Music and Philosophy Study Group Conference
KCL; July 20-21, 2012
The theme of this year’s Music and Philosophy Study Group annual conference was ‘Meaning and Ineffability’. Clearly, this topic excited members of the MPSG’s constituency – namely, analytical philosophers of music, continental philosophers of music, and musicologists – because the conference attracted 240 delegates (compared with 162 the previous year), whilst over 180 abstracts were submitted by applicants to give papers, of which 55 were selected.
The conference’s sessions fell into four categories: papers by keynote speakers; plenary discussion panels; themed discussion fora; and submitted papers. Sessions were consistently well attended and prompted lively discussion from the floor.
Plenary discussion panels opened and closed the conference. The opening panel, ‘Is Adorno a dead duck?’, comprised Roger Scruton (St. Andrews, Philosophy), Andrew Bowie (Royal Holloway, Philosophy), and Stephen Hinton (Stanford, Musicology). The closing panel, reflecting on some of the issues raised over the two days, comprised Babette Babich (Fordham, Philosophy), Jerrold Levinson (Maryland, Philosophy) and Stephen Downes (Surrey, Music).
The conference’s keynote papers were given by:
· Daniel Chua (Hong Kong, Music), ‘Ineffabeethoven’ (respondent: Gordon Finlayson (Sussex, Philosophy));
· Gunter Zoller (Munich/McGill, Music), ‘The musically sublime: Richard Wagner’s philosophy of music’ (respondent: Paul Boghossian (NYU, Philosophy));
· David Davies (McGill, Philosophy), ‘Music and ineffability’ (respondent: Joseph Dubiel (Columbia, Music)).
The choice of respondents for these sessions was crucial. The central aim of the conference was that of fostering philosophical discussion of music amongst analytical philosophers, continental philosophers and musicologists. With this in mind, each keynote session saw a speaker from one discipline responded to by an established figure from another. This certainly led to some fascinating discussion on the stage and some vigorous and helpful interventions from the audience.
Discussion fora were held on the following topics: Lacanian musicology; ethnomusicology and the philosophy of music; and music and Ancient Greece. The conference’s submitted papers, meanwhile, reflected the wide range of interests amongst its participants. Topics covered included: the nature of musical expressiveness; the acousmatic view of music; the nature of musical analysis; and the ontology of music. Authors of submitted papers included Hanna Appelqvist (Helsinki), Alison Denham (Oxford/Tulane), Lydia Goehr (Columbia), David Liggins (Manchester), Bence Nanay (Antwerp), Christopher Norris (Cardiff), and James Young (Victoria). Speakers came from as far afield as Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, and the US.
At the conference’s conclusion, delegates were questionnaired, and their feedback will be taken account of by the conference organisers as they plan the 2013 conference. In particular, more time will be allotted to discussion, and chairs will be (further) encouraged to make sure that sessions run to time.
Literature, Actions, and Agents: Report on the conference
In The Concept of Mind, Ryle cites Jane Austen’s representation of pride as paradigmatic for the sort of thing we seek when we try to explain actions by reference to dispositions, which, Ryle notes, are indefinitely heterogeneous in their manifestation. Nonetheless, and this is the point of his reference to Austen, we manage perfectly well to understand each other’s actions and not by adducing causes for them. In the sixty or so years since this observation, there has been a lot of important work in action theory and in the philosophy of literature, so it was with great anticipation that we all gathered on the 18th of January in Senate House to consider how and indeed whether literature can illuminate the topic agency and the description and evaluation of action. Despite the persistent snowfall we had very good attendance with strong showing from PhD researchers in philosophy and in literature, who, thanks to our sponsors, were able to attend without paying a registration fee.
Peter Lamarque (York) opened the proceedings with a paper on ‘Poetry and Expression’ that sought to reconcile autonomist or ‘work-centred’ and romantic ‘author-centred’ models of poetic expression. The debate, revived by recent contributions by Maximilian de Gaynesford and Jenefer Robinson, is between those who deny that information concerning authorial agency, or even reference to it, is relevant to the understanding and evaluation of a poem and those who consider such references necessary. Using a range of examples from poetry and literary criticism, Lamarque argued persuasively against both the extremist and the sophisticated versions of the two positions offering an irenic solution that allows us to consider the poem as a performance by an agent. This means that we may judge the poem as a meaningful entity, the expressive qualities of which are attributable not just to a poetic persona but to a controlling intelligence that is that of the author to whom we attribute the aesthetic choices that account for the expressive qualities of the poetic performance.
Among the papers that followed, Eileen John (Warwick), with ‘Literature, Conversation and Sharing of Reasons’, and Constantine Sandis (Oxford Brookes), with ‘Are We Superhuman or Are We Dancer?: Agency in the Work of Anthony Powell’, engaged in substantive philosophical analysis of literature and agency. John examined moral argument, understood broadly to mean both argument that is morally motivated and argument that has moral content. If we consider arguing in a conversational context as a distinctive performance, then literary depictions of such failed performances, either because they fail to persuade or to make a difference can be illuminating about the limits of argumentation. Using examples from O’Connor, Melville, and Paley, John argued that these breakdowns are not obviously attributable to failures in the soundness or the validity of the argument, rather they are better viewed as expressive of flaws in the moral personality of the speaker. Faltering performances in short are as important to agential identity as those exemplary of self-possession. Sandis analysed models of agency in Powell’s work, showing the significance and structuring function of two types of agency standing at extreme opposites: almost superhuman agent, with ambition and willpower to shape his life and times, and patient, carried along in the music of time. Sandis showed how the former, who owes a lot to Nietzschean stereotypes, is not that far removed from the familiar figure stalking works of ethics and theory of action, the autonomous agent rationally in control, planning his life, setting tasks and steadfastly following through with them. On Sandis’s reading, Powell shows how illusory, hateful, or plainly risible this model of agency is.
Humberto Brito (Universidade nova de Lisboa) gave a paper on ‘Second-Natural Judgements’ arguing that philosophy of action should take seriously the literary concerns with ‘thick’ conception of agency. Literature, understood broadly to mean literary works of fiction, and also fairy tales or other orally transmitted stories, employs a rich conception of action that is intelligible and evaluable in terms of categories such as character, the sort of person one is, the sort of role one inhabits and, following from this, the kinds of motives that are plausibly attributable to such agents over time to explain their actions. Ana Almeida’s paper, ‘Whitmanian Normativity’, shared some of these concerns arguing how Whitman’s statement ‘I am multitudes’ is not just an extraordinary expression of poetic agency but rather how each one of us conceives who we are. Agential identity is not singular but plural composed of what Almeida called ‘artificial families’ made of people who are allowed to play a role in the agent’s life. Alberto Arruda (Universidade nova de Lisboa) followed on to some extent from this idea discussing more narrowly the case of agential self-knowledge seeking to identify the conditions for intersubjective recognition of each other as a self, suggesting that these may be sought in basic bodily self-awareness, an embodied ‘I think’, which makes possible not just the recognition of others qua subjects but also as selves with specific potentialities yet to be actualized.
John Hyman (Oxford) concluded the proceedings with a paper on ‘Intentional Actions’, in which he proposed a new solution to a standoff between teleological and causal explanations of action. The key move is the identification of desires with dispositions, which have both efficient causal and telic features. One advantage of this identification, provided one adopts a non-reductive account of dispositions pace Ryle, is that it provides a way to treat the problem of deviant causal chains that affects causalist accounts. On the standard belief-desire explanation of how an action is caused there is a problem when certain beliefs and desires are causally involved in an action but in a non-standard way. On Hyman’s account, deviant causal chains are not distinctive to actions, they are rather a relatively ordinary and well-understood feature of dispositional properties.
The richness and range of the topics and the lively discussion that followed the papers convinced us all of the value of continuing the conversation between philosophy and literature, which we started here with our colleagues from the ‘Intention, Action, and the Philosophy of Art’ FTC funded project in the Philosophy and Literature Network (Universidade de Lisboa and Universidade nova de Lisboa).
University of Sussex
Celebrating the Work of Peter Goldie, University of Manchester, September 14-15, 2012
This conference was everything that we in the Manchester philosophy department hoped that it would be, and we thank the British Society of Aesthetics for their generous and kind support.
Forty-one delegates attended the conference, enjoying the keynote talks by Stephen Davies, Ronald de Sousa, David Papineau, Kathleen Stock, Joel Smith, Rob Hopkins, Kathleen Higgins and Dom Lopes. (Davies and Higgins, though not invited as expenses-paid speakers, wanted to attend the conference, and were happy to use their respective personal research funds to do this.)
The keynote sessions covered a number of the topics upon which Peter worked during his career, including the nature of the emotions, narrative thinking, the imagination, and conceptual art (see attached programme). The written articles based on these presentations (together with additional contributions by Paul Harris, Marya Schechtmann, Edward Harcourt, Elisabeth Schellekens, Sabine Doring and me) will form the basis of an edited collection dedicated to Peter’s work that I shall edit.
We were especially pleased at the high quality of the papers given in the parallel sessions. The twenty-eight submissions were blind refereed, and eventually six were selected for the conference. One session was devoted to the emotions, the other to aesthetics, and the speakers ranged in seniority from PhD students to the editor of The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism
(Susan Feagin, Temple). The papers given by PhD students (Beccy Simpson, Luke Brunning, Donnchadh O’Neill and Alba Montes) feed directly into their respective PhD theses, so each of these scholars found the experience a rewarding one.
