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2010 Canadian Society for Aesthetics
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About forty scholars attended the CSA’s annual meeting. As usual, the meeting was held concurrently with about fifty other societies under the sponsorship of the Canadian Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. One of the benefits of this arrangement is that participants can attend meetings of other societies as well as the CSA, and also take advantage of some very economical lodging rates arranged by the Congress. A healthy mix of mainly Canadian and U.S. scholars attended the CSA meeting, as well as participants from Finland and the U.K. Montréal was especially pleasant this year, with warm sunny days, and inviting restaurants and museums. All of this presented a nice backdrop to the good fellowship that has come to mark the CSA’s small and stimulating meetings.

The program had two concurrent segments: one in English and one in French. On the English-speaking side, the papers covered a wide range of aesthetic interests. Day one opened with a session on Kant’s aesthetics (Christopher Yates’s “In the Interest of Disinterestedness: Kant and His Readers on the Question of Beauty”). This was followed by a session on art and ethics, with Danielle Taschereau Mamers’s “Violence Reframed: War Photography and the Struggle for Framing Understanding,” and Stephanie Patridge and Andrew Jordan’s “Against the Moralistic Fallacy.” The afternoon began with Roger Paden’s “Klimt’s Philosophical Genealogy.” A session of three papers on philosophy of music completed the afternoon: James Young’s “Kivy on Musical Genius,” Erkki Huovinen’s “The Case against Large-scale Awareness in Musical Understanding: Why Levinson’s Concatenationism Doesn’t Work,” and John Dyck’s “How Musicologists Ground Musical Properties.” To close the first day, the intellectually energized band of aestheticians made their way to the second floor of the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, for a private reception arranged by Suzanne Foisy, our Francophone program co-chair. Cool wine and warm conversation quickly followed, before we all broke for dinner at one of the many restaurants that marked this section of the city.

Natural aesthetics led off the second day, with John Brown presenting a paper on “Natural Ugliness,” accompanied by some aptly illustrated slides. This was followed by Yrjö Sepanmaa’s “Cultural Heritage, or the Human Footprint, as Seen from the Aesthetic Point of View.” The second session of the morning was a bilingual one joining both English and French-speaking segments of the program: it consisted of an engaging presentation by Quebec artist Richard Purdy (titled “L’echo-l’eau”) in which he discussed and illustrated his visual and conceptual projects over the years – obviously (from the title), much to do with water in some cases. The afternoon was devoted to a special panel session on William Morris’s aesthetics (“Radicalism and Aesthetics”.) Organized by the Society’s Michelle Weinroth, it brought together scholars from far and wide for a discussion of Morris’s distinctive challenges to aesthetic practice and understanding. The panelists included Elizabeth Helsinger, David Latham, Florence Boos, Miles Tittle, John Plotz, and David Mabb, as well as Michelle Weinroth. The second day’s activities were capped by the annual CSA dinner held at Rumi, a wonderful Middle Eastern restaurant, about a half hour from the meeting site at Concordia. Good food and convivial spirits flowed generously. Thanks to both Suzanne Foisy and Josette Trépanier for making such a fine selection.

Day three began with an author-meets-critic session on Jeanette Bicknell’s Why Music Moves Us. Participants included Michael Szekeley and Ira Newman from philosophy and Frank Russo from psychology, whose behavioral studies program had used Jeanette’s book to frame some psychology of music questions this past semester. Jeanette then offered her responses. Session two was devoted to aesthetic preservation, with two controversial subjects presented: James Janowski’s “Should the Bamiyan Buddhas Rest in Peace?” and Margaret Hodges’s “Expressway Aesthetics: Montréal in the 1960s.” In the afternoon a panel discussion took place on “Philosopher as Artist: Jan Zwicky.” The panelists included Stephen Burns, Sue Sinclair, Andre Furlani and Warren Heiti.

Many thanks to Glenn Parsons for his tireless work as Anglophone program chair. Since we did not have an official local arrangements coordinator, Suzanne Foisy assumed much of the responsibilities of that role (which included arranging the museum reception on the first night and the annual dinner on the second). In addition Suzanne organized the French-speaking half of the program; so she assumed quite a heavy burden, and we are very grateful. Thanks finally to all the presenters and participants, who made the sessions come alive with their thought-provoking ideas and conversations.

Ira Newman

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