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Movement for Movement’s Sake? On the Relationship Between Kinaesthesia and Aesthetics

1 August 2012


Movement and, more particularly, kinesthesia as a modality and as a metaphor has become of interest at the intersection of phenomenology and cognitive science. In this paper I wish to combine three historically related strands, aisthêsis, kinesthesis and aesthetics, to advance an argument concerning the aesthetic value of certain somatic sensations. Firstly, by capitalizing on a recent regard for somatic or inner bodily senses, including kinesthesia, proprioception and the vestibular system by drawing lines of historical continuity from earlier philosophical investigations on bodily background experience, initially from aisthêsis, Aristotle’s concept of the sensory faculty. Secondly, concepts of the sensate body are advanced through discoveries in the nervous system and related discussions of the ‘inner’ senses such as Charles Bell’s ‘muscle sense’ (1826), and what Charles Sherrington later termed ‘proprio-ception’ (1906). Thirdly, we consider the possibility of aesthetic status for those inner senses, where recently aesthetic arguments by Montero (2006) and Cole and Montero (2007) seek to determine aesthetic criteria for proprioception, and similarly in dance theory the aesthetic status of kinesthesia has been questioned (e.g. Foster 2011). Finally we consider whether previous exposure to a ‘grammar’ of movement is a factor in determining the relative aesthetic value.


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