Menninghaus and colleagues (2019) have recently argued that aesthetic emotions constitute a distinct class of emotions. They claim that aesthetic emotions are distinct because they involve an aesthetic evaluation, they are tuned to specific aesthetic virtues, they involve subjectively felt pleasure or displeasure, and predict liking or disliking. Here we examine the theory in the light of psychological and neurobiological empirical findings. We show that Menninghaus and colleagues failed to provide evidence that aesthetic emotions are different than other kinds of emotions in terms of psychological components or neurobiological underpinnings. We present empirical evidence that strongly suggests that affective states observed during aesthetic appreciation events are not distinctly different from affective states observed during other forms of sensory valuation. We conclude that it may be time to retire the idea that aesthetic emotions constitute a special class of human emotions.
- Aesthetic emotion