Aesthetics and Experimental Aesthetics
This course will be taught e-learning
This course aims at investigating some aesthetic concepts by analysing some of the most important philosophical and scientific texts. Students will develop adequate critical and analytical skills by reading philosophical and interdisciplinary treatises on topics such as aisthesis, taste, beauty, judgement, imagination, empathy, aura, the beholder’s share, and the embodied simulation. Furthermore, students will learn to orient themselves in thinking, addressing the following questions: What is aesthetics? What is the difference between speculative aesthetics and empirical aesthetics? What is the difference between an aesthetic judgment and an aesthetic experience? What is the role of biology in perception? This course addresses these and other questions by focusing on the works of leading philosophers and scientists.
This course analyses a series of aesthetic concepts – such as aisthesis, taste, beauty, judgement, imagination, empathy, aura, the beholder’s share, and the embodied simulation – from both a speculative aesthetic perspective and an experimental aesthetic perspective. Whereas speculative aesthetics is the study of aesthetic concepts based on the use of pure reason, experimental aesthetics – a field of psychology founded by Gustav Theodor Fechner in the 19th century – is the study of aesthetic phenomena that takes into account empirical evidences from disciplines such as biology, experimental psychology, and neurophysiology. The course focuses on some of the most important treatises by philosophers and scientists such as Aristotle (384–322 BC), David Hume (1711–1776), Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), Gustav Fechner (1801–1887), Robert Vischer (1847–1933), Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), Aby Warburg (1866–1929), Wilhelm Worringer (1881–1965), Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951), Walter Benjamin (1892–1940), Ernst Gombrich (1909–2001), Semir Zeki (1940), David Freedberg (1948), and Vittorio Gallese (1959). In this respect, the course is structured as follows:
- CLASS ONE (July 3rd, 14h-17h)
• Aristotle, On the Soul (Selected parts).
• Bence Nanay, Aesthetics as Philosophy of Perception (Selected parts).
- CLASS TWO (July 4th, 14h-16h)
• David Hume, Of the Standard of Taste (Selected parts).
- CLASS THREE (July 6th, 14h-16h)
• Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment (Selected parts).
- CLASS FOUR (July 11th, 14h-16h)
• Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment (Selected parts).
• Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lectures on Aesthetics (Selected parts).
- CLASS FIVE (July 17th, 14h-16h)
• Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Lectures on Aesthetics (Selected parts).
- CLASS SIX (July 18th, 14h-16h)
• Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Laocoön: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry (Selected parts).
- CLASS SEVEN (July 20th, 14h-16h)
• Sigmund Freud, The Moses of Michelangelo (Selected parts).
- CLASS EIGHT (July 24th, 14h-16h)
• Robert Vischer, On the Optical Sense of Form: A Contribution to Aesthetics (Selected parts).
• Wilhelm Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy: A Contribution to the Psychology of Style (Selected parts).
- CLASS NINE (July 25th, 14h-16h)
• Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility (Selected parts).
- CLASS TEN (July 27th, 14h-16h)
Art and Biology: Experimental Aesthetics
• Gustav Fechner, Aesthetics from Above and from Below (Selected parts).
• Aby Warburg, A Lecture on Serpent Ritual (Selected parts).
- CLASS ELEVEN (August 1st, 14h-16h)
Art and Psychology: The Beholder’s Share
• Ernst Gombrich, Art & Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation (Selected parts).
- CLASS TWELVE (August 3rd, 14h-16h)
Art and Neuroscience: From Beauty to the Embodied Simulation
• Semir Zeki, Notes Towards a (Neurobiological) Definition of Beauty (Selected parts).
• David Freedberg and Vittorio Gallese, Motion, Emotion and Empathy in Aesthetic Experience (Selected parts).
- Sigmund Freud, “The Moses of Michelangelo”, in id., The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud: Totem and Taboo and Other Works (1913–1914), ed. and trans. by James Strachey, 24 vols (London: Vintage Books, The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, 2001), XIII, pp. 207-238.
- Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, trans. by Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews, ed. by Paul Guyer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
- Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Laocoön: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry, trans. by Edward Allen McCormick (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984).
- Bence Nanay, Aesthetics as Philosophy of Perception (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).
- Robert Vischer, “On the Optical Sense of Form: A Contribution to Aesthetics”, in Empathy, Form and Space. Problems in German Aesthetics 1873–1893, ed. by Harry Francis Mallgrave and Eleftherios Ikonomou (Santa Monica, CA: Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1994), pp. 89-123.
The course and readings will be entirely in English, therefore an intermediate knowledge of the English language is required.
For more details see table in informações úteis.
Fabio Tononi is a Post-Doctoral Researcher Fellow at the Centre for the Humanities (CHAM) in the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences (FCHS) of NOVA University of Lisbon, and has taught two courses – Philosophy, Science and the Question of Reality (2023) and Postmodernism (2023) – at the Centro Luís Krus – Formação ao Longo da Vida in the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences (FCSH) of NOVA University of Lisbon. He is the editor-in-chief of the Edgar Wind Journal, and a steering committee member of the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory at the Institute of Modern Languages Research, which is part of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study. His research interests include the essence and tasks of philosophy and science, the writings of Aby Warburg and Edgar Wind, the aesthetics of Sigmund Freud, the relationship between art and cognitive neuroscience, the interconnection between art and ideology, and postmodernism. In 2020, Tononi was the convenor of the Aby Warburg Reading Group and Seminar at the Italian Cultural Institute of London. In 2021, Tononi received a Ph.D. from the Warburg Institute in the School of Advanced Study of the University of London. He held an internship at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence. During his career, he has participated in over 30 conferences and seminars in highly competitive and international venues. His publications include: Edgar Wind: Art and Embodiment, ed. by Fabio Tononi, Jaynie Anderson, and Bernardino Branca, Oxford, Peter Lang (Under contract).