This Week’s Special:  Frank Sibley’s, “Aesthetic Concepts”

By Daniel A. Kaufman

http://rci.rutgers.edu/~tripmcc/phil/poa/sidley-aestheticconcepts-controversy.pdf

On tap this week is a paper that has had an enormous influence on contemporary aesthetics:  Frank Sibley’s 1959 paper, “Aesthetic Concepts.”

The central message of Sibley’s thesis is essentially critical: Aesthetic concepts are not ascribed by way of criteria, but instead, require taste / discernment / perceptiveness to apply.   Beyond aesthetics, Sibley’s critique is part of a larger effort to challenge traditional conceptions of definition and by extension, more formal approaches in semantics.

Sibley gives no general definition of aesthetic concepts  (beyond saying that they are concepts that require taste to apply), but he does provide examples, including ‘graceful’, ‘delicate’, ‘dainty’, ‘handsome’, ‘comely’, ‘elegant’, ‘garish’, to name just a handful.

Sibley also observes that we often give reasons for our ascriptions of aesthetic terms, in terms of non-aesthetic, descriptive characteristics that do not themselves require perceptiveness or taste to apply.   We might say, for example, that a figure is delicate “because of its pastel shades and curving lines” or that a picture depicting a party “lacks balance because one group of figures is so far off to the left and is so brightly illuminated,” and while ‘delicacy’ and ‘lack-of balance’ are aesthetic concepts and require taste to apply, terms like ‘pastel’ and ‘brightly illuminated’ do not.

__________________________

Sibley’s critique begins with the obvious point that aesthetic concepts do not admit of necessary and sufficient conditions for their application, as one might find with the concepts of, say, geometry.  Having four sides of equal length and interior angles of 90 degrees are jointly necessary and sufficient for a figure to be a square, but there is no comparable set of necessary and sufficient conditions for something’s being delicate  or witty.

Of course, very few concepts admit of necessary and sufficient conditions, most being of a sort  for which the relevant conditions apply more loosely.  There are, for example, concepts for which there are no necessary conditions of application, but for which there are some number of conditions which, if they are met, would be sufficient.  Suppose, for example, that I tell you that my cousin is intelligent, and when you ask me why I think that, I tell you (truthfully) that he graduated Summa Cum Laude from Princeton and was accepted to Harvard Medical school, where, as a student, he discovered a cure for  diabetes.  Surely, these characteristics, taken together, are sufficient for calling my cousin intelligent, despite the fact that not a single one of them is necessary.  One could easily imagine a most intelligent person, who did none of these things.

As Sibley correctly points out, aesthetic concepts are not even governed by conditions in this loose way. Unlike the case of applying the word ‘intelligent’, there is no list of characteristics, such that if something had them, one would have no choice but to deem it delicate or garish.  As Sibley observes, one couldn’t say, “If the vase is pale pink, somewhat curving, lightly mottled, and so forth, it will be delicate, cannot but be delicate.”  It may, indeed, turn out to be delicate, if one goes and looks at it, and one may even want to say that it is delicate because of these features, but one could not predict, ahead of time, on the basis of these features, that it will be delicate.

The reason is that the characteristics that make something delicate or garish or may also be responsible for an object’s having very different qualities; qualities that are, in fact, incompatible with their counterparts.  Pale colors and gently curving contours may make a vase insipid as well as delicate, and a single object cannot be both.  Bright colors may make something bold, as well as garish, but a single picture cannot have both of these characteristics at once.

At most, then, one can say that certain non-aesthetic characteristics typically count for or against a certain aesthetic quality — pale colors typically count in favor of delicateness and against garishness, where the opposite is true, in the case of bright ones — but knowing this does not mean that we can ascribe aesthetic concept, on the basis of criteria, and without perceptiveness or taste.

This leads us in a number of different directions, towards which Sibley points with varying degrees of detail:

–>Whatever the relationship is between a thing’s non-aesthetic characteristics and its aesthetic properties, it is going to lie in the particular instances of its non-aesthetic characteristics and not in the fact that it has them, generally speaking.  The vase is not delicate because it is painted in pale colors, as a general matter, but because of these particular delicate colors.

