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Chakrabarti, Arindam, and . Ownerless Emotions in Rasa-Aesthetics

2011, In Ken-ichi Sasaki (ed.). Asian Aesthetics. National Univeristy of Singapore Press.

Summary: Chakrabarti explores the possibilities of rasa theory via the question of whose emotion is experienced when an audience relishes a work of art. Chakrabarti argues for the existence of a “centerless non-singular subjectivity” according to which the special emotions savored in aesthetic experience do not have specific owners. These personless sentiments indicate an ethical relationship between aesthetic imagination and moral unselfishness.

Comment: This text could serve as both an overview of rasa theory in Indian aesthetics, as a basis for comparative work in cross-cultural aesthetics, as well as comparative philosophy.

Related reading:

  • Abhinavabhāratī. Abhinavagupta. In Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharatamuni: Text, Commentary of Abhinava Bharati by Abhinavaguptacarya and English Translation. M.M. Ghosh (ed.). Delhi: New Bharatiya Book Corporation, 2006.

Coomaraswamy, Ananda K., and . Samvega, ‘Aesthetic Shock’

1943, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 7(3): 174-179.

Summary: An explication of the Pali aesthetic term samvega as the state of shock and wonder at a work of art that occurs when the implications of its aesthetic qualities are experienced. Despite being an emotion, Coomaraswamy associates samvega with disinterested aesthetic contemplation.

Comment: This text would work well in a focused study of Indian aesthetics, as well in a cross-cultural study of disinterest in aesthetics.

Gendler, Tamar Szabó, and Karson Kovakovich. Genuine Rational Fictional Emotions

2006, In Matthew Kieran (ed.), Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art. Blackwell 241-253.

Abstract: The “paradox of fictional emotions” involves a trio of claims that are jointly inconsistent but individually plausible. Resolution of the paradox thus requires that we deny at least one of these plausible claims. The paradox has been formulated in various ways, but for the purposes of this chapter, we will focus on the following three claims, which we will refer to respectively as the Response Condition, the Belief Condition and the Coordination Condition.

Comment: This paper introduces the paradox of fiction, briefly discusses some challenges faced by those attempting to solve it, and offers a solution grounded in Damasio's research into the role of emotions in guiding action. It provides only a limited discussion of the previous debate, which makes it less suitable as an introductory text; it is best used in senior aesthetics classes or as a further reading. Its engagement with psychological literature means it can inspire discussions on the relations between philosophical and empirical explanations.

Hursthourse, Rosalind, and . On Virtue Ethics

2000, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Back Matter: Virtue ethics is perhaps the most important development within late twentieth-century moral philosophy. Rosalind Hursthouse, who has made notable contributions to this development, now presents a full exposition and defence of her neo-Aristotelian version of virtue ethics. She shows how virtue ethics can provide guidance for action, illuminate moral dilemmas, and bring out the moral significance of the emotions. Deliberately avoiding a combative stance, she finds less disagreement between Kantian and neo-Aristotelian approaches than is usual, and she offers the first account from a virtue ethics perspective of acting ‘from a sense of duty’. She considers the question which character traits are virtues, and explores how answers to this question can be justified by appeal to facts about human nature. Written in a clear, engaging style which makes it accessible to non-specialists, On Virtue Ethics will appeal to anyone with an interest in moral philosophy.

Comment: The Introduction provides an excellent overview of virtue ethics and its relations with other moral theories. It makes for a perfect main reading for units on virtue ethics in general ethics modules. Chapter 4 offers a valuable discussion of deontology, and other chapters are best used as further reading, or as main readings in modules devoted fully to virtue ethics.

Kristeva, Julia, and . Approaching Abjection

1982, In: Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, Columbia University Press, pp. 1-31.

Summary: The abject – expressed through the grotesque, the gross and the physically challenging – has long been a source of innovation and scandal in the art world. For Kristeva abjection accounts for much of the complexity of the human condition. She understands abjection to encompass various aspects of our humanity that are often seen as conceptually and/or experientially disparate – emotion, embodiment, affect, repression, criminality, hygiene etc. Kristeva’s guiding intuition is that the abject helps arbitrate between our perception of ourselves as subject and object. In the liminal space between the two, the “I” is experienced in its full heterogeneity to the frequent detriment of traditional ethical, aesthetic, and scientific considerations. This has direct bearing on performance art, whose history is marked by the deliberate departure from beauty and, concurrently, the constant renegotiation of identity between the extremes of subject and object.

Comment: Best if read together with Sigmund Freud's "The Uncanny"

Nussbaum, Martha, and . Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law

2004, Princeton University Press.

Back matter: “Should laws about sex and pornography be based on social conventions about what is disgusting? Should felons be required to display bumper stickers or wear T-shirts that announce their crimes? This powerful and elegantly written book, by one of America’s most influential philosophers, presents a critique of the role that shame and disgust play in our individual and social lives and, in particular, in the law.
Martha Nussbaum argues that we should be wary of these emotions because they are associated in troubling ways with a desire to hide from our humanity, embodying an unrealistic and sometimes pathological wish to be invulnerable. Nussbaum argues that the thought-content of disgust embodies “”magical ideas of contamination, and impossible aspirations to purity that are just not in line with human life as we know it.”” She argues that disgust should never be the basis for criminalizing an act, or play either the aggravating or the mitigating role in criminal law it currently does. She writes that we should be similarly suspicious of what she calls “”primitive shame,”” a shame “”at the very fact of human imperfection,”” and she is harshly critical of the role that such shame plays in certain punishments.
Drawing on an extraordinarily rich variety of philosophical, psychological, and historical references–from Aristotle and Freud to Nazi ideas about purity–and on legal examples as diverse as the trials of Oscar Wilde and the Martha Stewart insider trading case, this is a major work of legal and moral philosophy”.

Comment: Particularly useful for teaching on the non-rational motivators of moral reasoning and justifications of punishment, and on how emotions can be misleading and unreliable as a guide for law and ethics.

Scrutton, Tasia, and . Thinking through Feeling: God, Emotion and Passibility

2011, New York: Continuum.

Publisher: This book examines some of the primary questions for the impassibility debate through the lens of contemporary philosophy of emotion: is the property of being able to experience emotions a susceptibility and a weakness, or a capacity and a strength? What does it mean to experience emotions, and what sort of being is able to experience them? In examining these questions, it explores the relationship between emotions, body, will and intelligence, addressing questions concerning whether emotions are essentially physiological or cognitive, whether emotions detract from intelligence or may actually contribute towards it, and whether (and to what extent) emotions can be controlled and/or cultivated. The book moves away from some of the artificially extreme accounts of emotion towards a more subtle account that sees most emotions as on a spectrum between cognitive and physiological, voluntary and non-voluntary.

Comment: This book will be of interest to those working within contemporary philosophy of emotion, its primary value lies in applying these insights to the impassibility debate within theology and philosophy of religion.