Introductory Lecture


Lecture 1

Building Bridges Between Science and the Humanities

This lecture builds a bridge between the artistry of science, which accounts for physical phenomena in elegant ways, and the logic of the humanities which rigorously interprets the lived-world. In the generality of scientific principles, we explain particular events. In the particularly of literary and artistic works, we understand the universality of their implications. We must learn to shift between an engaged perspective in which phenomena are experienced in-depth and a detached perspective in which underlying principles are formalized. (14:15)
Resource: Fantazzi, Charles E. (2003). The Two Cultures in the New Millennium. University Printing and Graphics: East Carolina University.

Lecture 2

Learning to Think Critically

This lecture is not about being right or wrong. Rather, we need to be aware of our role in generating knowledge by observing phenomena and using methods to test theories. As members of professional communities we share certain hidden assumptions. While questioning these assumptions can be professionally risky, it is also the basis for scientific progress. The British Enlightenment, German Romanticism, and Chinese Taoism offer culturally different approaches to knowledge development which can nourish our work. (17:54)

Lecture 3

Feelings and Motivated Actions

We are motivated in adaptive life episodes to face challenges and fulfill our needs and goals. The appraising of situations as good or bad for us must be conducted in a detached manner with the body providing energy and assisting focus. As plans unfold, pleasant and unpleasant feelings provide feedback as to the relative success of our actions. Feelings thus serve as the shadow of cognition and action. These logical ideas can be traced back 300 years to an Enlightened emphasis on “cool desires” and have more recently been embodied in Purposive Behaviourism, Core Affect, and Conceptual-Act theories. (19:02)

Lecture 4

Emotional Experiences in Everyday Life

Emotional experiences are automatic reactions to personally meaningful situations that reawaken bodily memories of earlier life events. Language lends nuances to our understanding of situations and, hence, emotions are metaphorically like liberated instincts. Bodily reactions, which are below the threshold of awareness, shape the form of our experiences of time, space, material, and connection with others. Pairs of primary emotions, including happiness-sadness, fear-anger, and interest-disgust, are wired-in and link us with other mammalian species. These ideas about emotions were shaped by William James, Gestalt psychology, psychodynamics, phenomenology, and ethology. (17:57)

Lecture 5

Emotional Phase Theory

Emotional experiences emerge in a perfect storm integrating mind and body in meaningful situations. Imagine a hierarchy with appetitive needs and drives at the bottom, then affects, feelings, and emotions at the top. Each level is governed by its own unique principles. Emotional experiences are holistic, emergent, automatic, and incorporate the lower levels of organization. In essence, emotions are feelings filled with meaning in situations related to the self. Humans share common life themes with other mammals; attachment and loss; assertion and self- preservation; absorption and repulsion. (27:22)

Lecture 6

The Image Maker’s Imagination and the Origins of Art

Image-making (“rock” or “cave art”) that appeared more than 30,000 years ago has all the hallmarks of modern style. The social role of image-maker or artist can be understood in relation to an emerging sense of self. Accordingly, art involves a balance between the “Thinking-eye” that plans a work and the “Being-I” that expresses a unique, personal perspective. Being “moved” by these images can be associated with the appearance of empathy in an evolving social and emotional landscape. (23:55)
Resource: Alpert, Barbara Olins. Comments on relations between ice age art and Western art.

Lecture 7

The Aesthetic Imagination and the Cognitive Side of Reception

Everyday perception is pragmatic and focuses on object identification. Aesthetic reception tunes us in to the organized sensory qualities that make up the style of an artistic image. Suggestions from the subject matter of a work stimulate connections within the viewer against the background of its style. Attachment to a work will reflect the depth to which we process it. Various schools of psychology have contributed to our understanding of this process including: the information theory analysis of emerging images, a holistic Gestalt description of how the body “feels” the art or literary work before “knowing” it, a psychodynamic analysis of how art stimulates primitive forms of thinking, and a phenomenological account of how we experience time, space, and sensory qualities during aesthetic episodes. (26:07)

Lecture 8

The Aesthetic Imagination and the Emotional Side of Reception

During aesthetic episodes, we shift between objectively detached analyses of mimesis (the extent to which a work faithfully represents something) and subjectively engaged resonance (individual interpretations related to personal meaning). To what extent are our judgments of quality dissociated from our feelings (“It was a good movie but I didn’t really like it.”) or integrated with our lives (“The movie was deep and reminded me of my childhood.”)? During aesthetic episodes, we optimize our emotional distance from the work. We can select works that modulate feeling states of pleasure or excitement (“affective covariation”) or prefer works that are related to our “true self” (“emotional elaboration”). National cultural differences favour Enlightened “mimesis,” Romantic “resonances,” or Taoist “mind wandering.” (27:42)

Lecture 9

Bringing Harmony to the Title of My Book

“The aesthetic of emotion” explores the idea that aesthetic and emotional systems are analogous so that relations between subject matter and style in art can inform about relations between mind and body during emotional experiences. The “staircase of the mind-body” is about metaphors such that the concrete style of an artwork provides an expressive context within which its subject matter is holistically experienced. Similarly, episodic memories which are reawakened by a social situation stimulate bodily responses that unconsciously and automatically shape the form of an emotional experience. For both art and emotion, concrete style and bodily reactions have these effects when they are below the threshold of consciousness. We directly experience art and life before we can fully understand why and how. (21:25)