Art as Expression or Emotion - revision PP
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  • This uses the ‘For and Against Art as Expression’ sheet.
  • Ask students to write a paragraph attacking or defending expressivism


  • 1. Expression Theory/Emotivism
  • 2. ‘Expression’ Theory Cloze:• says that _____ art work is not the material object beforeyou (paint on canvas, musical sound, words on the pageetc) but an _______ emotion experienced by the artistwhich the work serves to _______ to its audience.• The audience successfully experience the work whenthey recover the artist’s original experience in their own_________– Sad music does not so much make me really sad as enable meto experience the original sadness as experienced by the artist.– R.K. Elliott: ‘the emotion is present in me but not predicable ofme’.• If the art works exists as the artist’s ______ emotion itwill be successful (and hence of value), if it allows me________ to this emotion.Direct access real emotion original (x2) communicate imagination
  • 3. ‘Expression’ Theory: Opened• says that real art work is not the material object beforeyou (paint on canvas, musical sound, words on the pageetc) but an original emotion experienced by the artistwhich the work serves to communicate to its audience.• The audience successfully experience the work whenthey recover the artist’s original experience in their ownimagination.– Sad music does not so much make me really sad as enable meto experience the original sadness as experienced by the artist.– R.K. Elliott: ‘the emotion is present in me but not predicable ofme’.• If the art works exists as the artist’s original emotion itwill be successful (and hence of value), if it allows medirect access to this emotion.
  • 4. Is our response to art emotional?• Art is intimately tied up with emotion– Good art is moving or otherwise captures a mood orfeeling.– We describe and appraise it using an affectivevocabulary.• But how can psychological ascriptions normallyattributed to persons apply to works of art?– Are such descriptions merely metaphorical?• Whose emotion?– Is it really the artists’ self-expression we value?– or our own responses?
  • 5. Background to Expressivism• A version of this view first crops up in Plato’s Republic.He attacks the arts as promoting the emotions at theexpense of calm rational analysis.• Aristotle defends the importance of emotion in artthough.• Key recent figures: the Russian novelist Tolstoy (1828-1910), the Italian philosopher Croce (1866-1952) and theBritish Idealist R.G. Collingwood (1889-1943).• Linked to Romanticism (key C18/19 pan-Europeanartistic movement) but emotional qualities in art do needexplaining anyway.
  • 6. Fo’ and Agin• This is a quick starter activity.• Look at the sheet you’ve been given.• Label each statement F or A…
  • 7. For or against?• B We often view the artist as especiallyemotionally sensitive, a person who hasthe capacity to convert their vivid innerexperience into a publicly accessible workof art. The art work is a symptom of beingan artistic soul.
  • 8. For or against?• C The ‘death of the author’ leaves theartist’s intentions out of consideration.
  • 9. For or against?• E Even if some works of art are bestunderstood as expressions of feeling andemotion, this might have nothing to dowith the artist’s feelings. Rather, theexpressive qualities we value might inherein the artwork, or else be the effects theartwork stimulates in us.
  • 10. For or against?• H The evaluation of art should restrictitself to focusing on the artwork itself andits intrinsic aesthetic quality.
  • 11. For or against?• I The intentions of the artist are often notknown, but we can neverthelessappreciate the art. If so, it is implausible toclaim the artist’s intentions mustdetermine our appreciation of their work.
  • 12. For or against?• K When evaluating art we often considerwhether it is a sincere, authentic, orgenuine expression of the artist’s feelingstowards the world around them. If it is, wetend to think the art work is more valuablebecause of it.
  • 13. For or against?• O Frequently artists intend to express theirfeelings and we should appreciate their artaccordingly.
  • 14. For or against?• Q The causal origins of an art work areindependent of the artistic product and asa matter of fact we have plenty ofevidence showing that what or howstrongly an artist happens to be feelinghas no bearing on their capacity toproduce even the most emotionally directand intense work.
  • 15. For or against?• R The artist’s intentions are relevant indetermining how we ought to judge theirwork.
  • 16. For or against?• T It is not obvious that all the art wevalue is emotionally expressive.
  • 17. For or against?• U Artistic production is not a kind ofmagical realisation of inner feeling and theartist’s feelings are not the issue. Thejudgements artists make in creating anartwork involve the studied application ofgenre-specific techniques onto a more orless recalcitrant medium, towards anevolving conception of the finished product- we appreciate the artist’s practicalintelligence
  • 18. Pair, share, put it out there• Talk through the critique ofemotivism/expressivism that you’ve beengiven.– Do you agree?– Is there a reply?• You will explain this critique to us shortly…
  • 19. Critiques:Art as (mere) vehicle.• Croce and Collingwood are ‘idealist’philosophers: art work only exists as an ‘idea in the mind’.– So the public, physical art work is merely anexpendable vehicle.– Can the art work be separated from itsmeans of expression?
  • 20. Critiques:The Ontological Question– If the work of art is simply the artist’soriginal emotion…– Where is the work of art? (the ontologicalquestion)– …if it’s in the artist’s mind then it can existwithout ever getting expressed– …hopeless! (does this even make sense?)
  • 21. Critiques:Only one correct response?• Expressivism commits itself to the viewthat there can be only one correctresponse to an art work• …namely recovering the originalexperience.• But isn’t this too simplistic?
