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Some Traits of Cognitivism in American Ruminations on Visual Arts



Originating in the theoretical and aesthetical controversies whipped up by the overall iconoclastic rejections of traditional aesthetic canons in avant-garde art, the very question concerning the refinement of cognitive adventures and the plural meanings of aesthetic experiences has continuously fuelled the American ruminations on visual arts. Due to the impactful role of technology in the artistic realm and the outburst and dissemination of visual arts around the midcentury (e.g., the overarching impact of Hollywood industry and the boldness of abstract expressionism), American professionalized aesthetics has started to mirror the more and more complex artistic occurrences and their plethora of meanings. Broadly inspired by an opuscule of Ludwig Wittgenstein, the first conceptual investigations of the arts in the United States have been incited by the interrogation of the cognitive status of aesthetics (i.e., the autonomy of artistic idioms and/or the essentialism/ anti-essentialism debate regarding the languages of the arts). By and large, the role of cognition about the visual arts has gradually expanded to include the critique of art philosophies and traditional aesthetics, the questioning of aesthetic categories and predicates, the rejection of formalism and essentialist definitions, the reexamination of intentionality and perception, the subject – object dichotomy, etc. Moreover, cognitivism about the arts has fundamentally reconsidered its very instruments: description, interpretation, meaning and representation. The present paper attempts to unveil the most recent dimensions of cognitivism about the visual arts, especially focusing on its instantiations in contemporary American aesthetics.

Keywords: aesthetic cognitivism, aesthetic experience, aesthetic theories, essentialist definitions, pluralism

DOI: 10.24193/ekphrasis.20.5