Book of Abstracts ESA 2022

Aesthetic Norms as Habits: Reasons for Situated Aesthetic Normativity
Alessandro Bertinetto

The purpose of the talk is to explore the contribution of habits to aesthetic normativity.

It can be intuitively observed that habits are linked to aesthetic normativity. One can have good or bad aesthetic habits, that is, habits that comply or do not comply with normative criteria of aesthetic value commonly shared by participants in an aesthetic (including artistic) practices. Accordingly, in reference to specific aesthetic practices, those with good aesthetic habits use to respect the aesthetic normativity of the relevant practices: they have good taste; those who do not have good aesthetic habits have bad taste and violate the aesthetic norms of an aesthetic practice. Thusly conceived, habits regulate the correctness of individual aesthetic preferences and the goodness of the individuals’ taste in reference to the normative aesthetic “profile” of an aesthetic practice.

Yet habits play a more constitutive role for the articulation of aesthetic normativity. Habits constitute and regulate aesthetic practices themselves, being (embodied) norms of behavior that shape aesthetic practices. Furthermore, since habits work through situated interactions between organism and environment, and develop through these situated interactions, the aesthetic normativity constituted and regulated by aesthetic habits is situated as well: it is negotiated through the situations in which aesthetic practices are carried out.

The Contradiction of Audio Drama
Clive Cazeaux

What distinguishes drama from other narrative-based art forms, such as literature and story-telling, is ostension. Drama doesn’t just tell; it shows. The contradiction of audio drama is that sound cannot show or manifest the event that caused it or that corresponds to it. Hence the often-made criticism that it is a blind art form. I disarm the contradiction by tackling the two ideas that sustain it: (1) showing consists in a complete or substantial representation of the event that caused the sound; and (2) the capacity of sound to represent or to show a world is limited or impaired. I demonstrate that (1) the idea of a complete representation is governed by Plato’s concept of mimesis, whereas Aristotle’s mimesis emphasizes the importance of partial representation as a feature of plot. With (2), the alleged ‘limited’ capacity of sound to represent a world becomes a virtue (i) because Aristotle’s emphasis on partiality frees it from the need to be a complete representation, and (ii) because meaning in an art work, including audio drama, is not exclusively a matter of reference but also a matter of sense (in Frege’s terms). In this regard, the manner in which ‘incomplete’ sounds demand interpretation can be an aesthetically valuable act.

Self-Referential Aesthetics in the Art of Leonard Cohen
Jason Holt

On the assumption that Cohen’s best poetry comes in his literary middle period, specifically The Energy of Slaves (1972) and Death of a Lady’s Man (1978), I hypothesize that it is self-reference broadly conceived that elevates these works above the rest of Cohen’s poetry. This is confirmed by noteworthy middle and late period Cohen songs. I offer a threefold typology of Cohen’s self-reference: (1) intratextual (reflexive self-reference within a work), (2) intertextual (reference to a particular other work in the oeuvre), (3) supratextual (reference to multiple works in the oeuvre). Such devices enhance those works in which they appear (or are otherwise in their self-referential scope) by giving a higher-order perspective that fosters better integration of elements within and suggested by those works. Self-reference can be gimmicky and so not a mark of artistic success, but it nonetheless adds appreciable significance to works that are good enough in other respects. Rather than a primary artistic virtue, then, self-reference is a secondary (or perquisite) virtue, as well as a pairing (or sharing) virtue vis-à-vis other works.

Kitschy Kitsch and Kitschy Art: Kitsch as an Aesthetic Category and an Aesthetic Property
Lisa Schmalzried

The question “Is this art or kitsch?”–popular among art critics and feuilletonists–implies a dichotomy between kitsch and art. At the same time, we judge some works of art to be kitsch. So, what is the relationship between art and kitsch? The key to answering this question lies in distinguishing between kitsch as an aesthetic category and as an aesthetic property.

