Art and painful emotion

Philosophy Compass 14 (1):e12558 (2018)
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This essay updates Aaron Smuts', 2009 Philosophy Compass piece, “Art and Negative Affect” in light of recent work on the topic. The “paradox of painful art” is the general problem of how it is possible to enjoy or value experiences of art that involve painful emotions. It encompasses both the paradox of tragedy and the paradox of horror. Section 2 lays out a taxonomy of solutions to the paradox of painful art and argues that we should opt for a pluralistic approach rather than seeking a unified solution. Section 3 surveys recent work on the topic, with an emphasis on views holding that it is possible for an experience of art to be pleasant partly in virtue of involving painful emotion. Section 4 suggests a range of phenomena that are not usually considered under the umbrella of the paradox of painful art but that offer promising directions for further research.



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Matthew Strohl
University of Montana

Citations of this work

Imagination.Shen-yi Liao & Tamar Gendler - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Aesthetic Hedonism and Its Critics.Servaas Van der Berg - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (1):e12645.
Imagination.Tamar Szabó Gendler - 2011 - In Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University.
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References found in this work

Art and negative affect.Aaron Smuts - 2009 - Philosophy Compass 4 (1):39-55.
The Pleasures of Tragedy.Susan L. Feagin - 1983 - American Philosophical Quarterly 20 (1):95 - 104.
Street Art: The Transfiguration of the Commonplaces.Nick Riggle - 2010 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 68 (3):243-257.
Appreciating Bad Art.John Dyck & Matt Johnson - 2017 - Journal of Value Inquiry 51 (2):279-292.

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