Competition Announcement

The European Society for Aesthetics awards an essay prize for PhD students and early career scholars (max. three years from the doctorate) in connection with its yearly conference. Former winners of the prize are not eligible to participate.

The prize consists of stipend of 500 €. The winning essay will be considered for publication in the journal Estetika: The European Journal of Aesthetics. For more information on the journal please visit https://estetikajournal.org/

All submissions to the prize must be in English. The selection of the prize winner will be broken down into two stages. First submissions should be made by following the general call of the ESA conference and all submissions will be considered for presentation at the conference. Please place “(Essay Prize)” after the title of your submission in EasyChair to indicate that you want your submission to be considered for the prize. After the first round of reviews, selected authors will be asked to submit a full conference paper (max. 5,000 words, including bibliographies and footnotes) by April 15th, 2022. The recipient of the prize will be selected from this group. We aim to announce the winner by May 10th, 2022.

The ESA Essay Prize is named after a co-founder and the first secretary of The European Society for Aesthetics, Fabian Dorsch (1974 – 2017). Its former winners include Servaas van der Berg (2017), Mark Windsor (2018), Irene Martínez Marín (2019), Jeremy Page (2020) and Nemesio G. C. Puy (2021).

Fabian Dorsch (1974 - 2017)

Fabian Dorsch, who has died unexpectedly aged 42, was an inspiring and original philosopher whose warm personality charmed everyone who encountered him. His work deals with central issues at the intersection of philosophy of mind, epistemology and aesthetics, but his legacy also includes important service to the profession, especially in promoting the cause and community of aesthetics across Europe.

Fabian was Associate Research Professor at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), where he also completed his Habilitation. He pursued undergraduate study at the University of Tübingen, before taking the MPhil and PhD at University College London, studying under Malcolm Budd and M.G.F. Martin. As well as spending a good few years at Fribourg, where he held various positions and often worked closely with Gianfranco Soldati, he was at various times Visiting Scholar at Berkeley, Glasgow, Warwick and the Institut Jean Nicod.

Fabian with the members of the first executive committee of the ESA

Perhaps the central theme of Fabian’s published output is the imagination. That was the topic of his doctoral dissertation (2008), and a subsequent book The Unity of Imagination (De Gruyter: 2012). Fabian’s offers a single account of all imagining, the Agency Account, and defends it against two main rivals, the Epistemological and Dependence Accounts. According to the Agency Account, the varieties of imagining, such as daydreaming, visualizing or supposing, essentially involve mental action, that is, the voluntary formation of mental representations. Distinguishing these different types of imagination both from each other and from other mental attitudes, Fabian describes how imagination contributes to and collaborates with perception, memory and judgment. In a series of important articles, he extends and adapts his position to accommodate other phenomena, such as pictorial representation, our emotional responses to fictions, and perceptual memory. Much of this material was to be integrated in a new book, Imagination (Routledge: forthcoming).

Fabian’s project on imagination makes central the epistemic relevance of imagination, its subjection to reasons, norms and values. In recent years, normativity, together with imagination, was increasingly the focus of his philosophical interest. He was in particular concerned with the relationship between experience and reason. Fabian articulated a position he called Phenomenal Rationalism, giving the phenomenal character of various mental states and episodes a central role in their epistemological import. Thus, for instance, perceptions, unlike imaginings, present their objects as external and as determining the representation itself, but, unlike judgements, are not sensitive to reasons. Phenomenal differences reflect differences in the mode of determination of the states and their epistemic role.

Fabian had just begun work on a new research project, The Normativity of Aesthetic Judgments, aiming to build a rationalist alternative to empiricism about aesthetic judgement. Dorsch had already defended the view that the justification of aesthetic judgments can’t be merely empirical, and that direct perceptual access to works of art is neither sufficient nor necessary for aesthetic judgment, championing instead a role for inferential reasoning in the justification of aesthetic evaluations. This is a minority view, given the empiricism that has dominated modern aesthetics since its foundation, but it is one Fabian elaborated and defended with a vigour, imagination and incisiveness that is typical of all his work..

Important as Fabian’s contributions are to these ongoing debates, he will also be remembered for his profound impact on the wider profession. He was the driving force behind the foundation of the European Society for Aesthetics, organizing its first conference in Fribourg in 2008 and acting as its first Secretary (2008-14). Even after stepping down from his official role, he remained actively engaged with the Society, and was preparing its 10th Anniversary Conference, again in Fribourg, at his death. Profoundly committed to the promotion of European philosophical aesthetics, he worked to this end not only through the ESA, but also, since 2012, as Editor in Chief of Estetika: the Central European Journal of Aesthetics.