As an aesthetic category, kitsch is an artefact, performance, or practice whose dominant function is to enable self-enjoyment by effortlessly evoking emotional reactions of the “soft” emotional spectrum with a “sweet” phenomenological quality in a large group of people. Based on this definition, kitsch and art turn out to be two different and mutually exclusive aesthetic categories.

As an aesthetic property, kitsch is the disposition to effortlessly evoke emotional reactions of the “soft” emotional spectrum with a “sweet” phenomenological quality by supervening on the kitsch-typical features. So, everything kitsch is also kitschy, but not vice versa. Therefore, also art can possess the aesthetic and art-critically relevant property of being kitschy although it is not kitsch.

The Uncanniness of the Ordinary as an Aesthetic Category
Lorenzo Gineprini

Through the many reinterpretations of Freud’s essay Das Unheimliche (1919) within the French Postmodernism, in the last decades the uncanny became a vague synonym for the methodology of deconstruction instead of being characterized as an aesthetic category. The talk aims to disambiguate the uncanny by reestablishing its characterizing nucleus and relocating it within the aesthetics. The starting point is represented by Juliane Rebentisch’s category of the Uncanniness of the Ordinary (Unheimlichkeit des Gewöhnlichen). Translating a notion of Stanley Cavell from the philosophy of language to the aesthetics, Rebentisch indicates the feeling generated by the artistic encounter with everyday objects, which usually lay unnoticed under the attention threshold. Artistic dislocations move such use objects out of their opaque familiarity, challenging habitual and allegedly self-evident mechanisms of experience and hence generating an unsettling feeling.

Such an interpretation enables: (1) to reaffirm the uncanny as an eminently aesthetic phenomenon; (2) to connect it with the Freudian definition of something familiar appearing in a new, unfamiliar light; (3) to state that the feeling is generated by the encounter with specific objects and not only by a menacing yet undetermined sense of ambiguity; (4) to integrate the concept with today’s debate in aesthetics about the material and phenomenological properties of artworks.

Aesthetic Reasons: What They Can Do and What They Cannot Do
María José Alcaraz León

Aesthetic reasons are often invoked as a characterization of the rational nature of critical discourse. However, the way aesthetic reasons operate in critical discourse invites reconsidering their normative role. Compared to the normative force that reasons seem to possess in other domains, aesthetic reasons may be accepted whilst persisting in one’s previous judgment or failing to make the judgment those reasons are supposedly grounding.  

The suggestion I would like to make is that these singularities can be better accommodated if we consider the activity of giving and taking aesthetic reasons, not as a matter of providing independent elements (evidence) for a particular aesthetic judgement, but as making explicit the content of one’s judgment and the features one takes to be responsible for one’s appreciation or to justify it. In so doing, we show our judgment to be properly anchored in the object’s features and establish, by making that judgment, that we take that relationship to be normative, that is, universally acceptable.

Albeit this may seem like a concession depriving aesthetic reasons of a  normative role, I would like to show that this role is sufficient to establish the rational nature of aesthetic judgment.

Formal Fictional Truths, Glitches, and MISSINGNO.
Nathan Wildman

Recently, Kim (2021) has argued for the existence of formal fictional truths – i.e., fictional truths that are generated by medium-based features in a non-saying, non-inferential manner. Kim’s idea is striking, pushing the investigation of fictional truth into uncharted waters. But much about formal fictional truths remains under-explored. In particular, Kim only considers literary fictions. So, it is natural to wonder how formal fictional truths manifest in non-literary fictions. 

My aim here is to make some headway by examining formal fictional truths in video game fictions. Understanding what these look like in the context of video games will, I contend, help to both clarify the nature of fictional truth (formal or otherwise) and give us a better grip on the fictionality of video games.

Specifically, I argue that, when it comes to video games, there are both intentional and unintentional formal fictional truths. The former are straightforward, occurring regularly. The latter, however, are rare and often quite strange, only emerging from what van de Mosselear & Wildman (2020) have called generative glitches. To spell this out, I discuss the case of MISSINGNO., an infamous “glitch Pokémon”.

