Research Article

Aesthetic Attention: A Proposal to Pay It More Attention



Whether it is consciously focusing on a painting’s intricate layers of pigment or spontaneously being drawn to new layers of voices in a choral performance, attention appears essential to aesthetic experience. It is surprising, then, that the actual nature of attention is little discussed in aesthetic theory. Conversely, attention is currently one of the most vibrantly discussed topics in the philosophy of perception and in cognitive science. My aim is to demonstrate the need for and the value of aestheticians considering such philosophical accounts in order to establish a clear understanding of ‘aesthetic attention’. I assess the existing aesthetic candidates against Wayne Wu’s characterization of attention as ‘selection for a task’. Finding that these candidates lack full explanatory force, I make the novel proposal that aesthetic attention is best characterized as ‘selecting for the sake of selection’. Finally, I suggest that both aesthetics and, more broadly, the philosophy of attention would benefit from paying aesthetic attention more attention.
  • Year: 2018
  • Volume: 55 Issue: 2
  • Page/Article: 155-179
  • DOI: 10.33134/eeja.175
  • Published on 1 Sep 2018
  • Peer Reviewed