What should we do, aesthetically speaking, and why? Any adequate theory of aesthetic normativity must distinguish reasons internal and external to aesthetic practices. This structural distinction is necessary in order to reconcile our interest in aesthetic correctness with our interest in aesthetic value. I consider three case studies—score compliance in musical performance, the look of a mowed lawn, and literary interpretation—to show that facts about the correct actions to perform and the correct attitudes to have are explained by norms internal (...) to a practice. Practice-internal norms, however, cannot settle the distinct question of which practices we have reason to opt into. When it comes to the source of aesthetic normativity—in virtue of what aesthetic value is genuinely reason-giving—I argue that existing accounts, which appeal to pleasure or achievement, are inadequate. The only practice-external aesthetic requirement is a generic one to opt into at least some aesthetic practices. (shrink)
Many writers describe a sense of requirement in aesthetic experience: some aesthetic objects seem to demand our attention. In this paper, I consider whether this experienced demand could ever constitute a genuine normative requirement, which I call an aesthetic obligation. I explicate the content, form, and satisfaction conditions of these aesthetic obligations, then argue that they would have to be grounded neither in the special weight of some aesthetic considerations, nor in a normative relation we bear to aesthetic objects as (...) such, but in the connections that certain aesthetic considerations have to our practical identities. On the practical identity approach, aesthetic obligation is best understood as a species of promissory obligation, namely self-promising. But this means that the experienced demand can have, at best, the status of a veridical hallucination: although both have the same content, it is the self-promise, and not the experienced demand, that gives rise to the obligation. While aesthetic obligations concern aesthetic objects, they are not obligations to the aesthetic per se. (shrink)
This paper develops an aesthetics of crossword puzzles. I present a taxonomy of crosswords in the Anglophone world and argue that there are three distinct sources of aesthetic value in crosswords. First, and in common with other puzzles, crosswords merit aesthetic experiences of our own agency: paradigmatically, the aesthetic experience of struggling for and hitting upon the right solution. In addition to instantiating the aesthetic value of puzzles in general, crosswords in particular can have two other sources of aesthetic value: (...) the visual appeal of grid art and the poetic delight of idiomatic language. Crossword aesthetics takes place at the intersection of the recently popular aesthetics of puzzles and games and the more familiar aesthetics of the visual and literary arts. (shrink)
Are there aesthetic obligations, and what would account for their binding force if so? I first develop a general, domain‐neutral notion of obligation, then critically discuss six arguments offered for and against the existence of aesthetic obligations. The most serious challenge is that all aesthetic obligations are ultimately grounded in moral norms, and I survey the prospects for this challenge alongside three non‐moral views about the source of aesthetic obligations: individual practical identity, social practices, and aesthetic value primitivism. I conclude (...) by raising questions for further work in this area. (shrink)
A review of Aesthetic Life and Why It Matters (OUP, 2022), by Dominic McIver Lopes, Bence Nanay, and Nick Riggle. In this short but rich book, three leading specialists in aesthetics have teamed up to introduce the topic of aesthetics as a branch of value theory.
In the philosophical debate about literary interpretation, the actual intentionalist claims, and the anti-intentionalist denies, that an acceptable interpretation of fictional literature must be constrained by the author’s intentions. I argue that a close examination of the two most influential recent strands in this debate reveals a surprising convergence. Insofar as both sides (a) focus on literary works as they are, where work identity is determined in part by certain (successfully realized) categorial intentions concerning, e.g., title, genre, and large-scale instances (...) of allusion, allegory, and irony and (b) allow that works can acceptably be interpreted for unintended meanings—since an intentional act can, under a different description, exhibit unintended features—then they turn out to share the same interpretive policy concerning authorial intention. This suggests that philosophers should shift the interpretation debate away from issues of authorial intention and toward issues about the aims of interpretation. (shrink)
For a certain ordinary class of desires, Marcel Proust’s thoughts on their satisfaction can be summed up in one word: don’t. Don’t satisfy your desires; doing so will fail to satisfy you. Should you therefore seek to eliminate desire? Absolutely not: desiring itself sustains you. The disappointment of attaining what you desire is one of Proust’s most persistent themes, elaborated in the florid unfolding of À la recherche du temps perdu but already expressed succinctly in an early story from Les (...) plaisirs et les jours: “Desire makes all things blossom; possession wilts them.” If you believed this, what should you do? Best to aim not to satisfy your desires at all. This paper is a development and limited defense of these baldly stated claims, and includes discussions of the role of the imagination in the formation of desire, the distinction between the hypothetical imagination and the imaginativeness that is involved in the perception of beauty, and the relationship between desire, desire satisfaction, and agent satisfaction. (shrink)
One strand of recent philosophical attention to Marcel Proust's novel À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, exemplified by Martha Nussbaum and Rae Langton, claims that romantic love is depicted in the text as self-regarding and solipsistic. I aim to challenge this reading. First, I demonstrate that the text contains a different view, overlooked by these recent interpreters, according to which love is directed at the partially knowable reality of another. Second, I argue that a better explanation for Proust's narrator's ultimate (...) renunciation of romantic love appeals not to his impossible epistemic standard for knowledge of another person, but to his demanding evaluative standard for the permanence of love. This interpretation takes into account the broader scope of the novel, connecting with its larger themes of lost time and the desire for stability, and is more charitable, connecting to familiar worries about transience and constancy in loving relationships. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Bence Nanay has argued against what he calls the Discontinuity Thesis: the claim that literature (along with all other nonabstract art forms) can never count as genuine philosophizing. I first claim that Nanay’s argument either proves too much or rests on heavy-duty premises that he does not adequately defend. I then present my own strategy for resisting Discontinuity, which argues that the proper response to both literature and philosophy can include emotional engagement coupled with reflection.