The theory of taste faces a neglected epistemological problem. The cultivation of taste is functionally dependent upon self-knowledge of aesthetic satisfaction and its causes, in other words, knowing what we like and why. However, reservations about the reliability of our knowledge of our responses, commonplace in social psychology and the philosophy of mind, pose serious obstacles to the theory of taste. I argue for a weak fallibilism with respect to introspective beliefs about aesthetic experience. I call for a naturalistic approach (...) to the theory of taste that accounts for the unreliability of aesthetic self-knowledge. (shrink)
Conversations about art often include broad statements about the stature of artists. Such statements raise questions about the best way to look at the bodies of work of artists. Like individual works of art, bodies of work are artistic objects worthy of appreciation. Through the body of work, we are better able to engage the aspects of creativity that require a long-term perspective. This long-term perspective allows us to look for a range of aesthetic qualities not readily evident in individual (...) works of art. Looking at bodies of work also helps us to appreciate artistic accomplishments unfolding over a lifetime. (shrink)
Our lives are filled with aesthetic choices, that is, choices of objects for aesthetic experience. Choice is crucial to having a fulfilling aesthetic life. Our immediate satisfaction and long term flourishing require the ability to generate rewarding aesthetic opportunities. A good aesthetic life is one of good aesthetic choices. Given the centrality of choice to a good aesthetic life, aesthetic theory is in need of an account of choice. However, aesthetic choice has gone unexamined. This paper considers how choice helps (...) to make us who we are as aesthetic persons. I situate aesthetic choice within debates in contemporary choice theory. The paper also examines whether the recommenders on websites like Amazon or Netflix pose a risk to our aesthetic flourishing. Aesthetic choice is mostly constructive and conditional, in other words, ad hoc and easily influenced. Aesthetic choices tend to be small choices, with low stakes and relaxed deliberation. The effect of our choices is cumulative, and the import of individual choices is best judged by seeing them in the context of other choices, especially the plans to which they belong. (shrink)
In this paper I identify a new group of aesthetic norms, which I call norms of cultivation. Judgments of taste are often accompanied by forecasts or expectations about future aesthetic satisfaction. When we find something beautiful, we expect to find it beautiful in the future. Forecasting is at play in all sorts of aesthetically motivated behavior. Yet psychologists have observed an unreliability in such forecasts. As a result of forecasting error, what we take as our taste can be an unreliable (...) guide in our aesthetic lives. Compensating for the unreliability of taste are norms of cultivation, implicit rules for engaging objects, such as avoiding overexposure to favored objects or exposure under unfavorable conditions. Norms of cultivation help to regularize aesthetic experience, mitigating unreliability in forecasts, and fostering the ongoing stability and coherence of taste. (shrink)
The essay introduces the problem of aesthetic unreliability, the variety of ways in which it is difficult to grasp our aesthetic experience and the consequent confusion and unreliability of what we take as our taste.
Acquired taste is an integral part of the cultivation of taste. In this essay, I identify acquired taste as a form of intentional belief acquisition or adaptive preference formation, distinguishing it from ordinary or discovered taste. This account of acquired taste allows for the role of self-deception in the development of taste. I discuss the value of acquired taste in the overall development of taste as well as the ways that an over-reliance on acquired taste can distort overall taste.
Cultivation: Art and Aesthetics in Everyday Life is an inquiry into everyday practices with an aesthetic dimension such as collecting, walking and domestic life. I examine the implications of a critical engagement with these practices for philosophical aesthetics and cultural studies. Traditional aesthetic theory has been informed by a fine arts model of creativity and aesthetic experience and, thus, has not adequately treated everyday aesthetic life. The rapidly expanding field of contemporary cultural studies, on the other hand, has been marked (...) by a dramatic shift in attention toward non-fine art objects like film and television. However, the attention of cultural studies remains, for the most part, limited to mass produced commodities, thereby presenting a narrow picture of aesthetic life outside the fine arts. Cultivation presents an alternative to both approaches. Following John Dewey, I develop a model of cultivation that allows me to locate and describe creativity and aesthetic experience in everyday life. Seen within the framework of everyday life, cultivation becomes more than the development of aesthetic sensibility, as in traditional connoisseurship. Instead, it includes as well the ongoing development of the capacity to satisfy this sensibility through the creative manipulation of one's actions and the world. This Pragmatist version of cultivation emphasizes the importance of creating occasions for aesthetic experience, that is, of refining and developing experience through the design of aesthetically motivated endeavors like walking, interior decoration and collecting. Cultivation is essentially a process: we do or make things in order to have experiences which then, internalized through habit and re-organized and redirected upon reflection, serve as the basis for further doing or making and still more refined experiences. This model of cultivation is then deployed in extended analyses of everyday practices. In these analyses, I develop a critical approach that seeks to understand practice as a creative process whose possibilities are intrinsically open to development. (shrink)
Art is commonly thought to promote well-being. Aestheticians, however, have not considered how art plays this role. Over the past quarter century, there has been considerable research in positive psychology, the empirical study of subjective well-being. This research has resulted in robust findings on the factors promoting well-being. In this paper, I consider the findings for SWB in contemporary psychology in order to identify how art supports well-being. I also explore the implications of SWB theory for aesthetic theory and arts (...) policy. (shrink)