Kalle Puolakka is docent and researcher of aesthetics at the University of Helsinki. He received his doctorate from the same university in 2009 after which he worked both as a postdoctoral and a university researcher at the International Institute of Applied Aesthetics (2010–2016), University of Helsinki. In 2016, he received, with Dr. Hanne Appelqvist and Dr. Jukka Mikkonen, a major grant from the Finnish Cultural Foundation for a project on the cognitive significance of aesthetics (2016–2019). Puolakka has also been a visiting researcher at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies and the University of Murcia, as well as the secretary of the European Society for Aesthetics (2013–2018).
His research interests within aesthetics are broad, covering such fields as the philosophy of interpretation, philosophy of music, philosophy of literature, everyday aesthetics, and John Dewey’s aesthetics. Along with the book Relativism and Intentionalism in Interpretation. Davidson, Hermeneutics, and Pragmatism (Lexington Books 2011), he has published several papers on these topics in many international journals, e.g., The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, British Journal of Aesthetics, The Journal of Aesthetic Education, Estetika – The European Journal of Aesthetics, and The International Journal of Philosophical Studies.
During his fellowship, Puolakka will bring together some of the important threads of his recent research on the cognitive value of literature, i.e., can literature be a vehicle of knowledge in any significant and interesting way. His account will enlarge on previous examinations of what is called experiential knowledge, according to which literary works, such as novels, can provide knowledge of what it is like to undergo a certain kind of experience. He defends the epistemic position of this sort of knowledge by drawing on the work on epistemic trust, responsibility, and virtues in social epistemology, which shows that literature can be a genuine and robust cognitive medium. While previous philosophical examinations have focused on the cognitive value of single literary works, he is especially interested in the cognitive value of immersing with the entire literary oeuvre of an author, which he singles out as an especially challenging form of literary reading. The research is also intended to give insights into the ramifications related to the decline of literary reading that is currently perceptible globally.