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ASA Session at the 2020 College Art Association Annual Meeting

Tuesday, November 5, 2019  
Posted by: Julie Van Camp
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The American Society for Aesthetics is sponsoring a session at the College Art Association Annual Conference in Chicago, February 12-15, 2020. The ASA session, "Embodied Beauties: The Politics and Aesthetics of the Moving Body," will be Saturday, February 15 from 2:00-3:30 at the Hilton Chicago in Room 4K (4th floor). 

The ASA will also hold an informal business meeting on Saturday, February 15, from 12:30-1:30 pm at the Hilton Chicago in Room 4K (4th floor). Everyone interested in the ASA is welcome to attend. 

The Conference web site:

The ASA session:

Panel Organizer & Chair:  Prof. Andrea Baldini (on behalf of the ASA)
Panel Participants: Prof Andrea Baldini, Prof Aili Bresnahan, Prof Eva Man, Prof Peg Brand Weiser
Panel Abstract:

The body has become a key interest in virtually all contemporary traditions of philosophical inquiry. By focusing on the embodied nature of our lives, philosophers have developed novel and more comprehensive ways of understanding the fundamental features – among other things – of human thought, action, and culture. Across those traditions, many have been pointing out that acknowledging the centrality of the body can prove instrumental in correcting well-known limitations of traditional models especially in Western philosophies.

In aesthetics, the body offers a rich field of philosophical investigations, cutting across disciplines and schools. At a fundamental level, the body is a locus where we find intuitively realized a unity between the aesthetic subject and object. Individuals appreciate their bodies, acting both as observers and observed. This in turn profoundly challenges the long-standing dualism of Western aesthetics, possibly building bridges with other philosophical traditions such as those from the East. Reflections on the body seem to come with a promise of a new theoretical unity, so crucial in our globalized world.

Philosophical discussions of the body also shake aesthetics in other ways that are no less interesting and potentially innovative. Recently, we have seen a growing number of works by aestheticians expanding the range of objects and practices beyond the study of nature and the arts. Thinking about the body brings to the disciplinary foreground a wide range of social and cultural phenomena historically neglected. This panel explores cutting-edge trends in body aesthetics; we aim at stimulating an interdisciplinary dialogue and approach which can bring together art historians, aestheticians, artists, and activists interested in exploring the body as a crucial source of everyday aesthetic as well as artistic enjoyment.

Elegance, Resistance, and the Creation of the Self: The Politics of the Dressed Body

Andrea Baldini (Nanjing University)

In the last few years, philosophers have showed some interest in theoretical questions about fashion. This shift signals a new disciplinary trend in philosophy, which has considered matters of personal appearances and taste in clothing as topics unworthy of serious analysis. In this sense, some philosophers have joined fashion theorists in debating important issues about how we dress. However, these works have largely ignored elegance and its significant connection with the aesthetics of the self, and in particular with its implications at the level of political action and resistance. While not denying its connections with fashion, elegance is also distinct from that domain.

In this presentation, I address a metaphysical question for a theory of elegance: What is elegance? I defend the view that elegance refers to a set of practices that deal with the creation and cultivation of the self. The view draws significantly from Foucault’s later discussions of dandyism as an aesthetics of the self. Elegance is a tactic whereby one can create an autonomous space for self-creation. There, we constitute ourselves as subjects in ways that resist the strictures of modern power. Through elegance understood as creation and cultivation of the self, we can develop authentic ways to perform our individual identities.

The pursuit of elegance, I suggest, can be legitimately considered an aspect of one’s aesthetic education in Schiller’s sense, imbuing our daily lives not only with beauty, but also values and meanings that transcend the domain of shallow appearances – or, put it more technically, the domain of the aesthetic narrowly construed. I develop then a view that sees elegance not merely as the outcome of certain ways of dressing and behaving, but rather as specific embodied ways of being and acting in the world – of doing things, one could say.


Andrea Baldini is Associate Professor of Art Theory and Aesthetics at the School of Arts of Nanjing University and Director of the NJU Center for Sino-Italian Cultural Studies. He is also Young Ambassador of the Jiangsu Province. Since 2015, he is also the coordinator of the Jinling Artist-in-Residence Program, whose aim is to promote cultural exchange between China and Italy. From 2014 to 2016, he was International Postdoctoral Exchange Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences at Nanjing University. He has published extensively on issues related to aesthetics, philosophy of art, and visual culture. Recent articles appeared in the Journal of Visual Culture and The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. His monograph A Philosophy Guide to Street Art and the Law has been published by Brill. He is also an independent curator with international experience. His curatorial works focuses on issues emerging in cross-cultural contexts of artistic and aesthetic appreciation. Since 2018, he is also a board member of AAIIC, the Association of Italian Scholars in China.

