About the project


Finding a Place for Perception and Cognition

Rethinking aesthetic appreciation from the ground up

The main problem

The idea that aesthetics is fundamentally perceptual has long been the cornerstone of philosophical examinations of the subject. This assumption has crucial implications both for our understanding of the nature of aesthetic value and of how we form beliefs about such value. It leads, for example, to the widespread view that aesthetic properties are response-dependent and that aesthetic judgements must be formed via first-hand perception. However, these precepts raise serious questions. How, on the perceptual model, do we explain the ascription of aesthetic value to non-perceptual entities such as mathematical proofs and conceptual art? Can we reconcile the insistence on first-hand perceptual experience in aesthetic judgement with the phenomenon of expertise?


Our approach

This 3-year project will investigate whether questions such as these derive from ambiguities built into the foundations of philosophical aesthetics. We will apply conceptual analysis and rigorous argumentation, but also align aesthetics with cutting edge research in other domains to work towards a dissolution of some of the discipline’s most long-standing antinomies. Our main aim is to provide a more detailed version of the perceptual model better able to accommodate problematic cases by construing more clearly the relation between perception and cognition.


Our solution

We will develop an improved understanding of the perceptual model. In particular, we will develop an account which, inter alia, offers a more precise notion of perception and a clear account of the precise prohibition which the perceptual model places on non-perceptual sources of aesthetic judgement. This account will, so far as is possible, aim to capture each of the various desiderata which made earlier versions of the perceptual requirement so intuitively appealing. We will test this new model against a number of the most pressing objections to extant versions of the perceptual model.



Meet our team

Based at Uppsala University, the project involves an international team of philosophers

team people

Prof. Elisabeth Schellekens

Principal Investigator

Chair of Aesthetics, Uppsala. Normativity, Kant, Hume, Aesthetic reasons, Non-perceptual beauty, Realism and Anti-realism.

team people

Dr. Maarten Steenhagen

Postdoctoral Researcher

Research fellow in Aesthetics, Uppsale. Aesthetic value, Perception, Appearances, Images, Collingwood, Twentieth Century Philosophy

External members

Prof. Bence Nanay

External Member

University of Antwerp

Prof. Paisley Livingston

External Member

Guest Professor at Uppsala University

Swedish Research Council

We are funded by a grant from the Swedish Research Council. The Swedish Research Council is a Government agency in Sweden established in 2001, with the responsibility to support and develop basic scientific research.

Read more