Tuesday 5th July 2022: 4pm BST
Presenter: Alice Harberd (University College London)
Chair: Colette Olive (University College London)
Registration: To register, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Zoom link will be sent via private message to the registered participants and on the day will give access to the Zoom room only to registered accounts. The draft paper is available upon request.
Abstract: I argue that the banality objection to aesthetic cognitivism fails by drawing attention to something which has gone under our philosophical radar: aesthetic properties can lead us to epistemic underestimations. I draw on cases like “live, laugh, love” signs, arguing that the aesthetic properties of some messages lead us to wrongly underestimate them as trivial, when really they are insightful. Often people report intuitions of understanding and insight in experiences with artworks, and value the artworks because of this. Aesthetic cognitivism is the view which takes this seriously: it holds that artworks are valuable qua artwork partly in virtue of their epistemic value. The banality objection challenges cognitivism by asking cognitivists to articulate what they have learned from artworks. The objectors contend that any such articulation will sound hopelessly banal – far from the rich insights which cognitivists claim that artworks convey. I argue that the banality objection fails because articulations of what we have learned from art tend to have the aesthetic properties liable to lead us to epistemic underestimations. So, the articulations to which the banality objection appeals are not good evidence for the epistemic value of the artwork in question. Even if the articulations seem banal, this doesn’t mean that what we learn from artworks is actually banal rather than insightful. Hence, it shouldn’t persuade us that cognitivists are exaggerating the epistemic value of artworks.