This paper considers five counterexamples to Mary Douglas's definition of dirt, one of which is extracted from a scene from George Eliot's novel Middlemarch and another from Marilyn Strathern's essay on anthropology at home.
Experimental philosophy of aesthetics has explored to what extent ordinary people are committed to aesthetic realism. Extant work has focused on attitudes to normativism – a key commitment of realist positions in aesthetics – the claim that aesthetic judgments/statements have correctness conditions, invariant between subjects, such that there is a fact of the matter in cases of aesthetic disagreement. The emerging picture is that ordinary people strongly and almost universally reject normativism and thus there is no strong realist tendency in (...) ordinary people’s thinking about the aesthetic. This has been taken to dissolve the traditional puzzle in aesthetics of how to best account for the fact that (a) aesthetic judgments seem intersubjectively valid, while (b) aesthetic experience seems subjective. This paper presents studies which further enrich our understanding of ordinary thinking about the aesthetic: ordinary thinking about the aesthetic may not be so vehement in its rejection of normativism; and where previous results suggested that, in many cultures, the dominant trend is to reject correctness conditions for aesthetic judgments, the current results suggest participants think aesthetic judgments have correctness conditions (albeit perhaps very finely relativized to specific circumstances of judgment). (shrink)
I offer the first sustained defence of the claim that ugliness is constituted by the disposition to disgust. I advance three main lines of argument in support of this thesis. First, ugliness and disgustingness tend to lie in the same kinds of things and properties (the argument from ostensions). Second, the thesis is better placed than all existing accounts to accommodate the following facts: ugliness is narrowly and systematically distributed in a heterogenous set of things, ugliness is sometimes enjoyed, and (...) ugliness sits opposed to beauty across a neutral midpoint (the argument from proposed intensions). And third, ugliness and disgustingness function in the same way in both giving rise to representations of contamination (the argument from the law of contagion). In making these arguments, I show why prominent objections to the thesis do not succeed, cast light on some of the artistic functions of ugliness, and, in addition, demonstrate why a dispositional account of disgustingness is correct, and present a novel problem for warrant-based accounts of disgustingness (the ‘too many reasons’ problem). (shrink)
I argue that relativists about aesthetic and other evaluative language face some of the same objections as non-naturalists in ethics. These objections concern the metaphysics required to make it work. Unlike contextualists, relativists believe that evaluative propositions are not about the relation in which things stand to certain standards. Nevertheless, the truth of such propositions would depend on variable standards. I argue that relativism requires the existence of states of affairs very different from other things known to exist. Furthermore, there (...) seems to be no convincing reason to postulate such entities. However, if they do not exist, then relativism leads to an error theory. That is unattractive, as relativism was meant to preserve the truth of many evaluative claims. (shrink)
A growing body of psychological research seeks to understand how people's thinking comports with long-standing philosophical theories, such as whether they view ethical or aesthetic truths as subjective or objective. Yet such research can be critically undermined if it fails to accurately characterize the philosophical positions in question and fails to ensure that subjects understand them appropriately. We argue that a recent article by Rabb et al. (2020) fails to meet these demands and propose several constructive solutions for future research.
