Material anamnesis and the prompting of aesthetic worlds: The psycho-historical theory of artworks

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Abstract

Many scholars view artworks as the products of cultural history and arbitrary institutional conventions. Others construe art as the result of psychological mechanisms internal to the organism. These historical and psychological approaches are often viewed as foes rather than friends. Is it possible to combine these two approaches in a unified analysis of the perception and consciousness of artworks? I defend a positive answer to this question and propose a psycho-historical theory, which argues that artworks are historical
and material artefacts designed to prompt mental activities and elicit the conscious experience of aesthetic worlds. My argument suggests that the material components of artworks — termed their ‘material substrata’— are crucial mediators between historical contexts and the mental activities elicited by the perception of artworks
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-109
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Consciousness Studies: controversies in science and the humanities
Volume16
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009

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