“Abstract on the Possibility of a Neuroaesthetics of Natural Environments” by James Dow (Hendrix College)
Date: 3:30pm PST February 23, 2018 Location: JRHH 202
Experiences of nature sometimes involve multisensory engagement, immersion of ourselves in nature, and transformative experiences. Could such aesthetic experiences be described, explained, and predicted by neuroscience? Neuroaesthetics has emerged as a discipline that explains and predicts aesthetic experiences of visual art, music, and literature. Enactivists about perception have argued against the possibility of neuroaesthetics based on the claim that perceptual experience involves sensitivity to sensorimotor contingencies. Engagement theorists about nature aesthetics have argued that engaged aesthetic experiences are non-conceptual, participatory, and action-oriented. Do the enactivist arguments against the possibility of a neuroaesthetics of art provide similar challenges to the possibility of explaining and predicting aesthetic experiences of natural environments? I argue for the counterintuitive thesis that while neuroaesthetics of art can overcome hurdles posed by the enactivists, by appealing to pragmatic representations, the neuroaesthetics of natural environments cannot overcome challenges presented by the action-oriented nature of aesthetic experience of nature.