During 2016-7 the Institute of Philosophy London Aesthetics Forum (LAF) has continued to hold its regular series of seminars on topics in aesthetics and the philosophy of art. The LAF draws its speakers primarily from departments of philosophy, but the series also included talks from academics or practitioners in other fields (e.g., literary studies, musicology, art history) working on questions of relevance to aesthetics. The LAF aims to provide a lively environment for those already working in aesthetics and philosophy of art, and to foster new interest.

LAF events are open to all, both inside and outside the University of London. Audiences tend to be multi-disciplinary, and talks are followed by extended discussion where the philosophical topics raised by the talks are explored in depth from a variety of perspectives. As attendance at the sessions fluctuates depending on the time of year, with generally higher attendance during university term-time, we have been pleased to see that this format works well with different audience numbers, allowing small groups (e.g. of 8-10 people) to pursue detailed trains of discussion with the speaker, whilst also allowing enough time for everybody to ask substantial questions in a larger group (e.g. of 20-25).

The LAF now has 628 Facebook followers and 1660 followers on Twitter, and the website received many thousands of hits in the past year. We continue to post podcasts of many of our talks on iTunes. Our podcasts enable more people to engage with the Forum, including listeners from outside the UK, and have a very substantial number of monthly downloads.

Additionally, our Aesthetics Bites podcasts in particular have been very successful. We thank the British Society of Aesthetics for their generous support in producing these. As of last month, downloads were as follows for the first six episodes:

  • Aaron Meskin on the Definition of Art 31,000
  • Elisabeth Schellekens on Disagreement about Taste 52,000
  • Stephen Davies on Art and Evolution 73,000
  • Eileen John on Art and Morality  62,000
  • Kathleen Stock on Emotions and Fiction 84,000
  • Noel Carroll on Criticism 79,000

One of the LAF’s aims is to benefit students who are working in aesthetics or related areas, providing opportunities for graduate researchers to engage with cutting edge work and meet other academics working in the area. Graduate students in the University of London also play a central role in organising the Forum’s activities, and in 2016-7 year this has included help on various organizational tasks, as well as participating actively in discussions.

Thanks to the funding from the BSA, we’ve been able to put on a strong program of offerings, including 13 talks, as well as organizing a special workshop event—a philosophical lecture and discussion combined with a piano performance.

We have aimed for a diverse programme, including talks by early career philosophers as well as by those more established in the field. Talks in 2016-7 have included speakers from the U.K., the U.S., continental Europe, and Brazil. Our speakers were as follows:

  • Jason Gaiger (Oxford), “Pictorial Experience and the Perception of Rhythm”
  • Julian Dodd (Manchester), “What 4’33” is”
  • Carla Damiao, (Federal University of Goias), “Memory, Truth, and Monuments”
  • Anne Eaton (University of Illinois, Chicago), “The Power of Pictures”
  • Brian Ball (New College of the Humanities), “Artistic Priorities”
  • Matthew Kieran (Leeds), “Creativity, Vanity, Narcissism”
  • Efi Kyprianidou (Open University of Cyprus), “Empathy in Response to Art: The Case of Illness-Related Art)
  • Julia Peters (Tübingen), “Self-Expression, Art, and Nature in Hegel’s Philosophy of Spirit”
  • Diarmuid Costello (Warwick), “What is Abstraction in Photography?”
  • James Harold (Mt. Holyoke), “Turning a Work of Literature into a Movie”
  • Dan Eugen Ratiu (Babes-Boylai), “Everyday Aesthetic Experience and the Life-World”
  • Joshua Landy (Stanford), “In Praise of Depth”
  • Rodrigo Duarte, (Federal University of Minas Gerais), “On the Social-Aesthetic Construct”

Our special workshop event involved a performance by the pianist Terry Spiller (Cal State San Luis Obispo), combined with a lecture by and discussion with Jennifer Judkins (UCLA Dept. of Music). This was jointly hosted with the Music Department at King’s College London, who kindly provided the venue and piano, and the Royal Music Association Music & Philosophy Study Group, who assisted with further logistics.

SWIP: LAF aims for gender diversity in our talks. Five of our 14 speakers this year have been women. In the coming year, we have been aiming for similar gender parity, and our invitations reflect that.

The LAF would like to thank the British Society of Aesthetics for their continued support.

On behalf of the LAF’s 2016-7 organising group: Andrew Huddleston (Birkbeck), Stacie Friend (Birkbeck), Alex Grzankowski (Birkbeck); Jack Davis (PhD Student, UCL); Sarah Kiernan (PhD Student, Birkbeck); Pablo Olvera Mateos (PhD Student, Birkbeck); Oda Ottosen (MPhil Student, UCL).