April 2-4, 2003, Pacific Grove
This past April approximately fifty scholars descended upon the Asilomar Conference Center, in Pacific Grove, California, to participate in that strange ritual known as the Annual Meeting of the Pacific Division of the American Society for Aesthetics.
The centerpiece of this year’s program was the author-meets-critics session devoted to Peter Kivy’s The Possessor and the Possessed: Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, and the Idea of Musical Genius. Donald Crawford and Simon Williams offered criticism both challenging and celebratory. Kivy’s previous work in the philosophy of music also received some attention in the two papers on the program representative of that field: Jenefer Robinson’s “Parallel Processes: How Music expresses Emotion,” and Jonathan Neufeld’s “Musical Formalism and Political Performance.”
Though Kivy received explicit reference in only one other paper on the program – Roger Seamon’s “‘That the Man There is So-and-So:’ Recognition in Aristotle’s Poetics”one might argue that he exerted a subtle influence over much of the rest of the program. Seamon’s reference was to Kivy’s plea, issued in Philosophies of the Arts, that more attention be given to the philosophical study of the various arts, in all their particularity, and that perhaps less effort be expended on the project of defining art. No paper on the definition of art made it onto this year’s program; indeed, no such paper was submitted. The program instead featured: several papers centering on the narrative arts (Sarah Worth’s “Aesthetic Emotions and the Cognitive Defense: Utilizing Startle to Change the Model,” Dustin Stokes’s “Time Travel, Talking Pigs and Alien Values: On Imaginative Compliance and Imaginative Resistance,” James Harold’s “Sympathy with the Devil,” Roger Seamon’s aforementioned paper, Deborah Knight’s “Carroll, Clarificationism, and The Third Man,” and Bence Nanay’s “Imagination, Perception, and Action: Identification in the Visual Arts”); several papers centering on the visual arts (Barbara Savedoff’s “Abstract Photography: Identifying the Subject,” Jonathan Cohen’s and Aaron Meskin’s “Photographs Are Not Transparent,” Dominic McIver Lopes’s “A Trinitarian Theory of Pictorial Expression,” Cynthia Ward’s “Art, Aesthetics, Abstraction, and Africa: Minding a Fractal World,” and Cynthia Rostankowski’s “An Aesthetic of Excess: Visual and Conceptual Hyperbole in Children’s Toys and Narrative Play”); the two aforementioned papers bearing on music; and a paper suggesting an affinity between the aesthetics of performance art and environmental aesthetics (Sheila Lintott’s “On the Performative Interpretation of Nature”).
There were only two papers on the program that even arguably sought to establish theses that might cut across the arts. One of these – Guy Rohrbaugh’s “I could have done that” – sought to establish a thesis that, to my knowledge, had never before been defended (i.e., that it is an essential property of any artwork that it have been created by the artist who in fact created it). The closest thing to a paper representative of the traditional aesthetics of generality turned out to be the final paper on the program: Derek Matravers’s “The Nature of Aesthetic Experience.” Historians of the future will no doubt wonder what the program chair meant by granting this paper the final slot. Was traditional aesthetics being symbolically ushered out? Was it being granted the symbolic last word? Or had it simply received the last remaining slot, given the myriad travel constraints the program chair had to balance? Every previous chair knows the answer.
Finally, this year’s meeting deserves to be remembered as the meeting at which so much of the commentary was of such uncommonly high quality. Sincere thanks to David Osipovich, Eric Marcus, Jeffrey Dean, Jeffrey Wilson, Lee Brown, Jennifer Judkins, Tobyn De Marco, George McKnight, Jonathan Weinberg, Stephanie Ross, Tom Leddy, Joshua Shaw, Michael Watkins, Amy Coplan, Thomas Heyd, and Tiffany Sutton.