October 30 – November 2, 2002, Coral Gables, Florida
The 60th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Aesthetics was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida, from October 28 to November 2, 2002. Northern visitors enjoyed Florida’s sultry weather, palm trees, fresh seafood, and spicy Cuban dishes washed down by cold mojitos. Refreshments were abundant at the reception Thursday evening at the University of Miami’s beautiful Lowe Art Gallery. Aestheticians averted their eyes from the garish flamingos constituting Coral Gables’ entry into the Public Animal Art bandwagon.
The Program Committee, chaired by Cynthia Freeland, arranged three sessions reflecting the conference’s setting. Environmental Aesthetics from California to Florida discussed both personal and political perspectives on environmental issues. Latin American-Miami Ritual Aesthetics, organized by Carol Damian (Art History, Florida International University), illustrated the rich array of art being produced now in Miami. Third, in recognition of Miami’s well-known beach and fashion scenes, Mary Devereaux organized the panel Surgical Art, examining cosmetic surgery from standpoints of aesthetics, bioethics, sociology, and medicine.
To begin an effort to broaden perspectives with international contacts, Curtis Carter organized the panel In Between Experience and Reflection: Dutch Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Philosophy. The visiting Dutch speakers brought lively comments to this and other sessions.
The Program Committee also organized two panels offering an occasion to ponder consequences of 9/11: Memorial Art, and Horror, Spectacle, and The World Trade Center Attack.
Significant recent books in our field were honored at book sessions on Stephen Davies’ Musical Works and Performances; Larry Shiner’s The Invention of Art: A Cultural History; and (jointly) Michael Krausz’s The Limits of Rightness and Robert Stecker’s Interpretation and Construction.
Other papers explored the roles of emotion and imagination in art, aesthetic appreciation, critical justification, phenomenology and art’s origin, and controversies about defining art. Historical topics were central to the Romanticism Reconsidered panel, a session on Wagner’s Anti-Semitism, and in individual talks on Hume and Kant. Looking more to the future, Kathleen Higgins organized the panel Recycling Aesthetics. The Feminist Caucus sponsored Eleanor Heartney, co-editor of Art in America, who spoke on “Bodies, Beauty and Burqas.” Film theory was well-represented in several panels: Character Engagement and Film: Sympathy, Empathy, and Simulation, organized by Carl Plantinga; and Remembering Billy Wilder, which assessed this director’s oeuvre upon his death in 2002.
Many sessions evidenced keen new interest in perennial questions about the relations between aesthetics and ethics. This was true of panels about feminism and political issues in aesthetics, as in a session on The Ethics of Art Museums. Ethical concerns were also paramount in Jerrold Levinson’s Presidential address, “Intrinsic Value and the Notion of a Life,” as well as in Alexander Nehamas’ keynote speech, “The Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art.”
After the conference ended late Saturday afternoon, many people rode the bus to Miami’s South Beach and joined the walking tour of Art Deco sites led by Aristedes Millas, of the Department of Architecture at the University of Miami. He addressed “The Aesthetics of Tourism” on South Beach in an engaging and informal style. Amie Thomasson did a marvelous job on local arrangements. Thanks also to the University of Miami for its generosity; to Curtis Carter, our Secretary-Treasurer; to Barbara Stanton for able office help; and to the Program Committee (Susan Feagin, Ivan Gaskell, Paul Guyer, Kathleen Higgins, Dominic Lopes, Carl Plantinga, Richard Shusterman, and Amie Thomasson). The next ASA will be held October 1-4, 2003 in San Francisco.