Behavioral Aesthetics

Current Research:

At the moment, I think about how technology changes our (art and life-) styles, our behaviors and our perception of them, at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow (advisor: Sidey Myoo). In this context, I study behavior in relation to art and philosophy. Scientific understanding in this regard is lacking, although I did find some interesting sources such as the writing of Jean Galard, a French art critic and philosopher, particularly The Beauty of Gesture (La beauté du geste) from 1984. From simple techniques to state-of-the-art high tech devices, technological change produces liminality or a "suspension" of cultural behavioral roles, programs, performativity, and rules like savoir-vivre, all which need to be re-invented (if not, then they are left dis-ordered or "short-circuited" and social life becomes full of conflict and antagonisms). My research is framed with Bernard Stiegler's philosophy of art and will be published in my PhD dissertation titled "Behavioral Aesthetics: The Art of Thought Control, Regulating Conduct and Constituting Agency in the Philosophy of Bernard Stiegler".



Short Description:

Dissertation Description.pdf

A more detailed explanation from an e-mail to a colleague, 21.02.2021 (click to expand and read)


When it comes to my research, I extensively study aesthetics as feeling, sense perception, and sensibility formation in all their various interpretations. For example, the perception of the artness of art would be a way of sensing rooted in the phenomenology of behavior (instead of consciousness or at least thinking as action, as argued by Derek Melser.) In other words, it is close to what Aristotle claimed about the activity of the eye, meaning that seeing is something active, intentional, and not reducible to the passive reception of stimuli. The selection criteria for vision, in turn, is embodied as a type of organogenic memory or even writing (DNA, muscle memory, and their hypomnemata, associated external stimuli; symbols and diabols).

To put it differently, I pursue Jean Galard’s problem of “the beauty of gesture” in terms of analyzing the “poetics of conduct.” In his work, the first chapter bears the title, a literal art (word-for-word, it would be art to the letter, which I translated as an “art to the bone,” but now I am having some reconsiderations about that translation.) As the “art of letters” (signification and communication, including formalization and standardization), behaviors materially take shape as grammatical conditioning, so behavior in-itself and for-itself is both an entity and a process, that is a being (state, object, life) and a having (figures, functions, telos). Moreover, it is epochocal­ (read: Husserl’s epoche.)

These considerations lead me to deconstructive thinking as advanced by Jacques Derrida, and more importantly, Bernard Stiegler, who proposed a deconstruction of deconstruction, and advanced techne as historically suppressed by episteme in his trilogy, Technics and Time. His book analyzes techne in time and techne as the condition that creates time, in other words, programmability, double rhythms of flow and counter-flow, or tendency and countertendencydifferent calender and cardinal systems. He does so while considering an evolutionary perspective or that of “deep time.”

In this way, I try to understand behavior from various ways of illumination. That includes behavior as a kind of organological writing or grammatization process that encodes knowledge in the body, so a non-cognitive variety of intelligence or learning. However, I try to remember the temporality and ephemerality of noesis, the intellectual “soul.” I started with Maurice Merlau-Ponty’s first book, The Structure of Behavior—which requires a post-structural critique. I also try to incorporate the science of behavior, marketing manipulations of behavior (as objects of measurement and calculability). Furthermore, I look at the artists who use behavior as a medium for their work, which includes, amongst others: Stephen Willats, Tania Bruguera, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, Judson Wright, Marcus Young, and I would argue Joseph Beuys’s Soziale Plastik too.

So, the aesthetic as sapere—especially in terms of the German tradition—is not alien to me. I believe it holds merit. My claim is that behavior is a techne—or in Stiegler’s language, it is “epiphylogenetic,” or a tertiary retention and protention. Nevertheless, just as we have an expanded notion of aesthetics, I attempt to expand our understanding of education as a type of bodily formation and trans-formation. By trans, I mean two things. First, by being amazed, captured by something that exceeds understanding. Second, I mean exchanging gifts and otium (as distinguished from neg-otium or the time of pursuing survival activities.). This exchange takes place between the self and the self as an-other (my ideal self, for instance), or with others, which means the gift-giving social behavior of other people, and the dead, so a cultural heritage. For art or education to be meaningful, it requires a culture or even a cult. People need to be able to participate in intellectual transactions as well, including the debates around art. It cannot be reduced to a function of interestingness since this is modern barbarity and subscribes to what Annie Le Brun calls the art of “globalist realism.”

