Aesthetics and the Explication of Surprise

Mary-Anne Williams

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Keywords: Belief revision, expectations, conceptual spaces, explanation, aesthetics

: Art is related to explanation, in fact according to Leyton the aesthetic response is the mind's evaluation of explanation, and furthermore the level of aesthetic response to works of art is proportional to the level of complexity perceived. The perceivedi nformation complexity can be measured by the degree of surprise; the more surprising the information the higher its complexity.
Artworks engage our interest and challenge our ability of explication. Forming explanations of surprising information involves changing beliefs, expectations, and concepts. Therefore, if the aesthetic response to an art work can be measured by the amount of surprise it engenders, then the degree of response is proportional to the degree of change a cognitive entity undergoes in order to coherently accommodate and explain the surprise. Consequently, the measure of change is inextricably related to the measure of pleasure.

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Mary-Anne Williams,
University of Newcastle

Spinning Ideas, Electronic Essays
Dedicated to Peter Gärdenfors on His Fiftieth Birthday