–>When we offer reasons for our assigning of various aesthetic characteristics, in terms of non-aesthetic, descriptive properties, we cannot be justifying our judgment, insofar as justification is inferential and inferences are always in terms of general, rather than particular characteristics.  (As Allan Bloom once put it, “Everyone knows that the particular as particular escapes the grasp of reason, the form of which is the general or universal.”)  Rather, what we are doing, in offering such reasons, is calling our interlocutor’s attention to general features, the particular instances of which, in this particular work, are responsible for the aesthetic characteristic in question.

–>The ascription of aesthetic concepts is not possible, other than in the presence of the object or some suitably similar facsimile.

Beyond these and other implications for the practice of art criticism, Sibley’s thoughts on this subject strike me as important, insofar as they give a very clear example of an entire domain of language and practice, which by its very nature resists systematization and systematic treatment, whether philosophical or scientific, something it is crucial to point out, in our culture’s increasingly scientistic and routinized manner of thinking.

Categories: This Week's Special

33 Comments »

  1. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH
    Thank you, thank you, thank you. When I was an undergrad Ted Cohen used this argument on the class but I could never remember to whom he attributed it (we were not required to read it). I have made a number of attempts to locate it over the years but I never succeeded. This is very welcome.

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  2. Thanks for interesting stuff. You lost me here: “Pale colors and gently curving contours may make a vase insipid as well as delicate, and a single object cannot be both. Bright colors may make something bold, as well as garish, but a single picture cannot have both of these characteristics at once.” Seems like two similarly self-contradictory statements. What am I missing? For the record, I go along with the first alternatives.

    Later I am confused (my bad I’m sure) between characteristics and properties. Are the terms interchangeable?

    “The vase is not delicate because it is painted in pale colors, as a general matter, but because of these particular delicate colors.” I don’t get it. The vase would still be delicate if painted light green instead of light pink. I feel like we’re hovering in the vicinity of a Wallace Stevens poem. Are we being asked to forget that delicate means easily broken?

    I turned to the OP. Could you call it a defense of irrational speech?
    And very excited over the discovery of ‘feasible reasoning’! Thanks much.

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  3. astrodreamer, come on. You’ve got to appreciate these lines from Stevens:

    “Such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk,
    May, merely may, madame, whip from themselves
    A jovial hullabaloo among the spheres.
    This will make widows wince. But fictive things
    Wink as they will. Wink most when widows wince.”

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  4. “Bright colors may make something bold, as well as garish, but a single picture cannot have both of these characteristics at once.”

    Well it can if I am looking at it at the same time as you are looking at it and I see it as garish and you as bold.

    And isn’t the very notion of a vase or a picture having these characteristics begging an important question (about the objectivity of our claims). We speak as if it has characteristics, sure…

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  5. Mark: Of course they’re not objective — they are taste-concepts, which are, by definition, subjective. That’s how Sibley himself characterizes them.

    Not seeing what question is being begged.

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  6. Daniel, I was responding to your statement, not to Sibley’s work. I only read the first couple of pages of the 87(!!), but I noticed that Sibley made it clear that he was not using ‘taste’ in the sense of something being just a matter of taste, whereas I see overlap between the common usage and his more critically-oriented usage.

    The question I see as being begged is the question of the objectivity of aesthetic judgements. Maybe you and Sibley are not addressing this issue and so are not really begging the question. Maybe the question is my question. But at any rate your claim seemed to imply that the picture actually had this or that characteristic. And Sibley says that it is with an ability to notice or discern things that he is concerned. To me this implies that the things are there to be discerned.

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  7. The actual Sibley essay is not 87 pages. The PDF includes material after the Sibley article. Responses and the like.

    I am still not understanding your question. Sibley’s view is that aesthetic concepts cannot be applied to things on the basis of criteria. Rather, they require taste or perceptiveness to apply. What is puzzling about this is that if asked, why one thinks something has a certain aesthetic property, one will often give reasons that mention descriptive characteristics of the object. This would normally suggest that aesthetic concepts *are* ascribed on the basis of criteria, so Sibley has to explain what sort of work those reasons are really doing, if not serving as criteria.

    Now, if the question is, are aesthetic properties themselves objective — i.e. is something objectively delicate or insipid, then the answer is obviously no. These are taste concepts and thus, inherently subjective, in the sense that they are perceiver-dependent, as are all of the so-called “secondary qualities.” But whereas purely descriptive qualities only require normally functioning sense organs to discern, this is not true of aesthetic qualities,which, as already mentioned, require taste.

