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Simenauer, E. (1964). Notes on the Psycho-Analysis of Aesthetic Experience—With Special Reference to Ethological Considerations. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:431-436.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:431-436

Notes on the Psycho-Analysis of Aesthetic Experience—With Special Reference to Ethological Considerations

Erich Simenauer

Psycho-analytic hypotheses on art which were originally based on transformations of instinctual drives were felt by Freud to be rather unsatisfactory. With the introduction of the theory of structure further proposals were made in terms of this new theoretical foundation (Eidelberg, 1945); (Kris, 1950). Their conceptual frame of reference was, however, already contained in the topical point of view, namely the alternate working of primary and secondary processes in artistic production (Simenauer, 1949), (1953). It is the intention of this paper to explore the possibilities which ethological studies might offer as a contribution to the development of aesthetic experience in man. If due allowance is made for the different frame of reference of ethology as compared with psycho-analysis, there should be no insurmountable obstacles to building bridges of mutual understanding (Weigert, 1956); (Bowlby, 1958), (1960); (Lampl-de Groot, 1959); (Brun, 1961).

As a starting-point let us choose three observations: (i) Out of the endless variety of phenomena surrounding us in nature it is the comparatively rare regular and symmetrical forms which strike us as beautiful; (ii) Out of the chaos of countless wave-lengths of white light only the pure colours, so rare in nature, primarily arouse in us aesthetic sensations; and (iii) of all possible modes of movement which we discern in animate and inanimate nature, only those that are rhythmic are felt as gratifying and beautiful. It is forever, as Lorenz (1942) put it, on the one hand the improbable, and on the other the simple events in nature which produce in us the sensation of the beautiful.

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