Research

Dissertation Summary

Aesthetic judgments of the form “X is beautiful” are commonly thought to ascribe features of the world in a reasoned manner and also to express a subjective take on the object under-appreciation. But what does it mean for aesthetic judgments to be both governed by reason and based on subjective grounds? There are two ways of tackling this question. The first option is to try to dissolve the antinomy by denying one of the two sides of the quandary. A second strategy is to work towards an inclusive solution. I opt for the second one. Inclusive approaches tend to try to solve the problem by endowing a single faculty (pleasure or perception) with both experiential and justificatory grounds. However, with this thesis I aim to carve out a space for a different inclusive approach; one that focuses on the relations existing between the different faculties involved in our responses to objects of aesthetic value. It is by attending to the emotions involved in our aesthetic engagements and the role they play in aesthetic perception and reason-giving, that I try to shed some new light on the dual nature of our aesthetic judgements. Drawing from recent developments in the philosophy of emotions, I provide a story about emotions' epistemic powers in the formation of value judgements. But, as I will argue, the subtlety and cognitive complexity of our aesthetic sensibility poses a challenge to what it is known as the standard view on the epistemic value 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 in aesthetic engagement 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 the perception of aesthetic reasons (conditioned by aesthetic sensibility) and an agent's aesthetic explanations. This is a novel way of understanding the links between emotions, reasons, and aesthetic sensibility that might be promising for a reconfiguration of our aesthetic psyche. Ultimately, what this thesis aims to defend is that ideal aesthetic appreciation is no different to the epistemic or the moral realm in that it requires mental coherence between our cognitive and affective attitudes.

Publications

  1. (forthcoming). Aesthetic Taste: Perceptual Discernment or Emotional Sensibility? In Perspectives on Taste. Edited by Jeremy Wyatt, Dan Zeman and Julia Zakkou. Routledge. (Co-authored with Elisabeth Schellekens).

Two common strategies have dominated attempts to account for the nature of taste. On the one side, we have an affectivist understanding of taste where aesthetic attribution has to do with the expression of a subjective response. On the other side, we find a non-affectivist approach according to which to judge something aesthetically is to epistemically track its main aesthetic properties. Our main argument will show that neither emotion nor perception can explain the nature of aesthetic taste single-handedly. In this paper, our principal aim is to examine the relationship between perceptual discernment and emotional sensibility as we find it in the process of ascribing aesthetic qualities. Is it the nature of the specific aesthetic property in question which determines the way in which perception and emotion are balanced in aesthetic attribution, or is it, rather, something about how our sensory skills operate? One of the notions we would like to explore in greater detail in this context is the idea of attunement, or the way in which aesthetic agents can align themselves to the content of an artwork o in order to better grasp its content and significance. According to our proposed picture, the exercise of taste involves an adjustment of one’s emotional sensibility to the aesthetic character of o. From here, we will posit both emotional and perceptual training as part of an agent’s aesthetic education in her use of aesthetic terms.


  1. (2020) Non-Standard Emotions and Aesthetic Understanding, Estetika 2 (57):135–49. (Winner of the Fabian Dorsch Essay Prize)

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.


In preparation

6. Akrasia and the Structure of Aesthetic Rationality


It is common for philosophers working on theoretical and practical rationality to argue for a non-akrasia constraint. In this paper, I put forward an account of such a constraint in aesthetics. The plan is to show how two of the main theories of aesthetic appreciation on offer: appreciation-as-liking (Gorodeisky & Marcus 2018) and appreciation-as-sizing-up value (Carroll 2016) fail to provide us with such principle by mistakenly characterizing the relationship between aesthetic judgement and the affective components of appreciation. In failing to do so, I argue that they cannot properly account for puzzling situations in which “S judges x to be beautiful, S believes that one ought to like what is judged as beautiful, and yet does not like x”.



BSA Annual Conference 2018 (Oxford)

Photo by Eleen Deprez

Selected Presentations {*=refereed}

"Aesthetic Akrasia and Agency"

Aesthetics Higher Seminar, Uppsala University, December 2020 (Zoom).

ARESMUR research seminar, University of Murcia, December 2020 (Zoom).


“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."

European Society for Aesthetics, Tallin (Estonia), June 2020 (Cancelled due to Covid-19).*

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 (Switzerland), 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 (Finland), 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 (Germany), March 2017.*

As commentator:

Rob Hopkin's "Aesthetic Engagement, Imagining and the Draw of the Real"

Workshop Aesthetic Practices, Uppsala University, 10 January 2020 (Zoom).

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