Abstract

Art—literature, drama, music, dance, visual art, decoration, etc.—is universal. This is a Good Thing. But why? Why is art universal? Why do humans enjoy it? Why are these things good? Any adequate answer to these questions must account not only for the universality of art, but for the cultural variation in its form and content. Hindustani music is very different from Chinese opera; so, one can’t appeal to musical ‘universals’ to explain why all cultures enjoy some form of music. Nor, I will argue, can one appeal to simple acculturation by exposure.

In this paper, I argue that our enjoyment of art is grounded in a specific kind of pleasure that I define functionally. I will outline a notion of cultural learning based on this kind of pleasure. This kind of pleasure accounts for the universality of art; the possibility of cultural learning accounts for the specificity of art forms. These theses enable me to advance a form of aesthetic hedonism that is a naturalistic response to questions about aesthetic value.


"I work mainly in the philosophy of perception, trying to frame the nature of perception in a way that is both receptive to and revelatory about empirical work in the area. In 2005, I published Seeing, Doing, and Knowing (OUP), which tried to situate perception, mainly vision, in the context of inter-species comparisons. Why, and how, do different species see the world differently? In this book, I articulated the "Sensory Classification Thesis," according to which sensory systems provide organisms with classifications that are useful to them. [...]"

Source: http://www.mohanmatthen.com/