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  8. Dan K, curious to know if aesthetic tastes can be acquired. And if so, how? Would one thereby say one has acquired another’s inherently subjective taste concept? This isn’t meant facetiously. But it seems a bit puzzling to me and perhaps some others. When you state “Aesthetic concepts are not ascribed by way of criteria, but instead, require taste / discernment / perceptiveness to apply.” Would this be a stance, say, against Robert Frost’s view of free verse as akin to playing tennis without nets? A secondary concern, since this seems to center more on aesthetic appreciation as opposed to aesthetic invention, would be whether the same approach would be applied to the artist himself and his intentions. I think a few more examples outside the visual arts, or visually aesthetic, might help.

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  9. “Now, if the question is, are aesthetic properties themselves objective — i.e. is something objectively delicate or insipid, then the answer is obviously no. These are taste concepts and thus, inherently subjective, in the sense that they are perceiver-dependent, as are all of the so-called “secondary qualities.” But whereas purely descriptive qualities only require normally functioning sense organs to discern, this is not true of aesthetic qualities, which, as already mentioned, require taste.”

    I get this. But my point is that normally functioning sense organs (which allow me to see the sky as blue) are something very different from taste in the arts, etc.. I would want to say that factual statements including those involving so-called secondary qualities (like, ‘The sky is blue’) can be seen to be objective (in the sense that they may be translated into more scientific language and be objectively assessed as being true or false, etc.) in a way in which aesthetic statements can not.

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  10. tj; certainly, taste and perceptiveness are acquirable characteristics. sibley talks about this a little, but not with any great degree of specificity. it may be that one really cannot offer a general account of how taste and perceptiveness are acquired, because there may be many, many such ways. i would say, however, that both arise only out of substantial experience with the relevant medium.

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  11. (Response 1)

    In Peter Kivy’s response to Sibley, attempting to redefine the problem in terms of aspect perspective, I noted this passage:

    “We are asked to perceive the melodic line of “Der greise Kopf” (“The Grey Head”) as a line drawing-the silhouette of a man’s head encrusted with snow and ice. How might I bring someone to hear the song as the outline of a face? As in the case of the duck-rabbit, my strategy would be to pick out some crucial feature or features that can be perceived in an appropriate way. I might say, for example: “Notice how the melodic line of the piano introduction climbs, pauses, as if to demarcate the nose and mouth, climbs again, to the brow as it were, and then descends in one long unbroken gesture that outlines the back of the head.” We do not stand mute before an instance of aesthetic aspect-perceiving; we are prepared to point out the features that are involved in perceiving one aspect or another.”

    I was going to critique Kivy here; but on re-reading, I realized he was not writing as assertorically as I first read him. Nonetheless, the quoted passage will do to surface the problem here.

    This is exactly the sort of thing a critic would say. The problem is, one has to already have a sense that is music worthy of listening to, to be persuaded by the argument. What could a critic say to someone who simply tossed it off as ‘just so much noise to me’? Worse yet, what could be said to someone with an education similar to the critic who shrugged and said, ‘well, I really don’t like that piece, my taste leans towards jazz’? That’s worse, because the boundaries of the debate remain aesthetic, but there are no grounds by which the debate can be adjudicated. One says ‘potAYto,’ one says ‘poAHto’ – let’s call the whole thing off.

    And I also wanted to quote two of my favorite musicologists here, in order to indicate how important cultural context and experience really are to this issue, which classical aesthetics tend to miss (or, revealing a class bias, dismiss):

    “Just let me hear some of that
    Rock And Roll Music,
    Any old way you choose it;
    It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it,
    Any old time you use it.
    It’s gotta be Rock And Roll Music,
    If you want to dance with me.”
    – Chuck Berry, Rock and Roll Music

    “One good thing about music, when it hits you fell no pain.”
    Bob Marley, Trenchtown Rock

    We can certainly raise ethical objections to the lyrics of certain songs (those that advocate rape or violence, for instance), but I don’t see how we can raise any objections to the music one is culturally prepared to listen to. What would we say – ‘this is not beautiful’? ‘this is not music’? We have heard such arguments in public discourse – and we have seen that they fall on deaf ears. The aesthetic begins in the social modification of primal desires and visceral responses; articulate judgment follows as explanation. But this is not the ‘thing in itself.’ This ‘thing’ is a feeling, not a ‘thought.’

