Philosophy, Psychology and Neuroscience

What is the Scope of Aesthetic Experience?

According to proponents of the "Grand Illusion" such as Daniel Dennett, we take in much less about the world through visual experience than we think we do. The "Grand Illusion" view is standardly supported by consideration of the psychological phenomena of "inattentional blindness" (IB) and "change blindness" (CB). The case of IB is sometimes taken to show that we only experience those entities to which we attend. The case of CB is sometimes taken to show that our experience fails to register large differences between scenes. My aim in this paper is to examine how a counterpart of the "Grand Illusion" debate arises in the case of aesthetic experience. I will focus mainly on the case of our experience of pictures, considering potential upshots of IB and CB in turn. I will argue that there is no "grand illusion" in the case of aesthetic experience. In the case of IB, I will argue that we do have aesthetic experiences of parts of pictures we do not attend to. In the case of CB, I will argue that we have aesthetic experiences that differ in ways that mirror differences in pictures that appear in cases of change blindness.