Art as Orientation


28 Lauder Rd.

Edinburgh EH9 2JF

United Kingdom


What is it that we lack in everyday life that causes us to value art so highly? This article argues that (almost) all values are to be understood in terms of a needs-satisfaction system, and hence that the value of art can be understood only with reference to the state of the appreciator prior to engagement with the artwork. Aesthetic appreciation can be analysed as a process, which can be described in empirically based psychological terms, leading to a functional view of aesthetic experience as potentially enhancing the individual's orientation at sensory, cognitive, and interpersonal levels; our motivation is a special form of pleasure. Various objections are then considered, with particular attention to the role of pleasure in connection with tragedy; the relation of art to related cultural pursuits is also briefly indicated.