Reading group “Black Reconstruction in Aesthetics” – Paul C Taylor

Everyone welcome

The Aesthetics Research Centre at the University of Kent (Canterbury, UK) is organising a reading group on "Black Reconstruction in Aesthetics". A new article by Professor Paul C. Taylor written for debates in Aesthetics. The aim of the reading group is to facilitate discussion and critical reflection on the paper. The session will be convened by ARC director Dr. Michael Newall and PhD candidate Alice Helliwell.

Debates in Aesthetics is inviting short papers in response to “Black Reconstruction in Aesthetics”, please see the CFP on their website.

Participation is open to all
Date: 27 February 5-7pm, location tbc 


This essay uses the concept of reconstruction to make an argument and an intervention in relation to the practice and study of Black aesthetics. The argument will have to do with the parochialism of John Dewey, the institu- tional inertia of professional philosophy, the aesthetic dimensions of the US politics of reconstruction, the centrality of reconstructionist politics to the Black aesthetic tradition, and the staging of a reconstructionist argument in the film, “Black Panther” (Coogler 2018). The intervention aims to address the fact that arguments like these tend not to register properly because of certain reflexive and customary limits on some common forms of philosophical inquiry. The sort of professional philosophy I was raised to practise and value tends not to be particularly inclusive and open-minded, especially when it comes to subjects that bear directly on the thoughts, lives, and practices of people racialized as black. Black aesthetics, by contrast, is an inherently ecumenical enterprise, reaching across disciplinary and demographic bound- aries to build communities of practice and exchange. Hence the need for an intervention: to create the space for arguments and the people who work with them to function across disciplinary and demographic contexts.

The session will be live-streamed on Youtube Live to allow for remote participation via chat.

Martin Hammer – The Silent Kingdom of Paint

Professor Martin Hammer (Professor of History & Philosophy of Art, School of Arts)

“The Silent Kingdom of Paint”: Walter Sickert, Edward Hopper, and Virginia Woolf

Wednesday 5th December 2018, at 5pm in Grimond Lecture Theatre 3 (GLT3), University of Kent

This paper is built around a juxtaposition of two near-contemporary painters working in the early decades of the twentieth century, namely Walter Sickert and Edward Hopper, based respectively in Britain and the USA.  Consideration of their remarkable but unexplored artistic affinities (alongside their divergences) raises the issue of whether these are coincidental, or whether we can (and need to) establish pathways of transmission.  In parallel to this art-historical investigation, I want to employ their shared (and anachronistic) preoccupation with narrative imagery, to reflect in more philosophical terms upon how we as viewers negotiate such works, and why commentators insist upon projecting repetitive readings, within a quite narrow expressive range, onto works that can also be seen as ambiguous and open to quite different sorts of interpretation.  Why do we interpret paintings as we do?  An interesting route into this question is provided by the short text about Sickert by Virginia Woolf, published in 1935, which articulated thoughts about “the silent kingdom of paint” that apply intriguingly to both artists.

Sonia Sedivy – Aesthetic Properties, History and Perception

Professor Sonia Sedivy (Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto)

Aesthetic Properties, History and Perception

Monday 12th November 2018, at 5pm in Darwin Lecture Theatre 2, University of Kent

If artworks and their aesthetic properties stand in constitutive relationships to historical context and circumstances, so that some understanding of relevant facts is involved in responding to a work, what becomes of the intuitive view that we see artworks and at least some of their aesthetic properties? This question is raised by arguments in both aesthetics and art history for the historical nature of works of art. The paper argues that the answer needs to take philosophy of perception into account. The principal development that has shaped philosophy of perception in the last thirty years—explaining perceptual experience in terms of contents that represent that such-and-such is the case—is directly relevant to key arguments for the historical nature of art because contents can represent complex kinds and properties. Conceptual realism is especially well-suited for explaining perception of artworks and aesthetic properties because it emphasizes that forms of understanding— in the sense of capacities, abilities and techniques—are involved in perceptual engagement with individual objects and instances of properties. To make this case, the paper examines influential arguments for the historical nature of art and aesthetic properties by Arthur C. Danto and Kendall L. Walton; and examines art-historical discussions by Michael Baxandall, Linda Nochlin and T. J. Clark. The paper argues that the aesthetic properties of an artwork depend on human intentional uses of properties, colours and contours among them, and such uses may themselves be aesthetic. The Wittgensteinian notion of use is contextual and historical, and uses are perceptible.


