University of Nottingham
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Zen garden

News and events

 

Reminder: Aesthetics Events in Leeds 26th - 30th June

The AHRC funded project ‘Method in Philosophical Aesthetics: the Challenge from the Sciences’ will be organising a series of events in Leeds this month. For further information about any of these events or to register please email sciencesofart@gmail.com

RIP Conference: Philosophical Aesthetics and the Sciences of Art?
28th to the 30th of June 2012
Leeds Art Gallery, the Headrow, Leeds

An international conference in association with the University of Leeds, the University of Nottingham and the Royal Institute of Philosophy. The conference will involve speakers with a variety of perspectives, ranging from those with a good deal of enthusiasm for “empirical philosophy” to those more inclined to favour traditional, a priori approaches.

Confirmed Speakers Include:
•       Whitney Davis (UC Berkeley)
•       Stacie Friend (Heythrop)
•       Berys Gaut (St Andrews)
•       Jonathan Gilmore (Yale)
•       Gordon Graham (Princeton Theological Seminary)
•       Matthew Kieran (Leeds)
•       Sam Liao (Kansas State University)
•       Aaron Meskin (Leeds)
•       Jenefer Robinson (Cincinnati)
•       Roger Scruton (Oxford, St Andrews, and American Enterprise Institute)
•       Deena Skolnick Weisberg (Temple)
•       Murray Smith (Kent)

Philosophers are now used to paying close attention to the results of theoretical and experimental work in the sciences. This has been long-standing practice in the philosophy of the sciences, and it is now common in the philosophy of mind. The practice is growing in the philosophy of language and in ethics, where there is controversy over the authority of linguistic and moral intuitions. The practice is less common in aesthetics, but it is beginning to develop, most notably in appeals to theories of vision in disputes about pictorial perception, and reference to empirical work on the emotions and imagination in the discussion of our engagement with fiction. Such interventions are controversial in some quarters; more controversial still are claims that work in the neurosciences and in evolutionary psychology can deepen, perhaps even revolutionise, our philosophical conceptions of the arts. Some argue that such studies will not make any positive contribution to understanding the nature and value of artistic experiences whilst others hold that philosophical accounts in aesthetics should be informed by the empirical sciences.

Topics to be addressed include whether or how
•       empirical and/or naturalistic approaches shed light on the value(s) of art (a subject that may seem especially difficult to get empirical traction on);
•       empirical/psychological accounts of creativity shed light on the profound significance of artistic creativity;
•       naturalistic approaches to the imagination address issues raised by the paradox of fiction;
•       empirical approaches should inform philosophical accounts of beauty or, rather, confuse the beautiful with the merely agreeable.

Attendance fee: £25 for staff / £10 for postgraduates


Public Event: Science, Art and the Sacred
6 - 7.30PM 27th June 2012
Leeds Art Gallery, the Headrow, Leeds

In collaboration with the Leeds Art Gallery, the AHRC funded project “Method in Philosophical Aesthetics: the challenge from the sciences” will be hosting a major public event on the relationship between science, art and religion from 6PM on the evening of the 27th of June 2012.

This evening event will take place in the Gallery and will consist in a dialogue with three internationally renowned philosophers of art: Gregory Currie of the University of Nottingham, Gordon Graham of the Princeton Theological Seminary and Roger Scruton of the University of Oxford, University of St Andrews, and the American Enterprise Institute. The event will be moderated by Matthew Kieran, Professor of Philosophy and the Arts at the University of Leeds.

There is no charge to attend this event.


Graduate and Early Career Workshop in Aesthetics
26th June 2012
LHRI, University of Leeds

The AHRC funded project “Method in Philosophical Aesthetics: the challenge from the sciences”, now in its third year, will host a graduate and early career workshop in aesthetics on the 26th of June at the University of Leeds.

Keynote speaker:     Dominic McIver Lopes (UBC)

Graduate Speakers: Eveline Seghers (Ghent)
                              Simon Smith (UCL)
                              Christopher Woerner (St Andrews)
                              William York (Indiana)

This event is supported by the British Society of Aesthetics and the Analysis Trust.

There is not charge to attend this event.

 

Royal Institute of Philosophy Conference: Philosophical Aesthetics and the Sciences of Art?

