Jesse Prinz is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York, Graduate Center. His research focuses on the perceptual, emotional, and cultural foundations of human psychology. He is the author of Furnishing the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis (MIT 2002), Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion (Oxford 2004), The Emotional Construction of Morals (Oxford 2007), The Conscious Brain (Oxford 2012), Beyond Human Nature (Penguin 2012), and most recently, the forthcoming Works of Wonder: The Psychology and Ontology of Art (Oxford). Jesse also co-founded (with NYC mixed-media artist Rachel Bernstein) the art blog Art Bouillon. It is an honor and a true pleasure to have Jesse kick off the Guest Blogger Schedule here at Aesthetics for Birds.
Among the many divides one can kind among competing theories of art, none sides wider and more ideologically entrenched than the gulf between experiential theories and various forms of institutionalism. Experiential theories say that something counts as art in virtue of the kind of experience it affords, such as a distinctive emotional state. Institutional theories emphasize the context of presentation–to a first approximation, something becomes art on this view when it is placed in a gallery, or the equivalent. Here I want to suggest, heretically, that the experiential theories are right, but also that they can be reconciled with the institutional approach.