My partner loves the experiences she gets from eating olives. I, on the other hand, hate the experiences I get from eating olives. We differ in tastes. But how exactly do we differ? In particular: do our taste experiences differ phenomenologically—that is, do my olive-experiences feel different than my partner’s olive-experiences? Some philosophers have assumed that the answer is “no,” and have advanced important arguments which turn on this assumption. I argue that, contrary to what these philosophers assume, ordinary taste (...) differences do involve differences in phenomenology. My olive-experiences feel different than my partner’s olive-experiences. I argue for this phenomenal thesis in stages. First, I argue that there is a link between our attitudes and our pleasures; second, I argue that there is a link between our pleasures and our phenomenology. Together, my conclusions link our attitudes and phenomenology in a way that vindicates the phenomenal thesis. Along the way, I fend off various worries about what the phenomenal thesis might entail. I show that it does not entail any form if radical subjectivism, nor does it entail that there is a “distinctive feeling of pleasure.” I close by considering how opponents of the phenomenal thesis might retreat to a weaker thesis: one which concerns extraordinary taste differences, as opposed to ordinary taste differences. I argue that there are no obviously sound arguments for even this weaker thesis, which should make us all the more confident in the phenomenal thesis. (shrink)
Daan Evers argues that relativists about aesthetic and other types of evaluative language face some distinctive and largely overlooked metaphysical difficulties concerning the nature of the states of affairs that such statements are intended to be about. These difficulties, as Evers notes, all rest on the assumption that evaluative language is representational. Evers takes it that it is only on this assumption that evaluative relativism is distinguished from expressivism. I argue that this is incorrect and that, without falling into some (...) form of expressivism, relativists can and must drop the representational assumption, but that the resulting position is one in which relativism no longer offers any distinctive dialectical or theoretical advantage. (shrink)
The goal of this brief note is to offer a generalisation of Gómez-Torrente argumentative strategy against perspectivism, which he has developed as a defence of color realism in (2016) and (2019) and then apply it to evaluative language. In particular, I want to defend the thesis that at least some aesthetic predicates can have non-evaluative reference. As an example, I will work with the predicate “tasty” (and its antonym “disgusting”) to argue that it some times refers to a non-subjective non-evaluative (...) property, flavour, which is more fundamental that the relational property of being tasty to someone. In other words, some times, when we say of something that it is tasty, we are not saying how it tastes to us or whether we like it, but just how it tastes period. (shrink)
The recent literature abounds with accounts of the semantics and pragmatics of so-called predicates of personal taste, i.e. predicates whose application is, in some sense or other, a subjective matter. Relativism and contextualism are the major types of theories. One crucial difference between these theories concerns how we should assess previous taste claims. Relativism predicts that we should assess them in the light of the taste standard governing the context of assessment. Contextualism predicts that we should assess them in the (...) light of the taste standard governing the context of use. We show in a range of experiments that neither prediction is correct. People have no clear preferences either way and which taste standard they choose in evaluating a previous taste claim crucially depends on whether they start out with a favorable attitude towards the object in question and then come to have an unfavorable attitude or vice versa. We suggest an account of the data in terms of what we call hybrid relativism. (shrink)
ABSTRACTEcumenical Alethic Pluralism is a novel kind of alethic pluralism. It is ecumenical in that it widens the scope of alethic pluralism by allowing for a normatively deflated truth property alongside a variety of normatively robust truth properties. We establish EAP by showing how Wright’s Inflationary Arguments fail in the domain of taste, once a relativist treatment of the metaphysics and epistemology of that domain is endorsed. EAP is highly significant to current debates on the nature of truth insofar as (...) it involves a reconfiguration of the dialectic between deflationists and pluralists. (shrink)
