Twentieth Century Psychology: Recent Developments in Psychology

By Philip Lawrence Harriman | Go to book overview

AESTHETIC EXPERIENCE IN THE LIGHT OF CURRENT PSYCHOLOGY

MAX SCHOEN Carnegie Institute of Technology

The emphasis in psychology today, both implied and expressed, is upon a biological conception of psychological events and a view of original nature as undifferentiated mass activity. The biological outlook conceives of psychological events as processes through which an adjustment is established between organism and environment; in other words, that the psychological nature of a living body consists of the specific activities in which that body engages in order to maintain its life, while the new view of original nature holds that these activities emerge gradually by a process of differentiation out of native, non-specialized, mass activity, in contrast to the previously held view that development consisted of an integration into larger units of what were at first discrete elements of behavior and experience. The adjustive and mass conceptions of psychological phenomena fit well together, which fact may be considered as favoring their soundness, in that as acts become increasingly more differentiated out of original mass behavior they also become more and more adjustive as definite responses to specific situations.

The purpose of this paper is to present a view of aesthetic experience that fits into this picture of what human nature is and of how it develops, and to show that this view embraces every characterization of aesthetic experience to be found in the outstanding aesthetic theories of philosophy. I shall first trace the development of common experience as pictured by current psy-

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