Aesthetic Dis/interestedness and Affects
LOGOS Research Group in Analytic Philosophy and the Society for Philosophy of Emotion
Conference 19-20, May 2022
Location: Online (Info TBA)
Affects (emotions, moods etc.) often play a central role in aesthetic experience. Many accept this as almost a truism, even when they are puzzled by some aspects of this phenomenon (cf. paradox of fiction, paradox of negative emotions). Indeed, there is a recent trend in aesthetics of even defining aesthetic experience in terms of particular affects (e.g. wonder). Also widespread is an understanding of the ideal of aesthetic experience as one that is disinterested, i.e. disconnected from personal interests or desires. On the face of it, however, such disinterestedness is in tension with the nature of many affects as typically related to the affected person’s personal interests. To appreciate this prima facie tension, consider for instance how often we make emotions intelligible by means of the dis/satisfaction of one’s conative attitudes in general (she is happy because she passed the exam, which was her desire), or how relevant interests are to characterizing the formal object of an emotion (e.g. the formal object of fear is often defined in terms of dangerousness for the emoter, or for someone/something she cares about). The exploration of such a prima facie tension between aesthetic disinterestedness and the interestedness of affects can disclose important insight about emotions, aesthetic attitudes and the relation between them.
This conference aims to present analyses of this prima facie tension, including discussing to what extent it is a real tension, and what ways out of it there are, if any. Several other questions will also be relevant to pursuing this goal, including:
Ascertaining whether the tension is in place for certain (kinds of) affective states or events, more than for others (e.g., “aesthetic” vs garden-variety emotions, or positive vs negative affects etc.);
Understanding the difference that there is, if any, between affects elicited by art (including fiction) and affects elicited by practical concerns;
Describing and/or discovering any phenomenological differences in our affective experiences arising from our interested encounters with the world, as opposed to those arising from encounters with aesthetic objects;
Locating where, if at all, the dis/interestedness of the aesthetic experience lies: e.g., whether it is in its affective components or elsewhere;
Exploring the extent to which affects are in fact central to, or can even define aesthetic experience;
Exploring the relationship between aesthetic dis/interestedness and active participation on the side of the audience: e.g., whether audience’s interpretative efforts (e.g., deploying imagination in an adequate manner, relating the aesthetic contents to their own experiences and thoughts, etc.) and even their actions (e.g., interactive fictions) are ingredients of aesthetic interest that renders their affective experiences intelligible;
Ascertaining to what extent interestedness really is the mark of the affective and aesthetic disinterestedness a counterexample to it.
This conference seeks to foster the study of affects, aesthetics and the relationship between the two. In particular, the idea is to gather inclusively both young and more experienced scholars with shared philosophical interests on aesthetics and affects with the aim of encouraging: (i) the exchange of ideas, (ii) the forging and broadening of research networks; and (iii) the collaborative development of new and interesting approaches to the workshop topic, with an aim to the publication of a special issue of the Journal of Philosophy of Emotion. This conference will feature the following four keynote speakers, along with 6 speakers selected from the replies to this call. It will also be freely open to the public for the public to attend.