Intuitions about retractions have been used to motivate truth relativism about certain types of claims. Among these figure epistemic modals, knowledge attributions, or personal taste claims. On MacFarlane’s prominent relativist proposal, sentences like “the ice cream might be in the freezer” or “Pocoyo is funny” are only assigned a truth-value relative to contexts of utterance and contexts of assessment. Retractions play a crucial role in the argument for assessment-relativism. A retraction of a past assertion is supposed to be mandatory whenever (...) the asserted sentence is not true at the context of use and the context of assessment. If retractions were not obligatory in these conditions, there would be no normative difference between assessment-relativism and contextualism. The main goal of this paper is to undermine the claim that retractions reveal this normative difference. To this effect, the paper offers a review of three important objections to the obligatoriness of retractions. Taken together, these objections make a strong case against the alleged support that retractions give to assessment-relativism. The objections are moreover supported by recent experimental results that are also discussed. This will satisfy a further goal, which is to undermine the idea that there is a constitutive retraction rule. The paper also discusses two ways to understand what such a rule would be constitutive of, and concludes with a discussion of how to describe what retractions are. (shrink)
Relativism entails that sentences like ‘Liquorice is tasty’ are used to assert relativistic propositions—that is, propositions whose truth-value is relative to a taste standard. I will defend this view against two objections. According to the first objection, relativism is incompatible with a Stalnakerian account of assertion. I will show that this objection fails because Stalnakerian assertions are proposals rather than attempts to update the common ground. According to the second objection, relativism problematically predicts that we can correctly assess beliefs as (...) false but faultless. I will show that it doesn't. Such assessments come out as incorrect because correct relativistic assertion requires the absence of a presupposition of non-commonality. (shrink)
This article brings together two sets of data that are rarely discussed in concert; namely, disagreement and testimony data. I will argue that relativism yields a much more elegant account of these data than its major rival, contextualism. The basic idea will be that contextualists can account for disagreement data only by adopting principles that preclude a simple account of testimony data. I will conclude that, other things being equal, we should prefer relativism to contextualism. In making this comparative point, (...) I will also defend self-standing relativist accounts of disagreement and testimony data. (shrink)
Die Kunstwissenschaft zeichnet sich in den letzten Jahrzehnten dadurch aus, dass sie analog zur Entwicklung in der Kunst keine übergreifende Stilbildung mehr betreibt. In der vorliegenden Publikation nähern sich nun international anerkannte Kunstwissenschaftler, Philosophen und Medienwissenschaftler dem Begriff »Bild« – sowohl durch klassische Bildanalysen und ästhetische Fragestellungen als auch durch Versuche, einen neuen wissenschaftlichen Begriff für Kunst zu finden. Die Autoren, darunter Felix Ensslin, Frieder Nake, Jean-Baptiste Joly, Ute Meta Bauer, Katharina Sykora und Beat Wyss, erörtern, wie wir Bilder lesen (...) und welchen Stellenwert diese in unserem Denken heute einnehmen. Beispielhaft zeigen 30 Kunstwerke, etwa von John Baldessari, Gianfranco Baruchello, Holger Friese, Matthias Hoch, Christian Jankowski, Stephan Jung, Markus Schinwald oder Peter Weibel, die ganze Vielfalt der heutigen Bildproduktion in der Kunst. (shrink)
I present a novel strategy to account for two thoughts concerning disagreements about taste: (i) that they need not involve any substantive fault (faultlessness); (ii) that the faultlessness of a contrary opinion can be coherently appreciated from within a committed perspective (parity). Under the assumption that judgments of taste are truth-apt and governed by the truth-norm, I argue that understanding how exactly truth is normative offers a strategy for accounting for both thoughts. I distinguish between different ways in which truth (...) governs judgment to substantiate the thesis that truth’s normative function varies according to the subject matter at issue. I then argue that truth’s normative guidance in the domain of taste is characteristically weak. I introduce an intuitive distinction between basic and refined taste, and show how this distinction affects questions of faultlessness and parity. Last, I discuss the idea of alethic suberogation in connection with disagreement about refined taste. (shrink)
