Humanities and Arts

Feeling Fit for Function: Haptic Touch and Aesthetic Experience

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Traditionally, the sense of touch—alongside the senses of taste and smell—has been excluded from the aesthetic domain. These proximal modalities are thought to deliver only sensory pleasures, not the complex, world-directed perceptual states that characterize aesthetic experience. In this paper, I argue that this tradition fails to recognize the perceptual possibilities of haptic touch, which allows us to experience properties of the objects with which we make bodily contact, including their weight, shape, solidity, elasticity, and smoothness. These features, moreover, may be indicative of how well-suited an object is for its function, and in feeling them we can thus feel the positive aesthetic quality of functional beauty.