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Title: Images of otherness : on the problem of empathy and its relevance to literary moral cognitivism
Author: Shum, Peter
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2013
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If the possible ends of art criticism are taken to include not only the provision of a detailed evaluation of the artwork, but, cognately, an elaboration upon how one has been, or believes oneself to have been, changed by a particular artistic encounter, then the very praxis of art criticism stands to benefit from a theoretical elucidation of the possible nature of the subjective transformations that may flow from the critical appreciation of art. We are entitled to enquire, in particular, into the conditions under which, and indeed the extent to which, such putative change at the personal level can be explicated in moral epistemological terms. It is pertinent in this context also to investigate the phenomenal character of the experiences that have been operative and their essential structures; to enquire, in short, into the phenomenology of the transformative artistic encounter. In this thesis, the bearing, in particular, of intersubjectivity upon the content and modalities of disclosure in a literary context will be investigated. It will be shown how an understanding of the relevance of intersubjectivity to the phenomenology of literary experience can inform an assessment of the claims of literary aesthetic moral cognitivism. Yet the intention to clarify the connection between literary experience and intersubjectivity also requires reflection upon what it is in the first place to encounter someone else, and to apperceive a foreign subjectivity and its motivations. For this reason, the contributions of Edmund Husserl and Edith Stein to the investigation of the phenomenology of empathy will be discussed and evaluated. This discussion will in turn be shown to be of assistance in clarifying the role of the imagination in the apperception and comprehension of another person’s mental life. The thought of Jean Starobinski will prove to elucidate the question of why the insights of the phenomenological tradition are highly pertinent to the investigation of literary experience, and to the development, in particular, of a conception of an imagined ‘Other’ who is (in a sense that will be clarified) embedded within the literary text, a person, that is, to whom one might coherently refer as the “implied author”. For reasons which will emerge in the course of this study, it will be argued that authentic empathy, in its fulfilling explication (in the Steinian sense), is given to the empathising consciousness in the manner of a semblance, and, consonantly, that the phenomenological structure of authentic empathy is characterised in its mature phases by an homological relation to pictureconsciousness. The epistemological significance of literature’s capacities for moral suggestion will be explicated principally in terms of the unfolding of values within the human personality, and in terms of the disclosure of the phenomenal character and structures of virtuous experience. It will be explained why the structure of empathy has implications for the aesthetic value of literature. The question of the relation between aesthetic and ethical value will be clarified. In this context, it will be argued on phenomenological grounds that the appresentation of moral virtue in an implied author could contribute to the aesthetic value of a literary work, although it will also be shown that implied authorial moral virtue could conflict irremediably with other qualities like moral doubt and uncertainty, which may themselves be important sources of aesthetic value. For this reason, the thesis will conclude by challenging the ethicist view that an aesthetically relevant ethical flaw in a literary work must count as an aesthetic flaw.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: B Philosophy (General) ; BF Psychology ; PN Literature (General)