This paper attempts a rational reconstruction of the Humean notion of an ideal critic. Claiming that the traits of practice and comparison can only arise through the gradual accumulation of experience, I argue that Humean critics are real, not ideal. After discussing the nature of perfection and the relation of delicacy to the other Human traits, I propose two supplements to Hume's list: imaginative fluency and emotional responsiveness. I close by examining a trio of challenges to my view and supporting (...) a mitigated aesthetic nonrealism. (shrink)
Far from an elite practice reserved for the highly educated, criticism is all around us. We turn to the Yelp reviewers to decide what restaurants are best, to Rotten Tomatoes to guide our movie choices, and to a host of voices on social media for critiques of political candidates, beach resorts, and everything in between. Yet even amid this ever-expanding sea of opinions, professional critics still hold considerable power in guiding how we make aesthetic judgements. Philosophers and lovers of art (...) continue to grapple with questions that have fascinated them for centuries: How should we engage with works of art? What might enhance such encounters? Should some people’s views be privileged? Who should count as a critic? And do critics actually help us appreciate art? In Two Thumbs Up, philosopher Stephanie Ross tackles these questions, revealing the ways that critics influence our decisions, and why that’s a good thing. Starting from David Hume’s conception of ideal critics, Ross refines his position and makes the case that review-based journalistic or consumer reporting criticism proves the best model for helping us find and appreciate quality. She addresses and critiques several other positions and, in the process, she demonstrates how aesthetic and philosophical concerns permeate our lives, choices, and culture. Ultimately, whether we’re searching for the right wine or the best concert, Ross encourages us all to find and follow critics whose taste we share. (shrink)
Our primal ability to see one thing in terms of another shapes our landscape perception. Although modes of appreciation are tied to personal interests and situations, there are many lines of conflict and incompatibility between these modes. A religious point of view is unacceptable to those without religious beliefs. Background knowledge is similarly required for taking an arts or science-based view of landscape, although this knowledge can be acquired. How to cultivate responses grounded in imagination, emotion, and instinct is less (...) clear, but advocates are eager to spell out notions of virtuous exercise and effective schooling. Carlson’s science-based theory often gets the most attention because he has refined and defended it over many years, but there is a place in aesthetic nature appreciation for the formal or design elements he dismisses as well as for religious, imaginative, emotional, and ambient responses. To date, the normative aspects of these theories have been presented sketchily at best. Working out these details will chart a way for landscape appreciation to become politically correct. (shrink)
I examine the prospects for an ideal observer theory in aesthetics modelled on Roderick Firth’s 1952 paper ‘Ethical Absolutism and the Ideal Observer’. The first generation of philosophers to consider an Ideal Aesthetic Observer found fault with Firth’s omniscience condition; more recent writers have criticized the affective component of an IAO’s response. In the end, most discussants reject the possibility of an IAO theory. Though the IAO theory gets the model wrong for answering meta‐aesthetic questions, revisiting the debate prompts useful (...) reconsideration of the role of the critic and the nature of aesthetic appreciation. (shrink)
George Dickie's The Century of Taste is a readable and informative guide to the family of eighteenth-century aesthetic theories that sought to explain our judgments of taste. Dickie treats the five theories he discusses out of chronological order so that he can give pride of place to his favorite view, that of David Hume. Dickie's grand narrative claims Hume "all but perfected" the theory of taste, while the associationists, on the one hand, and Kant, on the other, led it down (...) a pair of blind alleys. (shrink)
The study of aesthetics concerns the arts broadly conceived, as well as the nature of aesthetic experience, which includes our responses to beauty, sublimity, ugliness, and other such qualities found in works of art, nature, the built-environment and in the course of everyday life. Although the term "aesthetics" to denote this area of study goes back only to the eighteenth century with the work of Alexander Baumgarten, the field has had a long and distinguished history dating back to classical antiquity. (...) Aesthetics is currently the scene of provocative philosophical exploration, and one which has become increasingly connected to work in disciplines outside of philosophy such as art history, psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, gender studies, and critical race theory. (shrink)
I applaud and elaborate on the contextualism at the heart of Bullot & Reber's (B&R's) theory, challenge two aspects of the appreciative structure they posit (the causal reasoning that allegedly underlies the design stance and the segregation of the component stages), suggest that expert and novice appreciators operate differently, and question the degree to which B&R's final theory is open to empirical investigation.
Ronald Moore's new book Natural Beauty: A Theory of Aesthetics Beyond the Arts seeks to offer up an account of beauty in nature rather than the beauty of nature. Moore claims his is a syncretic theory. That is, it combines the best parts of competing theories into a single comprehensive account of, in this case, our judgments of natural beauty. The syncretic impulse is a common one in philosophy. Seeing many theories, each with some strong points yet none successful overall, (...) a natural solution is to simply glom them all together. But does this work? Are we entitled to pick and choose in this manner, taking what we like but leaving behind the preconceptions to which each theory was moored? And is the resulting supertheory consistent and coherent? I will use Moore's book as a test case for some of these theoretical questions. I identify some 'syncretic sites' in Moore's theory to see whether his method passes muster. (shrink)
That caricature succeeds at all seems paradoxical. That its dictum is “less is more” seems more puzzling still. In this paper I hope to investigate how caricature transforms exaggeration, distortion, and falsification into vehicles for succinct comment and easy identification. I shall examine and discard several views of how caricature functions, and conclude by arguing that correctly identifying a caricature is no more, and no less, paradoxical than correctly identifying any of the everyday objects that clutter our world.
We apply Carol Gilligan's distinction between a "male" mode of moral reasoning, focussed on justice, and a "female" mode, focussed on caring, to the reading of literature. Martha Nussbaum suggests that certain novels are works of moral philosophy. We argue that what Nussbaum sees as the special ethical contribution of such novels is in fact training in the stereotypically female mode of moral concern. We show this kind of training is appropriate to all readers of these novels, not just to (...) women. Finally, we explore what else is involved in distinctively feminist readings of traditional novels. (shrink)