I would like, first, to thank Dabney Townsend, secretary-treasurer of the ASA, and Stephanie (Taffy) Ross, local arrangements chair, not only for all of their work in making the conference possible, but also for their wise advice at all stages of planning the program. James Shelley, the program chair for the 2011 national meeting, also provided invaluable advice and feedback on all aspects of program design, for which I am very grateful. I would like to thank the members of the program committee--Chris Williams, Saam Trivedi, Kathleen Stock, Gordon Graham, Keren Gorodeisky, Jane Forsey, Allen Carlson--for their stellar, imaginative, and rigorous work both in organizing panels and in vetting papers and paper proposals. It was a true pleasure to work with such colleagues.
For the 2012 Annual Meeting, the program committee proposed a set of broadly Hegelian themes, in honor of the St. Louis Hegelians, one of the earliest American philosophical movements: special aesthetics (concerning particular art forms, media, styles, or genres); the ontology of art; the nature and value of artistic symbolism; art, history, and art history; art and religion, politics, or self-knowledge; aesthetic cognitivism; Arthur Danto’s philosophy of art; the aesthetics of nature versus the aesthetics of art; the aesthetics of non-Western art. These themes fit with the topic of Paul Guyer’s Presidential Address, “Separatism and Syncretism in the History of Aesthetics,” and we were also very pleased ot welcome the Arianna quartet to perform as the plenary “speaker.”
We received 57 submitted papers, of which 36 were accepted for presentation. A number of papers treated classic topics in philosophical aesthetics such as aesthetic properties or taste, as themes in or connected to those of the call for papers, such as German philosophical aesthetics (Hegel and beyond), Danto’s philosophy of art, and the ontology of art. Nearly half of the submitted papers treated one or another question in special aesthetics: many were on questions in the philosophies of music and of literature, while others treated film, architecture, and street art.
The committee received eight panel proposals, of which we accepted four: and author meets critics session on Thomas Leddy’s The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Aesthetics of Everyday Life, and panels on dance, participatory art, and classical Chinese aesthetic thought. The program committee also itself organized three panels – on aesthetic cognitivism, religion and the sublime, and expression – and two book panels: on Theodore Gracyk’s and Andrew Kania’s Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Music and (in memoriam) on Peter Goldie’s The Mess Inside.
Finally, I would like to bring two issues that arose during the planning of this meeting to the attention of the membership and trustees, and as relevant for future program committees. First, the ASA has a policy that papers may not be accepted for the national meeting if the papers have already been presented at one of the regional ASA meetings. This year, this policy led to the disqualification of several excellent submitted papers, which was unfortunate. The reasoning behind this policy is sensible: as we have few slots on the program, as well as a quite active membership who attend regional as well as national meetings, it makes sense to allocate the slots to papers that have not been heard by the membership. Yet it is also difficult to have to reject excellent papers that have not been heard, still, by a large proportion of the membership, and might profit from further presentation and discussion. At the least, it would be good if the ASA could publicize this policy a bit more, so that people can make informed decisions ahead of time about where – regional or national meetings – to submit their papers, but the policy might also be revisited if there is interest in doing so among the trustees and members. Second, the program committee had initially proposed the possibility of inviting a literary figure – probably a poet – as plenary speaker (in addition to the performance by the quartet). After several invitations were issued and declined, however, it became clear that the standard honorarium offered by the ASA to such a speaker--$1000 plus expenses – is significantly inferior to the honoraria offered to and expected by most reasonably prominent speakers in the arts; one poet’s agent indicated that her Pulitzer-Prize-winning client usually charges $12,000, which might give a sense of the higher end of the range, and which is, clearly, an order of magnitude higher than the ASA’s current honorarium. If the ASA would like to continue its tradition of inviting non-academics/figures in the arts to give the plenary addresses, it would probably be wise to increase, perhaps rather substantially, the honorarium so as to fall a bit more within the norm.