Thought: motivate aesthetics with disgust.

Consider aesthetics as applied physiology (ala Nietzsche). We are either healthy or we are not. Health is the natural, the good state of being. Under this framing it makes more sense to consider pathogenic and unnatural influences rather than nominally ‘good’ ones (which are simply neutral).

Thought: there exists a naturalistic basis for ‘beauty’.

The simplicity bias & the complexity-based theory of beauty

Thought: physiological aesthetes are grounded in disgust, while cognitive aesthetes are grounded in beauty

(‘disgust’ and ‘beauty’ are the wrong words to describe this dichotomy)

Similar to Mill’s higher and lower pleasures: cognitive aesthetes > physiological aesthetes. But cognitive aesthetes can have both positive and negative valence, while physiological is only negative? Perhaps cognitive aesthetes can only be positive valence, and the negativity arises from a physiological reaction?

System 1 v. System 2, push v. pull factors

Sex is physiological and a pull factor! => wrong to say that physiological aesthetes are always negative valence. Also consider food, music

Thought: pull aesthetes need to be (something? I can’t read my own handwriting)

E.g. music –

greatness is at the intersection of phys & cognitive aesthetes: e.g. Beethoven

No good great contemporary classical because tipped too far in cognitive direction

same with art

Thought: Can you get DALLE-3 (or the music equivalent) to innovate here?

Thought: What about context:

Physiological context window:

Cognitive context window:

Great music that expands your cognitive capacity – ?

Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, II. Fugue has a 4-note motif with ~no rhythmic variation and yet elicits complexity on a baser & higher level

Quite unsure of what I was trying to do here.

The “aesthetics as applied physiology” frame comes from Nietzsche’s Case of Wagner and Nietzsche contra Wagner:

Æsthetic is inextricably bound up with these biological principles: there is decadent æsthetic, and classical æsthetic,—“beauty in itself” is just as much a chimera as any other kind of idealism.—

Æsthetic is indeed nothing more than applied physiology—-

Wagner makes Nietzsche sick, sick to his stomach.

[Wagner] stultifies, he befouls the stomach. His specific effect: degeneration of the feeling for rhythm. [referring to leitmotif]

I think this approach to one’s aesthetics is essentially correct. Revulsion is more powerful than attraction, more immediate and salient. Focusing on it as evidence of your preferences is likely better than waiting for strong feelings of joy or wonder, as it’s more readily available and less fickle.

Which leads to the underlying question: what do I mean when I talk about aesthetics? What is one’s sense of aesthetics? I am gesturing to, I think, a sense of “taste” grounded in feeling, the set of preferences one has. An “aesthete” is just a particularly dense collection of preferences that indicate a feeling towards a certain “vibe”?

In this sense saying “motivate aesthetics with disgust” is misleading — I am actually trying to say something closer to “you will be more successful running a pseudo principal component analysis on your preference set by looking at what you’re disgusted by instead of what you’re attracted to” — and many of these frames have incoherent vocabulary/phenomenon pairings.

When considering one’s aesthetics as one’s preference set, does the cognitive/physiological distinction make any sense? Do different parts of your brain light up when you look at a Van Gogh painting vs. a particularly gory scene in a movie?

Incidentally, beautiful paintings elicit increased activity in your prefrontal cortex, while sadistic tendencies seem to originate from your amygdala and insula, more primitive areas of the brain. Weak evidence in favor of a mechanistic basis for the cognitive/physiological divide for beauty & disgust.

If I had access to an fMRI machine, I’d get so much data on how our brains react to different kinds of music! (There’s probably already a sufficient amount of literature on this tbf).