The annual PASA meeting was held at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California. As was the case last year, proceedings were made available electronically prior to the meetings rather than being mailed out, saving on paper, postage, and the time of the program chair! The program included seventeen submitted papers (chosen from forty submissions), two of which were included in a separately organized panel on Neuroaesthetics. Attendance numbers were noticeably down from last year in all categories, owing in part, I suspect, to the economic situation. It was difficult, in the circumstances, to find commentators for all of the accepted submitted papers. For this reason I experimented a little with the format, putting some submitted papers on panels with three speakers but no commentators.
In Wednesday afternoon’s session on the topic of music, Ted Gracyk examined Hanslick’s views on imaginative listening, Andrew Kania not only spoke about silent musical works but composed (and perhaps performed?) a silent work for the occasion [!], and Jennifer Judkins showed some wonderful slides to illustrate her talk on musical instruments as artworks. After dinner, there was the first of two panels on Aesthetics and Science, focused in this case on Neuroaesthetics, in which Jennifer Ashton waxed sceptical about the promise of neuroscience to illuminate the notion of affect in art, Whitney Davis waxed enthusiastic about what art historians can learn from neuroscience, and Blakey Vermeule gave a wonderfully engaging talk in the form of a dialogue between the sceptic and the enthusiast. This put everyone in the right mood for the traditional Wednesday evening reception.
Thursday morning began with two papers on our responses to artworks. Eva Dadlez looked at emotional responses to fictional cinema while Ira Newman explored some tensions in Aristotle’s views on the understanding of fictional characters. This was followed by a panel on recent developments in the visual arts. Ed Winters, John Rapko, and Jenny McMahon brought to our attention some of the more challenging or inspiring developments in contemporary visual art, discussing such different artists as Kosuth, Holzer, Abdessemed, and Eliasson. Issues addressed included the legacy of conceptualism, the notion of artistic failure, and the metaethical role of art. After lunch, there was a second panel on Aesthetics and Science. Brian Kane and Margaret Moore brought recent work in neuroscience to bear on our capacities to hear and imaginatively respond to music, while Stephen Davies raised questions about the claims of evolutionary aesthetics. The fourth session of the day was on metaphor, with papers by Hanna Kim, on the impossibility of using certain expressions metaphorically, and James Grant, the winner of the Graduate Student Essay Prize, who questioned claims about the indispensability of metaphor. The day concluded with a symposium on philosophical aspects of the film Memento, with lively exchanges between the three participants, Deborah Knight, Richard Hanley, and Bruce Russell.
Friday morning began with a panel on visual media, in which Marina Folescu challenged Kendall Walton’s account of documentary photographs, Nola Semczyszyn defended Walton against Berys Gaut’s claim that seeing requires unmediated perception of its object, and Zach Jurgensen explored the relationship between unpredictability and interactivity in the aesthetic properties of videogames. The final session featured two papers on narrative and fiction. Jim Hamilton argued that our engagement with narratives involves distinctive kinds of imagination, and not merely pretense imagination. Derek Matravers argued that the notion of imagination in the literature on fiction is used equivocally to mark two different distinctions.
The sessions benefitted from the excellent contributions of the commentators: Tobyn De Marco, Lee B. Brown, Flo Leibowitz, Amy Coplan, Peter Kivy, Justine Kingsbury, Raf de Clercq, Andrew McGonigal, Scott Clifton, and Graham McFee. I would also like to thank the session chairs Tom Leddy, Todd Cronan, Meredith Hoy, James Mock, Yvan Tétreault, Anthony Korsund, Andrew Kania, Sam Liao, and Victoria Shinbrot. I am very grateful to Sherri Irvin, my immediate predecessor as program chair, for invaluable advice on how to do the job and for making available to me relevant documents from last year’s meeting. Tom Leddy did his annual service to the conference by providing necessary technological equipment, for which, as always, our thanks. Thanks also to Jennifer Judkins for making her own projection devices available. Russ Quacchia provided his usual local assistance, with helpful binders on restaurants and places to go.
I would also like to thank a number of people for their assistance in putting together the program for the conference. Graham McFee, Iain Macdonald, Jim Hamilton, Dom Lopes, Berys Gaut, and Grant Tavinor provided timely and very informative assessments of submissions. Particular thanks go to Todd Cronan and Meredith Hoy, and to Andrew Kania, for their sterling work in setting up panels.
The 2011 meeting will be co-chaired by Amy Coplan and Tobyn De Marco. At the business meeting there was general agreement that it is a ‘good thing’ to have more than one person involved in organising the meetings, and, in keeping with this new tradition, Derek Matravers and Eva Dadlez will co-chair the meetings in 2012.