As Peter would, no doubt, have wanted, the conference was rigorous, yet friendly. Peter’s widow, Sophie Hamilton (now, herself sadly deceased), funded a wine reception on the first evening, and the conference dinner that followed was well attended and lively. Participants weren’t questionnaired, but informal, verbal feedback was unanimous in expressing the opinion that this was a successful, and intensely moving, event.
Julian Dodd, University of Manchester
Graduate and Early Career Workshop in Aesthetics
Department of Philosophy, University of Leeds Tuesday 26th June 2012
This workshop, organised by the AHRC funded project ‘Method in Philosophical Aesthetics: the Challenge from the Sciences’, in association with the University of Nottingham and the University of Leeds, provided an opportunity for graduate students and early career researchers to present their work in empirically orientated aesthetics. The keynote address ‘Doing Aesthetics: Case Studies in Methodology’ was presented by Dominic McIver Lopes (UBC). Lopes’ paper examined some ways in which projects in aesthetics could be carried out using differing methodologies. In addition there were four papers from graduate/early career researchers. William York (Indiana) began the workshop with his paper ‘Why the ‘Sciences of Art’ Need Philosophy more than the Philosophy of Art Needs Science’. York argued that some recent work in the sciences of art has not been sufficiently attentive to important philosophical work (in aesthetics and elsewhere). A response to the paper was then given by Anna Ichino (Nottingham).
The second paper' The Artful Mind: The Evolutionary Psychology of Artistic Behaviour' by Eveline Seghers (Ghent) investigated various connections between evolutionary psychology and aesthetics. The respondent was Nola Semczyszyn (Franklin & Marshall College). Christopher Woerner’s paper ‘Art, (Anti-)Realism and the Cognitivist Gap’ presented an objection to literary cognitivism based on the contrasts in our attitudes towards the real world and the merely fictional. A response was then given by Andrea Baldini (Temple). The day concluded with Simon Smith’s (UCL) paper 'Wittgenstein: Aesthetic Reactions and Scientism'. Smith examined some of Wittgenstein’s criticisms of attempts to apply the methods of empirical science to aesthetics. Mikel Burley (Leeds) was respondent for this paper. The papers were well received and the discussion which followed was lively and productive. The organisers thank all of the speakers and commentators for their contributions.
The workshop was attended by more than twenty delegates, primarily graduate students and early career researchers in philosophical aesthetics. The workshop was made possible by generous support from the AHRC, the Analysis Trust and the British Society of Aesthetics.
Music and Philosophy Study Group Conference 2012
Over the weekend of 20-21 July 2012, 235 delegates attended thesecond Annual Conference of the RMA Music and Philosophy Study Group, where the friendliness of pre-Olympic London was matched by a warm welcome at King’s College London. Although a large percentage of the conference was given over to the optional theme of ‘Meaning and Ineffability’, the conference was also full of engaging and diverse papers that reached beyond the theme. The weekend opened with a plenary discussion of Adorno. Debate about whether Adorno’s views are a proverbial ‘dead duck’ or useful in the 21st century covered the pertinent areas of commodity fetishisation, price versus value and capitalism to name a few. Whereas Roger Scruton encapsulated the tone of Adorno’s writings on modern music by comparing the practice of modern music to masturbation, Andrew Bowie’s stimulating argument questioned whether some central philosophical debates about music are concepts obvious to musicians.
All three keynote speakers engaged with the question of ineffability in music. David Chua’s paper ‘Ineffa-Beethoven’ was delivered with charm and enthusiasm beyond compare. Referring to Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, Chua debated how the ‘blank-flag’ of absolute music allows us to appropriate not just the music but also the composer for differing political and aesthetic ideologies. Where Günter Zöller’s lengthy paper endeavoured to link Wagner’s writings and music, philosophy scholar David Davies sought to bridge the divide between philosophy and musicology by engaging critically with modern musicological thinking.
Tackling musical language in one of the many parallel sessions, Lauren Redhead debated how modern composers use contemporary discourse and new instrumental techniques to gain acceptance within the Western art music fraternity; even her abstract successfully displayed how language, rather than content, can hold the power.
Caroline Lucas’ first-rate paper on ‘Black Metal Masking’ considered performers of Black Metal using a moniker or a physical mask in order to gain contemporary acceptance and furthermore, highlighted the negation of self-identity and the multiplicity of the personal and the persona. In discussing how musical nuances such as ‘brightening the interval’ or the ‘pocket of a groove’ may be indescribable at first, Tiger Roholt’s paper united modern musicological thinking and analytical philosophy with aplomb. Roholt applied the analogy that differing hues of red can be characterised under the term ‘red’ and how this can be transferred to sounds. He concluded that music’s ineffability might be due to our lack of terminology rather than our the musically ineffable becomes explainable when placed in direct reference with other musical examples. Alex South’s superb paper examined Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise in light of Wittgenstein’s writings that influenced the work. South’s shrewd move was to hint at his own engagement with the work, written in experimental notation that is ‘a picture of a score’. With the assistance of chair Nick Zangwil, introducing speakers whilst maintaining a respectful control of the session, South had time and a captive audience eager to enquire about his own personal attachment to the work.
Although murmurs of frustration followed the ‘undergraduate nature’ of the opening paper on Lacanian Musicology, the introduction to Lacan presented an enjoyable and informative foundation for ideas that followed, making the session accessible to all. These included Kenneth Smith’s fascinating insight linking the harmonic language of Strauss’ Elektra to Lacanian metaphors of desire and jouissance and Freya Jarman’s entertaining and exceptionally well-paced paper that examined the voice and how impersonators and listening to recordings of our own voice can disrupt our agencies of identification.
In a session given over to discussion of improvisation, the captivating Lydia Goehr moved away from the conference trend of discussing musical works and extempore improvisation (such as a jazz improvisation where one can speculate what will happen) to the more surprising moments of improvisation impromptu where instruments break or one forgets what happens next when performing from memory. Respondent Mark Doffman respectfully engaged with Goehr’s arguments and considered whether extempore and impromptu are extremes and, through entertaining anecdotes as a jazz musician and a scholar, questioned whether what lies between is a spectrum of context and performer expertise.
Due to the incredible response to the call for papers, the organisers experimented with a PechaKucha session, in which speakers talk over 20 timed slides of 20 seconds each. Because some of the speakers attempted to squeeze their original 20-minute paper into the shorter format, the session was not well received and the audience unfortunately vented their frustration at the final speaker. However, Alex’s Kolassa’s paper considering musical ontology from a composer’s perspective, having been adapted carefully to the format, was successful.
The annual conference of the Music and Philosophy Study Group is a meeting place for philosophy and musicology scholars to talk about music. The stimulating discussions demonstrated how the two fields are in good health, yet at times it seemed as though there was a split between the two disciplines. These crossed wires can only be solved once we all start speaking the same language, or become slightly more bilingual, and conferences such as these will help bridge the gap. Some papers might have been better as articles where one can take time to reference and reflect: generally, papers with audio-visual examples were easier to follow as it gave time to gather thoughts or to discover new items that the audience may have not seen or heard before. Musicologists can certainly profit from exposure to logical philosophical arguments and conceptual abstraction, yet a few delegates questioned the abundance of papers that reconstructed 19th Century thinking rather than examining contemporary music. With conference organisers responding to a feedback questionnaire reviewing all aspects of the conference, we can be sure that next year’s conference will be eagerly anticipated and will build on the superbly organised 2012 symposium.
- Rob Upton is a fully funded AHRC PhD scholar at the University of Nottingham, researching musicological attitudes to contemporary pop and metal.
Beyond Art: A Symposium on the Work of Dominic McIver Lopes
30 May 2012, University of Kent, Canterbury
This one-day symposium, organized by the Aesthetics Research Group at the University of Kent, focused on Dominic McIver Lopes’s forthcoming book, Beyond Art. Lopes there proposes that the traditional difficulties around defining art – as well as other related problems such as those around aesthetic appreciation – can be solved once they are transferred to individual art forms. Thus, aesthetics should turn its attention beyond art, towards art forms. Lopes spoke about the book’s project, which was then considered and critiqued by the symposium’s other participants, María José Alcaraz León, Stacie Friend, Derek Matravers, and Diarmuid Costello. Alcaraz León argued, in part, in support of the “coffee mug” objection, which holds that defining an art form (e.g. devising a definition that distinguishes a coffee mug from ceramic art objects) may be no easier than defining art. Friend described herself as “in fundamental agreement” with Lopes’s approach, but argued that Lopes had missed identifying the very close relationship between aesthetic appreciation and appreciative kinds. Matravers argued that Lopes had wrongly characterized “art as art” – a category including artworks such as Duchamp’s Fountain – as a specific art form. The same point was also urged by Costello, who drew on a wide range of examples from recent art to support his analysis. Overall there was much sympathy towards Lopes’s project, and Lopes responded thoughtfully to the concerns raised by his commentators.
The symposium was attended by 50 people, including staff and students from a range of departments at the University of Kent, and a number of academics and students from further afield.
The Aesthetics Research Group is grateful to the British Society for Aesthetics and the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Kent for supporting this event. The organisers also thank Diarmuid Costello for stepping in at short notice to fill an unexpected gap in the programme.
Michael Newall, Aesthetics Research Group, University of Kent
International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture (ISPA) conference 2012
The International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture’s (ISPA) 2012 conference was held at Newcastle University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape
with generous support from the British Society of Aesthetics. The conference, entitled Ethics and Aesthetics of Architecture and the Environment, attracted a diverse mix of well over 100 scholars from around the world. Brought together by their shared interest in philosophical questions pertaining to architecture and the built environment, the academics, practitioners, independent scholars and students participated in probing, debating, and determining questions of understanding and claiming in architecture.
