Aesthetic Adjectives and
Disagreements about Taste

14 March 2014
Senate House, Chancellors Hall

Aesthetic Adjectives Programme copyThis workshop will bring together research in aesthetics, philosophy of language and linguistics to consider a topic significant to all these domains: aesthetic adjectives, such as ‘beautiful’, ‘ugly’, ‘elegant’ or ‘unified’, and their role in disagreements about taste. Philosophical aestheticians have a longstanding interest in the nature of aesthetic adjectives and their use in both everyday and art-critical discourse. Consider, for example, the traditional project of defining ‘beautiful’, ‘sublime’ and ‘ugly’, or Frank Sibley’s influential argument to the effect that the applications of aesthetic terms are never solely determined by non-aesthetic conditions. Or take Kendall Walton’s seminal work on the role played by categories in aesthetic judgments, which has raised the question of whether gradable adjectives – those concerning qualities which admit of degrees, such as ‘tall’ or ‘small’ – might serve as models for understanding aesthetic adjectives. At the same time, work on the semantics of adjectives in linguistics and philosophy of language has developed theories of gradable adjectives in general, as well as examining terms known as predicates of ‘personal taste’ (e.g. ‘tasty’ and ‘fun’), which appear to be closely related to aesthetic discourse. By bringing together theories of the semantics of adjectives with a focus on aesthetic adjectives in particular, the workshop aims to shed light on the nature of aesthetic terms, their relations to other elements of language, their central role in the evaluation of art, and what they reveal about disagreements concerning value.

Participants: Aaron Meskin (University of Leeds), Shen-Yi Liao (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and Leeds), Tim Sundell (University of Kentucky), Isidora Stojanovic (Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Nick Zangwill (University of Hull) and Louise McNally (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona)


12.45  Welcome
13.00  Shen-Yi Liao and Aaron Meskin, ‘The Relative, the Absolute, and the
14.00  Isidora Stojanovic, ‘The Experiential and the Evaluative Aspects of
Aesthetic Judgements’
15.00  Tea/coffee
15.30  Tim Sundell, ‘Non-Evaluative Contextualism for Predicates of Taste’
16.30  Louise McNally, ‘Aesthetic Predicates at the Semantics/Pragmatics
Interface’ (commentary)
17.00  Nick Zangwill, TBA (commentary)
17.30  General discussion
18.00  Close


registration is free but required


The workshop is made possible by generous support from the British Society of Aesthetics

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