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Aesthetic vs. non-aesthetic experiences
quotes from John Dewey, Art as Experience
1. What is a non-aesthetic experience:
p. 40: ". . . [I]n much of our experiences we are not concerned
with the connection of one incident with what went before and what comes
after. There is no interest that controls attentive rejection or
selection of what shall be organized into the developing experience.
Things happen, but they are neither definitely included nor decisively
excluded; we drift. . . . There are beginnings and cessations, but
no genuine initiations and conclusions. One thing replaces another but
does not absorb it and carry it on. There is 'experience' but [it is] so
slack and discursive that it is not an experience.
How do we put this in our own words? Are non-aesthetic experiences
like watching CNN's "Around the world in 30 minutes" news program -- all
that information but no way to connect it? And we just sit there with
our eyeballs glazed over?
2. But if there's a lot of emotion to it, will that make it aesthetic?
p. 41: We are given to thinking of emotions as things as simple
and compact as are the words by which we name them Joy, sorrow, hope,
fear, anger, curiosity are treated as if each in itself were a sort of
entity that enters full-[blown] upon the scene . . . .
In fact, emotions are qualities, when they are significant , of a complex
experience that moves and changes. . . .
p. 42: Emotion is the moving and cementing force [that creates
an experience out of otherwise disparate experiences]. It provides unity
in and through the varied parts of an experience.
3. Are there ways of being able to discern an aesthetic experience?
p. 44 a. It involves "interaction between a live creature and
the world in which he lives."
b. It "has pattern and structure because it is not just
doing [something] and undergoing [having something done
to you] but [the aesthetic experience]
consists of [doing and undergoing] in relationship.
c. The doing and undergoing must also be in balance --
not too much of the one or of the other
4. So aesthetic experience is a good balance between doing and
undergoing -- so what?
p. 46: " . . . the esthetic . . . is the clarified and
intensified development of traits that belong to every normally complete
experience. This fact I take to be the only secure basis upon which
esthetic theory can build. " Implications:
a. Since 'artistic' refers . . . to the act of
production, and "esthetic" to . . . perception and
enjoyment" it is unfortunate that we have no word
that puts the two processes together, and lets of think of them as
part of a continuum.
p. 49 "To be truly artistic, a work must also be aesthetic --
that is, framed for enjoyed receptive perception. . . . Art. . .
unites the very same relation of doing and undergoing, outgoing and
incoming energy, that makes an experience to be an experience.
p. 54: "For to perceive, a beholder must create his own
experience. And his creation must include relations comparable to those
which the original producer underwent. They are not the same in any
literal sense. But with the perceiver, as with the artist, there must be
an ordering of the elements of the whole that is in form, although not in
details, the same as the process of organization the creator of the work
consciously experienced. Without an act of recreation the object is not
perceived as a work of art. The artist selected, simplified, clarified,
abridged and condensed according to his interest. The beholder must go
through these operations according his point of view and interest. In
both, an act of abstraction, that is, an act of extraction of what is
significant, takes place. In both there is comprehension in its literal
signification --that is, a gathering of details and particulars
physically scattered into an experienced whole. There is work to be done
on the part of the percipient, as there is on the part of the artist.
The one who is too lazy, idle, or indurated in convention to perform this
work will not see or hear. His 'appreciation' will be mixture of scraps
of learning with conformity to norms of conventional admiration and with
a confused, even if genuine emotional excitation."