Speakers focused on the relationship between ethics and aesthetics, having been prompted by a brief analysis of Wittgenstein’s remark that “ethics and aesthetics are the same”. Thematically divided into sub-strands, sessions dealt with the ethico-aesthetic, everyday, phenomenology, and contextualized as culture and politic. The main session's keynotes included Andrew Ballantyne, Paul Guyer, and David Leatherbarrow.
In collaboration with the ISPA, a landscape strand was developed by the partner organisation Landscape Research Group (LRG). These sessions included work on beauty and morality, aesthetics and identity, controlled and uncontrolled environments, local distinctiveness and the vernacular, designed landscapes, sustainability, climate and justice, arts and aesthetics, representing landscapes, urbanisms and environmental ethics. Keynotes for these sessions were given by Emily Brady, Ian Ground and Simon James.
A professional practice workshop was run by Tom Spector meant to engage the practical realities of architecture. The workshop investigated ethical and aesthetic questions in relation to individual and institutional concerns in professional practice.
Videos of the conference’s keynote sessions will be available on the ISPA website this autumn. Conference abstracts from all sessions are currently available on the site, along with the author's contact information.
The ISPA will be producing a post-conference publication with a selection of the 79 conference papers as well as a number of invited contributions. The society is already planning the next conference in to be held in continental Europe during 2014. Follow the society on Facebook or Twitter or subscribe to the ISPA's blog
for regular society news and activity updates.
European Society for Aesthetics Annual Conference 2012
Universidade do Minho, Braga & Guimaraes, Portugal June 25-27
This year’s conference was held over three days at the University of Minho in Portugal. A total of 67 participants registered for the conference from a large number of different countries in Europe, but also from the United States, New Zealand, and Canada. The three keynote speakers were:
Noel Carroll (Graduate Centre, CUNY)
Mario Jorge de Carvalho (New University of Lisbon)
Krystyna Wilkoszewska (Jagiellonian University, Krakow)
Over 50 papers were presented in thematic parallel sessions on a range of diverse topics including ‘Politics, Art, and Aesthetics’, ‘History of Aesthetics’, ‘Imagination and Film’, ‘Aesthetics of Music’, and ‘Phenomenology of Film’. In line with the aims of the ESA, these papers represented diverse philosophical traditions and approaches.
In addition to the conference itself, the ESA held its AGM, which included new elections to the committee, from which 5 current committee members stood down. The current committee contains a wider geographical representation than hitherto, with new members coming from France, Romania, Italy, Hungary, Finland, and Greece. Of the former committee members, the current President Robert Hopkins was re-elected to the same post, as was the Secretary Fabian Dorsch.
The conference was a great success and the ESA would like particularly to thank the local organiser Vitor Moura, outgoing committee members for their past work, and the British Society of Aesthetics for their generous sponsorship.
Cain Todd – Former ESA Treasurer
Institute of Philosophy London Aesthetics Forum: 2011-12 Report
During 2011-12 the London Aesthetics Forum (LAF) at the Institute of Philosophy has continued to hold its regular series of seminars on topics in aesthetics and the philosophy of art. The LAF draws its speakers primarily from philosophy, but the series also includes talks from academics or practitioners in other disciplines relevant to aesthetics.
LAF events are open to all, both inside and outside the University of London. Audiences tend to be multi-disciplinary, and talks are followed by extended discussion. One of the LAF’s aims is to make aesthetics and the philosophy of art more prominent in London, providing a lively environment for those already working in the area and fostering new interest. With this in mind, we are very pleased that attendance at the seminars continues to grow. Audiences at seminars in the 2011-12 programme ranged from 15 to 33 (with an average of 25), and 66 people registered for a special LAF event at the British Museum (see below). The LAF now has 134 members of its Facebook page and 291 followers on Twitter, and the website averaged 1027 hits per month between September 2011 and June 2012. By posting podcasts on iTunes, we are enabling more people from outside London, and outside Britain, to engage with the Forum.
One of the LAF’s aims is to benefit graduate students by providing an environment in which they are exposed to cutting edge work and can meet other students carrying out research in aesthetics. In keeping with previous years, graduate students in London have played a key role in organising the Forum’s 2011-12 programme.
During 2011-12 the LAF held fourteen sessions, including two special events. In line with the spirit of the LAF, our programme included talks by early career philosophers, by philosophers working in areas outside aesthetics, and by scholars from other disciplines. The LAF has actively aimed for fair gender representation in its 2011-12 programme, and will continue to do so in future.
The seminars in 2011-12 addressed a variety of topics. In ‘“Seeing-in” is a transparency effect’, Michael Newall (University of Kent) argued that seeing something in a picture should be understood in terms of the perception of transparency. Explanations of some facets of transparency perception can thus elucidate certain aspects of seeing-in. Nikk Effingham’s (University of Birmingham) talk on the ontology of music, ‘If all the songs were sets’, proposed that identifying a musical work with a set of which a type is one member allows us to explain more than we can if we identify the work with the type itself. In ‘Revisiting interactionism: aesthetic contributions to non-aesthetic evaluations’, María José Alcaraz León (University of Murcia) presented a view on which aesthetic properties can contribute to the moral and cognitive values of artworks. Murray Smith’s (University of Kent) ‘Transparency and reflexivity in film’ questioned the idea that, in mainstream film, viewers typically seem to see through the image to what is represented without attending to the representation itself. Anne Sheppard’s (Royal Holloway, University of London) ‘Imagination in ancient aesthetics’ identified and discussed two notions of imagination – as visualization, and as a creative reach beyond everyday experience – in ancient thought, and suggested that these can usefully be compared with modern notions of imagination.
In ‘Seeing an object in a picture’, John Zeimbekis (University of Grenoble; Institut Jean Nicod) gave an account of how the perception involved in seeing pictures relates to belief and other attitudes. Margaret Moore’s (University of Leeds) ‘Musical timbre: between ontology and perception’ scrutinized Julian Dodd’s view of the timbral properties of musical works, and discussed what conception of timbre could allow for a work’s timbral properties to provide the standard for good performances. Elisabeth Schellekens’ (University of Durham) ‘Aesthetic displeasure and artistic appreciation: feeling bad about good art’ identified shortcomings in how we tend to think about aesthetic pleasure, and discussed the role of negative emotional responses in appreciating good artworks. After considering several accounts of the point of art criticism and finding them lacking, James Grant (Queen’s College, University of Oxford) proposed a new view, in ‘The aims of art criticism’. Sherri Irvin’s (University of Oklahoma) ‘Sex objects and sexy subjects: a critique of sexiness’ (co-authored with Sheila Lintott, Bucknell University) argued that we can capture certain ethical and aesthetic elements of finding others sexy if we adopt a certain view of the recognition and attribution of sexiness. Our sexual gaze should not be restricted to the conventionally attractive, and should be aimed not just at bodies but at persons, properly understood.
Beginning from a denial that we can see photographed objects through photographs, together with the thought that we can hear individual sounds through recordings, Mike Martin (University College London) argued in ‘Sounds and images’ that there are underlying metaphysical differences between the nature of sounds and the nature of visual appearances. The final talk of the 2011-12 programme was Margaret Iversen’s (University of Essex) ‘Photography, trace and trauma’, which focussed on unpacking an association which has been made between photography and trauma, and on showing how this association can illuminate various specific artworks.
The LAF also held two special events during the 2011-12 year. Cain Todd’s (Lancaster University; University of Fribourg) talk ‘Objectivity, relativism and disagreements about taste’ was followed by a wine tasting, led by the speaker. The paper examined the disagreement involved in judgments about wine, exploring what it would take to treat such a judgment as objective, as justified, or as relativistic. In March the LAF and the British Museum co-organised an afternoon event on German Romantic Aesthetics, at the Museum’s exhibition Landscape, heroes and folktales: German Romantic prints and drawings. The event included two talks: one was an introduction to the exhibition by its curator, Giulia Bartrum, and the other, ‘Imagination, feeling and longing: German Romantic aesthetics’, was given by Sebastian Gardner (University College London).
The LAF is now planning its 2012-13 programme, which will include talks by (among others) Anthony Savile (King’s College London), James Hamilton (Kansas State University), and Colin McGinn (University of Miami).
The Institute of Philosophy LAF would like to thank the British Society of Aesthetics for their support.
Emily Caddick (Institute of Philosophy & Birkbeck, University of London), on behalf of the LAF’s organising committee, which also includes: Paloma Atencia-Linares (University College London), Dan Cavedon-Taylor (Birkbeck), Mahlet Getachew Zimeta (University of Roehampton) and Maarten Steenhagen (University College London).
The 2011-12 programme:
Objectivity, relativism, and disagreements about taste. Followed by a wine tasting.
‘Seeing-in' is a transparency effect.
If all the songs were sets.
Nikk Effingham, 09/11/11
Revisiting interactionism: aesthetic contributions to non-aesthetic evaluations.
María José Alcaraz León, 23/11/11
Transparency and reflexivity in film.
Murray Smith, 07/12/11
Imagination in ancient aesthetics.
Anne Sheppard, 11/01/12
Seeing an object in a picture.
John Zeimbekis, 25/01/12
Musical timbre: between ontology and perception.
Margaret Moore, 08/02/12
Aesthetic displeasure and artistic appreciation: feeling bad about good art.
Elisabeth Schellekens, 22/02/12
German Romantic Aesthetics. At the British Museum.
