The Challenges of Interdisciplinary Epistemology in Neuroaesthetics


James Croft, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Longfellow Hall, Room 331, Appian Way, Cambridge, MA 02138; e-mail:


Neuroaesthetics is a burgeoning new interdisciplinary research space in which cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy intersect in order to better inform our understanding of aesthetic experience. The purpose of this study is to analyze high-profile work in neuroaesthetics in the light of recent research into interdisciplinary epistemology, asking “Do current attempts to use neuroscience to explore art meet rigorous interdisciplinary quality criteria?” I suggest that current approaches in neuroaesthetics frequently fail in a number of ways: they fail to meet disciplinary standards in either aesthetics or neuroscience, they fail to blend disciplines in a generative way, and they add little new that could not be investigated more fruitfully at other levels of analysis. In response to these potential pitfalls, I recommend that future researchers embrace a form of “problem-focused epistemological pluralism” in their neuroaesthetic endeavors. I end with a consideration of the educational implications of these issues.