50 shades of affective coloring of perception

Frédérique de Vignemont (CNRS-IJN)
Practical information
05 October 2020



The Sublime and Aesthetic Experiences

SublimAE (the Sublime and Aesthetic Experiences) seminar, in connection with SublimAE ANR project, will focus on the interdisciplinary study of Aesthetic Experiences with an eye to the sublime by bringing together philosophy, psychology, and social sciences. We will explore, on the one hand, how the experience of the sublime connects to other similar or contrast experiences (the beautiful, terrible beauty, awe, wonder, the uncanny, …), and, on the other hand, the impact these experiences, and more specifically aesthetic ones, have on our representation of the self. The seminar will feature presentations by members of the project, as well as by invited speakers.

Venue: Virtual BigBlueButton room

Contact: Margherita Arcangeli, Jérôme Dokic

For the full programme click here.



Many sensory experiences somehow involve an affective dimension in addition to their sensory dimension. The crucial question is at which level the affective dimension kicks in. According to a conservative account, sensory experiences give rise to emotions, desires, and evaluative judgments, but they themselves are not affectively loaded. However, it has been recently proposed that there may be more to sensory experiences than what the conservatives assume, including evaluative content. It may then be that some sensory experiences can be endowed with features that are normally distinctive of emotional experiences.

Here I examine what it would require for visual experiences to have an affective phenomenal character. The objective of this paper is relatively modest. It is to draw the map of the various theoretical paths that a theory of affective perception could take. I will organize it around two main issues:

(i) Where is valence in perception? In content? In attitude? Or in both?

(ii) What is the relationship between the sensory and the affective components?

We shall see that each path is filled with obstacles. Not only can one question whether visual content can represent evaluative properties, but even if it could, it is not clear that this would be sufficient for visual experiences to be affectively-loaded. Without affective mental paint, the affective phenomenology of our visual experiences might remain quite blend. The challenge then becomes almost artistic: how to blend affective and sensory mental paints? What colour will it give rise to?