Giulia Bartrum; Sebastian Gardner, 30/03/12
The aims of art criticism.
James Grant, 02/05/12
Sex objects and sexy subjects: a critique of sexiness.
Testimony; Aesthetic and Otherwise
Department of Philosophy, University of Nottingham
Friday 11th May 2012
This workshop, organised by the AHRC funded project ‘Method in Philosophical Aesthetics: the Challenge from the Sciences’, in association with the University of Nottingham and the University of Leeds, was dedicated to the debate over aesthetic testimony: its possibility, its reach, and its relation to other forms of testimony such as the transmission of scientific and moral opinion
Four papers were presented at the workshop. In his paper ‘Norms of Belief and Norms of Assertion in Aesthetics’ Jon Robson (University of Nottingham) argued that optimists (those who accept that it is legitimate to form aesthetic beliefs on the basis of testimony) can give a satisfactory account of the impermissibility of aesthetic assertions made on the basis of testimony. The second paper ‘Testimony and Children’s Moral Judgement’ was given by Paul Harris (a development psychologist from Harvard) and examined ways in which children formed moral judgements, in particular judgements concerning the moral status of eating meat, on the basis of the testimony of others. Elizabeth Fricker (Oxford) presented the third paper ‘Unreliable Testimony’ which critiqued some recent attempts to use empirical work to demonstrate that typical listeners are very poor at monitoring testimony for signs of mendacity. The final paper ‘Norms of Use’ by Rob Hopkins (Sheffield) defended the claim that there are non-epistemic norms of use active in the aesthetic (and moral) domain which makes it illegitimate to form aesthetic beliefs on the basis of testimony. The papers were well received and the discussion which followed was lively and productive.
The workshop was attended by more than thirty delegates. This included philosophy staff and postgraduates for a variety of institutions as well as delegates from other departments (education and psychology) at Nottingham.
This workshop was made possible by generous support from the AHRC, the Analysis Trust and the British Society of Aesthetics.
22-23 March 2012
The conference discussed issues in aesthetics in classical antiquity surrounding the notion of beauty and its application in both philosophical and visual contexts. Funding was received from the Department of Classics & Ancient History, Durham, and the British Society of Aesthetics. The papers were divided into four sessions: in the first a single paper was presented, which introduced the overall theme of ‘Beauty and the Greeks’, and the other three sessions contained two papers, each an hour long, with 40 minutes for the paper and 20 minutes for discussion. The first two sessions, on the first afternoon, covered philosophical aspects of the theme, while the second two, on the second morning, covered the visual arts, first painting and sculpture in their physical contexts, and then architecture. The papers were brought together in a final table ronde. The detailed conference programme is given below. The papers will be published, together with those delivered at a twin conference in Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium) in December 2011, in the Blackwell Companion to Ancient Aesthetics, edited by Pierre Destree and Penelope Murray, published by Blackwell (forthcoming 2013).
Enlightenment Aesthetics and Beyond Conference
15-16th December 2011
The ‘Enlightenment Aesthetics and Beyond’ conference brought together scholars in aesthetics and the history of philosophy from the UK, USA, and Europe to explore aesthetic theory in the Enlightenment, the reception of British aesthetic theory in Germany, and the significance of these ideas for contemporary debates in aesthetics. Keynote lectures were delivered by Professor Peter Jones on ‘Once More Back to Contexts’ and Professor Paul Guyer on ‘”A Treasure Chamber of the Human Soul”: Baumgarten, Mendelssohn, and Herder’. Other speakers discussed a range of topics, from Hume’s ‘true judges’ and Reid’s expressivist aesthetics, to the sublime, Herder’s theory of landscape depiction, and aesthetics of nature in German Romanticism. Conference delegates also enjoyed two other activities, the ‘Beholder’ art exhibition at the Talbot Rice Gallery (in commemoration of the tercentenary of Hume’s birth), as well as a wonderful walking tour of Enlightenment Edinburgh led by Charlie Withers, Professor of Historical Geography at the University. The conference was generously supported by the British Society of Aesthetics, the Scots Philosophical Association, and the University of Edinburgh.
Music and Transcendence
The Cambridge Union, Cambridge
November 29th, 2011
Music and Transcendencewasorganised by Dr. Férdia Stone-Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org) and supported by Anglia Ruskin University and the British Society of Aesthetics. It took place in Cambridge on November 29th, 2011. The aim of the inter-disciplinary conference was to explore the ways in which music bears upon the idea of transcendence. Papers and performances considered the ways in which music relates to infinite and ‘ultimate’ meaning as well as the ways in which music enables the creation of meaning and fulfilment within an ‘immanent’ frame.
The conference was a great success and generated international interest: participants came from America, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Holland, Iran and Sweden, as well as from the U.K. and Ireland, and registration exceeded one hundred and forty people. There was a good balance of established and early career scholars and the scope of the music, philosophies and theologies covered was broad.
The day consisted of keynotes and short parallel sessions and was structured to maximise interdisciplinary discussion. To this end, the keynotes and respondents spoke on behalf of music, philosophy and theology, respectively. The first keynote, given by Professor Christopher Page and responded to by Professor Jeremy Begbie, was entitled Music and the Beyond: A Millennium of Witness. The second keynote, entitled Effing the Ineffable, was given by Professor Roger Scruton and was responded to by Professor Andrew Bowie. The final keynote, given by Professor Bruce Ellis Benson and responded to by Dr. Felix Ó Murchadha, was entitled In the Beginning there was Improvisation: Responding to the Call. These talks framed the parallel sessions, which dealt with key aspects of musical meaning: ‘Music and Natural Meaning,’ ‘Music and the Expression of the Inexpressible,’ ‘Music and Repetition,’ ‘Music Ontology,’ ‘Music and Embodied Existence,’ and ‘Music: Form and Content.’ Here, concerns in music, philosophy and theology were investigated through topics as diverse as the South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the medieval mass, Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, political song, the Vienna Secession, the works of Goethe and Indian devotional chanting.
The day concluded with an evening concert exploring the relationship of music to ultimate and immanent realms of signification. Many of the performances were premieres. The first part brought different traditions into focus. It included a setting of a text from Teresa of Avila’s the ‘Interior Castle;’ a setting of texts from Sunni and Ismaili traditions for vocal ensemble; and a sonic and visual exploration of the Hindu understanding of reality. The second half of the concert was framed by the notion of repetition. It included a composition for solo cello which, through repetition, explored the sense of ‘home’ found in the immediate sense of the spaces we live in; a piece which placed repetition against the backdrop of the notion of freedom, both freedom in relation to the Divine Nothing and personal freedom; and a setting of Lord Byron’s ‘The Dream,’ which drew on music’s capacity to set different timelines in conjunction.
I thought it was a most interesting day, with a brilliant opening talk by Christopher Page, and good participation from the audience. I was very happy with the audience response to my piece, and am grateful to the British Society of Aesthetics that it recognised the value of discussions on this difficult topic.
University of Oxford / St Andrews / American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC
The conference was excellently organized, the venue convenient and the selection of topics well-rounded. All of the keynotes were highly interesting, although Roger Scruton's and Andrew Bowie's argumentative battle takes the cake for entertainment! I benefited greatly from the discussion after my talk about the concept of ineffable content in music.
Doctoral Student, Humboldt-University Berlin
The day was very well organised and ran smoothly. The key notes were high quality, especially Christopher Page's, which was inspiring not only for the research content, but also his use of language and style of delivery. Jeremy Begbie's reply was similarly erudite and entertaining. The sessions were chaired well and I enjoyed the atmosphere when I was presenting. I received some very thought-provoking responses, which led in turn to meeting some wonderful people and making some useful contacts. The whole day had a very collegiate air about it.
Associate Senior Lecturer in Music at Coventry University
The Music and Transcendence conference was an absolute delight! I come from an Anthropology background with a keen interest in forms of religious music, and the issues addressed in the conference, primarily from theological and philosophical perspectives, were thoroughly educative and refreshing. The keynote presentations and discussions following them provided an opportunity to appreciate the general theoretical frameworks within which one can understand issues of and the interfaces between music and transcendence. The parallel sessions were enlivening, and gave me the scope to compare and situate my understandings on music with and within others’ works and interpretations. The evening concert was a completely novel and intellectually the most exciting experience for me. Vera Bremerton’s vocal expressions of mysticism, eroticism and transcendence, rounded off in the best possible way, my own academic explorations of aural aesthetics and musical eros. What this performance in particular, and the conference in general, did for me, was to open up questions about the possible continuities in traditions, interpretations and most important, experiences, among musical practices all over the world.
Doctoral Student, University of Cambridge
2011 Annual Meeting of the British Society of Aesthetics
The 2011 Annual Meeting was held at the University of Edinburgh's Old College on September 16 to 18. Fifty-seven papers had been submitted and the program featured fifteen of these, including eight papers authored by postgraduate students. The outstanding postgraduate paper prize was taken home by Kathy Fry, who spoke on "Nietzsche’s Aesthetics of Rhythm: Rethinking the Case of Wagner." Two keynote addresses were delivered: Catherine Wilson's "Grief and the Poet" challenged the fiction-centred paradigm in current philosophy of literature and Rachel Zuckert's "Reid’s Expressivist Aesthetics" offered a sympathetic reading of the aesthetics of that Scottish philosopher. The William Empson Lecture is traditionally given by a non-philosopher. The distinguished art historian Stephen Bann sprinkled his lecture on “The Heroic with the Pastoral: Genre and Philosophy in the Making of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Little Sparta” with remarks about his own visits to Little Sparta in the early years of its construction. The conference ended with an outing to Little Sparta, where Professor Bann led us on a tour. It began in a downpour and ended with views of the sunlit Pentland Hills.
