The Pacific Division of the American Society for Aesthetics held its 2007 meeting at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California, beginning on the afternoon of 28 – 30. The weather was superb and the wind off the ocean called out to us; but most of us went to the meetings anyway. Pretty amazing when you think about it.
The program was distinguished by two author-meets-critics sessions, two sessions on film, and one session devoted specifically to dance. The rest of the program covered a broad variety of topics, including papers on classical issues in analytic aesthetics (by Anna Bergvist, Derek Matravers, and Andrew Kania), papers on Hume (by Dabney Townsend and Stephanie Ross), work on cognitive science, epistemology and art (by Alessandro Pignocchi, William Seeley and Aaron Kozbelt, and Dustin Stokes), papers on nature aesthetics (by Jason Simus and Glenn Parsons, and papers on a variety of issues about fictions – ranging from ontology, to the discussion of new genres, to the status of moralism about fictions – (by Nick Diehl, Brian Laetz and Joshua J. Johnston, and Aaron Smuts).
The conference also featured four invited panels. Two of them were Author-Meets-Critics sessions: one focused on Dom Lopes’ Sight and Sensibility: Evaluating Pictures, with Patrick Maynard, Aaron Meskin, and Mark Rollins doing the work of critics and Dom Lopes responding; the other focused on Noël Carroll’s Comedy Incarnate: Buster Keaton, Humor, and Bodily Coping, with Ted Cohen, Stanley Bates, and Katalin Makkai doing the critcs’ work and Noëll Carroll responding. Another of the invited panels was an investigation of the movies of Terence Malick, especially The Thin Red Line, with papers by David Davies, Amy Coplan, and Iain MacDonald. The fourth invited session focused on dance and the conditions of its apprehension as well as appreciation, with papers by Graham McFee, Renee Conroy, and Barbara Montero.
Once again, the Pacific Division ASA meeting had no single overarching theme or dominant style of philosophy, features that I believe continue to be sources of its very real strengths. The conference is open to a variety of approaches and topics and the only standard for selection of work to be presented is that of quality. Indeed, in 2007, there were simply more papers and panel proposals of acceptable-to-high quality submitted than could be accommodated in the brief conference schedule.
This year the Division awarded the ASA Pacific Division’s Second Annual Graduate Student Essay Award. The prize, in the amount of $200, was awarded to Anna Bergqvist for her paper “Sibley and Defeasible Reasons: Holism about Reasons in Aesthetic Evaluations.” Perhaps because of this prize, essay submissions from graduate students continued to increase in number this year. This contributed to the continuing accomplishment of one of the Division’s main goals, namely, to encourage participation of individuals new to the Asilomar meeting (potentially even new to the ASA). In this regard the 2007 meeting was highly successful, as is evidenced by the number of graduate students on the program (5 presented papers and three served as commentators, comprising twenty percent of the entire program) and the fact that the conference was the occasion of several other participants’ first (and hopefully not their last) Asilomar experience.
The conference would not have been possible without the commentators, chairs, and anonymous peer reviewers. They all did a magnificent job and have the association’s deepest gratitude. Commentary was given by Tom Adajian, Aimée Koeplin, Marcelo Sabatés, Christopher Williams, Eva Dadlez, Vincent Bergeron, Christy Mag Uidhir, Stephen Davies, Chris Stevens, Don Crawford, Stephanie Patridge, Marina Folescu, and Jeff Dean. Session chairs were Lee Brown, Gary Iseminger, Alex Neill, Alana Fischer, Jenefer Robinson, Margaret Moore, Tim Gould, Allen Carlson, and Tom Leddy. Thanks are also due to the following individuals for serving as referees for the conference and/or on the graduate student essay prize committee: Sondra Bacharach, Gary Iseminger, Allen Carlson, Tim Costelloe, David Davies, James Harold, Dom Lopes, Sheila Lintott, Aaron Meskin, John Heintz, Alex Neill, Tim Gould, Susan Feagin, Robert Stecker, Yuriko Saito, Marcelo Sabatés, Deborah Tollefson, Sherri Irvin, John Fisher, Steven Davies, Saam Trivedi, Christy Mag Uidhir, Amy Coplan, Derek Matravers, and Jeff Dean .
Dustin Stokes takes over the reins next year, and Sherri Irvin has agreed to chair the Pacific ASA in 2009. I am happy and relieved to pass on the responsibility to these two philosophers who will each undoubtedly assemble programs that are both intellectually and aesthetically engaging.