28th - 30th June Leeds City Art Gallery

Thursday

11.00 - 11.15       Registration

11.15 - 12.45       Whitney Davis (UC Berkeley) ‘Art History and Nomothetic Explanation’

12.45 – 1.45        Lunch

1.45 – 3.00           Murray Smith (Kent) ‘Against Nature; or, Confessions of a Darwinian Modernist

3.00 – 4.30           Roger Scruton (Oxford, St Andrews, and American Enterprise Institute) ‘The cognitive science of music: what could it show?’

5.00 – 7.00           Wine Reception

Friday

9.30 – 11.00        Jonathan Gilmore (Yale) ‘Empirical Psychology, Artistic Autonomy, and the Question of Invariant Norms’

11.00 – 11.30      Tea/Coffee

11.30 – 1.00        Jenefer Robinson (Cincinnati) ‘Aesthetic Disgust?’

1.00 – 2.00           Lunch                                                                                

2.00 – 3.15           Sam Liao (Kansas State University) ‘Genre Explanations’

3.15 – 4.45           Stacie Friend (Heythrop) 'Emotional warrant and the psychology of fiction' 

4.45 – 5.00           Tea/Coffee

5.00 – 6.15           Aaron Meskin (Leeds) ‘Aesthetic Unreliability’

7.00 onwards     Conference Dinner

Saturday

9.30 – 11.00        Berys Gaut (St Andrews)  'Mixed Motivations: Creativity as a Virtue'

11.00 – 11.30      Tea/Coffee

11.30 – 1.00        Gordon Graham (Princeton Theological Seminary) ‘Aesthetics as a Normative Science’

1.00 – 2.00           Lunch

2.00 – 3.30           Deena Skolnick Weisberg (Temple) What can developmental psychology bring to the study of aesthetics?’

3.30 – 4.45           Matthew Kieran (Leeds) ‘Creativity and Well-Being


 

Public Event: Science, Art and the Sacred

In collaboration with the Leeds Art Gallery, the AHRC funded project “Method in Philosophical Aesthetics: the challenge from the sciences” will be hosting a major public event on the relationship between science, art and religion on the evening of the 27th of June 2012.

This evening event will take place in the Gallery and will consist in a dialogue with three internationally renowned philosophers of art: Gregory Currie of the University of Nottingham, Gordon Graham of the Princeton Theological Seminary and Roger Scruton of the University of Oxford, University of St Andrews, and the American Enterprise Institute. The event will be moderated by Matthew Kieran, Professor of Philosophy and the Arts at the University of Leeds.  There is no charge to attend this event.

For further information e mail Dr. Jon Robson (sciencesofart@gmail.com).


 Conference Announcement: Philosophical Aesthetics and the Sciences of Art?

28th to the 30th of June 2012

University of Leeds

The AHRC funded project ‘Method in Philosophical Aesthetics: The Challenge from the Sciences’ http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/humanities/aesthetics/index.html are organizing an international conference, Philosophical Aesthetics and the Sciences of Art?’ in association with the University of Leeds, the University of Nottingham and the Royal Institute of Philosophy.

The conference will involve speakers with a variety of perspectives, ranging from those with a good deal of enthusiasm for “empirical philosophy” to those more inclined to favour traditional, a priori approaches.

Confirmed Speakers Include:

  • Whitney Davis (UC Berkeley)
  • Stacie Friend (Heythrop)
  • Berys Gaut (St Andrews)
  • Jonathan Gilmore (Yale)
  • Gordon Graham (Princeton Theological Seminary)
  • Matthew Kieran (Leeds)
  • Aaron Meskin (Leeds)
  • Jenefer Robinson (Cincinnati)
  • Roger Scruton (Oxford, St Andrews, and American Enterprise Institute)
  • Deena Skolnick Weisberg (Temple)

Philosophers are now used to paying close attention to the results of theoretical and experimental work in the sciences. This has been long-standing practice in the philosophy of the sciences, and it is now common in the philosophy of mind. The practice is growing in the philosophy of language and in ethics, where there is controversy over the authority of linguistic and moral intuitions. The practice is less common in aesthetics, but it is beginning to develop, most notably in appeals to theories of vision in disputes about pictorial perception, and reference to empirical work on the emotions and imagination in the discussion of our engagement with fiction. Such interventions are controversial in some quarters; more controversial still are claims that work in the neurosciences and in evolutionary psychology can deepen, perhaps even revolutionise, our philosophical conceptions of the arts. Some argue that such studies will not make any positive contribution to understanding the nature and value of artistic experiences whilst others hold that philosophical accounts in aesthetics should be informed by the empirical sciences.

