeling, Debates in Aesthetics 14, 1.

Jenefer Robinson believes that feelings can play an important role in the critical evaluation of artworks. In this paper, I put some pressure on two important notions in her theory: emotional understanding and affective empathy. I do this by focusing on the nature of self-conscious emotions. My strategy will be, firstly, to demonstrate the difficulty that Robinson’s two-step theory of emotions has in accommodating higher cognitive emotional responses to art. Second, I will discuss how the tight connection to the ‘self’ involved in self-conscious emotions makes it difficult to take the emotional perspective of another person, as empathy requires. From here, I suggest that Peter Goldie’s feeling-towards and his critique of perspective-shifting may give a better understanding of the role of emotions in the appreciation of art, particularly in the case of reflective emotions. This issue will be explored through a discussion of the expression of autobiographical nostalgia in the work of the avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas.

In Spanish:

Book Chapter

  1. (2018) "Bienvenida Ternura. Emoción y Narración en la Nueva Serialidad Televisiva", Cine y Series, ed. Alberto Nahum & María J. Ortiz. Comunicación Social.

Book Review

  1. (2015) Wittgenstein: Arte y Filosofía, ed. Julián Marrades, Plaza y Valdés Editores, Madrid, 2013, Daimón. Revista Internacional de Filosofía, 64, 2015.

BSA Annual Conference 2018 (Oxford)

Photo by Eleen Deprez

Upcoming Presentations

"It's beautiful, but I don't like it: Aesthetic Akrasia Reconsidered" (Dissertation Chapter)

Aesthetics Higher Seminar, Uppsala University, December 2020.

Selected Presentations {*=refereed}

“Non-Standard Emotions and Aesthetic Understanding”

European Society for Aesthetics, Warsaw, June 2019.* (Winner of the Fabian Dorsch Essay Prize)

American Society for Aesthetics Annual Meeting, Phoenix, October 2019.*

Aesthetic Experience and the Complexity of Perception, Universidad de Murcia, November 2019.


"Art Appreciation: whether you like it or not."

British Society for Aesthetics Annual Meeting, University of Oxford, September, 2019.*


"Towards a New Emotional Story for Aesthetics"

Higher Seminar in Aesthetics. Philosophy Department, Uppsala (Sweden) April. 2019


“Intellectual Emotions and Aesthetic Understanding”

Emotions and Emotions Concepts Conference, University of Bern, November 2018. *

“Appreciating Reflective Emotions in Art”

British Society for Aesthetics Annual Meeting, University of Oxford, September, 2018.*

“The Artist’s Word: Artistic Intentions and Emotional Understanding”

American Society for Aesthetics Annual Meeting, Toronto, October 2018.*

European Society for Aesthetics, June 2018. (Shortlisted Fabian Dorsch Essay prize).*


Understanding (without) Feeling. The Case of Nostalgic Expression”

The Cognitive Relevance of Aesthetics, University of Tampere, September 2017.*

The Philosophy Days, Uppsala University, August 2017. *

“Remembering Seymour Glass: Nostalgia as an Aesthetic Emotion”.

Spring School “The Role of Empathy and Emotion in Understanding Fiction”, Göttingen, March 2017.*

Comments on:

Jerrold Levinson's "Aesthetic Properties Through Thick and Thin"

Uppsala University, November 2019.

Nick Riggle's "Invitation and Aesthetic Communication"

Uppsala University, March 2019.

Christine Tappolet's Emotions, Values and Agency (Oxford UP, 2016).

Workshop Philosophy of Emotions, Uppsala University, April 2018.

ASA Annual Conference 2018 (Toronto)

Photo by John Gibson