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Debates in Aesthetics Special Issue on Beauty and Taste | Call for Papers

The editors of the journal Debates in Aesthetics are pleased to invite submissions for our next Special Issue on the topic of Beauty and Taste (Vol. 19.2).

Beauty and taste are central concepts within aesthetics. There has been an upsurge of interest in returning to both concepts and considering how they feature in not just our engagements with the arts, but also in our aesthetic appreciation of everyday artefacts and activities, natural and built environments, bodies, moral character, and intellectual pursuits (Mothersill, 1984; Scarry, 1999; Nehamas, 2007; Parsons and Carlson, 2008; Scruton, 2009; Lopes, 2018; Riggle, 2022). However, even with increasing interest, concerns continue to surface regarding the relationships between judgements of beauty and other kinds of aesthetic judgements, whether pursuing beauty should have any privileged role in the development of taste in our aesthetic lives, and how exactly beauty interacts with pursuing goodness, knowledge, and justice.

This special issue aims to advance our contemporary understanding of the concepts of beauty and taste. We have welcomed Dr Panos Paris (Cardiff University) to contribute a target article, ‘Which Beauty? What Taste? Reflections on the Importance of the Philosophy of Beauty and Taste’. We are inviting short articles of two kinds. First, we invite articles that respond directly to the arguments raised in Dr Paris’ article. Second, we also invite articles that relate more broadly to the topics of beauty and taste.

All submissions must be short essays of no longer than 3,500 words (excluding footnotes and bibliography) and should be emailed to editor@debatesinaesthetics.org by April 29th 2024. For full submission guidelines see: https://debatesinaesthetics.org/submissions/.

Abstract for ‘Which Beauty? What Taste? Reflections on the Importance of the Philosophy of Beauty and Taste’:

In this paper, I reflect on the importance of the traditional conceptual pair of beauty and taste. Despite recent proclamations within philosophy that beauty is making a comeback, the concept still provokes confusion. I trace such confusion in part to philosophers’ increasingly thinking of beauty, in the so-called narrow, common-sense way, as an essentially shallow and thin concept. However, in stark contrast to most philosophers today, I observe that the notion of beauty in the narrow sense is the concept that allowed philosophers in the past––not unlike many laypersons today––to see beauty as linked to our most fundamental values, and so to speak of beauty of intellect, moral beauty, or the beauty of theorems, as well as artistic and natural beauty. And it is this understanding of beauty that was seen as a fundamental component of a flourishing life. Thus, to think of beauty as shallow and thin is thus not just undesirable, but evinces an impoverished outlook on both aesthetics and value more generally.

I begin by giving some background on beauty’s alleged comeback in recent philosophy. I then proceed to note that in recent years this comeback has concentrated on aesthetic value rather than beauty, which is often dismissed as less important. I suggest that this is at least partly due to an association between, or a running together of, three distinctions: between a narrow and a broad sense of beauty; between beauty as a thin and a thick concept; and between beauty that is easy, sensuous, and shallow on the one hand, and deep, profound, and meaningful, on the other. I argue that useful as these distinctions may be, they are unrelated to one another. Importantly, there is a distinct concept of beauty in the narrow sense that is both thick and not easy or shallow, that is inextricably tied to form, pleasure, and (non-aesthetic) value. However, whether or not an alleged instance of beauty, or indeed a person’s or group’s conceptions and experiences of beauty are easy and shallow or profound and meaningful, turns on another recently disparaged, yet central concept: taste. If we wish to better understand and promote the profound, meaningful, and enlightening varieties of beauty, then we should ensure that the conceptual pair of beauty and taste stand at the forefront of our philosophical enquiries.

The full paper can be downloaded here: https://debatesinaesthetics.org/news/

Debates in Aesthetics is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal for articles, interviews and book reviews. Published by the British Society of Aesthetics, the journal’s principal aim is to provide the philosophical community with a dedicated venue for debate in aesthetics and the philosophy of art.

Please visit https://debatesinaesthetics.org/ for more information, or feel free to email us at editor@debatesinaesthetics.org.