Topics to be addressed include whether or how

  • empirical and/or naturalistic approaches shed light on the value(s) of art (a subject that may seem especially difficult to get empirical traction on);
  • empirical/psychological accounts of creativity shed light on the profound significance of artistic creativity;
  • naturalistic approaches to the imagination address issues raised by the paradox of fiction;
  • empirical approaches should inform philosophical accounts of beauty or, rather, confuse the beautiful with the merely agreeable.

For enquiries and registration please email Jon Robson (jonvrobson@gmail.com)

A number of postgraduate bursaries are available thanks to the generous support of the Analysis trust.


 

Workshop: Testimony; aesthetic and otherwise

11th May 2012 - University of Nottingham

Schedule

10.30-11.00:        Registration & coffee

11.00-12.30:        Jon Robson (Nottingham) “Norms of Belief and Norms of Assertion in Aesthetics”

12.30-1.15:          Lunch

1.15-2.45:            Paul Harris (Harvard) “Testimony and children's moral judgment”

2.45-3.00:            Tea

3.00-4.30:            Elizabeth Fricker (Oxford) “Unreliable Testimony”

4.30-6.00:            Robert Hopkins (Sheffield) “Norms of Use”

 

The workshop will take place in A19, Trent Building. To indicate your intention of attending or for further details please email Jon Robson jonvrobson@gmail.comm.

We gratefully acknowledge support from the Analysis Trust and the British Society of Aesthetics


 

CFP: Graduate and Early Career Workshop in Aesthetics

The AHRC funded project “Method in Philosophical Aesthetics: the challenge from the sciences” (http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/humanities/aesthetics/), now in its third year, will host a graduate and early career workshop on the 26th of June at the University of Leeds. The keynote speaker will be Dominic McIver Lopes (UBC). Offers of papers are warmly invited from graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and other early career researchers who do not yet have a tenurable or permanent post.

Papers should be no more that 3,000 words long and may address issues concerning the arts and the aesthetic in the broadest sense. Thus papers on the imagination, on knowledge in and from the arts, on aesthetic value in relation to other kinds of value, on creativity, etc are very welcome. Papers should in some way address the relevance of scientific findings, but need not be sympathetic to empirically oriented philosophy.

Papers should be prepared for blind refereeing and accompanied by a cover sheet identifying the author and providing contact information. The cover sheet should also provide some indication as to your career status to demonstrate eligibility. Papers should be sent to apxah1@nottingham.ac.uk by Friday March 9th. Outcome will be communicated by Friday March 30th


 

Workshop on Philosophical Methods

14th Feb - University of Nottingham

10.00-10.30 Registration & coffee

11-12.30 Nick Zangwill (Durham) "categories and essences: the error of 'naturalism' and the virtue of first-philosophy"

12.30-1.15 lunch

1.15-2.45 Natalie Gold (KCL) "Experiments on Moral Intuitions: Judgements in Trolley Problems"

2.45-3.00 tea

3.00-4.30 Michael Devitt (CUNY) "Whither Experimental Semantics?"

4.30-6.00 session 4 Peter Simons (TCD) "Metaphysics Direct: On Leaving the Linguistic Turn Behind"

The workshop will take place in A19, Trent Building .

Please indicate your intention of attending by emailing Amanda Samuels at

ahzajs@exmail.nottingham.ac.uk


 

Call for papers: Royal Institute of Philosophy Conference Philosophical Aesthetics and the Sciences of Art?

28th to 30th of June 2012

University of Leeds

Submissions of papers are invited for an international conference in aesthetics ‘Philosophical Aesthetics and the Sciences of Art?’ to be held at the University of Leeds, on the 28th to 30th of June 2012. The conference is organised by the AHRC funded research project ‘Method in Philosophical Aesthetics: The Challenge from the Sciences’ http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/humanities/aesthetics/index.html in association with the University of Leeds, the University of Nottingham and the Royal Institute of Philosophy.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers Include:

  • Whitney Davis (UC Berkeley)
  • Stacie Friend (Heythrop)
  • Berys Gaut (St Andrews)
  • Jonathan Gilmore (Yale)
  • Gordon Graham (Princeton Theological Seminary)
  • Jenefer Robinson (Cincinnati)
  • Roger Scruton (Oxford, St Andrews, and American Enterprise Institute)
  • Deena Skolnick Weisberg (Temple)

