The Arbitrariness of Aesthetic Judgment

Journal of Value Inquiry 55 (4):625-646 (2020)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Realists about aesthetic judgment believe something like the following: for an aesthetic judgment of be correct, it must respond to the intrinsic aesthetic properties possessed by the object in question (e.g., Meskin et al., 2013; Kieran 2010). However, Cutting’s (2003) empirical research on aesthetic judgment puts pressure on that position. His work indicates that unconscious considerations extrinsic to an artwork can underpin said judgements. This paper takes Cutting’s conclusion a step further: If philosophers grant that it’s possible to appreciate artwork on the basis of unconscious biases, then we never can be fully confident that our aesthetic judgment is undergirded by the intrinsic aesthetic properties of an artwork. Furthermore, if judgment on the basis of unconscious, external reasons cannot be ruled out, we cannot be confident that our aesthetic judgments are ‘correct’. I argue that Cutting’s research is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the extrinsic, unconscious factors that influence aesthetic judgment. Expectation bias formed via social influence and context greatly influence aesthetic judgments and are unavoidable: we inevitably form expectations based on all kinds of contextual cues independently of any actual exposure to the item in question. Such factors make it terribly difficult to be confident in our aesthetic judgments. Even if there are objective properties that mark out some items as aesthetically superior to others, we cannot be sure that our judgments are responding to those properties.

Similar books and articles

Aesthetics is the grammar of desire.Jennifer A. McMahon - 2015 - Aesthetic Investigations 1 (1):156-164.
Aesthetic Rationality.Keren Gorodeisky & Eric Marcus - 2018 - Journal of Philosophy 115 (3):113-140.
Kant and the Claims of Taste. [REVIEW]R. H. - 1979 - Review of Metaphysics 33 (2):430-432.
Against aesthetic judgments.Bence Nanay - 2018 - In Jennifer A. McMahon (ed.), Social Aesthetics and Moral Judgment. London: Routledge.
Kant’s Aesthetic Epistemology: Form and World. [REVIEW]Lara Ostaric - 2008 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 47 (1):pp. 147-148.
Kant and the Common Law: Intersubjectivity in Aesthetic and Legal Judgment.Douglas Edlin - 2010 - Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 23 (2):429-460.
Is Perception the Canonical Route to Aesthetic Judgment?Jon Robson - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (4):657-668.
Wittgenstein's Concepts for an Aesthetics: Judgment and Understanding of Form.Silvana Borutti - 2013 - Aisthesis: Pratiche, Linguaggi E Saperi Dell’Estetico 6 (1):55-66.


Added to PP

226 (#67,028)

6 months
81 (#20,305)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

David Sackris
Arapahoe Community College

References found in this work

What do philosophers believe?David Bourget & David J. Chalmers - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 170 (3):465-500.
Categories of Art.Kendall L. Walton - 1970 - Philosophical Review 79 (3):334-367.
Being for Beauty: Aesthetic Agency and Value.Dominic Lopes - 2018 - Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Experimental Philosophy of Aesthetics.Florian Cova, Amanda Garcia & Shen-yi Liao - 2015 - Philosophy Compass 10 (12):927-939.

View all 25 references / Add more references