The fifteenth annual meeting of the Canadian Aesthetic Society was held in Ottawa from 27-30 May, 1998. The theme of this year’s meeting was rationality and aesthetics. Papers were presented in philosophy, literature, and the visual arts, on the aesthetics of landscape, video productions, dance, architecture, music and wine tasting, etc. Participants included scholars from Canada and the United States, and as well this year the CSA was pleased to welcome the participation of scholars from Finland.
Peter McCormick (Ottawa) and Richard Shusterman (Temple) gave key-note addresses. McCormick spoke on the confrontation between rationality and some forms of twentieth century poetic art which question the very notion of rational interpretation. Shusterman presented a view of an aesthetic discipline centered on the body, drawing on the work of Baumgarten and Dewey.
Individual papers included the following. Doug Arrell (Winnipeg) spoke of prejudice in criticism, referring specifically to the homophobia of many New York theatre critics in the Fifties and Sixties. Sheryle Bergmann (Manitoba) argued that aesthetic experiences have rational underpinnings, an argument which leads into a discussion of the emotions and private versus public knowledge. Considering art as a nomadic shifter, Elise Bernatchez (Concordia) defined an aesthetic experience as a moment of truth in which feeling and meaning are one. Marta Heikkila (Helsinki) underlined the importance of the art object as a relation between the subject and the object of perception in Dufrenne’s work; and Kent Hooper (Puget Sound) developped the notion of “abductive reasoning” from Peirce and Eco in an attempt to understand multiple talents in artists as well as relations between various art forms.
Sylvie Lachize (Québec, Montréal) outlined the reciprocity of aesthetics and rationality with respect to the reasons for success or failure of an artistic production. Paul Murphy (Toronto) argued that Heideggerian phenomenology typically appropriates other discourses, such as Plato’s Phaedrus, making the aesthetic experience into a form of disclosure. Erna Oesch (Tampere, Finland) adressed the notion of the logic of interpretation with respect to the era of German Romanticism; and Ira Newman (Mansfield) argued that inspite of apparent banalities in literary works, literature does afford the reader a genuine learning experience. From a consideration of Hobbes’s writing on poetry, Avery Plaw (McGill) concluded that Hobbes subordinates aesthetics to the exigencies of practical politics. Bella Rabinovitch (Concordia) compared Gadamer’s and Dewey’s approach to art objects, and applied Dewey’s holistic approach to different works of art. Marie-Andrée Ricard (Laval) considered Hegel’s pronouncement concerning the death of art and argued that the decline of art is tied to the advent of subjectivity; and for Jonathan Salem-Wiseman (York) Nietzsche’s belief that art surpasses science, as a response to Hegel’s famous aphorism, art is dead, is impractical because truth cannot be disclosed witout distortion.
Roger Seamon (British Columbia) argued that description is a form of interpretation, or an alternative, and compared an emotional response to Milton’s Lycidas with an interpretive, value based response. Robert Stacey (York) read Frances Brooke’s The History of Emily Montague from the perspective of Edmund Burke’s aesthetic philosphy. James Steeves (McMaster) invoked the writings of Merleau-Ponty, and stressed the need to consider artworks, as other objects, from the perspective of perception. Leon Surette (Western) considered the implications of a model of interpretation based on Saussurean linguistics as opposed to Peirce’s triadic model in order to show that the Peircean model is indeed hermeneutic whereas the Saussurean model is not. Edward Tingley (Canadian Centre for Architecture) considered how philosophical interpretation creates puzzles, or pictures of how we relate to art and reality and argued that although art gives a deeper understanding of reality it is most often the philosophical picture that predominates. Boyd White (McGill) considered the use of metaphor as a means to explain the relation between the self and the object of aesthetic experience. Victor Haines (Dawson College) argued that because art is transgression, its appreciation is only possible in the irrational, radical freedom of make-believe.
Maurice Lagueux (Montréal) attempted to define problematic terms such as organicism, functionalism, formalism and expressionism in an effort to distinguish between their meanings and uses. Jean-Pierre Latour (Québec, Hull) considered the aesthetic effects of rationalism with respect to sculpture in Quebec during the Sixties. Carl Simpson argued that Western interpretation of pictorial representations is largely subservient to psychological perspectives.
Special thematic sessions were devoted to the following themes: The aesthetics of landscape. Victor Haines spoke of the perennial border; Thomas Heyd (Victoria) presented images of Aboriginal art rock as a form of artistic expression; Monique Langlois (Québec, Montréal) considered different ways of representing nauture and their influence on the relation between object and subject. Manon Régimbald (Québec, Montréal) spoke of the unusual, polymorphic character of gardens and their ability to provoke memories that constitute the subject.
Dialectic and anti-dialectic: Suzanne Foisy (Québec, Trois-Rivières) spoke of aesthetic mediation with reference to German Romanticism. Mario Dufour made a comparison of Derrida and Gadamer. Claude Thérien (Ottawa) considered Hegel’s philosophy from the perspective of word and action. Yves Michaud, La Crise de l’art contemporain. Presentations on Michaud’s work by Marie-Noëlle Ryan (Québec, Trois-Rivières), Jean Phillipe Uzel (Québec, Montréal), and Louis Jacob (Québec, Trois-Rivières). Roman Ingarden. Jeff Mitscherling (Guelph) reviewed Kocay’s work, Forme et référence: le langage de Roman Ingarden. And Victor Kocay (Saint Francis Xavier) gave a review of Mitscherling’s work, Roman Ingarden’s Ontology and Aesthetics. Astrid Vicas (Saint Leo College, Florida) and Leon Surette commented on Michelle Weinroth’s work, Reclaiming William Morris and the author replied.
Music: alarmed that knowledge is increasingly considered as rational and determinate, Yaroslav Senyshyn (Simon Fraser) argued that creativity is transformative, that passion is truth. Gerald Phillips (Towson) took up Adorno’s criticism of Stravinsky, and argued that Stravinsky’s Les Noces in fact coincides with Adorno’s notion of autonomous works. Charles Morrison (Wilfird Laurier) argued that a musical work must include experienced temporality as opposed to latent temporality. Michael Free (McGill) spoke of the understanding of a musical work from the perspective of performer and listener; and Tamara Levitz (McGill) considered Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring from the perspective of bodily understanding.
Dance: Christina Halliday (York) considered dance performance and modes of meaning making connected with the body, such as repetition, rhythm and disappearance. Suzanne Jaeger (York) argued that Merleau-Ponty’s notion of chiasm gives a richer understanding of dance experience than contemporary semiotic models; and in this perspective Rebecca Todd conducted a workshop that explored the relation between the body and language.
Wine tasting: Jouko Mykkänen (Helsinki) conducted a wine and food tasting session emphasizing the aesthetic notions of taste and harmony.
Video: René Derouin presented his work, Migrations, which explores the notions of otherness and cultural mixing. Commentary by Jocelyne Connely (Québec, Montréal). Mario Côté presented his recent work, Variations Vertov.