Philosophers are now used to paying close attention to the results of theoretical and experimental work in the sciences. This has been long-standing practice in the philosophy of the sciences, and it is now common in the philosophy of mind. The practice is growing in the philosophy of language and in ethics, where there is controversy over the authority of linguistic and moral intuitions. The practice is less common in aesthetics, but it is beginning to develop, most notably in appeals to theories of vision in disputes about pictorial perception, and reference to empirical work on the emotions and imagination in the discussion of our engagement with fiction. Such interventions are controversial in some quarters; more controversial still are claims that work in the neurosciences and in evolutionary psychology can deepen, perhaps even revolutionise, our philosophical conceptions of the arts. Some argue that such studies will not make any positive contribution to understanding the nature and value of artistic experiences; the most we can hope for from them is that light be shed on empirical side-constraints.

Papers should address one or more of the following topics:

  • whether empirical and/or naturalistic approaches can shed light on the value(s) of art (a subject that may seem especially difficult to get empirical traction on);
  • whether empirical/psychological accounts of creativity have any potential to shed light on the profound significance of artistic creativity;
  • whether naturalistic approaches to the imagination fail to address the deep issues raised by the paradox of fiction;
  • whether empirical approaches have, in fact, anything serious to say about beauty or, rather, confuse the beautiful with the merely agreeable.

Papers should take between 40 and 45 minutes to present and be submitted in a form suitable for blind review. Our aim is to involve speakers with a variety of perspectives, ranging from those with a good deal of enthusiasm for “empirical philosophy” to those more inclined to favour traditional, a priori approaches. It is intended that papers presented at the conference should be suitable for publication as a special supplementary volume of Philosophy. It is a condition of accepting the invitation to participate in the conference that we would have the first right of refusal on a final version of any paper delivered at the conference for the volume.

Deadline for submissions is 17th February 2012. Conference fee will be waived for accepted speakers and two nights’ accommodation provided.

 

Papers should be submitted, and enquiries addressed, to Dr. Jon Robson (jonvrobson@googlemail.com)


 

Conference Report: 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), and Matthew Kieran, Aaron Meskin, 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 very rich 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.


Project workshop: Character, Appreciation and Value

June 21-22, 2011 at the institute of philosophyhy

The second international project workshop will be held on June 21-22 at the Institute of Philosophy.

Traditional aesthetics has failed to examine the impressive evidence gathered over the last thirty years which poses challenges to the assumptions underlying the humanistic conception of aesthetic appreciation and the value of the arts. The aim of the workshop is to look at the significance of such empirical work, ranging from anthropology to social psychology, for such standard assumptions and what, if any, the implications are for particular arguments and indeed aesthetics more generally. Thus, for example, there is a substantial body of evidence that character plays a much less important role in determining decisions than situation, including apparently trivial factors that may produce substantial changes in behaviour. Indeed, some philosophers have concluded there is no such thing as character as traditionally conceived. If that is right, then difficult questions arose for a traditional conception of the narrative arts that put a premium on their ability to illuminate character differences and character development. A skeptical note is also struck by psychological work on exposure effects, expectations and ways in which people’s taste, aesthetic preference and judgement can be influenced in ways they are not even aware of. If socio-economic considerations affect art appreciation substantively might they threaten to undermine aesthetic appreciation or knowledge? These and alike questions are complex and it would be wrong to draw sceptical conclusions too quickly. But no credible aesthetic theory can afford to make claims about aesthetic appreciation, knowledge or the values of the arts based on no more than introspection. Our aim in this workshop is to examine these kinds of challenges to rigorous appraisal.
 

Speakers for the workshop will be as follows:

Michael Bristol (McGill): Some have greatness thrust upon ‘em . . .

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzsic (Goldsmiths): Quantifying Individual Differences in Aesthetic Preferences

James Cutting (Cornell): The hearts and minds of filmgoers: 1/f patterns, motion, and viewer response to popular film

Anne Eaton (Illinois): "A Lady on the Street But a Freak in the Bed": On the Function of Erotic Art

Mitch Green (Virginia): Literary Cognitivism Meets Social Psychology

Sherri Irvin (Oklahoma): Is Aesthetic Experience Possible

Matthew Kieran, Aaron Meskin and Margaret Moore (Leeds): Mere Exposure to Bad Art

Attendance is by invitation.


