Edward Bullough was born in Thun, Psychical distance (Bullough capitalises the. ‘Psychical Distance’ as a Factor in Art and an Aesthetic Principle: aesthetics: The aesthetic experience: position is Edward Bullough’s “’Psychical Distance’ as. , , et passim. 6 Edward Bullough, ‘Psychical Distance’ as a Factor in Art and an Aesthetic Principle,”. The British Journal of Psychology, V (June.

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What is therefore, both in appreciation and production, most desirable is the utmost decrease of Distance without its disappearance.

Thus, in the fog, the transformation by Distance is produced in the first instance by putting the phenomenon, so to speak, out of gear with our practical, actual self; by allowing it to stand outside the context of our personal needs and ends – in short, by looking at it ‘objectively,’ as it has often been called, by permitting only such reactions on our part as emphasise the ‘objective’ features of the experience, and by interpreting even our ‘subjective’ affections not as modes of our being but rather as characteristics of the phenomenon.

Its peculiarity lies in that the personal character of the relation has been, so to speak, filtered. As a rule, experiences constantly turn the same side towards us, namely, that which has the strongest practical force of appeal. This general connotation is ‘Psychical Distance. Distance, on the contrary, admits naturally of degrees, and differs not only according to the nature of the objectwhich may impose a greater or smaller degree of Distance, but varies also according to the individual’s capacity for maintaining a greater or lesser degree.

‘Psychical Distance’ as a Factor in Art and an Aesthetic Principle

He did experimental work on the perception of coloursand in his theoretical work introduced the concept of psychical distance: He came to concentrate on Italian, and was elected to the Chair of Italian at Cambridge in In Bullough married Enrichetta Angelica Marchetti daughter of the actor Eleonora Dusewith whom he would have a son and a daughter. Distance, as I said before, is obtained by separating the object and its appeal from one’s own self, by putting it out of gear with practical needs and ends.

Finally, it may claim to be considered as one of the essential characteristics of the ‘aesthetic consciousness,’ – if I may describe by this term that special mental attitude towards, and outlook upon, experience, which finds its most pregnant expression in the various forms of Art.


A short illustration will explain what is meant by ‘Psychical Distance.

Especially artists are gifted in this direction to a remarkable extent. No reference has been located in the Cambridge University Reporter. Cambridge University Press,8—9.

In languages, Bullough was a dedicated teacher who published little. It is, for this very reason, also an aesthetic principle. This difference in the Distance-limit between artists and the public has been the source of much misunderstanding and injustice. Closely related, in fact a presupposition to the ‘antimony,’ is the variability of Distance.

Edward Bullough – Wikipedia

It is, of course, to be granted that the actual and admitted unreality of the dramatic action reinforces the effect of Distance. Temporal distance, remoteness from us in point of time, though often a cause of bulkough, has been declared to be a factor of considerable weight in our appreciation.

Art has with equal vigour been declared alternately ‘idealistic’ and ‘realistic,’ ‘sensual’ and ‘spiritual,’ ‘individualistic’ and ‘typical. Psychiczl numbering below has been added to facilitate class discussion.

Historically it looks distamce as if Art had attempted to meet the deficiency of distance on the part of the subject and had overshot the mark in this endeavour. Macmillan, It is on account of the same difficulty that the expert and the professional critic pxychical a bad audience, since their expertness and critical professionalism are practical activities, involving their concrete personality and constantly endangering their Distance. This difference, so well known as to be almost trivial, is generally explained by reference to the knowledge that the characters and situations are ‘unreal,’ imaginary.

It has a negativeinhibitory aspect – the cutting-out of the practical sides of things and of our practical attitude to them – and a positive side – the elaboration of the experience on the new basis created by the inhibitory action of Distance. The first was noticed already by Aristotle in his Poetics ; the second has played a great part in the history of painting in the form of perspective; the distinction between these two kinds of distance assumes special importance theoretically in the differentiation between sculpture in the round, and relief-sculpture.

Nor are they the only pair of opposites. It will be readily admitted that a work of Art has the more chance of appealing to us the better it finds us prepared for its particular kind of appeal. Many pictures, plays and poems had, as a matter of fact, rather an expository or illustrating significance – as for instance much ecclesiastical Art – or the force of a direct practical appeal sistance as the invectives of many satires or comedies – which seem to us nowadays irreconcilable with their aesthetic claims.


The average individual, on the contrary, very rapidly reaches his limit of decreasing Distance, idstance ‘Distance-limit,’ i.

Hence, on the other hand, the failure of the average man to convey to others at all adequately the impression of an overwhelming joy or sorrow. There exist, therefore, two different sets of conditions affecting the degree of distance in any given case: It has been an old problem why the ‘arts of the eye and of the ear’ should have reached the practically exclusive predominance over arts of other senses.

In order to obtain ‘objectively valid’ results, the scientist excludes the ‘personal factor,’ i.

The success and intensity of its appeal would seem, therefore, to stand in direct proportion to the completeness with which it corresponds with our intellectual and emotional peculiarities and the idiosyncracies of our experience. It has been cleared of the practical, concrete nature of its appeal, without, however, thereby losing its original constitution.

In short, Distance may be said to be variable both according to the distancing power of the individual, and according to the character of the object. The working of Distance is, accordingly, not simple, but highly complex. The listless movements of the ship and her warning calls soon tell upon the nerves of the passengers; and that special, expectant, tacit anxiety and nervousness, always associated with this experience, make a fog the dreaded terror of the sea all the more terrifying because of its very silence and gentleness for the expert seafarer no less than the ignorant landsman.

It is a difference of outlook, due – if such a metaphor is permissible – to the insertion of distance. Theoreticall y there is no limit to the decrease of Distance. The relation between self and object remains a personal one it is not like the impersonal relation in scientific observation, for example and Bullough thinks that a “concordance” psyxhical them is necessary for aesthetic appreciation.

Edward Distanve 28 March — 17 September was an English aesthetician and scholar of modern languageswho worked at the University of Cambridge.