Art, emotion, and existential well-being

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Studies have shown that participation in receptive and creative cultural activities are significantly associated with satisfaction with life and lower levels of anxiety and depression. The question is why art and cultural activities have such psychological effects. With a point of departure in Alexander Baumgarden's distinction between things known and things perceived, it is argued in this article that sensate form in encounters with works of art is linked to emotions rather than cognitive attempts to make meaning in life, as suggested by Mark Johnson among others. Descriptions of intense experiences with works of art show that an exceptional sensate appearance is followed by an emotional quality that transcends ordinary consciousness. This link between an exceptional sensate form and an emotional response is taken as indication of providing not only momentary enjoyment but also an emotional reorganization. A few precepts for an emotion theory are laid out in an attempt to clarify why art may contribute to existential well-being. The concluding assumption is that a work of art reawakes an emotion from a previous existential encounter when the emotion was not constituted by a sensate form because circumstances at that time had been indistinct or ambiguous. By constituting fleeting emotions recalled from previous existential encounters, art contributes to emotional integrity and provides life satisfaction and less anxiety and depression.

TidsskriftJournal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)5-17
StatusUdgivet - 2021

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