Artwork, agent, and meaning: Substantialist, processist and semiotic approaches


Here we propose a comparison between more substantialist and more processist approaches to topics related to Cognitive Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Arts.

136-1369173_painter-painting-painting-png-icon-transparent-pngThe conceptual tools used in our own processual-oriented approach is given on the right column.

Substantialist trend Processist trend Our  approach
Meaning Concepts codified in information units. A dynamic, self-organized, developmental process through which signs adapt to situational constraints. Semiosis.
Cognition Internal, abstract processing of (mainly symbolic) units of meaning (e.g., classical abstract problem solving). Situated and distributed development and manipulation of artifacts. Mind as semiosis; Semiotic theory of mind; Situated problem solving.
Agent Individualized, decision-making substance or system (e.g. a subjectivity, a single mind, an autonomous cognitive system). Emergent social persons whose decisions are causally-distributed. Cognitive niche constructor.
Creativity A rare or unusual property of some agents (e.g. a ‘gift’, a personality trait, a set of cognitive skills), which can cause unexpected transformations in– or reorganization of– units of meaning. A natural organizational property of any process (emergence), which may include properties of agents but is not caused by such properties. Exploration of opportunities for niche construction.
Locus of meaning Well-defined (e.g., concepts in the agent’s brain; message encoded in an artifact). Ill-defined, distributed, situated. Cognitive niches.
Artwork A well-defined locus for artistic meaning, due to unchangeable intrinsic particular properties, and whose genesis is related to some agent’s creativity in a substantialist sense. A stable and regular pattern of semiotic multi-level systems. A semiotic artifact that plays a central role in aesthetic niche construction.

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Pedro Atã & João Queiroz

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