  • 22. Critique:Sincerity? Intention?• Tolstoy says art must express sincere(genuinely held) feeling.• Yet it is quite possible to write a cheerfulpiece of music while feeling quite sad.– Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto is a very happypiece of music– He wrote it at the end of his life, when he wasill, depressed and very poor.– What is the original emotion to recover?
  • 23. Critique:Original emotion unknown• What of art where the original emotioncannot clearly be identified (e.g. ancientart)?• What of art where the original emotion ismysterious or unclear (e.g. the MonaLisa)?• What of art where the original emotionwas completely different to the one wenow feel?
  • 24. Critique:We respond to form• Emotivism does not deal with the aestheticemotion i.e. the delight that we take in thepure appearance of art works.• We respond to the intrinsic formal qualitiesof some art work, not the emotion of theartist.
  • 25. Critique:Some art makes us think• Many works of art have a cognitivecomponent which needs explaining.• They are meant to make us think, not justfeel.• Conceptual Art is a good example of artthat does this…
  • 26. PEARL Paragraphs• [Topic sentence]• Point• Exemplification or expansion• Answer/ discussion point (and example)• Rebuttal or counter ( + response)• Link [back to topic]• [Synthesis] or summary of paragraphargument
  • 27. Issue:HOW does emotion occur?• A key issue: emotivism owes us anaccount of how the emotion occurs.• What is the connection between the artist,the emotion and the artwork?– Is it a causal connection?– Is some art intrinsically connected toemotion?
  • 28. Explanation/ Reasons For Reasons AgainstCausalTheoryIntrinsicThoeryHow does emotion occur in art? Make grid pliz…
  • 29. The Causal Theory of expression• Emotion occurs in music because e.g sad composerswrite sad music which makes the listener sad.– C.P.E.Bach: ‘A musician cannot move others unless he too ismoved. He must of necessity feel all the effects that he hopes toarouse in his audience.’• ‘Causal Chain’:– the artwork exists as a real emotion in the mind of the artist…– …and they cause the art (using artistic conventions)…– …which then causes the emotion in the mind of the audience.• So because of the causal chain, the single correctresponse to an artwork (the artist’s original emotion)arises in the audience.• The artist picks the means that provokes the emotion:they are simply a technician.• But Mozart example…must the artist feel an emotion?
  • 30. Some issues with the CausalTheory• the emotion itself becomes the main focus of ourattention…• so, on this account, the art work itself (and alsothe artist’s cognitive intention) gets lost sight of.• Form is erased by content: the art-work asvehicle becomes irrelevant.– How the emotion comes about is unimportant – that itcomes about is what matters.– Such a view also leads to a radical subjectivity aboutwhat we should appreciate: Slayer is equal to Bach,Banksy to Vermeer etc, as they all cause strongemotions.
  • 31. The ‘Intrinsic’ View of expression:• Emotion e.g. sadness is in the art e.g. not imposed by anartist.• Frank Sibley: sadness is actually an expressive property of themusic itself• This avoids the ‘transmission’ problem of the causal theory ofexpression.• A usual qualification is to say that emotion in art isactually a ‘relational property’ - i.e. one that depends onan educated audience for its perception.– e.g If you know nothing about sadness and the tradition of themusic to which you are listening (e.g. 12 Bar Blues) then youwon’t hear it.…A patient and a surgeon can both look at thesame x-ray but won’t see the same things in it.– Cultural background matters…as in this way we can explain whyBach is greater than Slayer.– so we avoid a problem for the causal theory…elitism is saved.
  • 32. Some issues with intrinsic emotions• If expressive qualities really are intrinsic features ofartwork, how can the same artwork occasion differentresponses in different perceivers?• How are we to understand the ascription ofpsychological predicates to inanimate or non-human ornon-alive things?– Metaphorically? (Is this a strong enough claim, then?)– Literally? (How can this be true, then?)• On this account, such predicates are non-metaphorical– …sad art really is sad.– But surely only humans (and some animals) feel emotion?
  • 33. Ascribing psychologicalpredicates to art…?• …we do call objects ‘sad’. We allacknowledge the existence of sad music(its chords, melody, halting rhythms)• This sadness (unlike on the causal view)is inseparable from the music.• There is some experimental evidence tolink e.g. certain tones and chords toactivity in the emotion centres of the brain.
  • 34. More general problems with valuingart for its expressive qualities:• Necessary and sufficient conditions:– Are there instances of art that are valued without beingexpressive?– Are there examples of expression which are valued withoutbeing artistic?• Subjectivity, interpretation, transmission:– Whose emotion?– How do we know for sure we are feeling the right one?• Elitism and the Cult of Genius– What if only certain individuals have the capacity to appreciateart as it should be appreciated?– The causal expressivist may get round this, of course…
  • 35. Assessment and Evaluation:• What reasons might be provided for simply acceptingthis view?• Could it be rescued by being modified? Is one version(the causal theory, the intrinsic theory?) better thananother?• What reasons might be provided for simply rejecting it?– Does the theory include enough? Is all art expressive?– Is it too inclusive? Are all expressive things artistic?
  • 36. Exam Question – for nextlesson.(a) ‘This instrumental music expressessadness.’ Suppose we agree it does: outlinetwo reasons why this is philosophicallypuzzling. (15 marks)b) ‘We value art because it expresses theartist’s feelings’ Consider what can be saidboth for and against this view. (30 marks)
  • 37. Outline Plan• How would you tackle this topic?