July 7-9, 2000, Santa Fe, New Mexico
The conference opened with a plenary session, Hume Reconsidered, chaired by the President of the Association, George Moore. There were three papers that discussed Hume’s aesthetics. The session began with Kimberely Mosher Lockwood, Philosophy, Cazenovia College. She presented “Hume’s ‘Of the Standard of Taste’: A Beginners Guide to Evaluating Political Art and the Art of Other Cultures” in which she defended Hume against the charge that use of the rational in his “Of the Standard of Taste” is inadequate to allow one to make aesthetic judgements. She was followed by James Mock, Philosophy, University of Central Oklahoma, who spoke on “Disputing About Tastes.” He argued that natural and moral beauty are the objects of taste and that there is nothing in Hume that leads to relativism in aesthetic judgements. Eva Dadlez, Philosophy, University of Central Oklahoma, concluded the session with her paper “‘The Vicious Habits of Entirely Fictive People.’” She argued that because Hume holds that morality is based on the very sentiments narrative art intends to arouse, we cannot divorce morality from narrative art.
The second session ran two panels. Reuben Ellis, a Past-President of the Association, chaired Merleau-Ponty & Revel. Patricia Locke of St. John’s College, Annapolis, talked on “The Body is the Place in the Thought of Merleau-Ponty.” She discussed Merleau-Ponty’s explanation of space in the Phenomenology of Perception by using architecture to talk about the role of the body in the articulation of space. S. K. Wertz, Philosophy, Texas Christian University, then spoke about “Revel’s Conception of Cuisine: Platonic or Hegelian?” Turning first to Deane Curtin’s Platonic reading of Revel’s Culture and Cuisine, Wertz claimed that a Hegelian reading of the text produces a more sympathetic and more comprehensive interpretation of that text. Wertz was followed by William Springer, Philosophy, University of Texas at El Paso discussing “Movies and the Metaphysics of Mind.” Taking Merleau-Ponty’s essay “Film and the New Psychology” and the act of watching a film as his frame of reference, Springer argued for an existentialist conception of the person.
John Samson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Association, chaired the concurrent panel, Literary Aesthetics. Three speakers presented papers on diverse topics concerning literature. The first, “A Problem About Knowledge From Literature” by Carol Gould in Classics at Florida Atlantic University, examined the relationship between morality and philosophy and the psychological knowledge available from literature to demonstrate that art can reveal truth. Norman Fischer, Philosophy, Kent State, talked about “Frank Waters: Environmental and Historical Aesthetics.” As an historical novelist, Waters’ work is a frontal blow to Modernist aesthetics because the morality of the individual’s self-development has to be seen in a political context. The third paper, Nietzsche Contra Spencer: The Artist in Jack London’s Martin Eden was delivered by John Samson, English, Texas Tech University. Samson showed how Martin was influenced was by both Nietzsche and Spencer but eventually rejects them both. Samson suggests that the novel is London’s most detailed autobiographical fiction and that, unlike Eden, London sustains a balance between Nietzsche and Spencer.
The third session was the Keynote Address by James Soderholm, English, Baylor University. His paper, “The Savage Beast Revisited: Reflections of Music, Morality and Aesthetic Nihilism,” questions whether the arts have a positive moral effect. Looking at three models of aesthetic response, optimism, pessimism and nihilism, by using examples from films and philosophical writing, Soderholm concludes that aesthetic nihilism is the most appropriate of the models.
The Fourth Session, had two panels. Literature in the Southwest, was chaired by George Moore, the President of the Association. First was “‘A Hole Where the Natives Had Been’: John Nichol’s The Magic Journey” by Michael Manson, English, University College of Cape Breton, who talked about John Nichols’ criticism of American colonialism in Northern New Mexico in his The Magic Journey. He was followed by Bob Frye, English, Texas Christian University, whose “The Aesthetics of the Ordinary, Part II: Barbara Kingsolver’s Realistic Craft in Pigs in Heaven, discussed Kingsolver’s humour that sometimes simply entertains but sometimes becomes political commentary that advances her anti-mythic view of the Southwest. The last paper in the session was read by George Moore, English, University of Colorado at Boulder, who talked about “D. H. Lawrence’s New Mexico Poems: Aesthetics and Ideology in Conflict.” Moore’s thesis was a defense of Lawrence against charges of fascism, and racism on the basis that Lawrence must be read in the context of his own psychology and his vision of himself in the process of developing his new consciousness.
The concurrent panel, Education and the Avant-Garde, chaired by Arthur Stewart had two papers. The first by John Haddox, Philosophy, University of Texas at El Paso, talked about the aesthetic of Antonio Caso, in particular Caso’s concern for the relation of philosophy and social action. His paper was followed by Raphael Sassower, Philosophy, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. Sassower presented a Marxist critique of the avant-garde artists of the twentieth century. in which he argued that they tread a thin line between complicity with capitalist powers and maintaining artistic integrity and independence.
The Fifth Session also had two concurrent panels, Music and Biology, and Music. In the Panel Six, chaired by Rudolph Brun, Amy Nelson English, George Washington University, argued for form as an objective standard with which to judge the aesthetic value of a work of art in “What Are You Staring At?: An Interdisciplinary Study of Form and Aesthetic Potentiality.” Rudolph Brun and Gerald Gabel at Texas Christian University discussed “Complexification in Musical Development and Biological Evolution” to explore the possibility that there is one creative principle at work in the universe. Looking at genetics and music from the Gregorian chant to Bach, they showed how complexification theory can explain developments in both fields.
In the panel on Music, Manuel Davenport, Philosophy, Texas A&M, had his paper “Music and Biology,” read by his son because he was ill. The paper argued that musicians possess a capacity for advanced motor and mental skills known as “ballistic control” that makes them attractive to women; thus musicians become attractive as mates because of both the arousing effects of music they produce and their capacity for ballistic control. Jeff Bell, History at Southeastern Louisiana University, presented “Nietzsche’s Music: Beyond Romanticism and Modernism” in which he showed that the piano music Nietzsche wrote exemplifies many of the same ideas that are found in his philosophy.
The Sixth Session was our annual Artist At Work plenary session. This year Elizabeth Faulkner, a Sculptor from the University of Colorado at Boulder, gave a presentation, “Collect and Decay.” Showing slides and discussing some contemporary artists and her own work, Faulkner indicated that the human tendency to organize can explain the source of her work, and in particular our gender bias. Her work, she believes, arises from that with which we are born, gender, for example, and that which we absorb.
Our final session, The Aesthetic Response was chaired by Michael Manson, English at the University College of Cape Breton. The first of the three papers was “At Least This Boy Didn’t Cry” by Don Driscoll, Philosophy, University of Southern Colorado. Driscoll looked at the relationship between historical and fictional accounts of two cross-dressers, the twentieth-century Teena Brandon and the seventeenth-century Catalina de Erauso, in order to explore the extent to which fictionalizing may improve an account of one’s life. He was followed by Arthur Stewart and Lara Wilkinson, Philosophical Studies, Lamar University, who talked an “Aesthetic Discovery in C. S. Pierce’s ‘Neglected Argument’.” By examining Pierce’s “Neglected Argument for the Reality of God,” they advance the view that the search for and the logic of aesthetic discovery of kalos can fill the void that sometimes exists in the soul. The session concluded with York Gunther, Philosophy, Stanford, whose paper “Ineffability and Aesthetic Force” examined Kauffman and Scrutin’s models of the ineffable and offered an alternative that involves the power of language to get at the ineffable. Following the panels on the final day of the conference, there was a short business meeting at which the new executive assessed the conference and discussed things that we might do next year to make it better.