November 27 , 2015 – Sentimental Art
Newman, The Alleged Unwholesomeness of Sentimentality
Saville on Sentimentality
“There is always something wrong with it… There are no situations the proper perception
of which demands a sentimental response”
Treating a work of art sentimentally is to treat it poorly
Beliefs that underlie sentimentality
o Cognitive Theory of Emotions
o Beliefs of Sentimentality
o We deliberately adopt false beliefs of the world: “a false color”
Emotion E is sent if and only if E is achieved by a false coloring of the object in order to
satisfy a desire for something other than truth
An other aim – so we reject the truth to satisfy a desire
What other desires?
1. Desire for a more pleasant feeling (get rid of our negative emotions about world to feel
happy and content. Give a false coloring).
For example, a doctor. Patients are a bit resentful and the doctor is sad and angry
because of it. So, he could sentimentalize the patients and think that they are grateful.
Self-deception so that you give yourself more pleasant feeling and bearable day
2. Desire for a better self-conception (We like to think of ourselves in a positive way.
Sentimentality is a way to get a good self-esteem. Give ourselves a false coloring)
For example, Soldiers sentimentalize army life so that they don’t think they are in an
organization to kill people. It’s a band of heroic, self-sacrificing, brothers who are
serving their country. They feel better about themselves and their life
A twist: this is kind of sentimentality is present in anger, fear, and jealousy (doesn’t
have to be a positive emotion).
For example, a person sentimentalizes a political party. Idealizes the green party.
They are all good people who do everything right. This person enables themselves to
feel this way. It’s a manufactured emotion to boost your ego and self-esteem. When
people criticize the green party, they get angry and the emotion of anger is
sentimentalized to make them feel better
3. Desire for reassurance (want to see the world as better than it is)
Saville: “file down the rough edges of the world” with sentimentality
The sad reality of the world: poor people, drugs, crime
Or you could read A Christmas Carol and note the world to be filled with good people
while living in poverty
Sentimentality takes the edge off of poverty in A Christmas Carol
The Bitter Philosopher?
Cannot understand Aristotles’ journals Do not want to face inadequacies
Says Aristotle is an idiot and does not want to make sense of his jibberish
Gives it a false color of thought to accept a desire that is not truth to make himself feel
Saville says this isn’t sentimentality, it’s different
Sentimentality idealizes things (rose colored glasses)
So… Emotion E is sentimental if and only if E is achieved by a false idealization of the
object in thought in order to satisfy a desire for pleasant feeling, reassurance, or a better
So what is the problem with Sentimentality?
o Not genuine – are phony, manufactured
o Egotistical (all about the sentimental person for their own desires and self-
o Allows us to avoid self-improvement (we don’t try to be a good person, we can
look at a work of art and feel like a good person)
o Allows us to avoid our responsibilities (don’t see the world as it really is)
Do not entail that the object is good or bad
“six feet long,” “square,” “silver color”
Entails that the object is good or bad
“skillful,” “graceful,” – praising it
“sloppy” – still evaluative
Sentimentality is evaluative – something bad and it is flawed
Dover Breach by Matthew Arnold (1867)
Not sentimental like A Christmas Carol
Presents atheist view of the world
Unsentimental on the surface – Saville’s account shows
o “The Sea of Faith… naked sea of the world”
o As the tide goes out, Christian faith is “going out” or raining – seems
o “Ah, love, let us be true… clash by night”
o Just you and and me – we have to make our own way in this cold, hostile world
o Nature is devoid of meaning and the