Which artistic form (Visual, Audio, Literary etc.) is the best at conveying emotion?



I have always felt that art, at least good art, is a method by which to convey emotion - to imbue part of the artists soul into something physical.

What do philosophers say is the best medium to convey a nuanced emotional message?

I have always thought music is the greatest medium for this purpose. For me, nothing else can evoke a tantamount emotional response.

What are your thoughts?

(I would exclude multi-media mediums (ie. film or television) as they combine base art forms (visual, audio) and therefore you can't really make a fair comparison.)

An Individual

Posted 2018-05-09T21:40:33.200

Reputation: 342

Hi, welcome to philosophy SE, please visit our Help Center to see what questions we answer and how to ask."What are your thoughts?" questions that invite personal opinions are off-topic on this site, you can rephrase it as asking about positions of major philosophers. Your preference for music was shared by Schopenhauer, although perhaps for different reasons, "music is by no means like the other arts, namely a copy of the Ideas, but a copy of the will itself".

– Conifold – 2018-05-09T22:01:02.397

Thank you for the source! I had not known about Schopenhauer's views on this subject. – An Individual – 2018-05-09T22:06:47.087

1Also, with all due respect, while I understand the forum's rules, Isn't the basis for all philosophical thought "opinionated"? Why not invite the personal thoughts of users in addition to citations of notable philosophers? – An Individual – 2018-05-09T22:08:46.140

These sorts of suggestions have been discussed on our Meta site for years, and disfavored. You can try again there, but the current rules are pretty settled, opinion inviting posts get put on hold and closed.

– Conifold – 2018-05-09T22:14:48.163



The answer is "yes." All forms are best at conveying emotion =)

The idea of excluding multi-media mediums, however, points to a very strange distinction that one must draw. One must identify the senses which are being used to convey the piece, and ensure only one sense is used at a time. That depends on where we draw the lines between the senses, so on and so forth.

However, if we use the most typical lines between the senses, the sense of smell is famously effective at evoking emotions (with direct connections into the amygdala and the hippocampus). So it would be reasonable to say that olfactory art would excel at conveying emotion more than any other sense, if we restrict art to only that which affects one sense at a time.

As a runner up, I'd consider touch. Our sense of touch is known to be able to convey a sense of connection which other senses simply cannot beat. However, I don't know if you'd call that emotion.

Cort Ammon

Posted 2018-05-09T21:40:33.200

Reputation: 16 681

Good answer. But is touch an artistic form? – Bread – 2018-05-10T00:13:14.193

@Bread There are artistic forms that focus on touch. I was more focused on the sense, so I did not dive further into it. I felt there was more value pointing out interesting points of view regarding the question, and I'm not actually all that versed in these arts. I do know that there are professional cuddlers. The interesting question would be whether that counts as evoking emotions or not.

– Cort Ammon – 2018-05-10T00:17:22.763

1I think we're getting confused with our definition of art. Art at its best is something that conveys and evokes emotion. However, not everything that can convey or evoke an emotion is art. – An Individual – 2018-05-10T00:29:30.967

@AnIndividual Is there an "our definition of art?" – Cort Ammon – 2018-05-10T00:49:54.037

@CortAmmon I think we have to draw the line somewhere or else anything that interacts on anything else can be considered art. – An Individual – 2018-05-10T00:55:33.413

@AnIndividual Is that a problem? – Cort Ammon – 2018-05-10T01:06:36.067

@CortAmmon Well in concept, it isn't necessarily problematic, but in outcome it is. If we have no method by which to define what art is and what is not and whether it is good or not, the quality of artistic expression will decline. We can see this today. The quality of music and literature has declined significantly. – An Individual – 2018-05-10T01:08:29.573

@AnIndividual Are you seeing the issue I am raising? – Cort Ammon – 2018-05-10T01:09:14.190

The question is an incredibly subjective question. The more one constricts the question by using strict definitions of the arts, the more the answer reflects these definitions rather than the subjectivity you desire. – Cort Ammon – 2018-05-10T01:39:03.767

As a personal opinion, my own most profound experience with music depended not just on the music that was played, but in my ability to watch the conductor and violinist on the stage and observing subtle details that did not appear in the music but were visible in their movements. The definitions you put forth would disqualify my own experience because that just became mixed media.

– Cort Ammon – 2018-05-10T01:41:37.733

Another odd example might be Butoh. It is considered by many to be an extraordinary art for conveying tremendously nuanced sadness. It appears to be less effective at conveying happiness. Myself, I find their work to be deeply profound, though I do not know if it would qualify as "emotional" per your subjective view of what emotion is. And, of course, it would qualify as multimedia as there is always a musician.

– Cort Ammon – 2018-05-10T01:46:12.923


Of course...music can do wonders. It can convey some strong emotions like ecstasy...but not all. In some occasions it is the best art form in conveying emotions. ( Though you have excluded films and TV as they combine base art forms) You can use them (films/TV) without combining with any sound. I mean, it can often convey many emotions especially when the feeling is strong even if it is in mute mode. You might have seen such video clips that have no mixed sound at all. If you wish to exclude that also, you will have to depend on literary art, especially when the emotions tend to become subtle. Since I don't know all the art forms I can't say anything about them. But for analysis, this three is more than enough. Though there is nothing tantamount to music in conveying ecstasy, it is insufficient to convey many other emotions. Now you can also reach a conclusion.


We cannot choose the best art form at conveying emotions.


Posted 2018-05-09T21:40:33.200

Reputation: 2 594

What emotions do you think music is incapable of conveying? – An Individual – 2018-05-10T15:31:51.780