Posted by: Xhyra Graf | 4 July 2006

Narrowing Down?

It seems that at the beginning I am going to be doing mostly journal entries as I add pages and artwork…trying to get the background information in place.  This is not one of those.  It’s just a note, an email I sent to a professor…thought I would start keeping these here. 

 I’ve been doing some thinking about this whole thing and the way I work. The major problem is that, as in the bolded sentence below, I have already reached the conclusion that the aesthetic experience is equivalent to a kind of perceptual cum cognitive processing. Therefore the MALS essay has become a project to straighten this conclusion out in written form so I can then move on to something like the cognitive psychology paper. I guess Kenton is right and I need to narrow down even though I feel I am working toward what is in my head one objective.

Flow experience – a time within the creative process or also with athletes & intense practice [maybe that’s not the right term] when everything seems to “come together.” I believe it can be correlated across fields and is at some levels the same thing as the “drop off of consciousness” the same thing as the kind of mystical experience that some say is “just the experience of unordered or no consciousness” whatever that means. You probably don”t know what it means because it, as far as I can tell, is not an experience that has been clearly defined or modelled except in some literature about the “flow” experience – where time seems to stand still or change somehow, the mind and body seem to be a in sense optimally functioning, there is a sense of oneness or a feeling of connection to some larger whole, etc., etc.  Sounds mystical… This is where the comparison of the religious experience and the artist’s aesthetic experience comes in. 

I believe the problem is with the term “aesthetic experience” —  The term itself cannot be separated from the traditional view. However, I don’t know what other term to use.  If we think about it like Kant does, that the aesthetic experience or the appreciation of beauty is a kind of [quoting Rogerson] “quasi-cognitive” state where there is a “free harmony of imagination and understanding” [and this sounds very much to me like a version of the “flow” or “drop-off of consciousness” or “mystical” experiences] then maybe we can make the further jump to a proper use or grounding of the term “aesthetic experience.”  This means, in effect, that the aesthetic dimension of the creative act IS relevant to my project — I just hold it equivalent to a form of perceptual [subjective] experience that is “quasi-cognitive” and a part of this project should be to make this clear. 

I would say that the cognitive psychology paper I sent to you is the move toward generalizing by setting up a framework for gathering information in a systematic/scientific way and is only related to the project I guess as the next step. The problem with this paper is again, my preconceived notion, that the current method of review [critique] interferes with the cognitive or meta-cognitive processing of the artist and I want to know for sure how and get at a model that interferes less. I have a problem doing things in order. No that’s not true, it’s a little more complicated than that. That paper is the move toward what is driving me anyway – “Knowledge” about these kinds of experiences. I can believe what I want, but it doesn’t count as knowledge until it’s corroborated or defeated. But honestly, this just my axe to grind – there are some researchers in the past few years that are doing first person research and maybe I just need to read some more. I would just like to see some more focus on the actual experience of creating. 

In the end, I suppose the MALS essay itself should be focused on the experience of the creative act which would be a theoretical framework for approaching the experience of the creative act in a systematic way. This is already enough of a project so I suppose the cognitive psychology thingie can wait. The comparison to the religious experience has been a way to couch it in some already existing framework [and I believe they are analogous]. This is how we get to the “hard problem of consciousness.” I believe that so-called the hard problem of consciousness is at the core of the reason that the correlations between these experiences and cognitive processing/consciousness aren’t made. It seems “hard” in this sense implies the irreducibility of the subjective quality of experience as an insurmountable obstacle. The problem is only hard to someone who discounts the veracity of subjective experience and/or our ability to access it in any meaningful way. The subjective nature of both of these experiences has suffered the consequence, within the current scientific paradigm, of lack of sustained attention; only on an individual level by those who are driven by religious belief or whatever drives artists to “practice” the development of these experiences. Meaning, religious practitioners or someone who may have had a clear and commanding enough version of one of these experiences not to be put off by the traditional view that these experiences either 1) don’t exist in any real sense and/or 2) are at bottom some psychological abnormality. Additionally, those that are trying to pursue gaining “knowledge” about these experiences are considered kooks because they are immediately tied to mysticism or parapsychology which people tend to discount. 


The Conscious Mind : In Search of a Fundamental Theory  (Philosophy of Mind Series) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experience (Theology and the Sciences) The Act of Creation (Arkana S.)



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