Emanuele Arielli

The problem of introspection in aesthetics

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Aesthetic Judgment; Introspection; Choice Blindness; Confabulation; Biases.

When we talk about what we feel during an aesthetic experience or when we report the reasons that originated that feeling, or when we reflect on our preferences and taste, we usually assume that we have a transparent, "Cartesian", access to our inner states. But psychological research has shown that this is not always the case and there are many instances of misleading intuitions about one's own mental processes, affective states or preferences. If our introspection is limited, some commentators have argued, then also aesthetic self-reflexive discourse could be unreliable. After discussing the concept of "opacity" in the aesthetic tradition, I will briefly describe the main shortcomings in introspective self-knowledge brought to light by psychological studies. I will then argue that speaking simply of introspective biases would be however too one-sided. In fact, it would be more accurate to speak of intuitive and "naïve" uses of aesthetic explications that are legitimate in the context our everyday discourse about our inner states. Empirical findings that reveal inconsistencies between our words, choices, behaviors, and even physiological reactions could therefore be interpreted as a manifestation of complexity and pluralism, rather than simply a sign of flawed introspective skills.

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