 

THE STATE OF AESTHETICS 23rd and 24th of June, 2011

Chancellor’s Hall, Institute of Philosophy, London

An international conference sponsored by the AHRC project “Method in
Philosophical Aesthetics: The Challenge from the Sciences”, the
Institute of Philosophy, the British Society of Aesthetics, the
University of Leeds, the University of Nottingham, and the Open
University.

Conference Participants
Diarmuid Costello (Warwick, Philosophy)
Gregory Currie (Nottingham, Philosophy)
Ivan Gaskell (Harvard, Fogg Museum)
Casey Haskins (SUNY Purchase, Philosophy)
Jane Heal (Cambridge, Philosophy)
John Hyman (Oxford, Philosophy)
Matthew Kieran (Leeds, Philosophy)
Michael Lacewing (Heythrop, UCL, Philosophy)
Derek Matravers (Open University, Philosophy)
Chris McManus (UCL, Psychology and Medical Education)
Aaron Meskin (Leeds, Philosophy)
Bence Nanay (Cambridge, Philosophy)
Matthew Rowe (Independent Scholar)
Chris Tilley (UCL, Anthropology)
Edward Winters (Independent Scholar)


The theme: The State of Aesthetics
What is the value of aesthetic investigation? Our conference invites
scholars and art world figures to offer their own assessments,
defences and remedies.
A century ago aesthetics was of central concern for philosophers and
psychologists alike. For much of the last century, the study of the
arts often seemed marginalised, with relatively little cross-talk
between aesthetics and areas considered more central to philosophy. By
contrast the art world was strongly influenced by philosophically
inflected theories of institutions, the text and spectatorship, and
yet there was little engagement with Anglo-American aesthetics.
There is evidence that matters are looking up. Work on fictionality
within literary contexts standardly serves as a resource for work in
metaphysics on the nature of fictional objects. Work on the
imagination feeds back into the philosophy of mind and metaphysics.
There is also a growing list of publications in aesthetics from such
unexpected directions as neuroscience and evolutionary
psychology—-developments not universally welcomed within the
aesthetics community.
The conference will draw together and address these developments
asking how philosophical aesthetics might progress . The conference
has three themes:
•       Aesthetics and philosophy
•       Aesthetics and the art world
•       Aesthetics and the human sciences
In addition, we will have a panel discussion on teaching aesthetics in
art school and other non-philosophical contexts.

Information regarding registration and accommodations is available
through the conference website:
http://www.open.ac.uk/Arts/state-of-aesthetics/registration.shtml
Please address any additional queries to Dr. Margaret Moore
(M.Moore@leeds.ac.uk).


 

Conference Reoprt:  Art, Aesthetics and the Sciences - May 16th

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.


 

Graduate Conference: Art, Aesthetics and the Sciences - May 16th

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’ present a one day graduate conference investigating the relevance of recent empirical developments to the study of aesthetics.

 B13 Lenton Grove, University Park, University of Nottingham (map), 10.30 - 6.00, May 16th

The methods of philosophical aesthetics, in line with those of philosophy more generally, have tended to be broadly a priori in nature. For instance, the traditional methodology of analytic aesthetics has relied heavily on the reflective analysis of concepts and appeals to suitably-informed intuitions. Some notable aestheticians even went so far as to argue that it is impossible in principle for empirical work to have any bearing on philosophical issues in aesthetics. Recently, however, a number of theorists--both philosophers and those from other disciplines--have come to advocate a different approach to the study of aesthetics, based on empirical investigation and guided by developments in the sciences. This conference provides an opportunity for graduate students from different disciplines to present and discuss high quality work relating to this recent trend.

 

Keynote Speaker:

Jesse Prinz (CUNY)

Postgraduate Speakers:

James Andow (Nottingham)

Noah Friedman-Biglin (St. Andrews)

William York (Indiana)

Conference schedule here

Advanced registration is not required but please e mail if you plan to attend and provide information about any dietary or mobility requirements. A number of bursaries towards subsistence and accommodation costs are available for postgraduate students wishing to attend the conference. To apply for a bursary or for any other queries please contact Dr. Jon Robson (jonvrobson@googlemail.com)  

 

We gratefully acknowledge support from the AHRC, the Analysis Trust, the Aristotelian Society and the British Society for Aesthetics.


Programme: The Imagination: Skeptical Challenges and Empirical Responses

The schedule for our upcoming imagination workshop can be found here.