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  12. (Response 2)

    To clarify my initial comment: Having read most of the 87 pages of the link (although admittedly much of it rather rapidly,), I suspect that while Sibley’s critics want to say, “there must be reasons we say ‘X’ is an aesthetic object,’ they came across reading as if saying, ‘there must be some reasoning a critic can use to convince us that “X” is an aesthetic object,’ which is a different question, but which finds an obstacle to possible answers in Sibley’s argument. (Logically, but not rhetorically; indeed the art of aesthetic criticism lies in marshaling a certain kind of objective language to both justify subjective aesthetic judgment, and persuade the audience to the correctness of that judgment – the success of this in effect objectifying the judgment for the audience community.)

    But, although I do have some issues with Sibley’s discussion, I laud it for its philosophical objectivity. It is really not about whether there are such things as ‘aesthetic objects’ independent of our judgment of such (what could that even mean?), but about how we talk about them, and whether there is any logical necessity in talking about them in a given way. Anyone who loves the arts wants to say ‘yes,’ but the harsh reality is that language is a social phenomenon; it doesn’t float above us waiting to validate our experiences; and aesthetics is the field that makes this most obvious.

    Taste is a matter of inculcation, training, and experience. And not even everyone sharing the same inculcation, training, and experience, will entirely agree on selected objects.

    Consequently, although there was some efforts in the 19th and 20th centuries, to find a way to transform aesthetics into a science, these failed miserably. They dominated the teaching of art and literature for a time; but eventually most people interested in art and literature simply stopped bothering with them. Monroe Beardsley – who cares? The affective is not a fallacy, it is the very reason we come to literature in the first place. The notion that art is a cultural monument that we must all bow down to, in fact triggered an aggressively negative response, part of the “Cultural Revolution” that tossed all such notions – even some very good ones – into the trash can.

    Sibley, whatever his faults, offers a breath of fresh air. There is no ground for saying of a poem, or painting, or song, that it is ‘lovely.’ We call it such because we have been raised in a certain way, have had certain experiences, and attune ourselves to certain other experiences. And we say this meaningfully only among those with similar backgrounds – the community of which we are a part. The objectivity of art is not a matter of what’s in the object, but in the shared values of a given community.

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  13. I see a tension between the emotional associates of an aesthetic experience, and the intellectual understanding of the causative elements in the perception involved, as a critic or an artist (where there are the technical questions). In the case of human facial beauty, most people have aesthetic concepts that revolve around high level features our brains extract viz X’s cheekbones are too wide to be truly attractive, Y’s face is too symmetrical, Z’s hair colour exacerbates their unfortunate complexion. Many of Sibley’s terms (handsome, comely, graceful, dainty) are used in judgements of physical attractiveness.

    This is also true of natural scenes – one can think of those aesthetic concepts applicable to landscape painting and photography that also apply to actual landscape:

    The Minto Crags ring dyke…consists of fine grained rhyolites which have intruded the Walloon Coal Measures. It is…of particular aesthetic appeal.

    If asked why I agree with that geologist that the Minto Crags are attractive, I would mention rock colour and how it contrasts the surrounding vegetation (leading to visual surprise), size relative to rest of landscape and to the small trees growing on it (“human sized”), and would compare the effect on me to similarly appealing bonsai/penjing rock-and-vegetation arrangements. In the latter case, artists have attempted to develop design principles that maximize aesthetic pleasure. I don’t think it is reductionist to say that those principles are mapping high level features of the human perceptual system. I further don’t think the concepts I would use in this example are in a different category from Sibley’s examples.

    As to more abstract concepts such as “unity”, they may be rather empirical – paying customers don’t like versions of
    the Marriage of Figaro that lack certain arias, because the cumulative pleasure of the finale is reduced, even though it is not technically possible to work out how the effect occurs. Another abstract principle is surprise, where a novelty that is just congruent enough with preceding material to cause pleasure (I have previously cited the example of repeatable “chills” listening to particular musical passages, but this is just as true of children hearing Little Red Riding Hood for the 100th time). Speaking reductionistically again, I think this is a very general but abstract feature of how we process information, and is not unique to humans. So it cannot be summarized as any simple rule, but is still comprehensible to naturalists thinking in terms of higher and higher levels in a perceptual neural network.