Once we have distinguished between beauty and aesthetic value, we are faced with the question of whether beauty is a thing of value in itself. A number of theorists have suggested that the answer might be no. They have thought that the pursuit of beauty is just the indulgence of one particular taste: a taste that has, for contingent historical reasons, been privileged. This paper attempts to resist a line of thought that leads to that conclusion. It does so by (...) arguing that there really are objective facts about beauty. To do this, the paper draws distinctions between objectivity and subjectivity, and between realism and anti-realism. It argues that, regarding attributions of beauty, we should be realists and objectivists. This is shown to be compatible with taking the semantic content of such attributions to vary between contexts. This form of context sensitivity is able to account of those features of beauty-attributions that have been taken as evidence for its subjectivity. (shrink)
I discuss an apparent tension between two aspects of Johann Gottfried Herder’s aesthetic theory: his emphasis on and endorsement of art’s cultural embeddedness and historical variation, and his reliance on natural norms of artistic value. I propose that Herder’s essay, “Shakespeare,” suggests a possible resolution to this tension, a position I call “adaptive naturalism.” On this view, aesthetic value comprises a work’s capacity to promote the exercise of human natural capacities in harmony with the (natural or social) environment. Thus such (...) naturalistically grounded value does and must vary in form, in line with differences among social environments – and yet also may succeed or fail according to natural norms: some artworks are and promote better adaptation to their circumstances, than others. (shrink)
The aesthetic skeptic maintains that it is futile to dispute about taste. One and the same work of art might appear beautiful to one person but repellent to another, and we have no reason to prefer one or another of these conflicting verdicts. Hume argues that the skeptic, however, moves too quickly. The crucial question is whether qualified critics will agree on their evaluations. And the skeptic fails to provide sufficient evidence that their verdicts will diverge. We have reason to (...) expect that a consensus will emerge over time, moreover, since aesthetic values are grounded on universal principles of human nature. Skeptics might doubt that there is a natural basis for a standard of taste, but this proposal is supported by recent work in experimental aesthetics and cognitive science. (shrink)
In this paper I argue against one variety of contextualism about aesthetic predicates such as “beautiful.” Contextualist analyses of these and other predicates have been subject to several challenges surrounding disagreement. Focusing on one kind of contextualism— individualized indexical contextualism —I unpack these various challenges and consider the responses available to the contextualist. The three responses I consider are as follows: giving an alternative analysis of the concept of disagreement ; claiming that speakers suffer from semantic blindness; and claiming that (...) attributions of beauty carry presuppositions of commonality. I will argue that none of the available strategies gives a response which both satisfactorily explains all of the disagreement -data and is plausible independent of significant evidence in favor of contextualism. I conclude that individualized indexical contextualism about the aesthetic is untenable, although this does not rule out alternative contextualist approaches to the aesthetic. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: When we describe an event as sad or happy, we attribute to it a certainemotional value. Attributions of emotional value depend essentially on an agent ; and yet, people readily disagree over such values. My aim in this paper is to explain what happens in the case of “emotional disagreement”, and, more generally, to provide some insight into the semantics of value-attributions.
I argue for the possibility of substantive aesthetic disagreements in which both parties speak truly. The possibility of such disputes undermines an argument mobilized by relativists such as Lasersohn (Linguist Philos 28:643–686, 2005) and MacFarlane (Philos Stud 132:17–31, 2007) against contextualism about aesthetic terminology. In describing the facts of aesthetic disagreement, I distinguish between the intuition of dispute on the one hand and the felicity of denial on the other. Considered separately, neither of those phenomena requires that there be a (...) single proposition asserted by one party to an aesthetic dispute and denied by the other. I suggest instead that many such disputes be analyzed as disputes over the selection or appropriateness of a contextually salient aesthetic standard. (shrink)
“There’s no disputing about taste.” That’s got a nice ring to it, but it’s not quite the ring of truth. While there’s definitely something right about the aphorism – there’s a reason why it is, after all, an aphorism, and why its utterance tends to produce so much nodding of heads and muttering of “just so” and “yes, quite” – it’s surprisingly difficult to put one’s finger on just what the truth in the neighborhood is, exactly. One thing that’s pretty (...) clear is that what’s right about the aphorism, that there’s no disputing about taste, isn’t that there’s no disputing about taste. There’s heaps of disputing about taste. People engage in disputes about which movies, music, paintings, literature, meals, furniture, architectural styles, etc. are good, beautiful, tasty, fun, elegant, ugly, disgusting, etc. all the time. This is obvious to anyone who has watched dueling-movie-critics shows, read theater reviews, or negotiated with a group or partner about which movie or restaurant to go to, or which sofa or painting to put in the living room. It takes great care and good aim to fling a brick without hitting somebody who’s engaged in a dispute about taste. (shrink)
