Aesthetics Seminar (Monday - Week 7, MT22)

aesthetics seminar

I argue that the experience lyric poetry affords readers and audiences can play a significant role in cultivating the intellectual virtue of humility and revealing the limits of perspective. Therefore, the value of reading poetry extends well beyond the poetic context to many other aspects of life in which we attempt to understand one another. My argument builds on Alessandra Tanesini’s (2018) analysis of intellectual humility as consisting of modesty and self-acceptance. I argue that modesty is needed to make the effort to understand the perspective of the poem, rather than expecting meaning and communication via the poem to be transparent. Self-acceptance is required for the reader or audience to acknowledge where the limits are in their understanding or grasp of the perspective of the poem, in other words, that their own perspective that they bring to the poem will get in the way of fully appreciating the perspective of the poem. At best, what can be achieved is a recognition of overlap or shareability between perspectives. Humility therefore requires that one appreciates both the limitations of what is available to one in understanding and what counts as success in understanding another. In the latter, I will argue that poetry helps us to appreciate felt grasp where full cognitive grasp is lacking can still count as understanding.

Aesthetics Seminar Convenors: Catharine Abell , David Collins and Adriana Clavel-Vazquez