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“Mimesis as the Representation of Types - The Historical and Psychological Basis of an Aesthetic Idea“

Stockholm University
Publication Date
  • History Of Aesthetics
  • Art Theory
  • Mental Representation
  • Categorization
  • Emotion Theory
  • Behaviourism
  • Experimental Aesthetics
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Aesthetics
  • Schema Theory
  • Pictorial Representation
  • Aesthetic Preference
  • Prototypicality
  • Arts And Architecture
  • Design
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology


This work attempts to investigate a long-standing tradition within the history of aesthetics according to which the function of pictorial representation consists, or ought to consist, of the rendering of general or idealized types rather than particulars. Proponents of this view may be found in various versions from antiquity to the present. The second chapter of this work gives a historical overview of this tradition. How could this tradition be explained or given any plausibility? Aestheticians, and perhaps most notably analytic aestheticians, have been rather reluctant to take empirical research into account. In this study, however, it is claimed that empirical/psychological research may be of considerable importance for clarifying at least some aesthetic problems, including that mentioned above. Thus the third chapter of this work gives a historical survey of some psychological attempts along these lines. Theoretical foundations of such an approach may be found among 18th century British empiricists, wheras concrete investigations have been made during the 19th and the 20th centuries. The focus of this study will, however, be on recent cognitive psychology and categorization research, which will be discussed in chapters four and five. A basic tenet within cognitive psychology consists of the idea that higher organisms are capable of constructing and storing mental representations. Such representations may reflect general or exemplary characteristics of categories, but they also involve ideal features defined in terms of goal-efficiency. Pictorial representations of general and idealized types may correspond to the stored mental representations of beholders. Based upon recent research within emotion theory, it will be argued that matches and moderate mismatches between pictorial renderings of types and beholders' mental representations and schemata may lead to hedonic effects and thus may have a bearing on aesthetic preferences.

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