As Hume remarks, the view that aesthetic evaluations are ‘subjective’ is part of common sense—one certainly meets it often enough in conversation. As philosophers, we can distinguish the one sense of the claim (‘aesthetic evaluations are mind- dependent’) from another (‘aesthetic evaluations are relative’). A plausible reading of the former claim (‘some of the grounds of some aesthetic evaluations are response- dependent’) is true. This paper concerns the latter claim. It is not unknown, or even unexpected, to find people who (...) believe that aesthetic evaluations are culturally relative, or even agent-relative. A cultural relativist would hold that there is no way to adjudicate an apparent disagreement between, say, a Japanese critic who finds Wright of Derby clunky and unsubtle, and a British critic who finds Utamaro’s flower pictures overly pretty and sentimental. (shrink)
Aims and Scope -/- This volume brings together original papers by linguists and philosophers on the role of context and perspective in language and thought. Several contributions are concerned with the contextualism/relativism debate, which has loomed large in recent philosophical discussions. In a substantial introduction, the editors survey the field and map out the relevant issues and positions.
In the Critique of the Power of Judgment, Kant diagnoses an antinomy of taste: either determinate concepts exhaust judgments of taste or they do not. That is to say, judgments of taste are either objective and public or subjective and private. On the objectivity thesis, aesthetic value is predicable of objects. But determining the concepts that would make a judgment of taste objective is a vexing matter. Who can say which concepts these would be? To what authority does one appeal? (...) On the subjectivity thesis, aesthetic value is not predicable of objects. But this threatens judgments of taste with a sort of relativism. Can we not firmly assert the aesthetic value of any object? Have we no authority to make criticisms of taste? Following John McDowell’s “Aesthetic Value, Objectivity and the Fabric of the World”, I will hold that aesthetic value is neither objective nor subjective, but rather intersubjective. But, contra McDowell, I will argue that the validity that intersubjective aesthetic value bestows on judgments of taste must assume an indeterminate absolute conception of reality, of the world as it is in itself. Only such a conceptual resource can in turn make intelligible the notion of a shared or common sense according to which a judgment of taste can be universally valid, that is, valid for all subjects. Finally, I will consider an objection to common sense in matters of taste. (shrink)
This paper explores the various available forms of relativism concerning aesthetic judgement and contrasts them with aesthetic absolutism. Two important distinctions are drawn. The first is between subjectivism (which relativizes judgements to an individual's sentiments or feelings) and the relativization of aesthetic judgements to intersubjective standards. The other is between relativism about aesthetic properties and relativism about the truth-values of aesthetic judgements. Several plausible forms of relativism about aesthetic properties are on offer, but relativism about the truth-values of aesthetic judgements (...) is more elusive. In particular, John MacFarlane's approach to relativism is shown not to result in relativism about the truth-values of aesthetic judgements. (shrink)
Aesthetic discourse is highly metaphorical, and many art-critical metaphors seem to be genuinely informative. Aesthetic property realism holds that the characteristic terms of aesthetic discourse pick out mind-independent properties. The prevalence of metaphor is a problem for realism, then, because most art-critical metaphors are true only when artworks are imagined in a certain way. Realist attempts to consign metaphor to the roles of filling lexical gaps or picking out mind-independent but ineffable properties fail. I argue that a cognitivist aesthetic anti-realism (...) is a better fit with a reflective understanding of our art-related practices. Metaphorical assertions about artworks can be truth-apt, but their truth depends essentially on our mental activity. (shrink)