Dominic McIver Lopes
Professor of Philosophy, University of British Columbia
Music and Philosophy Study Group
The Royal Musical Association Music and Philosophy Study Group was established in May, 2010, with the aim of providing a distinctive long-term forum offering opportunities for those with an interest in music and philosophy to share and discuss work, in the hope of furthering dialogue in this area. Specifically, it aims to encourage musicologists, analytical philosophers and continental philosophers to find out more about each other’s work, and to think about issues in the philosophy of music and musicology from a variety of theoretical perspectives.
Meetings and Organisation
The then Steering Group met on four occasions during the year: August 24, November 10, January 15, and June 30 (just before the inaugural MPSG conference). At this latter meeting, the Executive Committee was formally elected, which comprises: Tomas McAuley (Chair), Julian Dodd (Treasurer), Julian Johnson (Secretary), Nick Zangwill (Communications Officer) and Nanette Nielsen (Events Co-ordinator).
The MPSG website (http://www.musicandphilosophy.ac.uk/
) was launched in November, 2010. The MPSG bi-monthly e-bulletin has also been launched and currently has 243 subscribers.
1. Symposium: What can science tell us about musical meaning? (KCL, Nov 10, 2010)
This, the MPSG’s first event, was a great success. The speakers were Peter Kivy (Rutgers), Ian Cross (Cambridge), and Max Paddison (Durham). Around 100 delegates attended, and a report is available on the MPSG website (www.musicandphilosophy.ac.uk/newsandevents/past/sciencemeaning-2010
2. Inaugural Music and Philosophy Study Group Annual Conference (KCL, July 1-2, 2011)
This event was extremely popular, some 162 delegates attending. Keynote sessions were given by Lydia Goehr (Columbia), Kendall Walton (Michigan) and Gary Tomlinson (Yale). Other speakers included Malcolm Budd and Aaron Ridley. Attendees included Paul Boghossian and Roger Scruton. Further details of the event are found on the MPSG website www.musicandphilosophy.ac.uk/newsandevents/past/conference-2011). The second annual MPSG conference, again at KCL, is currently being planned.
3. Conference Session: Marking time: on contemporary music and historical analysis (International Conference for the Society of Music Analysis (Lancaster, July 28, 2011)
This group event saw papers given by Anthony Gritten (Middlesex), Bjorn, Heile (Glasgow), Andy Hamilton (Durham) and George Revill (Open University).
Julian Dodd (MPSG Treasurer)
The State of Aesthetics
Institute of Philosophy, London
June 23-24th, 2011
The State of Aesthetics, organised by Gregory Currie (University of Nottingham), Derek Matravers (Open University), Matthew Kieran (University of Leeds), Aaron Meskin (University of Leeds), and Margaret Moore (University of Leeds), took place in London at the Institute of Philosophy on June 23rd and 24th, 2011. The aim of the conference was to explore the current state of research in philosophical aesthetics, focusing on three areas: the relation between aesthetics and the artworld, the relation between aesthetics and other areas of philosophy, and the relation between aesthetics and the sciences. The conference began with a general discussion of these themes, brought into focus by Jerrold Levinson’s paper “Adieu a l’esthétician?”, which argued that related work in other disciplines does not obviate the work of the aesthetician. Gregory Currie provided a response further illustrating some of Levinson’s claims with examples drawn from the issue of aesthetic testimony.
The papers on the 23rd focused on the relation between aesthetics and other areas of philosophy, with keynote talks from John Hyman (Oxford) and Jane Heal (Cambridge). Hyman’s talk ‘Art and Reality’ focused on the issue of whether the technique of painting can and does aim at the uncovering of reality; Heal extended her work on rationality to issues in aesthetics in ‘The Mind, ‘Rationality’, and Aesthetics’. The papers on the 24th focused on the remaining two themes, with keynote talks from Ivan Gaskell (Harvard, History), Diarmuid Costello (Warwick), Chris McManus (UCL, Psychology), and Matthew Kieran. Gaskell discussed the wide variety of art-related practices in contemporary China, with an eye to what and who determines an ‘artworld’. McManus presented an overview of his psychology experiments related to the normativity of aesthetic judgments. In addition to the presentation of research papers, the conference featured a panel on the teaching of aesthetics, both in the public school setting (Michael Lacewing, Heythrop) and in art schools (Matthew Rowe).
The conference was well-attended, with over 60 delegates representing numerous disciplines and backgrounds. We are grateful to have received significant financial and administrative support from the Institute of Philosophy, as well as support from the Universities of Leeds and Nottingham and the Open University. The conference also received generous support from the British Society of Aesthetics.
The London Aesthetics Forum 2010-2011 Programme
Now in its fifth year, The London Aesthetics Forum (LAF) is an ongoing speaker-series in aesthetics and the philosophy of art. It is sponsored by the British Society of Aesthetics and hosted by the Institute of Philosophy at the School of Advanced Study, part of the University of London. Over the course of the 2010-11 academic year the LAF hosted nineteen talks, bringing its total number of sessions over the past five years to seventy three. Notably, this year saw the launch of the LAF's official website, http://londonaestheticsforum.org/
, from which visitors can sign up to receive its newsletter as well as view its programmes of talks, pictures and posters. The website also provides access to hour-length podcasts of recent talks, which are available via iTunes.
The season began with Peter Lamarque (York) discussing issues in art ontology. Lamarque, who is well known for his work on this topic as well as his research on literature and fiction, cast doubt on whether Gérard Genette’s distinction between two modes of existence of artworks, their ‘immanence’ and ‘transcendence’, is a useful theoretical tool to analyse the ontological status of art.
Issues in pictorial representation were at the forefront of four talks this year. Ben Blumson (National University of Singapore) claimed that on the most plausible account of linguistic compositionality pictures are also compositional, arguing that the overall depictive content of a picture depends on the depictive content of its parts. Andrew Inkpin (Eastern Piedmont) argued that the diversity of pictures poses problems for both Kulvicki’s projectionist account of depiction and Lopes’s recognitional account. Hans Maes (Kent) tackled arguments that seek to show an artefact cannot be both art and pornography, arguing for the existence of pictures that are art despite their possession of pornographic content. Bence Nanay (Antwerp/Cambridge) sought to revive a formalist aesthetics for pictures on which one’s aesthetic interest in a picture is limited to the appreciation of its intrinsic properties, such as line, shape, colour, tone and volume.
The LAF was especially fortunate this year to host talks by two of the foremost aestheticians of recent decades, Noël Carroll (CUNY) and Kendall Walton (Michigan). Carroll argued that to be in a state of comic amusement is to be in an emotional state and explored the role of cognition in enabling that state. Walton discussed the role of understatement and overstatement in underwriting irony. With the help of Stacie Friend, the LAF’s Faculty Advisor, Carroll’s and Walton’s visits were made possible by co-funding from Heythrop College, University of London.
Part of the LAF’s remit is to raise the profile of aesthetics within the wider philosophical community and to showcase the enthusiasm that exists for the subject. As part of fulfilling this aim, the LAF often invites talks by speakers who are best known for their work in other areas of philosophy. Past speakers at the LAF in this vein include Marie McGinn (UEA), Michael Martin (UCL), Alva Noë (UC Berkeley), Barry Smith (Birkbeck/IP) and Paul Snowdon (UCL), to name a few. This year the LAF was very pleased to host talks by Casey O’Callaghan (Rice) and Tom Stern (UCL). O’Callaghan, who is renowned for his work on aural perception, argued that arts are ‘multi-modal’ insofar as there are no arts whose appreciation turns upon the exercise of a single sense modality. Stern, who works primarily in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European philosophy, explored reasons why philosophers of history prefer studying the written word over historical plays and what this reveals about the nature of history and drama.
The LAF also promotes cross-disciplinary engagement with aesthetics. This year it hosted talks by three academics whose research spans philosophy and other humanistic disciplines, such as art-history and literature. Jason Gaiger (Oxford) discussed ways in which art-making is a non-conceptual activity. Mariah Loh (UCL) explored the peculiar affective status of works of horror from the early modern period. Joshua Landy (Stanford) examined what it means to say that lives are narratives, literary ones in particular.
The LAF hosted talks on a wide range of other topics: Catharine Abell (Manchester) gave an account of the kind of act that authors perform when constructing works of fiction. Garry Hagberg (Bard) elucidated and developed Wittgenstein’s ideas about context and relational associations being partly constitutive of artworks, musical ones in particular. Dominic Lopes (British Columbia) discussed the methods and platitudes of philosophical aesthetics and the challenges they are posed by results from social psychology. Andrew McGonigal (Leeds) argued that we ought to foster and maintain art-world institutions insofar as they provide the essential means by which we discharge our duties to art. Jerome Pelletier (Institute Nicod) explored the role of simulation in our processing of fiction. Katherine Thompson-Jones (Oberlin) argued that critical art-pluralism exerts pressure on invariantism about the relation between the aesthetic and ethical values of artworks. Nick Zangwill (Durham) motivated an ‘abuse’ theory of metaphor, on which metaphors exploit and subvert existing linguistic meanings.
The LAF convenes roughly fortnightly, in either Senate or Stewart House. Speakers are invited to talk for roughly one hour with a second hour devoted to questions, a format that has enabled in-depth and extensive discussion. Although primarily designed with philosophers in mind, the LAF attracts a diverse audience, one that often includes historians, musicologists, curators, practicing artists and general members of the public.