Let me try to explain my proposal of the term cultivation briefly. I claim we need to cultivate sense perception and affect how, for example, a gardener (or amateur, artist) cultivates their plants (work) with care. Such cultivation leads to gift generation, from the plants to the gardener in the form of food, beautiful sights, and smells, and the gardener provides the plants with sustenance, protection, and a place to grow and flourish. Their interaction and trans-action are behavioral (both the plant and gardener’s behaviors.) In short, I agree that education (as Aristotlean scholê) is essential! I do believe that many people forget about Plato’s therapeutics for the pharmakon that writing is. In this case, the regulations for the players of the aulos in the Laws. Unfortunately, my work on this is currently only accessible in Polish. I am not sure if the term education has a cultural association in English that suggests institutionalization or even bureaucratic elitism. I understand education as training (conducting) ­­and work (which is different from employment.) Nevertheless, of course, the title of the article is a matter of your discretion and taste.

Best Wishes,

Adrian Mróz

Music as a Drug

Before that, I studied music. People say that music is good for you, that it is therapeutic and enhances brain-power, and sometimes what people claim music can do is on the border of miraculous. Following this intuition, I analyzed music as a pharmakon, which generally is the ancient Greek word for drugs: medicines and poisons, cosmetics and magic, all which profoundly change the way we experience reality and existence. Others, especially in the late eighteenth century, see music as a cause of disease and destruction, and in my interpretation: dis-ease (a discomfort or an uneasiness. Think: 'The youth ruined music once again!' or 'this new music sounds awful, the good old days were much better'), which I call aesthetic dissonance. My research on music as a pharmakon, a cause of madness (and scapegoat, just like any other drug), was the topic of my M.A. thesis: The Significance of Music with Reference to Plato and the Notion of “Pharmakon”. (Jagiellonian University in Krakow, advisor: dr hab. Krzysztof Guczalski, prof. UJ).

How Musicians are Evaluated

Also, I studied the way we value music. How do we come to the conclusion that a musical performance is good or bad? How is it possible that many people can evaluate a performance in ways that contradict each other? The stakes are high considering great competitions where tons of money can be won. It turns out, that we don't judge music the way we think we do. It's based on mental short-cuts, and the evaluation is just as performative as any musical show, it's a behavior (a reaction) paired with other behaviors (as stimuli). This is where I first came up with the idea of Behavioral Aesthetics, somewhere between 2012-2015 as a student of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (AMU). My B.A. thesis covers this topic: The Axiology of Music: Systemic Irrationality in Judging the Performance of Music. (AMU, advisor: dr Anna Ziółkowska-Juś). My methodology was based on real behavior and taking claims in brackets, borrowing a lot from behavioral economics.

Grounding in "Technical" Experience

By technical, I mean as a techne, a skill. Thus, all of my research on music and art is based on my experience as a musician. I studied classical guitar at the Ignacy Jan Paderewski Academy of Music in Poznań under the supervision of dr Bartek Marusik. I also have Polish State certification to work as an Assistant Sound Operator, Technical Assistant Sound Engineer, Audio Mixer, and Sound Editor. I was popular music co-ordinator and teacher at the Conservatory of Music in Poznan, located at the Imperial Castle, where I taught students the needed musical know-how and techniques to be successful in addition to preparing them for ABRSM and RSL exams.

Research Groups

  1. March-June 2016. Member of the Adam Mickiewicz student research group lead by prof. dr hab. Piotr Przybysz. Project title: "Umysł w środowisku sztucznej inteligencji: o wpływie technologii cyfrowych na funkcje umysłu" [The mind in the milieu of artificial intelligence: on the influence of digital technology on the functions of the mind].

  2. Philosophy of Technology Research Group of the Jagiellonian University's Student Circle, which was conceived of by Teodora Zawieja and founded by us on November 17, 2015.

  3. Member of the The Roman Ingarden Digital Archive research project, as of July 1, 2019.