This paper argues against relativism, focusing on relativism based on the semantics of predicates of personal taste. It presents and defends a contextualist semantics for these predicates, derived from current work on gradable adjectives. It then considers metasemantic questions about the kinds of contextual parameters this semantics requires. It argues they are not metasemantically different from those in other gradable adjectives, and that contextual parameters of this sort are widespread in natural language. Furthermore, this paper shows that if such parameters (...) are rejected, it leads to an unacceptably rampant form of relativism, that relativizes truth to an open-ended list of parameters. (shrink)
Many philosophers, however, have been tempted to be relativists about speciﬁc domains of discourse, especially about those domains that have a normative character. Gilbert Harman, for example, has defended a relativistic view of morality, Richard Rorty a relativistic view of epistemic justiﬁcation, and Crispin Wright a relativistic view of judgments of taste.¹ But what exactly is it to be a relativist about a given domain of discourse? The term ‘‘relativism’’ has, of course, been used in a bewildering variety of senses (...) and it is not my aim to discuss each and every one of those senses here. Rather, what interests me is the notion that is characterized by the following core idea: the relativist about a given domain, D, purports to have discovered that the truths of D involve an unexpected relation to a parameter. (shrink)
Pluralism—the incommensurability and, at times, incompatibility of objective ends—is not relativism, nor, a fortiori, subjectivism, nor the allegedly unbridgeable differences of emotional attitude on which some modern positivists, emotivists, existentialists, nationalists and, indeed, relativistic sociologists and anthropologists found their accounts.
Davies argues that the ontology of artworks as performances offers a principled way of explaining work-relativity of modality. Object oriented contextualist ontologies of art (Levinson) cannot adequately address the problem of work-relativity of modal properties because they understand looseness in what counts as the same context as a view that slight differences in the work-constitutive features of provenance are work-relative. I argue that it is more in the spirit of contextualism to understand looseness as context-dependent. This points to the general (...) problem—the context of appreciation is not robust enough to ground modal intuitions about objective entities. In general, when epistemology dictates ontology there is always a threat of anti-realism, scepticism and relativism. Davies also appeals to the modality principle—an entity’s essential properties are all and only its constitutive properties. Davies understands essentiality in a traditional way: a property P is an essential property of an object o iff o could not exist and lack P. Kit Fine has recently made a convincing case for the view that the notion of essence is not to be understood in modal terms. I explore some of the implications of this view for Davies’ modal argument for the performance theory. (shrink)
This paper criticizes contemporary relativist scepticism concerning the universal validity of the concepts ‘art’ and the ‘aesthetic’. As an alternative, it offers a normative definition of art based on intrinsic aesthetic meaning contextualized by innovation and refinement in the diachronic history of art media. In section I, anti-foundationalist relativism, and softer versions (found in the Institutional definitions of art) are expounded in relation to art and the aesthetic. In section II, it is argued that antifoundationalism is conceptually flawed and tacitly (...) racist, and is, in effect, a cultural expression of global consumerism. Section III analyses the scope of the aesthetic in non-western contexts, and then offers a critique of the Institutional definitions as also being conceptually flawed, tacitly racist, and consumerist in orientation. In section IV the positive basis of a normative definition of art is outlined in detail and defended at length against possible relativist objections. It is finally argued that the normative approach taken in this paper shows how cultural conservatism can be a left-wing project. (shrink)
Artworks frequently are the objects of multiple and apparently conflicting aesthetic judgements. This commonplace of the artworld poses a challenge for realist metaphysics, because to assert conflicting judgements of an artwork seems to amount to asserting p & p. Critical pluralism is an ever-more frequently invoked solution to this impasse. What its varieties share in common is the claim that the disagreement between judgements is only an apparent one. I argue, however, that critical pluralism masquerades either as relativism or anti-realism. (...) I examine a number of pluralist proposals, including one that attempts to reconcile pluralism with critical monism, and argue that they are inadequate to their advertised task. Finally, I sketch a solution employing dialetheic logic that captures both intuitions about these cases: that sometimes, judgements about artworks can truly conflict and jointly be true. (shrink)