March 30 – April 1, Asilomar
The Pacific Division held its annual meeting at the Asilomar Conference Center March 30-April 1, 2005. The weather was good, and the conference was lively and enjoyable.
The notion of the aesthetic played a particularly central role in this year’s meeting. In a panel entitled “The Aesthetics of Person,” Tobyn Demarco encouraged us to attend to the aesthetic qualities of artists, and Sheila Lintott asked us to consider sexiness as an aesthetic property. Bob Stecker offered an account of the recent history of the concept of the aesthetic, and Christy Mag Uidhir argued that aesthetic theories of art are bound to fail. At an invited author-meets-critics session, Susan Feagin and Daniel Nathan offered interesting criticisms of Gary Iseminger’s The Aesthetic Function of Art – in which Iseminger argues for a version of the aesthetic theory of art which appears immune to Mag Uidhir’s challenges. A paper by Rafael De Clercq addressed the aesthetic qualities of multifunctional artifacts, and Glenn Parsons discussed the objectivity of the aesthetic appreciation of nature.
Two other recurring themes at the conference were conceptual art and creativity. In an invited session, Peter Goldie, Dominic Lopes, and Robert Hopkins presented fascinating papers on conceptual art, which significantly enlarged this aesthetician’s understanding of the genre. Dustin Stokes offered a conceptual analysis of creativity, and Matthew Kieran managed to combine both topics in his discussion of creativity and the appraisal of conceptual art.
James Harold discussed the moral evaluation of narrative art and Allen Casebier and Julius Moravcsik addressed cross-cultural aesthetics. Two papers on the history of aesthetics were presented on the last day by graduate students. Michael Fletcher discussed dependent beauty in Kant, and Sean Landis offered an attractive solution to one of the more puzzling aspects of Hume’s “Of the Standard of Taste”. The history session was briefly interrupted when a deer wandered up to the window right behind the speaker. Apparently disappointed that the paper was not addressing “Paradoxes of the Hart,” it turned away after a few moments and returned to grazing. Our final session was devoted to the performing arts. Andrew Hamilton discussed non-musical audio arts, and John Fisher addressed the puzzling ontology of the performing arts.
Other highlights of the conference (at least for this year’s Program Chair) included a lengthy discussion of the concept of indie rock at Thursday night’s reception, the quantities of fresh fruit and tea at snack time, Christy Mag Uidhir’s robust (and late-night) defense of intuition-based philosophy of art, and the presence of Sheryl and Ethan Meskin.
Participants at the annual business meeting agreed that it would be worthwhile offering a prize to the best graduate student submission each year. This practice will begin in 2006.
Many people deserve thanks for helping to make the 2005 conference a success. Franklin Bruno, David Osipovich, Don Crawford, Tom Leddy, Stephen Davies, Stephanie Ross, Joshua Shaw, Jonathan Weinberg, Mihaela Fistioc, Rachel Zuckert, Lee Brown, and James Hamilton all did excellent jobs as commentators. Hal Walberg, Jennifer Judkins, Tanya Rodriguez Eckman, Allen Carlson, Peter Kivy, Sanford Shieh, Howard Meltzer, Alex Neill, and Jenefer Robinson served as session chairs. And I am very grateful for the people who agreed to referee papers: James Shelley, Lee Brown, Sheila Lintott, Alex Neill, Peter Kivy, Matthew Kieran, Bob Stecker, and Jonathan Weinberg. (Weinberg also provided a noteworthy pun.) Sean Landis was a big help in putting together this year’s proceedings.
Sheila Lintott and David Osipovich will jointly chair the 2006 meeting, and James Hamilton has agreed to organize the 2007 session. I am very happy to be able to leave things in such capable hands.