Art, Self and Knowledge

Art, Self and Knowledge

Art, Self and Knowledge

Art, Self and Knowledge


Art can provide us with a sensory experience that provokes us to reconfigure how we think about our world and ourselves. Theories of art have often sought to find some feature of art that isolates it from the rest of experience. Keith Lehrer argues, in opposition, that art is connected, not isolated, from how we think and feel, represent and react. When art directs our attention to sensory exemplars in aesthetic experience of which we become conscious in a special way, it also shows us our autonomy as we represent ourselves and our world, ourselves in our world, and our world in ourselves. This form of representation, exemplar representation, uses the exemplar as a term of representation and exhibits the nature of the content it represents in terms of itself. It shows us both what our world is like and how we represent the world thereby revealing the nature of intentionality to us. Issues of general interest in philosophy such as knowledge, autonomy, rationality and self-trust enter the book along with more specifically aesthetic issues of formalism, expressionism, representation, artistic creativity and beauty. The author goes on to demonstrate how the connection between art and broader issues of feminism, globalization, collective wisdom, and death show us the connection between art, life, politics and the self.
Drawing from Hume, Reid, Goodman, Danto, Brand, Ismael and Lopes, Lehrer argues here that the artwork is a mentalized physical object engaging us philosophically with the content of exemplar experience. The exemplar representation of experience provoked by art ties art and science, mind and body, self and world, together in a dynamic loop, reconfiguring them all as it reconfigures art itself.




This began as a book about art and aesthetics as a local area of philosophical interest. I began, as does the book, with aesthetic experience directed toward sensory experience and what it is like. The difference between ordinary perception and aesthetic experience has been often noted, but the implications stand in need of philosophical articulation. Aesthetic attention to sensory detail not only contrasts with ordinary perceptual experience, it blocks it. We surpass the more customary representational response. We experience a form of representational autonomy in how we use the sensory materials to mark distinctions in conceptual space reconfiguring experience itself. The sensory experience becomes an exemplar used to mark those distinctions creating meaning and content, both cognitive and affective. I began with the idea that this use of the exemplar, exemplarizing, is central to the experience of art. I concluded that it is central to our conception of our world, including the world described by science, and ourselves in our world. The understanding of aesthetic experience shows us ourselves as autonomous agents exemplarizing experience to represent our world, ourselves, our world in ourselves, and ourselves in our world. The exemplars of experience connect art and science, the internal and the external, the mind and body. They are Janus faced and show us what the represented object is like at the same time that they show us how we represent in a way that cannot be fully described. We exemplarize experience to mentalize body and materialize mentality.

As I created the work, I found myself, an analytic philosopher, appreciating the contributions of such diverse figures as Goodman and Heidegger . . .

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