The second annual Graduate Conference in Aesthetics occurred the day after the ASA Eastern Division Meeting in Philadelphia, on April 21. The conference was sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium and the American Society for Aesthetics. Four papers were accepted from twenty-five submissions: student presenters included Matt Harman (University of Chicago), Tano Posteraro (McMaster), Allison Fritz (Nebraska), and David Freidell (UCLA). Topics ranged from environmental aesthetics to Merleau-Ponty on painting to the metaphysics of artworks. The commentators were Espen Hammer (Temple), John Carvalho (Villanova), Nola Semczyszyn (Franklin and Marshall), and Margaret Moore (Tennessee). All of the commentators are faculty members rather than graduate students, and provided insightful critiques from a more experienced point of view. Rob Hopkins (Sheffield/NYU) delivered a terrific keynote lecture.
Each graduate student paper was well-received, due in part to the fact that, like last year, submissions for the conference went through a careful blind-review process of two to three referees each. Each referee was an experienced philosopher with a good deal of familiarity in the subdiscipline of the paper they were reviewing; the list of referees was an impressive list of many familiar names in aesthetics and philosophy of art.
Attendance was fairly good. Aside from the eleven names mentioned above, there were about twenty-five attendees throughout the duration of the conference; these included graduate and undergraduate students from around the Philadelphia area, and some individuals from the ASA Eastern Division conference who were able to stay for the graduate conference. We were able to have sessions chaired by graduate students at programs outside the Philadelphia area. In addition, the tone of the conference was friendly and positive.
The main goal of the graduate conference was to foster and encourage graduate work in aesthetics. There were multiple ways that the conference realized this goal: (a) through encouraging presenters to continue their work in aesthetics by providing a venue at which they can present their work, (b) through providing commentary on the presenters’ work from experienced philosophers at the conference, (c) through the interaction between graduate students working in aesthetics that this conference facilitates, and (d) through the keynote lecture. Again, there was a refreshingly friendly atmosphere that seemed to help the conference foster graduate work in aesthetics through all of the ways stated above.