Appreciating the Dancing Body

Aili Bresnahan (University of Dayton)

In this presentation I will survey issues in the philosophy of art and aesthetics pertaining to treatment of art as objects and products for appreciation and how these issues apply to dance in ways that include appreciating dance’s structure, content, and historical context and provenance. I will then show how additional work and exploration in the philosophy of dance, sometimes borrowing from and in conversation with the philosophy of art as performance and the philosophies of music and theatre, shows that dance can also be appreciated as moving, doing, art-in-progress as well as art object. It is in these additional aspects where “kinaesthetic,” bodily, and somatic aspects (among other features) of live-audience experience join textual and visual-art object appreciation in understanding dance as the kind of art that it is. I will end with the reflection that performing dancers who are not a dance’s primary choreographers often function as collaborators in both aspects of dance appreciation, and show how in many cases dance objects provide the supervenience base for art-in-progress performances and are not appreciated alone.


Aili Bresnahan is an Assistant Professor [*this will change to Associate Professor as of August 16, 2019] in the philosophy department of the University of Dayton in Ohio who specializes in aesthetics and the philosophy of dance. Her work can be found in the Dance Research Journal, Philosophy Compass, The Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology, and The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as well as in The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Temporal Experience, Dance and the Quality of Life, and in Aesthetics: A Reader in the Philosophy of the Arts, 4th ed. She is also the founder and moderator of the DancePhilosophers Google group. For further information and for a full list of her publications see her website:

Beauty as A Philosophy of the Mind and the Body: Confucian Aesthetics and Its Feminist Modality 

Eva Kit Wah Man (Hong Kong Baptist University)

This article will start from the reflection and analysis of the origin of “beauty” in the Confucian aesthetics. It will first trace its origin in the suggestion of the Confucian moral mind. The emergence process involved is regarded as a very different one from that of the Western mainstream, in which the subject and object dichotomy is presupposed.  The transcendental mind of the process is the origin of the “truth,” the “goodness,” and the “beauty,” which is not alien to most of the Eastern philosophical models. There is also an implication of the subject in a position with the Confucian notion of Heaven, i.e., beauty is a communication of the subject with Heaven. The paper will then explore the ideals of Feminist Aesthetics as a form of critical politics. The basic agenda of it is a critique of the Western aesthetic model.  While being sympathetic with the attempts of Feminist Aesthetics in reconstructing the Western modern aesthetic model, the paper will also point out the differences between it and the non-Western suggestion as an alternative feminist paradigm.  The article will then comment on: 1) the notion of beauty as a philosophy of mind; 2) its manifestation on related art forms; and 3) the implications of these different aesthetic paradigms on the functions of art and the cultivation of the self.


Prof. Eva Man is currently the Director of Film Academy and Chair Professor in Humanities of Hong Kong Baptist University. She publishes widely in comparative aesthetics, comparative philosophy, woman studies, feminist philosophy, cultural studies, art and cultural criticism. She was a Fulbright scholar conducted research at the University of California, Berkeley in 2004. She was named AMUW Endowed Woman Chair Professor of the 100th Anniversary of Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA in 2009. She contributes public services to the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, Hong Kong Museums Advisory Committee and Hong Kong Public Libraries and other committees for LCSD and Home Affairs Bureau of HKSAR, and Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Arts and Cultural Heritage projects.

Perceiving Beautiful Bodies

Peg Brand Weiser (University of Arizona)

Traditionally, art students have learned to draw the human body by copying original works of art or by looking directly at a nude model in a figure drawing class. There are obvious differences between those two types of perception but even more distinctive is the recent phenomenon of artists and viewers perceiving paradigmatic beauty of the human physique by looking at the toned bodies of contemporary elite athletes. The photographs of Helmut Newton in 1981, images in Life and New York Times magazines (1996), nude Olympians in Playboy (2004), and ten years of ESPN Magazine: The Body Issue, provide examples of both male and female athletic beauty that are reminiscent of ancient Greek ideals.

The history of these various modes of perceiving cast suspicion on basic writings in aesthetics dating back to the eighteenth century, offering both a simplistic notion of perception (given what we now know from studies in cognitive science) and a limited conception of “pleasure” as the accompanying sentiment of one’s experience of beauty. I will consider what draws us to perceiving beautiful bodies in art and athletics—repeatedly and over time—that is informed by recent writings in the philosophy of sport. Perceiving beautiful bodies can be explained by a model of looking that also incorporates the performing body—typical of athletic competition—not just the body-to-be-looked-at—as seen in posed art.


Peg Brand Weiser is an artist and Emerita Associate Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at Indiana University Purdue University—Indianapolis who teaches at the University of Arizona. She is editor of Beauty Unlimited (2013) and Beauty Matters (2000), and co-editor with Carolyn Korsmeyer of Feminism and Tradition in Aesthetics (1995), among various other publications in aesthetics.

Thank you to Professor Baldini for organizing this session on behalf of the ASA. If you are interested in participating in the 2021 program in New York City, please contact him directly.


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