Defusing anti-formalist arguments

British Journal of Aesthetics 40 (3):376-383 (2000)
ANTI-FORMALISM has become the consensus in aesthetics. But in my view anti-formalism is not true to our aesthetic experience; it gives a revisionary account of the aesthetic properties that we think we find in works of art. The thesis I think we should hold is not extreme formalism—the view that all or almost all aesthetic properties are formal—but the moderate thesis that many are. This view has not been given its due because so many aestheticians have been convinced by anti-formalist arguments. In this short paper, I propose a systematic method for resisting anti-formalist arguments. The method is to apply one of three strategies. These strategies are repeatable archetypes. I shall show these neutralizing strategies at work with seven objections to formalism.
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DOI 10.1093/bjaesthetics/40.3.376
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