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.

Rosie Findlay – What’s Getting Us Through: Grazia UK as Affective Intimate Public During the Coronavirus Pandemic

25th January 2023, 16:00 – Jarman Studio 5, Hybrid format (in-person and online)

Rosie Findlay (Lecturer in Media Studies, University of Kent)

In this paper I examine the changes wrought to women’s/lifestyle media during the coronavirus pandemic. Closely analysing several issues of Grazia UK from the first UK lockdown, I argue that the societal and affective disorientation of the  pandemic allowed this magazine to do genuine political work – critiquing the government, advocating for non-capitalist subjectivities and forms of community work – which is normally absent from such publications due to their imbrication in commercial logics and industries.

At the same time, fashion was reframed as a tool to navigate the affective uncertainties of the pandemic, offering levity (comfort, play) and escape (dreaming of better days to come) which shows us how closely woven fashion is with affect and mood. 

This seminar will be available to attend via Teams. Link to be added shortly.
Those intending to attend in-person are asked to please email in advance.

Kathrine Cuccuru – Pedestrian at Best: the Politics, Philosophy, & Aesthetics of Walking When Poor

17th November 2022, 17:00 – Jarman Studio 5, Hybrid format (in-person and online)

Kathrine Cuccuru (Associate Research Fellow, Department of Philosophy, University of Sussex)

Cuccuru’s ‘a philosopHER walks’ website here

My project ‘a philosopHER walks’ aims to philosophically and physically explore various types of walking. Although I am a somewhat experienced and well-equipped long distance walker, Stage One of the project, Pedestrian at Best, was born out of my frustration at finding a viable route to take and discovering the limits on someone like me, poor people, to walk.
As a result, this first stage tests what sort of walking is possible for those of us living on or below the poverty line, to be a pedestrian who uses only local busses and has to keep to a daily budget based on Universal Credit standard rates. This talk celebrates the end of stage one, offering my initial reflections on walking when poor.

Along with reporting on my experiences during these 21 days of walks, I shall reveal the political tension between walking as a radical act and the privilege of walking; identify some of the philosophy in developing a philosophy of walking; and present the aesthetics of walking, from the sartorial to the sublime.

This seminar will be available to attend via Teams. Link to be added shortly.
Those intending to attend in-person are asked to please email in advance.

Call for Abstracts – The BSA Workshop on the Aesthetics of Public Art (WAPA)

10-11th November 2022, King’s College LondonHybrid format (in-person and online)

Conference website here

Keynote speakers: 
Vid Simoniti (University of Liverpool) 
Sarah Hegenbart (Technical University of Munich) 
Carleen de Sözer (artist) 

Recent protests against statues and monuments associated with racial injustice reflect increased ethical and social demands on art, especially as it occupies public space. Although public art has been the subject of a lively debate amongst scholars in art history and cultural studies, it remains largely neglected within the field of aesthetics, which results in the lack of a clear conceptualization of public art as an aesthetic category. 

The aim of this workshop is to foment discussion on the concept of public art and to question the boundaries which demarcate it from similar categories, such as street art, socially engaged art, and participatory art. Understanding what makes public art ‘public’ implies asking about its purpose, its accessibility, and the artistic process by which it is created. As the widespread removal of statues in 2020 shows, another important concern is who constitutes the public for public art – more specifically, the relation between public art and political authority and the way public art contributes to the construction of civic identity and historical memory. This workshop focuses on the aesthetic and artistic conditions which determine the public nature of a given work, with the purpose of consolidating the theoretical framework of current debates. 

Suggested topics include but are not limited to: 
– What is the purpose of public art? Does it necessarily involve a social or political intention? 
– What is the relation between public art and public space? How do we define public space? Is public accessibility a necessary condition of public art? 
– Can there be public art outside the public space? How does the change of location affect the meaning and value of a work? 
– What is the relation between public art and the public? How is the public for a work of public art defined? What is the role of the community in public art?  
– What is the relation between public art and political authority? Is public art necessarily sanctioned by the state?  
–  How does public art shape the public space? What is its role in the construction of civic identity and collective memory?  
– How is public art distinct from related categories, such as street art, socially engaged art, and participatory art?  
– How do we evaluate public art? Must it meet specific criteria to be artistically successful? What makes a public work of art good or bad? 
– Does the ‘publicness’ of public art involve any restrictions in terms of art form, artistic media, genres, and content? 
– More generally, what are the defining features of public art?

  We welcome contributions from all academic fields, including history of art and cultural studies, as long as they address the philosophical problems outlined above or related ones.  Each speaker will have 20 minutes for the presentation, followed by 10 minutes of Q&A. Please consider sending your abstract (max. 500 words), accompanied by a short biographical note (max. 150 words), to until 31st August. We particularly encourage applications from scholars from underrepresented groups, including applicants with disabilities, applicants from BAME backgrounds, and women. The workshop will be in English and attendance is free. Successful applicants will be notified by 12th September.  

This event is funded by the British Society of Aesthetics (BSA) and sponsored by the Centre for Philosophy and Art (CPA).  


Beatriz Rodrigues (King’s College London) 

Colette Olive (King’s College London) 

Television Aesthetics: Now What? | A British Society of Aesthetics conference

Thursday 7 – Friday 8 July 2022

Conference website:

The Aesthetics Research Centre at the University of Kent is delighted to invite you to ‘Television Aesthetics: Now What?’ a two-day conference organised with generous funding from the British Society of Aesthetics.

