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Conference: Aesthetics and Political Epistemology

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University of Liverpool, 19 – 21 June 2023 

Sponsored by the British Society of Aesthetics Connections grant. 

In analytic philosophy recently, there has been a shift of interest towards political culture. Topics like ideology, propaganda, persuasion and epistemic injustice are now central themes within Anglophone epistemology and political philosophy. These approaches, gathered around the field of “political epistemology”, now acknowledge that contingent cultural influences play a key role in political reasoning, knowledge formation and emancipation.  

We propose that the philosophical study of such phenomena can be productively approached through a conversation with work in aesthetics and philosophy of art.  

For instance, feminist and anti-racist aestheticians have long pointed out how oppressive stereotypes inhere in dominant cultural categories. Other philosophers of art have reflected on the distinction between cognitively valuable art and propaganda. Aesthetical analyses of political art, metaphor, cultural appropriation, unethical art also bear similarities to the epistemologists’ concern with how ideas spread within a political space. 

Bringing together aestheticians, epistemologists and political philosophers, some questions this conference will pose include: 

  • What role can art play in political discourse? 
  • Is there a cognitive distinction between (mere) propaganda and (valuable) political art? 
  • Are flawed ideologies best repaired by cultural expression? 
  • What role do narrative, metaphor, imagination or aesthetic experience play in political discourse? 
  • How do new forms of deception (e.g. deep fakes) relate to visual culture studied in aesthetics (photography, painting)?  
  • How do debates about free speech, blocking and partisan epistemology relate to cultural expression? 

Confirmed speakers include Gemma Bird (Liverpool), Sarah Fine (Cambridge), Rachel Fraser (Oxford), Thi Nguyen (Utah), Paul Taylor (Penn State), Lauren Ware (Kent) and Regina Rini (YorkU). 

Call for papers 

We are now accepting submissions for papers to be presented at the conference. We invite philosophers of any specialisation to submit a 250 word abstract of a paper for presentation at the conference. Submissions are not blind, and we encourage experimental submissions from philosophers with previous interest in either aesthetics or political epistemology, who wish to think across these disciplines; as well as from graduate students working in the area. Please include your name, affiliation, and contact details with your submission.  

We will not be running parallel sessions, so presentations will be full papers (30 minutes) with Q&A. The deadline for submissions of abstracts is 1 December 2022.  

We aim to inform you of the outcome soon afterwards. The conference will be hybrid, and we may have money available to go towards speakers’ travel expenses, so we encourage submissions from speakers who wish to attend in person. The conference will abide by SWIP good practice guidelines. 

Please send your abstracts to: livpolaesthetics@gmail.com