Nils-Hennes Stear – Is Aesthetic Immoralism Obviously True?

Wednesday 13th March 2019,  5pm – 7pm

Three dominant theories explain how ethical properties determine aesthetic ones in artworks. Autonomism denies any determining relation. Moralism affirms one according to the valence constraint: ethical merits only ground aesthetic merits, ethical flaws only ground aesthetic flaws. Immoralism affirms one too, but denies the valence constraint. The question these theories answer, I argue, can be (and knowingly or not has been) read in one of two ways: the ‘counterfactual’ and the ‘as-such’ way. Each reading requires a different kind of answer: a counterfactual or an as-such theory, respectively. I argue that if one accepts the so-called qua problem, as-such theories run into a dilemma: they either rely upon dialectically unhelpful (if not question-begging) considerations, or else collapse into counterfactual theories. This leaves the counterfactual reading, to which I show immoralism is the obvious answer. The discussion has various significant consequences for the aesthetic moralism debate as a whole that I lay out at the end.


De Gustibus: Arguing about Taste with Peter Kivy


•    Professor Peter Kivy (Rutgers)  
•    Professor Emily Brady (Edinburgh) 
•    Assoc. Professor Eileen John (Warwick) 
•    Professor Peter Lamarque (York)

With the support of: The British Society of Aesthetics

Emily Brady, Peter Lamarque, Peter Kivy, Eileen John: our esteemed panel discussing De Gustibus.

This one-day symposium focuses on (and takes its title from) Peter Kivy’s new book De Gustibus: Arguing About Taste and Why We Do It (Oct 2015, OUP). Kivy will be joined by Emily Brady, Eileen John, and Peter Lamarque, who will respond to Kivy’s book in an ‘author meets critics’ format.
Peter Kivy is a pre-eminent figure in Anglo-American philosophy of art. His numerous monographs and essays constitute a sustained and significant contribution to aesthetics, and in particular to the fields of aesthetics of music and literature. Kivy’s new book, De Gustibus, turns to meta-aesthetic issues about the assumptions and purposes underlying disputes about matters of taste.
In it he casts light on a new problem in aesthetics: who do we dispute about taste when there are no ’actions’ we wish to motivate? He asks, “whether I think Bach is greater than Beethoven and you think the opposite, why should it matter to either of us to convince the other?” Kivy’s claim is that we argue over taste because we think, mistakenly or not, that we are arguing over matters of fact.