The Project

Art and aesthetic meaning mark the fulfillment of nature in experience and of experience in meaning. It is there that the capacities of the world to achieve the interpenetration of sense and value in human life are realized.

Thomas M. Alexander on John Dewey's Theory of Art


The research project

"Reevaluating Aesthetics. Towards Enactive Aesthetics" (2012 - ongoing)

Wiss. Leitung/Scientific Direction: Alfonsina Scarinzi, Dr. phil.

In his work The Meaning of the Body, philosopher Mark Johnson argues that aesthetics is not just art theory. Rather, it should be considered to be the study of everything that goes into the human capacity to make and experience the bodily pre-linguistic cognitive, emotional and sensory-perceptual conditions of meaning constitution having its origins in the organic activities of living creatures and in their organism-environment transactions. In this way he rejects both the Kantian view of aesthetics, according to which aesthetics is nonconceptual and incapable of giving rise to knowledge, and the mind/body dichotomy that underlies it.

Johnson introduces the embodied mind thesis into aesthetics. The embodied mind thesis is usually traced back to the work The Embodied Mind by Varela & Thompson & Rosch. It denies a separation of mind and body, sees meaning, reason and imagination as embodied and ties reason to emotion. In other words, experience and cognition are bodily mediated and depend on the sensorimotor capacities of individuals embedded in a biological, psychological and cultural context that interact with the environment in a relation of co-determination.

The cross-disciplinary research project "Reevaluating Aesthetics. Towards Enactive Aesthetics" aims at bringing aesthetics closer to the enactive framework in the postcognitivist cognitive sciences by considering aesthetic experience as a cognitive-emotional process of meaning-making beyond traditional art theories.

The project covers psychology of aesthetics, neuroaesthetics, empirical aesthetics, computational aesthetics, literary aesthetics, pragmatist aesthetics, neuroscience, HCI.