Aesthetics Seminar (Monday - Week 1, HT23)
In the first decade of this century a handful of philosophers of art—most notably Matthew Kieran, Peter Goldie, David Woodruff, and Dominic Lopes—proposed ways of conceiving of ‘aesthetic virtues,’ inspired in varying degrees by the 20th century re-emergence of Aristotelian virtue ethics or by Linda Zagzebski’s virtue epistemology. The literature on ‘virtue aesthetics’ formed by these authors’ work has influenced how the notion of a virtue has been thought of and employed in the philosophy of art since. However, while each of these authors’ versions of virtue aesthetics includes elements that parallel some of the fundamental elements of the neo-Aristotelian model found in contemporary virtue ethics (e.g., in the work of Rosalind Hursthouse), none of the versions of virtue aesthetics currently on offer contains analogues to all the essential elements of the Aristotelian virtue model and so none offers what could be called a ‘virtue aesthetics proper’ that fully maps onto to the virtue ethical approach in normative ethics. I argue that this is a missed opportunity, and that the dominance of the currently established notion of an aesthetic virtue has passed over the fruitful possibility of a normative approach in the philosophy of art that is analogous to—and compatible with—virtue ethics in moral philosophy. In my talk I will outline the basic neo-Aristotelian virtue ethical framework, show where the existing theories of ‘virtue aesthetics’ depart from this framework, and argue for the benefits of a virtue-based approach to questions of the goodness and badness of artworks and artistic practices that is modelled on this framework.