James Grant

James Grant is a Departmental Lecturer in Philosophy at The Queen’s College, Oxford. He works on topics in aesthetics, ethics and philosophy of language. His paper “Metaphor and Criticism” won the 2010 British Society of Aesthetics Essay Prize. His work has appeared in such journals as the British Journal of Aesthetics and the Australasian Journal of Philosophy and his book The Critical Imagination is forthcoming with Oxford University Press. From October 2012, James will take up a lectureship at Birkbeck College, London.

The Aims of Art Criticism
Wednesday 2 May 2012
16:00-18:00 at Stewart House, STB9 (basement)
Sponsored by the British Society of Aesthetics

Criticism of the arts is a major part of our cultural life. Critics decide to a large extent which films and plays get seen and which books get read, and criticism commonly affects our experience and evaluation of paintings, poems, music, the urban environment, fashion and much else. Philosophers and other theorists of the arts have long disagreed, however, about what the aims of art criticism are. Is the point of criticizing an artwork to evaluate it, to explain or interpret it, to modify our responses to it, or to achieve something else besides? In this talk, I shall argue for a new answer to this question. I shall argue that art criticism has a constitutive aim. Having this aim is part of what makes a remark or a piece of writing an instance of art criticism. My view, I shall argue, incorporates what is right about the other principal suggestions that have been made about criticism’s aims (for instance, by Arnold Isenberg, Frank Sibley, and Noël Carroll), while avoiding their shortcomings. It also enables us to explain some otherwise puzzling facts about criticism.

Details of James Grant’s publications are available here, on his departmental website.