Aesthetic Properties: Heterogenous, Historical and Hard to Explain

22nd Feb 2023
Sonia Sedivy, University of Toronto

Aesthetic properties are pervasive in our lives and come up often in our conversations, yet theoretical disagreement prevails over their nature, their variety, their epistemic and metaphysical standing. This paper argues that aesthetic properties are highly heterogenous and that at least some are historical. I examine some consequences. 
Recent developments in aesthetics of the environment and of the everyday – along with the recent emphasis on taking a global perspective – suggest that aesthetic properties are much more heterogenous than we had previously recognized.  Aesthetic properties belong to artworks in any medium, to natural objects or scenes, and to artefacts across historical eras; and they draw a wide variety of responses such as our perceptions and emotions. 

Historicism about artworks carries over to aesthetic properties: aesthetic properties depend on facts of their broader historical context just as works do. I will argue that open-ended heterogeneity and historical specificity leave us without a way to draw a distinction between aesthetic and non-aesthetic properties. 
This distinction has been standardly assumed in aesthetics since Frank Sibley’s landmark work in the 1960s. If we lack principles that demarcate aesthetic from non-aesthetic properties, this affects how we can hope to explain aesthetic properties. I argue against supervenience theories that explain aesthetic properties in terms of their dependence on non-aesthetic properties. Rather, we need to explain aesthetic properties in ways that appeal to other aesthetic phenomena such as aesthetic value or aesthetic responses. The paper sketches several theories of aesthetic value to show how they can provide explanations of aesthetic properties.  

Teams link here.

Collingwood, “Political Art”, and the Political Value of Art

22nd Feb 2023
David Collins, University of Oxford

Over the past decade it has become increasingly common—in popular discourse, in art education, among artists, and in the work of some art critics and academics—for works of art in various genres and media to be conceived of and evaluated largely on the basis of the political positions they explicitly and implicitly manifest (or are thought to manifest).

Appealing to R.G. Collingwood’s distinction between expressive art, or ‘art proper,’ and craft, especially the form of craft he calls ‘magic,’ I will argue for a reconsideration not only of the practice of thinking of and assessing art in terms of politics but of the very idea of ‘political art.’ In brief, the viewpoint that I will argue for takes an artwork’s success as an expression of an always-partly-affective perspective to itself have positive social or political value regardless of the politics of this perspective, and takes a ‘political’ artwork to be one that expresses a felt perspective on the political dimensions of a situation.

In contrast, the currently popular approach, I argue, reduces art either to ‘magic’ (i.e., propaganda) or to a mere vehicle for instruction (i.e., to the representation of a political viewpoint), and thereby fails to realize the distinct social or political value that Collingwoodian ‘art proper’ can have—ironically, given that those who now view and evaluate artworks through a political lens surely think that they are doing something politically positive.

The Aesthetics of Psychedelics

23rd-24th March 2023 | International conference
University of Kent; Darwin Conference Suite

Conference programme here

In recent years, there has been what many experts are calling a ‘Psychedelic Renaissance’. Researchers have gradually been rediscovering and exploring the medical, psychological and spiritual potential of psychedelics. In philosophy, too, there is a rapidly growing interest in this subject. Contributions to the philosophical study of psychedelics have so far involved various subareas of philosophy, including philosophy of medicine, philosophy of psychiatry, philosophy of mind, cognitive science, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and phenomenology.
However, there has been virtually no scholarly work on the aesthetics of psychedelics. This is remarkable if one considers that (i) the psychedelic experience is so often described in aesthetic terms, (ii) music, lighting, and other aesthetic features often play a crucial role in the very setting of the experience, (iii) so much art has been directly inspired by psychedelics, and (iv) psychedelics have given rise to their own distinctive aesthetic.

The aim of this conference is to address this lacuna and to investigate the multifaceted relation between art, aesthetics, and psychedelics. In so doing our ambition is to forge a connection between philosophical aesthetics and other areas in which the philosophical study of psychedelics is pursued.

Invited speakers include:
Aderimi Artis (Assoc. Professor, University of Michigan)
Robert Dickins (Psychedelic Press)
Christine Hauskeller (Professor, University of Exeter)
Kristien Hens (Professor, University of Antwerp)
Chris Letheby (Lecturer, University of Western Australia)
Luis Eduardo Luna (Wasiwaska Research Centre)
Aidan Lyon (Assoc. Lecturer, University of Amsterdam)
William Rowlandson (University of Kent)
Dustin Stokes (Professor, University of Utah)
Natalia Washington (Assoc. Professor, University of Utah)

Places are limited for this event and registration is required. To register, please email with a short bio and concise statement of your interest in the study of psychedelics and/or aesthetics (no more than 150 words).
You will be notified of the outcome by March 15.