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Title: Naturalising aesthetics : beauty, emotion and the cognitive sciences
Author: Doran, Ryan
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 3234
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2017
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In this thesis, I attempt to show how taking the naturalistic turn with regard to certain debates in aesthetic theory might result in philosophical progress. Specifically, I ask: are any of the entities that are the subject of philosophical debate in aesthetic theory – such as the aesthetic or related notions such as beauty – part of, or intimately related to, the furniture of human nature? Drawing on a range of anthropological data, I argue that a broad conception of beauty appears to pick out something natural on the grounds that this conception, along with a characteristic range of relevant folk beliefs, reliably appear across cultures. In attempting to account for these explananda, I consider two kinds of philosophical accounts of beauty – namely those that suggest that beauty might be intimately related to a commonplace mental state in a disinterested form, and those that suggest that beauty might be related to a sui generis mental state. Drawing on a range of psychological and neuroscientific data, I argue that the latter kind of account is correct. More specifically, I argue that beauty not only reliably causes a sui generis emotion – ecstasy – but is constituted by the disposition to give rise to this emotion. I go on to show how this claim can elegantly accommodate the explananda identified – including, but not limited to, the fact that moral traits are reliably found to be beautiful across cultures, beauty is reliably believed to be intimately linked to the divine and truth across cultures, and beauty is reliably believed to admit of a logical opposite – ugliness – across cultures. I conclude by suggesting directions for future work on beauty and related issues.
Supervisor: Gregory, Dominic ; Nanay, Bence ; Laurence, Stephen Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available