Art, Expression In - Research Article from Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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The Arousal Theory

The power of art to evoke emotional responses is the basis of the "arousal" theory of expression. The core idea is that an artwork expresses x if it has the capacity to arouse a feeling or sensation of x in the viewer or listener. Sad music, for example, is music that stirs sadness in the listener. The arousal theory has had many proponents, from Francis Hutcheson (1725) to Colin Radford (1989). The British associationist Archibald Alison, as early as 1790, characterized aesthetic experience in general as the employment of the imagination in the creation of a train of ideas that must be "productive of emotions."

Problems arise immediately for this thesis, however. Some writers with "formalist" inclinations flatly reject it. Eduard Hanslick, for example, in his 1891 work, On the Musically Beautiful, denied both that the purpose of music is to arouse emotions and that feelings are in...

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This section contains 3,904 words
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Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Art, Expression In from Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Copyright © 2001-2006 by Macmillan Reference USA, an imprint of the Gale Group. All rights reserved.
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