Aesthetic principles

British Journal of Aesthetics 43 (2):114-125 (2003)
We give reasons for our judgements of works of art. (2) Reasons are inherently general, and hence dependent on principles. (3) There are no principles of aesthetic evaluation. Each of these three propositions seems plausible, yet one of them must be false. Illusionism denies (1). Particularism denies (2). Generalism denies (3). We argue that illusionism depends on an unacceptable account of the use of critical language. Particularism cannot account for the connection between reasons and verdicts in criticism. Generalism comes in two forms: reversible generalism is the thesis that there are meaningful generalizations in criticism that admit of exceptions; irreversible generalism is the thesis that such generalizations cannot admit of exceptions. It is argued that Frank Sibley's defence of reversible generalism cannot provide a criterion for distinguishing valenced from non-valenced properties, and thus fails. Irreversible generalism is correct: it is logically cogent and fits our critical practices.
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