A Reasonable Objectivism for Aesthetic Judgments: Towards An Aesthetic Psychology

Dissertation, University of London (2008)
This doctoral thesis is an examination of the possibility of ascribing objectivity to aesthetic judgements. The aesthetic is viewed in terms of its being a certain kind of relation between the mind and the world; a clear understanding of aesthetic judgements will therefore be capable of telling us something important about both subjects and objects, and the ties between them. In view of this, one of the over-riding aims of this thesis is the promotion of an ‘aesthetic psychology’, a philosophical approach, that is to say, which emphasises the importance of the psychological processes involved in the making of aesthetic judgements. One of the aims of this thesis is to develop a revisionary account of the distinction between objectivity and subjectivity in the domain of value. This revision will undertake to dismantle some of the assumptions implicit in a metaphysical framework which traditionally ascribes objectivity only to judgements about facts, and not to judgements about values and other concerns such as norms and emotions. Further, the thesis examines the intricate ways in which aesthetic properties, the focus of aesthetic judgements, depend on the (emotional and other) responses of the subjects of experience. The particular role played by first-hand experience in the making of aesthetic judgements is among the things critically investigated in the interests of reaching a clearer understanding of the manner in which aesthetic judgements may be objective in the sense of being justifiable. Eventually, a defence is outlined of the view that aesthetic judgements can be supported by good reasons, but not in the same way as ordinary cognitive judgements. Finally, I outline the main tenets of a proposed ‘reasonable objectivism’ for aesthetic judgements, an objectivism grounded on justifying reasons.
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