Joerg Fingerhut (LMU Muenchen)
Art, Taste, and Identity: Are we Aesthetic Selves?
Philosophical theories regarding diachronic personal identity have focused on memory, narrative and recently moral values as central elements when it comes to explaining what makes us the same person over time. In my talk I will explore the importance of aesthetic taste and art for our perceived identity. To this end I will discuss a series of studies, in which we found an Aesthetic Self-Effect supporting the claim that we are aesthetic selves. Here, counterfactual changes in aesthetic preferences – such as from liking pop to liking classical music – were perceived as threatening a person’s identity. The effect is as strong as the one found for moral changes – such as altering political partisanship or religious orientation. We also found evidence of an Anaesthetic Self-Effect: Scenarios that describe the initial adoption of an aesthetic preference for music and art elicited strong judgments. I will discuss whether these effects constitute genuinely aesthetic effects or are mostly driven by social signalling attached to certain art forms or styles. I will argue that the driving effect is aesthetic in nature, but that some aesthetic changes include different epistemologies, concepts, and cognitive processing styles. Taken together we found evidence for a link between aesthetics and identity: when our aesthetic interests change, we take these changes to severely transform us.