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Aristotle on the Affective Powers of Colour and Pictures

Cagnoli Fiecconi, E; (2020) Aristotle on the Affective Powers of Colour and Pictures. In: Lerodiakonou, K, (ed.) Psychologie de la couleur dans le monde gréco-romain: huit exposés suivis de discussions et d'un épilogue. (pp. 438-480). Fondation Hardt: Vandœuvres, Switzerland. Green open access

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Abstract

Aristotle’s works on natural science show that he was aware of the affective powers of colour. At De an. 421a13, for example, he writes that hard-eyed animals can only discriminate between frightening and non-frightening colours. In the Nicomachean Ethics, furthermore, colours are the source of pleasures and delight. These pleasures, unlike the pleasures of touch and taste, neither corrupt us nor make us wiser. Aristotle’s views on the affective powers of colours raise a question about the limits he seems to place on the affective powers of pictures at De an. 427b15-24, where he implies that pictures do not affect us immediately. In this paper, I look at the contrast between the affective powers of colour and the affective powers of pictures. I argue that colours can give rise to pleasure and pain in themselves and generate emotions incidentally. Similarly, pictures can please us or affect us in themselves and incidentally. In light of this account, I suggest that on a plausible reading of De an. 427b15-24, the affective powers of pictures as mimetic objects are not immediate because they require an intervening cause in order to be effective. The representations of pictures and statues affect us either with the mediation of deception or with the mediation of interpretation.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Aristotle on the Affective Powers of Colour and Pictures
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.fondationhardt.ch/en/entretiens_en/la-...
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Aristotle, Colour, Pleasure, Pain, Mimetic Object, Phantasia, Pictures, Interpretation, Poetry, Music
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Greek and Latin
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10085867
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