Fabian was married to Evgenia Grekova, opera singer, with whom he had a son, Maxim.

We will sorely miss Fabian’s affectionate presence, his profound and original thinking, his infectious enthusiasm for everything he did, his warm sense of humour, and the open and generous spirit that made every interaction with him pleasurable in the moment and resonant in the memory.

Rob Hopkins and Francisca Pérez Carreño

Latest Winner

The 2023 Fabian Dorsch ESA Essay Prize was granted to David Collins (University of Oxford) for his paper “Expanding Davies’ Pragmatic Constraint for Philosophizing about Art“. The European Society for Aesthetics committee appreciated David’s original take on the problem of philosophical methodology, emphasizing its applicability in domain of philosophy of art as well as in other domains of philosophical inquiry. In addition, the committee felt that the author persuasively relates current philosophical debate to the history of philosophy, namely American pragmatist tradition. The paper presentation at the European Society for Aesthetics conference in Budapest in June was followed by a commentary by Alva Noe and the author’s response.  A longer version of the winning essay will be published in Estetika: The European Journal of Aesthetics

The ESA Essay Prize for PhD students and early career researchers was launched in 2017 in memory Fabian Dorsch, a co-founder and the first secretary of the European Society for Aesthetics. Its former winners include Alex Fisher (2022), Nemesio García-Carril Puy (2021), Jeremy Page (2020), Irene Martínez Marín (2019), Mark Windsor (2018), and Servaas van der Berg (2017).

Expanding Davies’ Pragmatic Constraint for Philosophizing about Art
David Collins

David Davies advocates a methodological principle he names the ‘pragmatic constraint,’ according to which ontology of art is answerable to the epistemology of art, or “those features of our creative, critical, appreciative, and individuative practices in the arts that would withstand rational scrutiny.” This principle, while endorsed by many, has also faced skepticism and charges of vagueness. I argue that interpreting the pragmatic constraint in a way that avoids the most pressing objections requires restricting its scope to a narrow sense of ontology of art—specifically, to inquiry into what ontological kind artworks are. This limits its potential range of application and so weakens its usefulness, with some ambiguity remaining about what counts as a correct application of the principle. I propose that a similar methodological principle can do the work for which the pragmatic constraint is meant while expanding its scope to apply to philosophy of art in general. This expanded pragmatic constraint is doubly ‘pragmatic,’ as it not only grounds philosophy of art in artistic practices but is inspired by pragmatism: specifically, by ideas from James and Dewey. In brief, it holds that philosophy of art (i) should deal with philosophical problems that could arise for a reflective practitioner in the course of artistic practice, and (ii) the solutions offered to those problems should be able, at least in principle, to make some difference for, or tie back into and inform, artistic practice or the experience of art. Philosophical problems that do not meet this constraint may be legitimate metaphysical, or epistemological, or linguistic problems that can be applied to art-related examples, but, I argue, they are not primarily philosophy of art problems.

Past Winners

The Fabian Dorsch ESA Essay Prize winner in 2022

Alex Fisher (University of Cambridge)

“In Defence of Fictional Examples”


The Fabian Dorsch ESA Essay Prize winner in 2021

Nemesio García-Carril Puy (University of Murcia, Spain)

“Interpretive Authenticity: Performances, Versions and Ontology”


The Fabian Dorsch ESA Essay Prize winner in 2020

Jeremy Page (Uppsala University, Sweden)

“Aesthetic Understanding: A New Aesthetic Cognitivism”


DOI: doi.org/10.33134/eeja.269

The Fabian Dorsch ESA Essay Prize winner in 2019

Irene Martínez Marín (Uppsala University, Sweden)

“Non-standard Emotions and Aesthetic Understanding”

Estetika: The European Journal of Aesthetics 57, no. 2 (2020): 135–49.

DOI: http://doi.org/10.33134/eeja.211

The Fabian Dorsch ESA Essay Prize winner in 2018

Mark Windsor (University of Kent, GB)

“Tales of Dread”

Estetika: The Central European Journal of Aesthetics 56, no. 1 (2019): 65–86.

DOI: http://doi.org/10.33134/eeja.184

The Fabian Dorsch ESA Essay Prize winner in 2017

Servaas van der Berg (University of British Columbia, Canada)

“Aesthetic Experience and Metacognition”