Title

A simple solution to the paradox of negative emotion

Document Type

Book chapter

Source Publication

Suffering Art Gladly: The Paradox of Negative Emotion in Art

Publication Date

2014

First Page

111

Last Page

122

Publisher

Palgrave Macmillan

Abstract

Philosophers have long been perplexed by the way in which works of art move us when they elicit so-called negative emotions such as pity, fear, sorrow, and anger. What is perplexing is that these emotions are generally considered to be unpleasant to experience, yet people seem to enjoy and value the works of art that arouse them. Depending on the context, this fact is referred to as ‘the paradox of tragedy’, ‘the paradox of horror’, or simply ‘the paradox of negative emotion’.

Today there is no generally accepted solution to this ‘paradox’. But the situation is certainly not due to a lack of effort on the part of philosophers to come up with a solution. Levinson, in his excellent (1997) survey, counts at least five types of solution. In what follows, my focus will be on three of them, or more accurately, four, because one comprises two types distinguished by Levinson. The types have been selected mainly because they seem to represent what are today considered to be good candidate solutions. My own preferred solution belongs to one of the types, but differs, to the best of my knowledge, from any of the existing token solutions. (If this last claim turns out to be false, then my aim in this chapter is simply to contribute to the defence of an existing candidate solution.) Crucial to the defence of this new solution is the normative sense of predicates such as ‘is moving’, ‘is touching’, ‘is powerful’, and ‘is gripping’. Roughly, the solution itself is that, in their normative sense, these predicates designate aesthetic properties that we enjoy and value experiencing, even though, in the cases which generate the paradox at issue, the enjoyment comes at a price.

DOI

10.1057/9781137313713_6

Publisher Statement

Copyright © Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2014. Access to external full text or publisher's version may require subscription.

Additional Information

ISBN of the source publication: 9780230349834

Full-text Version

Publisher’s Version

Recommended Citation

De Clercq, R. (2014). A simple solution to the paradox of negative emotion. In J. Levinson (Ed.), Suffering Art Gladly: The Paradox of Negative Emotion in Art (pp. 111-122). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. doi: 10.1057/9781137313713_6

Share

COinS