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  14. Mark English wrote:

    my point is that normally functioning sense organs (which allow me to see the sky as blue) are something very different from taste in the arts, etc.. I would want to say that factual statements including those involving so-called secondary qualities (like, ‘The sky is blue’) can be seen to be objective (in the sense that they may be translated into more scientific language and be objectively assessed as being true or false, etc.) in a way in which aesthetic statements can not.
    ——————————————————–

    ‘Subjective’, as used in this subject, means “perceiver-dependant.” In that sense, both my judgment that x is pink and my judgment that x is delicate are subjective. These characteristics don’t exist independently of certain kinds of perceivers.

    Now, there is a difference as to what account one can give of the *normativity* or these statements. Again, in both cases, since the property in question is subjective, the only account of normativity that one can give is in terms of the judgments of a competent judge, somehow defined. In the case of “x is pink,” the competent judge will be defined in terms of physiological normalcy, which means that yes, we can give a scientific account of it, *to a degree* (the subjective content of the pink quale will still defy scientific description). In the case of “x is delicate,” the competent judge will be defined in terms of the possession of discernment or taste, for which, obviously, a scientific account will not be forthcoming.

    All that said, I don’t think that objectivity has anything to do with it, and I also don’t think that there’s anything inferior in the taste account, relative to the more scientific one. But that’s because I don’t think that scientific accounts have any intrinsic “betterness” than other sorts. Betterness or worseness of accounts depends entirely on what one wants them for.

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  15. davidlduffy:

    I think this is entirely wrong and involves a kind of analysis that I just don’t think improves our understanding of anything. There is no “golden section” — i.e. collection of purely descriptive qualities that entail/necessitate/indicate/what have you, *any* aesthetic reaction/ascription, and I don’t see why there needs to be one.

    With respect to valuation, Arnold Isenberg made virtually the exact same point as Sibley, in his 1949 paper “Critical Communication.”

    http://philpapers.org/rec/ISECC

    These are precisely the sorts of areas, where I find naturalistic/scientific/reductive accounts to be the *least* useful. And I just don’t see the reason why anyone would want them.

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  16. Dan

    “I don’t think that objectivity has anything to do with it…”

    Maybe not, but it – or, more specifically, the question of whether certain claims may be objectively assessed – has everything to do with my question (which you had asked me to clarify).

    “… I also don’t think that there’s anything inferior in the taste account, relative to the more scientific one. But that’s because I don’t think that scientific accounts have any intrinsic “betterness” than other sorts. Betterness or worseness of accounts depends entirely on what one wants them for.”

    Who said anything about “inferior” or superior or “betterness” or “worseness”?

    I was entirely focused on the question of whether certain claims may be objectively assessed. (And, as far as I can tell from your answers, we would seem to be in substantive agreement on this topic.)

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  17. Dan

    I would still want to use the word ‘objective’ in this connection, at least in certain ways.

    For example: if I claim the vase is red and you say it is green, then we can (I believe) assess these conflicting claims in an objective way and come to a conclusion.

    I have a slight red/green colour-blindness actually, so if it was in shadow I might see a green vase as red.

    When I first found out I had this type of colour-blindness I wanted to say that it was not a deficiency but just a different (and equally good) way of seeing colours. But it is a flaw, in fact, because it means I can’t make reliable distinctions which other people can. I mix up red and green (and couldn’t get a pilot’s license, for instance).

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  18. “Mark, you can use whatever terms you like. I’m just telling you what the term means in the relevant literature.”

    Which term?

    I did not use the term ‘subjective’ at all; I used the term ‘objective’. Okay, in so doing I implicitly brought the subjective/objective distinction into play, and I take your point about the use of ‘subjective’ within aesthetics.

    But I would defend my use of the term ‘objective’. I think I used it in a very specific and clear and accepted – at least in terms of ordinary language use – way.

    I used the term because it seemed appropriate to the general point (not within aesthetics, but having a bearing on aesthetics) I was trying to make.

    I may have to look into this matter further. I don’t mind using any standard technical language (aesthetic, more broadly philosophical or scientific) so long as it doesn’t put limits on thinking or prevent one framing an issue in a certain way.