The title of our conference – ‘Television Aesthetics: Now What?’ – is a provocative metacritical question about the state of the field. Our conference aims to bring together philosophical aesthetics with both television studies and television aesthetics. We wish to stimulate exchange across different disciplines and approaches, with contributions from television scholars, philosophers, and aestheticians. In bringing together these different perspectives, we hope to make some headway towards answering the question ‘Now what for television aesthetics?’

Jason Mittell (Middlebury College)
Iris Vidmar Jovanović (University of Rijeka)

Registration for the conference is FREE.
Further details about about the conference will be available in the coming weeks on the conference website

Should you have any questions about the conference, please do not hesitate to contact us at
Lead Organiser: Dr David Brown
Programme Committee: Prof Murray Smith, Dr Margrethe Bruun Vaage, Dr Dieter Declercq, Michael Clark

BSA Symposium on Revaluing the Life Model in Art Practice

Thursday 7th May

The BSA Symposium on Revaluing the Life Model in Art Practice is a one-day event hosted by the Aesthetics Research Centre, University of Kent, which brings together philosophers of art, artists, and professionals of the London art sector to engage with the role of the life model in contemporary art practice. 

Come and join our discussion, where we connect this developing debate on life models with the philosophy of art. Through the exchange of professional, practical, and philosophical insights, the symposium aims to rethink some of the ongoing practices within the life drawing room (how models are viewed and treated by artists and art schools), the gallery and museum space (how the creativity of models is acknowledged), and within philosophy of art (whether modelling can be an art and whether working from a life model can be considered a collaborative art form).

The Symposium is free to attend – everyone welcome to muse along! Check out our speaker bios, programme, and how to register on our site. We will be posting on Instagram and Twitter in the weeks leading up to the event!

Confirmed Keynotes:

Dr Anna Pakes, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Roehampton
Prof A W Eaton, Professor of Philosophy, University of Illinois Chicago
Dominic Blake, Art Writer & Performance Artist

Panel members:

Jo Baring, Director of the Ingram Collection, Curator
JJ Delvine, Artist, Curator, BP Portrait Award in 2006, 2011, 2018
Anne Noble-Partridge, Artist, Director of London Drawing, Gallerist
Prof Jean Wainwright, Professor of Contemporary Art and Photography at UCA, Director of the Fine Art and Photography Research Centre

This interdisciplinary event is the result of a collaboration between the Aesthetics Research Centre and Dominic Blake, art writer and performance artist. Dr Aurélie Debaene is hosting the symposium on behalf of ARC with the support of C A York. The BSA Symposium on Revaluing the Life Model in Art Practicehas been made possible by the generous funding of the British Society of Aesthetics.

Research Seminar: ‘The Reality of Aesthetic Injustice’ by Daisy Dixon (University of Cambridge)

Wednesday 12th May

In this talk I will examine the phenomenon which philosophers are
beginning to call ‘aesthetic injustice’ – a wrongful harm done to
someone specifically in their capacity as an aesthetic being. I will
first distinguish those wrongs caused by aesthetic practices, and those
wrongs which are inherently aesthetic where a person’s aesthetic
capacities are undermined; it is this latter phenomenon I wish to
analyse. The concept of aesthetic injustice proposed will initially be
modelled on epistemic injustice, and throughout I consider how epistemic
harms and aesthetic harms can align and diverge. The aim is to arrive at
an account which reveals and accommodates at least four forms of
aesthetic injustice, while treating these as distinctive in that they do
not reduce to non-aesthetic wrongs, such as epistemic harm. Throughout I
consider the value and role that aesthetic experience and expression
play in our lives.

For more information about the speaker:

Book Symposium – Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight: A Philosophical Exploration, edited by Hans Maes (University of Kent) and Katrien Schaubroeck (University of Antwerp).

Thursday 10th June 14:00-18:00 BST.

Book Symposium on Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight: A Philosophical Exploration, edited by Hans Maes (University of Kent) and Katrien Schaubroeck (University of Antwerp).

SYMPOSIUM PART I (14:00-15:45 BST)
Chair: Hans Maes

Romance, Narrative, and the Sense of a Happy Ending in the Before Series
James MacDowell

Epic Intimacy
Murray Smith

Love, Death and Life’s Summum Bonum: The Before Trilogy as Memento Mori
Anna Christina Ribeiro

RESPONDENT: Laura di Summa

SYMPOSIUM PART II (16:00-17:45 BST):
Chair: Katrien Schaubroeck

The Poetry of Day-to-Day Life
Michael Smith

‘Romantic or Cynic’: Romantic Attraction as Justification
Diane Jeske

Time and Transcendence in the Before Trilogy
Marya Schechtman

RESPONDENT: Pilar Lopez-Cantero

About the book
This new book, published by Routledge in their Philosophers on Film series, focuses on Richard Linklater’s celebrated Before trilogy. The trilogy chronicles the love of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) who first meet up in Before Sunrise, later reconnect in Before Sunset and finally experience a fall-out in Before Midnight. Not only do these films present storylines and dilemmas that invite philosophical discussion, but philosophical discussion itself is at the very heart of the trilogy. The book explores the many philosophical themes that feature so vividly in the interactions between Céline and Jesse, including: the nature of love, romanticism and marriage, sex and gender, the passage and experience of time, the meaning of life and death, the art of conversation, the narrative self.