Abstracts: The Imagination: Skeptical Challenges and Empirical Responses

  Abstracts are available for two papers from our forthcoming workshop:

 Kathleen Stock

 “On the near-irrelevance of neuroscience to the paradox of fiction”

In this paper I will examine certain attempts of philosophers to enlist  neuroscience as a means of solving    or illuminating the so-called 'paradox of fiction' i.e. the fact that, in engaging with fiction, typical subjects apparently sometimes have emotions towards acknowledged non-existents. In particular I will look at arguments presented by Alvin Goldman, Timothy Schroeder and Carl Matheson, and Shaun Nichols. I will suggest that their arguments fail to show anything interesting about this problem, and will then offer some more general observations about the capacity of neuroscience to illuminate problems concerning the imagination.

Derek Matravers

“Debunking the Imagination”

My paper divides into two parts. Part One will argue that philosophers writing on our engagement with fiction systematically confuse two issues: problems that arise in engaging with narratives per se, and problems that arise in engaging with fictional as opposed to non-fictional narratives. Once the issues are distinguished, it can be seen that the imagination is not needed for either. The first requires only a theory of understanding (which is not generally thought to require the imagination) and the second requires only a distinction at the level of propositions (which does not require recourse to anything psychological). Having shown that we do not require the imagination, Part Two will look at the work of Aaron Meskin and Jonathan Weinberg, Greg Currie and Shaun Nicholls to see what, if anything, remains of their accounts following the clarificatory work in Part One.


 

CFP: The State of Aesthetics 

Submissions of papers are invited for an international conference on aesthetics, to be held at the Institute of Philosophy in London, on 23rd and 24th of June 2011. The conference aims to explore the significance and value of the study of aesthetics. Submissions should fall under any of the following headings: aesthetics and philosophy, aesthetics and the art world, and aesthetics and the human sciences. Keynote sessions will be given by - amongst others - Ivan Gaskell (Fogg Museum, Harvard), Jane Heal (Philosophy, Cambridge), Chris Tilley (Anthropology, UCL) and Robyn Carston (Linguistics, UCL). 

Papers should take between 35 and 40 minutes to present. The conference has slots reserved for graduate papers, so submissions from graduate students should be clearly marked as such. Papers should be prepared for blind review, and sent as an email attachment in Word to Derek Matravers (d.c.matravers@open.ac.uk) by the 22nd February 2011. 

The conference is organised by Gregory Currie (Philosophy, Nottingham), Matthew Kieran (Philosophy, Leeds), Derek Matravers (Philosophy, Open) and Aaron Meskin (Philosophy, Leeds). The conference is sponsored by the Institute of Philosophy as winner of their annual call for conferences competition. It is also receiving support from the AHRC (as part of Leeds-Nottingham Research Grant on “Method in Philosophical Aesthetics: The Challenge from the Sciences”), the British Society of Aesthetics, the Open University, the University of Leeds and the University of Nottingham.
 

 
 
 

The Imagination: Skeptical Challenges and Empirical Responses

A workshop sponsored by the AHRC project "Method in Philosophical Aesthetics:  The Challenge from the Sciences".

Department of Philosophy, University of Leeds, 1.00pm-5.00pm, Thursday 3rd February 2011

Speakers:

  • Derek Matravers, Open University Kathleen Stock, University of Sussex
  • Response by: Gregory Currie, University of Nottingham Aaron Meskin, University of Leeds

Attendance is free and open to all. If you would like to attend, please reserve a place by e-mailing Margaret Moore.


 

 Art, Aesthetics and the Sciences Graduate Conference 2011 - May 16th

In association with the AHRC project Method in philosophical aesthetics: the challenge from the sciences

Keynote Speaker:

Jesse Prinz (City University of New York, Graduate Center)

On May 16th the University of Nottingham and the AHRC project Method in philosophical aesthetics: the challenge from the sciences (http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/humanities/aesthetics/index.html) will be hosting a graduate conference on Art, Aesthetics and the Sciences. We invite submissions of high quality papers by graduate students working in aesthetics which address the connections between aesthetics and the sciences. Papers relating to the sciences of the mind and/or aesthetics as a science are particularly welcome. Submissions should be accessible to a general philosophical audience. Papers should not exceed 4000 words in length, and should be suitable for blind refereeing. Please submit all papers via e mail to mailto:apxah1@nottingham.ac.uk

Submission Deadline: March 1, 2011

All questions and inquiries concerning the conference should be sent to jonvrobson@googlemail.com or M.Moore@leeds.ac.uk



Conference, 2011, in association with the Institute for Philosophy, London

We are pleased to announce that the Institute for Philosophy has awarded us funding for a conference which will be held in June 2011 in London on the topic of "The State of Aesthetics". Here is some background information about the aims of the conference:

What is the value of aesthetic investigation? On many accounts, within philosophy and outside, the answer is “very little”. Our conference invites scholars and art world figures to offer their own assessments, defences and remedies.

