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Objectivity and sensitivity in aesthetics Rudinow, Joel

Abstract

This essay is a discussion of two related topics in contemporary aesthetics: the notion of aesthetic sensitivity, and the question of the objectivity of aesthetic judgements. Its point of departure is the work of Frank Sibley on "aesthetic concepts". In Chapter I intuitionism is rejected both as providing an answer to the question, "Are aesthetic judgements objective?" and as providing the basis for an account of aesthetic sensitivity. In Chapter II an account of aesthetic sensitivity based on the seeing-as notion is explored and ultimately abandoned. In Chapter III the issue of objectivity for aesthetic judgements is developed in detail, as turning on the availability of some decision procedure or other for the resolution of disputes. It is argued that relativism, the position that no such decision procedures for aesthetic judgements are available, cannot be adequately defended. An analogy between aesthetic judgement and color attribution emerges as basic to a promising strategy for a defense of aesthetic objectivism. The strategy involves the demand for an articulation of decision procedures relevant to color attribution. The promise of the strategy is defended when it is argued that standard anti-intuitionist criticisms need not undermine it. Finally, the theses and arguments of one relativist, Isabel C. Hungerland, are criticized. Part of her defense of relativism is traced to her acceptance of an analogy between aesthetic judgement and seeing-as. The results of Chapter II, in which the limits of that analogy are exposed, are employed against her. Chapter IV is an outline of a set of decision procedures for color attribution. Color decision procedures involve the selection of a reference group of observers, whose visual experiences are taken to be authoritative. Members of the reference group are selected on the basis of two principles of selection: one which selects statistically normal observers, and one which selects observers of demonstrably higher discriminatory capacity. A system of subsidiary principles, which operates when the two main are at odds in their selections, is illustrated. In Chapter V the plausibility of an aesthetic analogue of the theory of color objectivity developed in Chapter IV is defended against two major objections. The first objection is based on a point of disanalogy between colors and aesthetic features: the V-emergence" of aesthetic features, It is argued, in effect, that this is not a relevant point of disanalogy. The second objection is based on the view that the meanings of terms used to express aesthetic judgements are never twice the same. This view is criticized, and a more plausible one, which does not pose difficulties for the colors/aesthetics analogy, is considered.

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