Turbulent Memories

The Uneasy Artifacts of an Aesthetic Religion


  • Wade A. Mitchell Drew University




naturalism, aesthetics, philosophy of religion, neuroscience


This article is concerned with addressing the tensions between art and religion. In arguing that this tension stems from the way memory processes work at the heart of both religion and aesthetics, I will draw Robert Corrington’s unique version of religious naturalism together with recent work done by art historian David Freedberg on the neuroscience of response to visual art. When properly framed by philosopher of religion Loyal Rue, these very different perspectives become highly complementary. By forging an interaction between them, I not only attempt to demonstrate how Corrington’s philosophical contextualization and Freedberg’s empathetic aesthetics mutually enhance one another, but I also hope to open up additional lines of inquiry about the role of memory within the problematic of art and religion, particularly for those seeking the interdisciplinary convergences between religion, aesthetics, science, and ethics.


Changeux, Jean-Pierre. 1994. ‘Art and Neuroscience’, Leonardo 27: 189-201. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1576051.

Corrington, Robert S. 2000. A Semiotic Theory of Theology and Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511487644.

———. 2002. ‘My Passage from Panentheism to Pantheism’, American Journal of Theology & Philosophy 23.2: 129-53.

———. 2007. ‘Deep Pantheism’, Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture 1.4: 503-507.

———. 2013. Nature’s Sublime: An Essay in Aesthetic Naturalism (Lanham, MD: Lexington).

Deleuze, Gilles. 2002. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (trans. Daniel W. Smith; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).

Damasio, Antonio R. 1994. Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (New York: Grosset/Putnam).

———. 1999. The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness (Orlando: Harcourt).

———. 2003. Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain (Orlando: Harcourt).

Freedberg, David. 1989. The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

———. 2011. ‘Memory in Art: History and the Neuroscience of Response’, in Suzanne Nalbantian, Paul M. Matthews, and James L. McClelland (eds.), The Memory Process: Neuroscienti



How to Cite

Mitchell, W. A. (2014). Turbulent Memories: The Uneasy Artifacts of an Aesthetic Religion. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 8(2), 206–222. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.v8.i2.206