Dustin Stokes (Salt Lake City)

Rich perceptual content and aesthetic properties

Both common sense and dominant traditions in art criticism and philosophical aesthetics have it that aesthetic features or properties are perceived. However, there is a cast of reasons to be sceptical of the thesis. This paper defends the thesis—that aesthetic properties are sometimes represented in perceptual experience—against one of those sceptical opponents. That opponent maintains that perception represents only low-level properties, and since all theorists agree that aesthetic properties are not low-level properties, perception does not represent aesthetic properties. I offer a novel argument—what I call the argument from seeing-as—against that sceptic which moves from consideration of ambiguous figures to consideration of visual art. It concludes that aesthetic properties are sometimes perceived and delivers a general lesson for philosophy of perception. Contrary to extant theories of rich perceptual content, aesthetic properties are far better candidates for high-level perceptual contents than standardly theorized rich contents like natural kinds.