The Unreflective Everyday Aesthetic Experience
Natxo Navarro Renalias

The aim of this paper is to propose an alternative conception of everyday aesthetic experience. Against what is argued by Yuriko Saito (2017), it is alleged that adopting an attentive attitude is not always a necessary condition for aesthetically experiencing the everyday. Thus, it is maintained that the habitual everyday autopilot experience—taking place under the conscious radar—does significantly nurture our aesthetic life. This way, a case is made for the unreflective everyday aesthetic experience. For this purpose, a distinction is drawn between an appreciative and an immersive conception of everyday aesthetic experience, the latter providing a proper way of accounting for the unreflective everyday aesthetic experience. Whilst this work is based on a critique of Saito’s argument, it is also elucidated how it can nevertheless contribute to her overall project. Lastly, it is briefly considered the relevance of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy for providing this proposal with a normative framework of an implicit and practical character. As a general instance, ordinary interpersonal relations are taken to illustrate the different claims made in this paper.

Ethical Issues on Musical Appropriation
Nemesio G. C. Puy

This talk aims to shed light on the question of whether musical appropriation is ethically unobjectionable. James Young (2021) has recently advanced a position on this topic, according to which, whereas the appropriation of a whole work is uncontroversially non-permissible, the appropriation of parts of a work is usually permissible. He grounds this view in ontological matters and in a criterion of fair use in terms of economic harm to the source work’s composer. I will go into develop in more detail Young’s account. I argue that, pace Young, we cannot make general ethical claims about musical appropriation because their truth is sensitive to the musical genres that the involved works belong to. The reason is that different musical genres have different normative implications as to how musical works are to be composed and appreciated, which in turn entail different consequences concerning the harm to the source work’s composer. In support of this thesis, I will consider a specific kind of musical appropriation: using the first measures of a source work as the first measures of a secondary work. Considering three cases of appropriation of works belonging to different genres, and assuming Young’s criterion on fair use, I will show that the instances of this kind of musical appropriation count as fair or unfair depending on the musical genres of the involved works.

The Subjective Knowledge Theory. A Defense
Radu Bumbăcea

In this paper, I will statement and defend a version of what is known as the Subjective Theory of Knowledge (e.g. Walsh 1969, Kajtár 2016, Mikkonen 2015), which claims that narrative literature can provide the reader with knowledge of what it is like to have a certain experience. I will argue that we can get such a knowledge by imagining an experience (usually an emotion or another cognitive-affective experience) that a fictional character has. I will also claim that the knowledge resulting from this is not a priori worse than the one derived from actually having the experience. My key argument for this last claim is the following: the test for whether one knows what it is like to have a certain experience consists in whether one can imagine it, so it does not matter whether one has actually had it.

The Laocoön and the Devil: A Path through the Franciscus Hemsterhuis’ Letter on Sculpture
Viviana Galletta

This research intends to show the key role of the Franciscus Hemsterhuis’s Letter on Sculpture (1765) in the frame of the late eighteenth-century Aesthetics. More specifically, through the transition from a mimetic to a “relational” model, according to which beauty emerges from the relationship between the subject and the art object, the Dutch philosopher theorises two different but equally valid ways to represent beauty through art: the classical way, which is esemplified by the Laocoön, and the modern way, whose peculiar subject is the devil.

According to Hemsterhuis, beauty, defined as “the greatest possible number of ideas in the smallest possible space of time”, belongs to the soul’s desire for unity and could be gained by the artist through two different paths: increasing the art object’s unity (classical way) or enhancing the quantity of ideas represented (modern way). It is, therefore, necessary that the artist considers not only the minimum of time the subject needs to grasp the totality of the object (unity) but also the maximum of ideas the object communicates (multiplicity). Basically, beauty is a balanced state intended as an optimum, namely as a totality easy to grasp and simultaneously rich and varied.