March 29-31, 2000, Pacific Grove
The ASA Pacific Division met March 29-31, 2000, at the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, California, marking twenty years at this site. The informal atmosphere of the conference grounds and its superb natural setting contribute to the conference’s informal and cooperative reputation, and its ability to draw scholars on a national and international basis.
Contributed papers at the conference reflected a diversity of interests in aesthetics; among these were the relationship of aesthetics and ethics, environmental aesthetics, and aesthetic issues in literature, music, film, photography, and architecture.
In the first session on Thursday afternoon, Estella Lauter, Humanities and Fine Arts, University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, discussed the interplay of aesthetic and ethical responses to works by woman sculptors. In the following panel, Jeanette Bicknell, Philosophy, York University, considered what “moral awareness” in music might mean, examining along the way the work of Radford and Scruton. Justin London, Music, Carleton College, argued that in the context of the musical West Side Story, the “Maria” motive conveys the proposition “Maria is hopeful”. The conference resumed with an evening session on the built environment. Steven DeCaroli, Philosophy, SUNY – Binghamton discussed Winckelmann’s response to the antiquarian and stylistic qualities of Cardinal Alessandro Albani’s villa. Following this, an invited book session featured authors of two new books on garden aesthetics: Mara Miller, Lafayette, Colorado, The Garden as an Art, Stephanie Ross, Philosophy, University of Missouri at St. Louis, What Gardens Mean. Sharon Crawford, commentator, argued that gardens are most reasonably considered art today if they are considered as landscape architecture. Discussion carried over into the following reception.
The conference resumed on Thursday morning with panels on musical expression and on literature and meaning. First, Saam Trevedi, Philosophy, Bates College, examined models of musical expressiveness by Budd and by Levinson, and concluded that in hearing music as expressive, we “animate the music itself”. Lee Brown, Philosophy, Ohio State University reconsidered the Afropurism and musical aesthetics of jazz musician and critic Amiri Baraka. In the following panel, Eddy Zemach, Philosophy, Hebrew University, offered a modal theory of metaphor. Ted Cohen, Philosophy, University of Chicago, contributed a very lively commentary. Anton Alterman, Philosophy, CUNY – Baruch College offered a theory of fictionality as having higher-order meaning not directly deducible from natural-language meaning.
The afternoon session included three panels. In the first, James Harold, Philosophy, University of Minnesota, discussed and criticized recent arguments that ethics and aesthetics are not distinct kinds of judgements. James Young, Philosophy, University of Victoria, followed by considering how literature, and other artworks, may function as moral philosophy. The second panel included two papers on film comedy. Ian Jarvie, Philosophy, York University, considered themes of optimism and despair in four later Woody Allen movies, and Casey Haskins, Humanities, SUNY – Purchase College discussed the morality of the Roberto Begnini’s “Holocaust tragicomedy”, Life is Beautiful. In the last panel of the afternoon, Martin Donougho, Philosophy, University of South Carolina discussed the history of the concept of “creativity” and whether it might be considered paradoxical, while Kevin Sweeney argued against Roger Scruton’s view that gustatory taste is not object-oriented and therefore not an aesthetic experience, referring to examples of wine-tasting. The session then adjourned for dinner.
The Thursday evening session on environmental aesthetics opened with an invited presentation by Bureau of Land Management botanist Bruce Delgado on the restoration of native vegetation on sand dunes at the nearby former Army base, Fort Ord. Delgado’s charming presentation included the first Asilomar “camp sing- along”. Following this, John Fisher, Philosophy, University of Colorado, asked in what way art about nature guides the aesthetics of nature, and particularly whether autobiographical responses to nature are problematic.
The conference closed with two Friday morning panels. In the first panel, Susan Hahn, Humanities Center, Johns Hopkins University, attempted to explain inconsistencies in Socrates’ polemic against poetry by assimilating these attitudes to modern ones, and to an agonistic theory of poetry. Aaron Meskin, Philosophy, Texas Tech University, followed with his discussion of theories of artistic value, concentrating on those proposed by Ronald Dworkin and Malcolm Budd. The last panel of the meeting considered two issues from photography. Julie Van Camp, Philosophy, California State University at Long Beach, proposed distinguishing the meaning of originality (as a relationship between the artist and the work of art) from the evidence used to assess it, which also includes the relationship of the work to other works. Birgit Tregenza, Philosophy, California State University at Northridge, addressed the views of Kendall Walton and Dominic Lopes on photography, and argued that photographs are not necessarily more transparent than handmade pictures.