The theme: The state of Aesthetics
A century ago aesthetics was of central concern for philosophers and psychologists alike. These days the study of the arts is, for both disciplines, a relatively minor enterprise; almost none of the world’s highest profile philosophers specialise in the arts, and it is distinctly outside the curriculum’s core.

There is relatively little cross-talk between aesthetics on the one hand and philosophy of mind and metaphysics on the other, and few philosophers working outside of aesthetics read the aesthetics journals with eagerness or expectation of assistance for their own theorising. (In his 1951 essay 'The Dreariness of Aesthetics', John Passmore pointed out that British philosophers 'pay little attention to aesthetics.' Things are not much different sixty years later.)

The art world is strongly influenced by philosophically inflected theories of the text, spectatorship, its own the institutions and the ideas of taste and connoisseurship. But the Anglo-American tradition in philosophy is regarded, where it is noticed at all, as too passive, distanced and traditional to be relevant to either art practice or art engagement.

There is some evidence that things are looking up. Recent issues of the British Journal of Aesthetics contain articles by leading figures in philosophy not usually associated with research into the arts, articles on aesthetics are once again appearing in the best generalist philosophy journals, and the trend in aesthetic writing towards making good use of theories and distinctions in philosophy of mind, philosophy of language and metaphysics continues. There is also a growing list of publications in aesthetics from such unexpected directions as neuroscience and evolutionary psychology—-developments not universally welcomed within the aesthetics community. Our conference will draw together and address these developments and the concerns to which they speak. We expect to organise talks under the following headings:

  • Aesthetics and philosophy
  • Aesthetics and the art world
  • Aesthetics and the human sciences

Derek Matravers (Open University) joins us as an organiser for this event. Further information, including details of conference registration, will follow.


Royal Institute of Philosophy Conference 2012: "Philosophical Aesthetics and the Sciences of Art?"

We are pleased to announce that the Royal Institute of Philosophy annual conference for 2012 will be hosted jointly by the Universities of Leeds and Nottingham, and organised by the AHRC research project team under the direction of Greg Currie, Matthew Kieran and Aaron Meskin. It will take place over three days in the period May-June 2012.

The topic

Philosophers are now used to paying close attention to the results of theoretical and experimental work in the sciences. This has been long-standing practice in the philosophy of the sciences, and it is now common in the philosophy of mind.

The practice is growing in the philosophy of language and in ethics, where there is controversy over the authority of linguistic and moral intuitions. The practice is less developed in aesthetics, but it is beginning, most notably in appeals to theories of vision in disputes about pictorial perception, and reference to empirical work on the emotions and imagination in the discussion of our engagement with fiction. Such interventions are controversial in some quarters; more controversial still are claims that work in the neurosciences and in evolutionary psychology can deepen, perhaps even revolutionise, our philosophical conceptions of the arts.

Some argue that such studies will not make any positive contribution to understanding the nature and value of artistic experiences; the most we can hope for from them is that light be shed on empirical side-constraints.

We plan to encourage contributors to address questions which are central to contemporary aesthetic debate, such as these:

  • whether empirical and/or naturalistic approaches can shed light on the value(s) of art (a subject that may seem especially difficult to get empirical traction on);
  • whether empirical/psychological accounts of creativity (which are notoriously problematic) have any potential to shed light on the profound significance of artistic creativity;
  • whether naturalistic approaches to the imagination fail to address the deep issues raised by the paradox of fiction;
  • whether empirical approaches have, in fact, anything serious to say about beauty or, rather, hopelessly confuse the beautiful with the merely agreeable.

Further information, including details of conference registration, will follow.