Julian Hanich – Why Film Studies Needs More Fine-Grained Emotion Terms 

Why Film Studies Needs More Fine-Grained Emotion Terms …and Why Phenomenology Might Help

Dr Julian Hanich (University of Groningen)

Monday 15th October 2018, at 5pm in the Lupino Screening Room, Grimond Building, University of Kent

In this talk I will make a threefold proposal: I claim that (a) film studies, due to an overly strong focus on a few standard emotions, lacks a fine-grained lexicon of emotions spectators experience when watching films, that (b) it would be beneficial for research conducted in the field to introduce more granular and well-defined emotion terms and that (c) the specific subfield of ‘phenomenology of emotions’ might help. Drawing on my previous studies on different forms of fear, disgust and being moved, I will try to elucidate why the phenomenology of emotions has specific resources to contribute.​

Dr Julian Hanich is an Assistant Professor of Film Studies in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands.

Catharine Abell – The Norms of Realism and the Case of Non-Traditional Casting

The Norms of Realism and the Case of Non-Traditional Casting

Dr Catharine Abell (University of Manchester)

Wednesday 3rd October 2018, at 5pm in Grimond Lecture Theatre 3, University of Kent

 Realism is a property that representational artworks can exhibit. This paper is concerned with realism in perceptual narratives: narrative representations that convey their contents at least partly perceptually. It addresses the conditions under which realism constitutes an artistic merit in a perceptual narrative by identifying the artistic norms of realism that govern them. By providing accounts of these norms, it enables the identification of errors in our evaluations of realism. To demonstrate the evaluative errors to which we are prone, it focuses on the practice of non-traditional casting, cases of which are often claimed to violate norms of realism. It identifies a variety of errors in judgements of instances of non-traditional casting’s conformity to the norms of realism. It explains the source of these errors, some of which are relatively systematic and widespread. It then provides a general specification of the resources and skills required correctly to evaluate perceptual narratives according to their realism.​

Dan Cavedon-Taylor – The Causal Theory of Photography and Anti-Empiricist Evaluations

Tuesday 13th February 2018, at 6pm in Keynes Seminar Room 11, University of Kent

According to the causal theory of photography (CTP), photographs acquire their depictive content from the world, whereas paintings and drawings acquire their depictive content from their maker. CTP is widely affirmed, by philosophers, film-theorists and early pioneers of the photographic medium. A persistent worry about CTP is that it leaves no interesting role for the photographer in the production of their pictures and, as a corollary, is incompatible with an aesthetics of photography. In this talk, I do three things. First, I amend CTP with Fred Dretske’s distinction between triggering and structuring causes. Second, I argue that CTP so amended is far from incompatible with an aesthetics of photography, but illuminates two aesthetic interests we may take in such pictures, focussing on photographic portraiture and street photography. Third, I show how reflection on the aesthetics of photography serves to support aesthetic anti-empiricism: the view that the aesthetic value of artworks consists, either wholly or partially, in achievement rather than sensory pleasure.

Dan Cavedon-Taylor is currently a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Southampton. His research focuses on philosophy of mind and aesthetics. Some of his most recent publications include: ‘Reasoned and Unreasoned Judgment’ (British Journal of Aesthetics 2017) and ‘Photographic Phenomenology as Cognitive Phenomenology’ (British Journal of Aesthetics 2015).

Maks del Mar: The Role and Value of the Imagination in Legal Thought

The Aesthetics Research Centre (ARC) invite you to a Research Seminar with:


Dr Maks del Mar, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London

The Role and Value of the Imagination in Legal Thought

Wednesday 18th October, 5pm – 7pm, GLT3, University of Kent

This talk will offer an overview of four key abilities that demonstrate the role and value of the imagination in legal thought. The four abilities are: 1) supposing; 2) relating; 3) image-making; and 4) perspective-taking. The talk will first examine these abilities in general, and then apply them to four devices of legal thought. The four devices are: 1) fictions; 2) metaphors; 3) hypothetical narratives; and 4) perspectival tests. For a sneak preview with some examples, see:

Maks Del Mar is Reader in Legal Theory at the School of Law, Queen Mary University of London, where he is also founding co-director of the Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context. He is presently working on a monograph on Imagination and the Legal Mind (Hart / Bloomsbury) and co-editing the Oxford Handbook of Law and Humanities. One of his primary research interests is the aesthetics of legal thought.​

watch recording of this talk  (talk begins at 7:00)
do not cite without permission of the author