The LAF is organised by students and staff from colleges across London.
Aesthetics, Art, and Pornography: An Interdisciplinary Conference
Three-day conference at the Institute of Philosophy, London
16–18 June 2011
This conference brought together philosophers and aestheticians, art historians and film theorists to investigate the artistic status and aesthetic dimension of pornographic pictures, films, and literature. The conference attracted a broad audience. There were over 90 registrations, and among the attendees were philosophers, art and film historians, students and artists. There were many constructive exchanges between disciplines: philosophers discovered much about the diverse presence of pornography in culture, and in turn there was a genuine curiosity about and engagement with philosophical approaches to the topic from those outside the discipline. At the same time, substantial philosophical work was done in many sessions, contributing to the growing philosophical debates around the aesthetics and ethics of pornography.
Parallel sessions of papers ran through the three days. The quality of these papers was high, and many provoked valuable discussion. Book-ending these sessions, and threading between them, were seven keynote lectures. The first keynote speaker was Elisabeth Schellekens, whose paper, ‘Taking the Moral View: On Voyeurism in Art’, presented a fascinating philosophical account of voyeurism in the context of art and film, and set the tone of productive interdisciplinary exchange for the rest of the conference. Later that day, the second keynote speaker, film theorist Pamela Church Gibson, co-presented with the artist Jordan Baseman. Baseman screened his work, Blue Movie, which was accompanied by audio of Gibson speaking about pornography. The ensuing conversation between the two, and with the audience, was very lively and wide-ranging.
The next morning, philosopher Stephen Mumford gave a thoughtful, analytically-minded paper, arguing that pornography is not amenable to definition. Instead we can identify a specifically pornographic way of seeing, which can be distinguished from other ways of seeing the naked body (such as erotic or medical). He was followed that afternoon by eminent art historian, Martin Kemp, who gave a series of fascinating reflections on the works he curated in the 2007 exhibition at the Barbican, Seduced: Art an Sex from Antiquity to Now, in the process sketching his own account of the “elastic” distinction between art and pornography.
The morning of the final day, keynote speaker Jesse Prinz co-presented with Petra Van Brabandt their paper ‘Why Porn Films Suck’. Using a range of new counter-examples, mostly from film, they developed a range of novel criticisms of Jerrold Levinson’s claim that pornography cannot be art. The conference was closed with a dramatic session featuring the last two keynote speakers, Levinson and David Davies. Davies presented further testing criticisms of Levinson’s position, and Levinson gave a reply threaded through with humour, in which he stood firm against his critics.
We were also fortunate to have the conference partnered by an excellent pornography-themed exhibition of contemporary art, Transgression, at Beers Lambert Gallery. The gallery generously hosted a reception for the conference attendees on the second evening of the conference, which ran into the exhibition’s private view making for a very memorable night
We gratefully acknowledge financial support for the conference from the British Society of Aesthetics, the American Society for Aesthetics, and the School of Arts and the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Kent.
Michael Newall, for the Aesthetics Research Group, University of Kent
Fiction on Fiction – Metafictions and Reflexive Representation: Philosophy, Film, Art, Literature
15-16 April 2011
CRASSH (Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities), University of Cambridge
This multi-disciplinary conference focussed on metafiction – taken to cover any fiction which represents itself as a fiction – and the questions it raises about the nature of fiction. For example: how should we accommodate metafictions within an account of truth in fiction? Are there any peculiarities of imaginative or emotional engagement with metafictions? What are the different metafictional narrative techniques, and do they all have the same impact on the content of the fiction? What restrictions does metafiction place on the ontology of fiction and the nature of fictional characters?
In ‘Pictures of Pictures, Stories about Stories, Imaginings about Imaginings’, Kendall Walton (Michigan) proposed that certain fictions about fictions are among counterexamples to the view he put forward in Mimesis as Make-Believe and elsewhere: that what is fictional is what is to be imagined by those who engage with the work. He argued that thinking in terms of multiple imaginary worlds associated with the same fictional work provides a way to capture such cases. In ‘Transparency and Reflexivity in Film’, Murray Smith (Kent) argued that we cannot sufficiently distinguish reflexive from realist or mainstream films by saying that the latter are transparent and the former are not. In ‘Metafiction and the Passage of Time’, Mark Currie (Queen Mary, London) identified and explicated distinctive temporal features of metafictional literary works. In ‘Making Sense of Metafiction’, Emily Caddick (Cambridge) discussed whether metafictional works have fictional truths which distinguish them from non-metafictional works, and argued that the apparently paradoxical results of some metafictions can be accommodated without saying they have impossible content. In ‘(Why) Is Fiction-Making Necessary?’, Ruth Ronen (Tel Aviv) proposed a view of the relationship between understanding fictions and discovering truths about the actual world. In ‘Fiction, Metafiction and Studying Prehistory’, Christopher Chippindale (Cambridge) discussed what is in common between constructing fictions and constructing theories about prehistoric artefacts, and what ultimately sets the two apart. In ‘The Art of Projectionism: Shadowing the Third Man, Shadowing the Past’, Frederick Baker (Cambridge/St Pölten) discussed the making of, and techniques involved in, his metafictional film Shadowing the Third Man. In ‘What Can Be Known? (Woolf, To the Lighthouse, 1927): Thinking in Fiction’, Patricia Waugh (Durham) gave an account of the contribution made by the novel genre to our ways of understanding the world and, in particular, others’ minds and experiences. She also discussed what this means for the future of metafiction.
Four graduate papers were selected from submissions. They focussed on: (1) metafiction in children’s literature – Julie Barton, East Anglia: ‘The True Tale of the Fictive Author: Metafiction and Lemony Snicket’; (2) fictions which include other fictions, and what they reveal about the nature of fictional characters – Gerald Marsh, Arizona State: ‘Fiction in Fiction’; (3) a possible-worlds account of metafiction in drama – Samir Taleeb, Exeter: ‘The “play-within-play” in Renaissance Drama: Fictional Frames and Boundaries in Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy’; (4) degrees of reflexivity in pictures – Thomas Arnold, Heidelberg: ‘Fiction, Metafiction and Immersion in Pictorial Representation’.
The conference brought together work on the nature of fiction within Philosophy and work on metafiction in other disciplines such as English and Film, with the aim that work in one discipline might generate ideas within others. Whilst the speakers considered a range of issues concerning metafiction, common themes emerged, helping to reveal how accounts from different disciplines could fit together to provide a fuller picture of how metafiction works. The question and discussion sessions after the papers were productive and interesting, and many delegates, as well as speakers, commented that the multi-disciplinary approach had been profitable. The conference had 57 participants in all.
I would like to thank the British Society of Aesthetics, the Aristotelian Society, CRASSH, and the Faculty of Philosophy/School of Arts and Humanities, University of Cambridge for financial support.
Emily Caddick, University of Cambridge
European Society for Aesthetics Annual Conference
University of Grenoble April 18-20, 2011
Co-organised with John Zeimbekis and as assistant at the University of Grenoble, this conference was smaller than the previous year’s very large conference in Udine, and comprised around 40 delegates from over 20 different countries, with 23 presentations and 4 plenary sessions by the invited speakers: Roger Pouivet (Nancy)
Josef Füchtl (Amsterdam), Christel Fricke (Oslo), Gerard Vilar (Barcelona). The conference had no particular theme, but sessions were organised according to a number of themes, including: ‘Expression’; ‘Images’; ‘Architecture’; ‘Aesthetic Appreciation’. There was, in accordance with the ESA’s aims, a good balance of representatives from the ‘continental’ and ‘analytic’ traditions, and the conference was deemed a great success by all. The Annual General Meeting discussed future funding sources and confirmed that the next 3 annual conferences would take place as follows:
2012: Guimares (Portugal)
2013: Prague (Czech Republic)
2014: Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Cain Todd ESA Treasurer
Art, Aesthetics and the Sciences
One-day graduate conference, Department of Philosophy, University of Nottingham
Monday 16th May
This conference, organised by the University of Nottingham and the University of Leeds in association with the AHRC funded project ‘Method in Philosophical Aesthetics: the Challenge from the Sciences’, provided an opportunity for graduate students to present and discuss high quality work in aesthetics, based on empirical investigation and guided by developments in the sciences.
The keynote address ‘Seeing with Feeling’ was given by Jesse Prinz (Graduate Centre: City University of New York) who argued that a certain kind of emotional affect is crucial to aesthetic perception and evaluation. Prinz went on to address work in cognitive science which suggests that emotions can influence perception and presented an account of how such findings can be applied to our perception of art works and other objects of aesthetic appreciation. In addition to the keynote address three graduate papers (selected via blind review) were presented. The first of these ‘Divergence and Evidence: A Lesson from Faultless Disagreement’, presented by James Andow (University of Nottingham), explored the attempts made by various accounts of the semantics of aesthetic judgement to explain (or explain away) our intuitions concerning faultless disagreement. Andow argued that a successful account of faultless disagreement in the aesthetics case could have important implications for other areas of philosophy (and in particular for how we should respond to empirical evidence of diverging cross-cultural intuitions in epistemology). A reply was given by Carl Baker (University of Leeds). Noah Friedman-Biglin’s (University of St Andrews) paper ‘Aesthetic Properties of Mathematical Objects’ offered an account, and vindication, of the practice of making evaluative aesthetic judgements (concerning e.g. beauty and elegance) of mathematical objects such as proofs and theorems. Friedman-Biglin outlined four aesthetic properties which he argued we can legitimately attributed to mathematical objects. A response to the paper was given by Levno Plato (University of Leeds). The final paper of the day ‘Aesthetic Cognition, Analogy, and Cognitive Science’ was presented by William York a cognitive science student from Indiana University. York’s paper argued that, contrary to a prevalent view, our capacity for aesthetic thought and experience is not peripheral to a scientific understanding of the mind but rather pivotal to such an understanding. York went on to explore efforts to map certain aspects of our aesthetic cognition (particularly as applied to analogy) using computer models. A response to the paper was given by Andrew Hirst (University of Nottingham). We thank all the speakers and respondents for their contributions.
