PoTW – Aesthetic Adjectives and Disagreements about Taste

London Aesthetics Forum (LAF)This workshop will bring together researchers in aesthetics, philosophy of language and linguistics to consider a topic significant to all these domains: aesthetic adjectives, such as ‘beautiful’, ‘ugly’, ‘elegant’ and ‘unified’, and their role in disagreements about taste. Although theorists working on the semantics of adjectives have developed sophisticated theories about gradable adjectives generally and have explored the closely related class of adjectives known as predicates of ‘personal taste’ (e.g., ‘tasty’ and ‘fun’), they have tended to avoid studying aesthetic adjectives, which play a central role in the evaluation of art. At the same time, philosophical aestheticians have a longstanding interest in the nature and use of aesthetic adjectives: consider, for example, the traditional project of defining ‘beautiful’, ‘sublime’ and ‘ugly’. In the contemporary context, Frank Sibley’s influential argument to the effect that the applications of aesthetic terms are never solely determined by their non-aesthetic conditions has instigated a significant research programme devoted to exploring those terms and their use in ordinary and critical discourse (Sibley 1959; Kivy 1973). To take another example, Kendall Walton’s seminal work on the role played by categories in aesthetic judgments raised the question of whether gradable adjectives such as ‘tall’ or ‘small’ might serve as models for understanding aesthetic adjectives (Walton 1970). But despite the interest in aesthetic language in general and aesthetic adjectives in particular, philosophical aestheticians have been notably resistant to engaging with the current theories of the semantics of adjectives that are found in linguistics and philosophy of language. The aim of this workshop is to help remedy these lacunae by enhancing the dialogue between aesthetics on the one hand, and philosophy of language and linguistics on the other.

Participants: Aaron Meskin (University of Leeds), Shen-Yi Liao (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and Leeds), Tim Sundell (University of Kentucky), Isidora Stojanovic (Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Nick Zangwill (University of Hull) and Louise McNally (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona)

Programme

12.45  Welcome
13.00  Shen-Yi Liao and Aaron Meskin, ‘The Relative, the Absolute, and the
Aesthetic’
14.00  Isidora Stojanovic, ‘The Experiential and the Evaluative Aspects of
Aesthetic Judgements’
15.00  Tea/coffee
15.30  Tim Sundell, ‘Non-Evaluative Contextualism for Predicates of Taste’
16.30  Louise McNally, ‘Aesthetic Predicates at the Semantics/Pragmatics
Interface’ (commentary)
17.00  Nick Zangwill, TBA (commentary)
17.30  General discussion
18.00  Close
Date and time: 14 March 2014, 12:45 – 18:00
Venue: Room G22/26 (Ground Floor)

Supported by the British Society of Aesthetics and the Institute of Philosophy. Enquiries.

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