Literature, knowledge, and the aesthetic attitude

Mark W. Rowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)


An attitude which hopes to derive aesthetic pleasure from an object is often thought to be in tension with an attitude which hopes to derive knowledge from it. The current article argues that this alleged conflict only makes sense when the aesthetic attitude and knowledge are construed unnaturally narrowly, and that when both are correctly understood there is no tension between them. To do this, the article first proposes a broad and satisfying account of the aesthetic attitude, and then considers and rejects twelve reasons for thinking that deriving knowledge from something is incompatible with maintaining an aesthetic attitude towards it. Two main conclusions are drawn. 1) That the representational arts are often in a good position to communicate non-propositional knowledge about human beings. 2) That while our desire to obtain pleasure from a work's manifest properties, and our desire to obtain knowledge from it, are not the same motive, the formal similarities between them are sufficiently impressive to warrant both being seen as elements of the aesthetic attitude.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-397
Number of pages23
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009

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