Beware the ‘Slipperiness of Cognitivism’: the concise case for doctoral research through practices in the visual arts.

Howard Riley

Swansea College of Arts, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Dynevor Campus, Swansea, SA1 3EU, UK


This paper is an extended version of a presentation which addressed the question posed under Strand ‘A’ of Paradox: The Fine Art European Forum held at the Conway Hall, London, September 2017: Does the PhD research model of contributing new knowledge fit art, where there are no definitive answers and the main strength of the research is its ability to question?, answering in the positive by distinguishing between propositional knowledge, non-propositional knowledge, and understanding. It acknowledges the range of work already published on this question, and distils an aesthetic cognitivist position from which the visual arts are construed as powerful means of deepening our understanding, a source of non-propositional knowledge on a par with, although qualitatively different from, the way that the sciences are construed as the means to propositional knowledge. The terms perceptual intrigue and conceptual intrigue are introduced as values implicit in aesthetic cognitivism. The paper is intended to support and inform research supervisors charged with advocating, research proposals through practices in the visual arts, and those responsible for assessing such proposals, in the context of university cross-disciplinary research degrees committees.

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