English Literature
4 | 2017

English Literature
4 | 2017

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Vol. 4 | Num. 1 | Dicembre 2017

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English Literature | 4 | 2017

Aesthetic Cognition
Feeling the Emotions of Others

Michael McKeon
Rutgers University, USA
michael.mckeon@rutgers.edu

DOI 10.30687/EL/2420-823X/2017/01/002

Submitted 09 Ott 2017
Accepted 02 Nov 2017

Abstract

How did eighteenth-century British authors encounter, and respond to, this question: are we able to feel the emotions of other people? How did the dominance of empirical epistemology shape their responses? During this period, the ideas of the aesthetic, and then realism, were developed on the explicit model of scientific or experimental knowledge by Dryden, Addison, Fielding, and Johnson. The key to this analogy was the notion that both kinds of knowledge are virtual products of mental operations that abstract from the actual sense impressions that are, for empiricism, the foundation of all knowledge. The major difference between the scientific understanding and the aesthetic and realist imagination lies in the degree of distance each takes from the senses. The distance taken by the imagination is comparatively moderate, as can be seen in the fact that the virtual images that are its product still reflect the appearance of the actual nature from which they are abstracted. The distance taken by scientific understanding is far greater, producing not recognisable images of nature but fully abstracted concepts or numbers. Our knowledge of what other people feel comes not from any sensible connection we have to them, but from our imagination of what we might feel were we in the same circumstances as they are. This is especially evident in the response we have to artistic representations of others. But our imaginations mediate between us and others in all knowledge we have of the mental states of others; and although concepts are not produced by this knowledge, it is nonetheless a cognitive operation.

Keywords
Cognition. Understanding. Imagination. Actual. Virtual.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License 

Sommario
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Campo DC Valore

dc.contributor.author

McKeon Michael

dc.title

Aesthetic Cognition

dc.type

Journal Article

dc.language.iso

it

dc.identifier.uri

http://doi.org/10.14277/2420-823X/EL-4-17-1

dc.description.abstract

How did eighteenth-century British authors encounter, and respond to, this question: are we able to feel the emotions of other people? How did the dominance of empirical epistemology shape their responses? During this period, the ideas of the aesthetic, and then realism, were developed on the explicit model of scientific or experimental knowledge by Dryden, Addison, Fielding, and Johnson. The key to this analogy was the notion that both kinds of knowledge are virtual products of mental operations that abstract from the actual sense impressions that are, for empiricism, the foundation of all knowledge. The major difference between the scientific understanding and the aesthetic and realist imagination lies in the degree of distance each takes from the senses. The distance taken by the imagination is comparatively moderate, as can be seen in the fact that the virtual images that are its product still reflect the appearance of the actual nature from which they are abstracted. The distance taken by scientific understanding is far greater, producing not recognisable images of nature but fully abstracted concepts or numbers. Our knowledge of what other people feel comes not from any sensible connection we have to them, but from our imagination of what we might feel were we in the same circumstances as they are. This is especially evident in the response we have to artistic representations of others. But our imaginations mediate between us and others in all knowledge we have of the mental states of others; and although concepts are not produced by this knowledge, it is nonetheless a cognitive operation.

dc.relation.ispartof

English Literature

dc.relation.ispartof

Vol. 4 | Num. 1 | Dicembre 2017

dc.publisher

Edizioni Ca’ Foscari - Digital Publishing

dc.date.issued

2017-12-18

dc.dateAccepted

2017-10-09

dc.dateSubmitted

2017-11-02

dc.identifier.issn

2385-1635

dc.identifier.eissn

2420-823X

dc.rights

Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution alone

dc.rights.uri

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

dc.subject

Cognition

dc.subject

Understanding

dc.subject

Imagination

dc.subject

Actual

dc.subject

Virtual

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