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  19. Yes, but Mark’s point is valid inasmuch as “subjectively” he isn’t seeing a norm. He is self-reporting in a way that suggests he is following a learned rule or criterion that applies to a spectrum of color as he perceives it. Unless you allow some standard of objective measurement with regard to color, you are saying his subjective appreciation of the color red is an outlier and that implies a criterion. I don’t really want this to reduce to color perception and that’s why I believe other examples might clear up some of the confusion.

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  20. it’s the example Hume begins with, in ‘of the standard of taste’, which i wrote about several weeks ago.

    i really wasn’t trying to say anything contentious. just summarize a very influential article in the field. you cannot take an aesthetics course today without reading sibley’s essay, and i thought i would bring peoples’ attention to it.

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  21. It seems to me to say “a person of taste” or some such is an antiquated old western way of talking. I won’t claim all cultural aesthetics are the same, but there are multiple cultural and subcultural aesthetics, or tastes. If a certain curve in a vase seems exquisite, major factors are probably cultural agreement, and some interaction with sexual attraction.

    Taste, like other aspects of culture is entangled with group identity, and apt to be reactive against that of a subculture you *don’t* identify with, esp. one that you must constantly define yourself w.r.t. The many varieties of African American taste over the years, youth culture tastes, … If someone becomes a sort of populist Republican they are apt to be around more people who think you should like Country music, and over time come to like it if they didn’t before.

    We don’t know how to “point” to our aesthetic assessment of something; we can only point to more effable qualities that arise when we interrogate our aesthetic taste — which seems to me Sibley’s major point.

    “Beautiful” and similar words are used for visual art, music, and persons, not for gourmet taste (we’d say a dish is beautiful in appearance).

    There are acquired tastes that may seem unpleasant or just odd until you dwell on them.

    If a subculture develops an alternative, perhaps rebellious, aesthetic, they tend to replace become condescending to the old verbiage. “Beautiful music” may seem like a quaint expression to hard rock fans.

    For some art forms the stock of aesthetic adjectives may be somewhat impoverished, and we stay closer to objective qualities. A movie is “great”, not so often called “beautiful”. It may be well acted or plotted, furiously paced, efficient at story telling, powerful(that is more of an aesthetic word w.r.t. a movie though not w.r.t. a car).

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  22. By ‘taste’ Sibley does not mean “good taste,” which I agree is antiquated. What he means is perceptiveness or discernment. An ability to perceive something that is not simply a matter of having working sense organs.

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  23. One bit of commonality in the Ribbonfarm article is the suggestion that beauty isn’t entirely arbitrary and cultural if effuses particularly on isolated tropical islands (presumably uninhabited until recently), so in some sense it might be “out there” (not as determined as physics or the “golden mean”, but with tendencies that have a family resemblance). Note though, that these effervescences of beauty totally independent on humankind are in the service of sexual attraction.

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  24. Hi Dan, for some reason my department did not include Sibley during philosophy of aesthetics. The rather objective sounding claims made in the stuff we did read ended up turning me off to the subject in general. The position put forward by Sibley here seems pretty reasonable, and for that matter reflects similar issues I have with moral judgments.

    I am curious where aesthetics can go as a field of study with that position (once accepted).

    In support of your position, and contrary to Davidlduffy, I don’t see a tension between aesthetic experience and detailed explanations of neural mechanisms underlying such experiences from cognitive neuroscience (or any science).

    To start with neuroscience only provides an explanation of the processes by which we achieve the experiences we have, so it generally has to match our experiences and not the other way around. If it is working right they should be in sync and without tension.

    More important, it certainly doesn’t challenge the thesis set out by Sibley. While there may be suggestions of preferring symmetry (when evaluating between faces or such) that is only one category of evaluation which must be mixed in with many others, including past and recent life experiences which can “color” our perceptions, and so in general will not tell you what you will like next… and what element you will choose as the overriding factor. As it is recognition of symmetry (or proportionality) as a category of preference has been recognized well before modern neuroscience (remember the golden ratio), showing you can get to the same types of conclusions without worrying about underlying neural mechanisms.

    When next confronted with a work of art, people will bring to that aesthetic experience a host of preferences that have to be weighted against each other. The judgment then being less a description of objective qualities about the work itself, than that person’s emotional relationship with that work (in that moment). The fact that preferences are housed in the brain, and use specific neural mechanisms to manifest those preferences seems entirely besides the point discussed here.

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