Project Workshop:  "Analysis and Explanation in Aesthetics"

June 21-22, 2010 at the University of Nottingham

The first international project workshop will be held on June 21-22 at the University of Nottingham. In addition to the project team, the participants at the workshop will be:

  • Roberto Casati
  • David Davies
  • Fabian Dorsch
  • Stacie Friend
  • Andrew McGonigal
  • Jonathan Ichikawa
  • Stephen Laurence
  • Dominic Lopes
  • Shaun Nichols
  • Amie Thomasson
  • Jonathan Weinberg

Participants will focus on questions such as:

  1. Are there ways in which traditional philosophical approaches (e.g. conceptual analysis, appeal to intuitions etc.) might be influenced or in some cases challenged by the systematic study of such things as the mechanisms and evolutionary histories of perception and cognition?
  2. To what extent, if at all, are our (so-called) aesthetic responses the product of a range of contingent and disunified psychological sensitivities with different functions and histories?
  3. Are we justified in treating the aesthetic as an area of autonomous study unaffected by anything that we might discover about its underpinnings?

Attendance is by invitation.



Experimental Aesthetics Workshop

May 24, 2010 at the Institute of Philosophy (London)

On May 24, the project team met with project member Chris McManus (UCL) at the Institute of Philosophy to discuss recent work in experimental aesthetics. Unfortunately we were not able to invite people outside the project team to this event.


Experimental Aesthetics Workshop

University of Leeds, 9th November 2009

At the heart of the workshop were talks given by Ronald Mallon (Utah): “The Experimental Philosophy”, Matthew Kieran (Leeds): “Aesthetic Psychology and Philosophical Aesthetics”, Gregory Currie (Nottingham): “Desires and Desire-Like Imaginings”, and Aaron Meskin (Leeds): “Aesthetics Adjectives and Context”. A lively discussion between the eighteen participants resulted in a focused, constructive, and extremely successful exchange of ideas, which continued over drinks and dinner. The workshop was part of the AHRC project “Method in Philosophical Aesthetics: The Challenge from the Sciences”. It was hosted by the Centre for Aesthetics at the University of Leeds and took place at the Leeds Humanities Research Institute.

The workshop began with a talk by Ronald Mallon, an expert in the rapidly growing field of experimental philosophy. Mallon outlined some of the key ideas and research directions of experimental philosophy before moving on to relevant issues in aesthetics. Much experimental philosophy starts from the idea that traditional “armchair” philosophy heavily relies on intuitions as evidence for conceptual analysis. The so-called ‘positive programme’ of experimental philosophy seeks to legitimise the reference to intuitions by providing empirically grounded folk-intuitions about certain philosophical issues. The ‘negative programme’, on the other hand, questions the suitability of empirically grounded folk-intuitions as evidence for conceptual analysis, as these contain features that would unduly distort the analysis. Mallon illustrated these two approaches by drawing on examples that are relevant for research in aesthetics and then presented some forceful challenges to the positive programme.

Matthew Kieran took up the challenge for philosophical aesthetics to make sense of empirical evidence showing that – contrary to what traditional assumptions may suggest – we often do not know the reasons for our aesthetic preferences. Kieran argued that aestheticians have good reason to pay attention to empirical psychology when dealing with epistemic and normative questions in aesthetics, and he suggested that a virtue theoretic account of aesthetic judgement and appreciation might be best suited for dealing with the empirical challenge to traditional approaches in philosophical aesthetics.

Gregory Currie then focused on the philosophical challenge to explain our distinctive responses to tragedies. Currie argued that a theory that postulates the existence of ‘desire-like imaginings’ was best suited to account for some of our reactions to fictional tragedies and explored the potential for empirical research  to provide data relevant to the debate about the existence of such states. Currie also explored the suggestion that many responses to fiction are driven by low-level cognition rather than by imaginings and beliefs – an approach derived from Tamar Gendler’s claims that some of our behaviour is driven by what she calls ‘aliefs’ rather than by beliefs or imaginings.

Finally, Aaron Meskin ended the formal part of the workshop by arguing that aesthetic adjectives are gradable. He explored the kind of gradability aesthetic adjectives exhibit (whether relative or absolute) and then described a possible experiment that might provide data that would help in determining the nature (and degree of context-sensitivity) of such adjectives.


Success in the latest AHRC grant awards

Nottingham's Gregory Currie, along with Matthew Kieran and Aaron Meskin at Leeds, has just been awarded £600,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a collaborative project on "Method in philosophical aesthetics: the challenge from the sciences". The project will run for three years from September 2009 and will involve new PhD studentships, post-doctoral research posts and international research networks.