All of the papers were well received and the discussions which followed were lively and thought provoking (aided by the insightful contributions of our graduate commentators). We were particularly pleased with the range of topics covered in the papers and with the breadth of concerns addressed. All of the papers presented addressed important issues in aesthetics but these were also related to wider debates in philosophy and elsewhere. The conference was attended by more than twenty delegates, both staff and postgraduates.
This conference was made possible by generous support from the AHRC, the Analysis Trust, the Aristotelian Society and the British Society of Aesthetics.
Royal Musical Association Music and Philosophy Study Group Inaugural Conference
Department of Music, King’s College London, 1st – 2nd July
The optional theme for the Music and Philosophy Study Group’s first annual conference was Opera and Philosophy. The event opened with an introductory greeting from Nanette Nielsen, followed by a lively panel discussion to identify challenges presented by the meeting of disciplines. It was noted that disagreement between musicologists and philosophers when discussing common topics of interest, such as musical value, meaning, emotional content, ontology, language, aesthetic experience, morality and ethics, often arises from methodological discrepancies. With reference to this, Tomas McAuley’s address quoted Garry Hagberg in asserting the importance of listening to each other.
The conference then continued with a series of parallel sessions over the two days, interspersed by keynote speeches from Gary Tomlinson, Kendall Walton and Lydia Goehr.
Wagner’s operas proved to be a popular topic. Golan Gur’s paper explored Franz Brendel’s historicist theories of art, which drew on Hegelian ideas of evolving self-awareness, in order to suggest that Wagner initiated a new model for composers by merging philosophy with artistic creation. By bringing together art and philosophy, Gur argued in line with Brendel, that Wagner’s operas signify a pivotal development in the history of music: they mark the beginning of a new era.
Gary Tomlinson’s keynote speech ‘Unthinking Wagnerism’ also picked up on the idea of Wagner as an innovator. This project extended Tomlinson’s earlier ideas with regards to conceiving music as a means of accessing other realms of thinking. With considerable reference to biological explanations, Tomlinson argued that the totalising effect of Wagner’s music did not induce a passive audience. Rather, the ‘narcotic’ upon ‘interpretants’ is in fact a symptom of their increased participation with the musical stimulus. Wagner’s operas created a new scale of semiotic activity and listening experience.
Richard Bell’s paper and the collaborative presentation from David Levy and Julian Young focused more on philosophical and religious issues raised in Wagner’s work. Bell suggested that the composer’s arguments in paragraphs 2-4 of Religion and Art could shed light on Kundry’s conversion in Parsifal. Levy and Young on the other hand set out to defend Wagner against the criticisms made by Nietzsche and Adorno, with regards to his operas being ‘decadent,’ ‘tyrannical,’ flawed on formal grounds and ‘nurturing life denial’. Their paper generated a lively discussion from the audience concerning the question of whether Wagner’s Tristan advocates a ‘will to death’ or redemption through love.
The themes of musical expression, emotion and meaning also received due attention over the course of the conference.
The ability of music to express what is beyond the grasp of language was emphasised in Barry Stocker’s paper, which discussed Kierkegaard’s reception of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Roger Scruton pointed out that it is through the immediacy of the music in Mozart that we feel a sense of the Don’s seductive power. Mark Berry further stressed this expressive capacity. In his analysis of Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, Berry argued that music is able to give artistic representation to an unknowable Divinity through virtue of its abstract nature.
In other sessions, however, delegates explored the potential of utilising various linguistic methods of analysis in order to elucidate meaning in music. Robert Samuels proposed the idea of mapping a musical flow to a narrative model, whilst Karen Simecek insightfully suggested that the way we experience meaning in music may be similar to how we engage with, and respond to, lyrical poetry.
Kathryn Whitney’s lecture-performance towards the end of the conference featured a ‘mini-concert’ and provided a refreshing reminder of the experience of live music. Her engaging presentation investigated the ontology of ‘liveness’ from the perspective of performers, as opposed to that of listeners. Whitney’s clear presentation incorporated animated diagrams and an ‘equation’ in order to explain, and capture, all of the elements that together constitute the unfolding of a song in performance. Whitney’s research seeks to grasp something that is part of what she does as a performer that she has not seen addressed.
In the final keynote speech, Lydia Goehr sought to investigate the symbolism of an anecdote about a painting of the Red Sea by uncovering its associative history. This trope, which appears as Marcel’s painting of the Red Sea in Puccini’s La Bohème, appears to highlight a persistent tension between art and commerce.
In the closing plenary session, Kendall Walton noted the impressive size and diversity of the group who had attended this inaugural conference. Throughout there was a high level of involvement in the discussions of papers, with many pertinent points made and questions raised.
There was a general consensus that the way forward would be to recognise and investigate the discrepancies between approaches. Other suggestions for ways forward were: for musicians to engage more with philosophy, for analytical philosophy to deal with contemporary music and also for the divide between analytical and continental schools of thought to be addressed.
Overall the event was successful in its aims to open up discussion and demonstrated that while cross-disciplinary relations could be challenging, the relationship between music and philosophy is not dull! Many thanks go to the organisers, participants and King’s College London who will be hosting next year’s conference.
Prasanthi Matharu, Goldsmiths College, University of London
The Acknowledgment of the Aesthetic
A One-Day Symposium at The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh
Monday, 20 June 2011
For Stanley Cavell, works of art carry particular possibilities of knowledge; they afford an “intimacy” with existence. Offering Cavell’s central ideas of acknowledgment and intimacy as starting points, this one-day symposium opened to central questions of knowledge and the art-world: Is there a form of knowledge that only artworks can provide? Might artworks address the epistemological in a unique way? How, if at all, might “knowing-through-art” speak to the traditional problems of other-mind and other-world scepticism? Positioning itself at the intersection of aesthetics and epistemology, this one-day symposium encompassed the epistemological power of the visual as well as the literary arts. Given Cavell’s career-long engagement with Film Studies, with painting and photography, as well as with poetry, drama and fiction, he was an ideal figure to get the conversation moving.
Mark Rowe (Philosophy, University of East Anglia) began the conference with his paper, “Is Literature Intrinsically Conservative?”. Drawing on Hazlitt and Trilling, Rowe argued that although literature can play a role in prompting sympathy, it cannot make its distinctive powers responsive to universal reason. Perhaps counter-intuitively, it is to conservative views of morality to which we must turn to find a perspectival ethics congenial to literature’s method and outlook. Rowe’s comprehensive paper inspired an energizing question session. Rowe was followed by Diarmuid Costello (Philosophy, University of Warwick) who considered the relation between Cavell’s conception of an artistic medium and Rosalind Krauss’s account of artists in the ‘post-medium condition’. Costello’s conclusion – that Krauss’s appeal to Cavell to underwrite her claims about artists ‘inventing’ or ‘re-inventing’ their own medium is ultimately flawed – prompted lively debate among members of the symposium audience.
Following a coffee break, Nadine Boljkovac (York University, Canada) turned to Chris Marker’s La Jetée in support of her paper, ‘Deleuze and the Ethics of Cinema’. Moving between Marker’s oeuvre and the philosophies of Roland Barthes, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Boljkovac examined the peculiar ability of the filmic medium to explore ideas of personal identity, visceral encounter and non-chronological ‘past-future’ time. Boljkovac’s evocative paper was followed by Nicole Hall-Elfick (Philosophy, University of Edinburgh) and ‘Acknowledging Aesthetic Perception’. Hall-Elfick drew on the example of a sand dollar – passed around among the symposium participants – to consider the aesthetic richness of perceptual experience. Drawing on Frank Sibley and Kendall Walton, among others, Hall-Elfick’s paper brought a welcome analytic perspective to the day’s events.
Following lunch, Áine Kelly (IASH, Edinburgh) returned to Cavell to focus specifically on his engagements with the dance routines of Fred Astaire. In the ensuing roundtable discussion, Kelly’s paper encouraged a broader consideration of Cavell’s place in aesthetics and in the university. A lively debate, chaired by the IASH Director, Susan Manning, explored areas of the aesthetic not explicitly ‘acknowledged’ in the symposium papers.
The conference was attended by twenty five people, with researchers and graduate students from Philosophy, Art History, Architecture, English Literature and Music. Further reflecting the inter-disciplinary nature of the conference, there was a notable presence from Edinburgh College of Art.
I would like to thank Edinburgh’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and the British Society of Aesthetics, both of whom provided generous grants and made the conference possible. Special thanks go to Professor Susan Manning, for her guidance and advice, and to Anthea Taylor and Donald Ferguson for administrative and technical support.
British Society of the History of Philosophy conference
The Annual Conference of the British Society for the History of Philosophy conference took place at the University of Sussex on the 29th-31st March 2011. The theme was the Enlightenment. Distinguished speakers included Helga Varden on Kant’s moral philosophy, Quentin Skinner on liberty in the English Enlightenment, Knud Haakonssen, and James Harris on method in the history of philosophy, and Jonathan Friday on Hume and Smith on the sublime of character. There were a number of submitted papers as well. Conference dinner at a French restaurant in Brighton was a convivial occasion. The organisers are very grateful to the British Society of Aesthetics for funding Dr Friday’s attendance at the conference.
