Towards a reasonable objectivism for aesthetic judgements

British Journal of Aesthetics 46 (2):163-177 (2006)
This paper is concerned with the possibility of an objectivism for aesthetic judgements capable of incorporating certain ‘subjectivist’ elements of aesthetic experience. The discussion focuses primarily on a desired cognitivism for aesthetic judgements, rather than on any putative realism of aesthetic properties. Two cognitivist theories of aesthetic judgements are discussed, one subjectivist, the other objectivist. It is argued that whilst the subjectivist theory relies too heavily upon analogies with secondary qualities, the objectivist account, which allows for some such analogies at the epistemological level, is too quick to ground aesthetic judgements in perceptual experiences alone. Further, it is held that aesthetic justification can, contra the objectivist theory under scrutiny, be based on an appeal to generally available justifying reasons without overthrowing the non-inferential character of aesthetic judgements. This possibility relies on a clearly established delineation between (i) aesthetic perception and aesthetic judgement, (ii) justifying reasons and explaining reasons, and (iii) judgement-making and judgement-justification.
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DOI 10.1093/aesthj/ayj020
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