Aesthetic Autonomy and Heteronomy
One-day conference, Department of Philosophy, University of York, Wednesday 2nd February
This conference was an inter-disciplinary examination of the relationship between aesthetic autonomy and heteronomy. The remit was intentionally kept broad, in order to allow for consideration of both artistic autonomy and the autonomy of aesthetic judgments. The conference was intended to present work from not only a variety of traditions in Philosophy, but also from a variety of academic disciplines.
Anneliese Monseré (Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Ghent University) began the conference with her graduate paper 'Aesthetic Autonomy, Aesthetics and the Definition of Art' arguing, against Kant's idea of 'free beauty', that the aesthetic is in fact partly constituted by the extra-aesthetic. This was followed by Peter Lamarque's (Philosophy, York University) paper 'Political Embeddedness and Artistic Autonomy: Jacques-Louis David as a Test Case'. In what was received by many of the attendees as an exciting elaboration of his aesthetic philosophy, Professor Lamarque delivered an intriguing examination of the relationship between aesthetic and historical properties, using The Death of Marat as an exemplar. Following a brief tea break, Jason Gaiger (Art History, Oxford University) presented on 'A conflict of values: on the concept of autonomy in the visual arts'. Using several visual examples, an illuminating consideration of the development of the concept of autonomy in the visual arts was given, with an intriguing consideration of Theodor Adorno towards the close. Theodor Adorno appeared again, as the focus of Max Paddison's (Music, Durham University) paper 'The Autonomy of Music as Critical Self-Reflection'. Just as Jason Gaiger provided welcome discussion of aesthetics from the perspective of the visual arts, Max Paddison presented the problem of autonomy as expressed in the context of music. Working with Theodor Adorno's conception of form and content, Max presented a fascinating illustration of the development and problematic of aesthetic autonomy in the context of music. This was followed by the final graduate paper, delivered by Richard Stopford (Philosophy, Durham University). His paper 'Unlikely Alliances: Adorno and Heil on the Metaphysics of Art and Autonomy', sought to posit artworks as being constituted by the extra-aesthetic. As the title suggests, this was also from the context of Adorno's philosophy – however, Adorno's account was wedded to Heil's metaphysics in an attempt to posit the artwork as ontologically constituted by extra-aesthetic relations. Andy Hamilton (Philosophy, Durham University) presented an examination of 'The Autonomy of Architecture'. Roger Scruton's conception of architecture and architectural vernacular came in for extended criticism. Closing the conference, Gordon Finlayson (Philosophy, University of Sussex) presented his paper 'The Artwork and the Promesse du Bonheur in Adorno's Aesthetic Theory'. Adorno's claim that art presents a 'promise of happiness' under changed social conditions was lucidly unpacked and explained with reference to Adorno's general conception of the artwork.
The conference was attended by over thirty people, the make-up of which also reflected the inter-disciplinary nature of the conference, with attendees from Philosophy, Art History, English and Music departments. The lively debate which took place during the conference, lunch and wine reception suggests that fruitful links between disciplines were made.
I would like to thank York Humanities Research Council, British Society of Aesthetics and Analysis Trust, all of whom provided generous grants and made the conference possible. I also owe a debt of gratitude to Dr James Clarke for his guidance and advice, and Brendan Harrington, who provided invaluable assistance on the day.
Touched: Philosophy Meets Art
One-day conference organised by the Philosophy Department, University of Liverpool and Liverpool Biennial 2010: TOUCHED
Victoria Galleries and Museum, Liverpool, 19th November 2010
The conference was devoted to the discussion of philosophical questions prompted by Liverpool Biennial’s 2010 theme TOUCHED: Are we touched by Art? How do works of art transform the way we understand and form our identities? Do art festivals such as the Biennial prompt personal, cultural, and social change?
It may seem, especially in times of economic hardship, that art is either a needless expense or justifiable only in terms of social utility; yet aesthetic appreciation—be it of fine art or everyday activities—still matters to people. This was the starting point of Matthew Kieran’s paper “The Resonances of Art”, in which he argued for an appropriate equilibrium with regard to our judgements about art, one that balances the personal, local, and universal resonances that art can have for us. Revisiting the nature of aesthetic judgment and the ‘ideal critic’, Derek Matravers, in his “Touching and Understanding”, concentrated on the question ‘What is it to be touched by a work of art?’ and argued for a conception of ‘understanding’ that would properly accommodate our contingent selves. Panayiota Vassilopoulou’s paper, “The Self as a Work of Art in Progress”, discussed the role of artistic creativity as a medium for attaining knowledge of oneself and supported the view that art transforms the way we understand and construct our personal identity and self. Is such creativity in art a rational or irrational capacity? Berys Gaut, in his “Creativity and Irrationality”, investigated this long-standing debate in the attempt to determine which of these two competing views is correct. Peter Osborne’s paper entitled “Out of Touch? Philosophy and Contemporary Art”, raised the question whether aesthetics is the proper form of discourse through which philosophy can investigate contemporary art. In particular, he discussed whether a phenomenological approach is the most appropriate philosophical problematic through which to approach contemporary art, with which, in his view, philosophy seems to be ‘out of touch’. Sue Golding, brought together contemporary art with continental philosophy in a lecture/installation/poetic, entitled: “Tactile Philosophy: From Ars Scientifica to Ars Erotica”. In absolute darkness, with her voice amplified through a microphone, she explored the event of synthetic life (creating life in a laboratory) on aesthetics, sensuality, and science. The audience was encouraged to visualize or construct through listening, a philosophical narrative that would amalgamate the speaker’s/author’s assertions with one’s own resonances – and fears – of what it means to be human, sensuous and ‘alive’ in our digital, mediated age.
The conference brought together scholars working on Aesthetics and Art Theory from different historical and theoretical perspectives; the papers and the dialogue that followed allowed for interesting points of agreement and disagreement to be identified and shared by an audience of around 100 participants, including both academic and non academic-related delegates, such as artists, representatives of UK leading cultural institutions, students in local schools and other members of the general public. The conference provided an excellent opportunity to promote the value and impact of philosophy and aesthetic experience in a way that made both Art and Philosophy accessible to a wider audience.
We hope that this conference will help establish a long-term collaboration with future Biennials and we are grateful to the British Society of Aesthetics, the Mind Association, the Forum for European Philosophy, the Royal Institute of Philosophy, and the School of Arts, University of Liverpool, for their financial support with this endeavour. This funding made it possible to also offer twelve bursaries to postgraduate students studying in the UK and abroad in order to attend the conference. We would also like to thank the group of student volunteers (Stephanie Benetua, Vassilis Dretakis, Thomas Dukes, Stephanie Keenlyside, Samantha Mcguire and Lina Zuppke,) for their help with the conference and for filming and editing a short video, which serves as an archive for the event and contains footage from the papers as well as interviews of speakers and members of the audience.
The video, a link to which is embedded in Uol websites,
may also be accessed through: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_Gc_xKbEQI
Dr Panayiota Vassilopoulou, Conference Organiser
Philosophy Department, University of Liverpool
Literature, History, Cognition
One-day workshop, Department of Philosophy, University of Nottingham Wednesday 19th May
This workshop examined the idea that what we today call ‘literature’ (a relatively recent category), has served in the past and continues to serve not simply as an object of knowledge, but as an instrument for the production of knowledge.
The perspective of the conference was historical in at least three senses: (1) It considered the historical contingency of ‘literature’, and in particular the boundaries between literature and philosophy; (2) it investigated the possibility of applying knowledge derived from contemporary cognitive research to interpreting texts from the recent and distant pasts; (3) it examined whether literature might be a vehicle for trans-historical moral reflection.
The conference, sponsored by the Departments of Philosophy and French at the University of Nottingham, brought together scholars from several countries working in diverse fields, including two working with Professor Terence Cave (St John’s College, Oxford), winner of the 2009 Balzan Prize for Literature, in his ongoing project on Literature and Cognition. Professor Cave attended and gave a summing up at the end of the day.
Gregory Currie (Philosophy, Nottingham), in a paper called ‘Trilling, Leavis, Nussbaum: three critics and the mind in literature’, considered the idea that the best in literature is that which helps us understand the realities of moral choice. He offered reasons for being sceptical of this idea. James Helgeson (French, Nottingham) spoke on ‘Perennial problems and cognitive approaches’. Starting from a passage in Michel de Montaigne in which he indirectly encourages his reader to observe the visual distortion obtained by pressing on the eye, Helgeson made make some preliminary remarks about whether contemporary work on perception and cognition might nuance our understanding of historicism. Karin Kukkonenn (Oxford) spoke on ‘Poetic Justice and its Functions in the Reading Process: A Cognitive Exploration’. She examined the role of the idea of poetic justice in the unfolding of plot and the representation of fictional minds. Patrizia Lombardo (Geneva) spoke on ‘Hazlitt and Stendhal: Literature as the art of making conjectures’, asking whether literature improve our understanding of emotional life? Olivia Smith (Oxford), in ‘John Locke’s ‘chiming’ thought’, considered Locke’s account of the disabling effect of ‘chiming’ scraps of poetry lodged in the mind.
The meeting was attended by 25 delegates, from a number of different academic disciplines.
We are grateful to the British Society of Aesthetics, the Balzan Foundation, and the University of Nottingham for financial support.
Greg Currie, University of Nottingham