AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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GETTING PAST FORM: ON THE VALUE OF LITERARY IDEAS

 

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What follows is a guest post by Patrick Fessenbecker.

In a recent column in The New York Times, Ross Douthat contends that English professors aren’t having the right kind of arguments. Reflecting on the analysis of the decline of the humanities in a series of essays in the Chronicle of Higher Education over the last year, Douthat makes a familiar diagnosis: the problem is that we literature professors no longer believe in the real value of the objects we study. Engaging Simon During’s account of the decline of the humanities as a “second secularization” in particular, Douthat argues that secular attempts to defend the humanities will fail just as surely as secular attempts to defend religious ethics and norms did: it doesn’t work unless you really believe in the thing. Correspondingly, the debates literary scholars are having about how to expand the range of texts and subjects we teach are premised on a basic mistake about what such an expansion involves. As he puts it:

This should, by rights, be a moment of exciting curricular debates, over which global and rediscovered and post-colonial works belong on the syllabus with Shakespeare, over whether it’s possible to teach an American canon and a global canon all at once. Instead, humanists have often trapped themselves in a false choice between “dead white males” and “we don’t transmit value.”

In other words, we ought to be in the business of considering how our conceptions of value and their application should change as scholars recognize the incredible cultural wealth inherent in the diversity of the world. But instead we’re caught between reactionary conservatism and nihilistic critique. Continue reading


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ASA ELECTIONS: CAST YOUR VOTES BY DECEMBER 31!

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The American Society for Aesthetics (ASA) is currently holding elections for three trustee positions. The three elected trustees will serve three-year terms (February 1, 2020 – January 31, 2023).

Brief bios for the nominees appear below the fold.

The deadline to vote is December 31, 2019. Results will be announced in early January. Everyone who is currently holds a 2019 ASA membership is eligible to vote.

Notably, the ASA allows cumulative voting: Each member gets three votes, and can cast all anywhere between one and three votes for the each person. For example, members can vote once for three different people, or spend all three votes on one person.

To vote, click here. Continue reading


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THOUGHTS FOR IMPROVING THE ASA NATIONAL MEETING

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What follows is a guest post by Nick Wiltsher (Uppsala University).

I enjoyed the recent American Society for Aesthetics (ASA) National Meeting in Phoenix. I saw and learned from several good talks, my own talk went decently, I caught up with friends and met new people. Natalie Diaz’s Danto Lecture was outstanding. It takes a heck of a lot of work to organize a conference like that, and I’m very appreciative of the efforts of all those who did that work.

But whether or not I enjoy a conference is not the measure of whether or not it is good. A conference is good if it reaches the aims appropriate to a conference. I think the ASA falls short. From conversations during the last few days, I gather that I am not alone in thinking so. I intend here to articulate my main reasons for thinking so, and some potential solutions. There are probably other reasons, and probably other solutions. I hope colleagues are motivated to suggest them, too, in the spirit of mutual improvement—thinking how we can do better what we do well already. Continue reading


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ASA ELECTIONS

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The American Society for Aesthetics (ASA) is currently holding elections for a vice president and for two trustee positions.

The ASA Vice President will serve a two-year term starting February 1, 2019, and after which they will serve as ASA President for two years. The two ASA Trustees will serve for three years, also starting February 1, 2019.

Brief bios for the nominees appear below the fold. (These were sent out via email to ASA members.)

The deadline to vote is December 31, 2018. Results will be announced in early January. All members of the ASA in 2018 are eligible to vote.

To vote, click here. Continue reading


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ASA APOLOGIZES AND ANNOUNCES OMBUDSPERSON

On Saturday, October 13, the American Society for Aesthetics (ASA) issued an apology to Dr. Shelby Moser for their handling of her sexual harassment complaint. This went out via email to all members registered for the recent ASA Annual Meeting. Below is an excerpt from the apology:

“This summer, several individuals in the ASA Board made misleading public comments about the incident and its reporting. As a result, the member making the complaint felt obliged to make a public statement, identifying  herself, to set the record straight.

The Board of Trustees of the ASA hereby apologizes to Dr. Shelby Moser for misleading communications to the effect that she had not made an official complaint in 2017. We deeply regret that she felt compelled by the  remarks to  publicly identify herself, needlessly causing her stress and disrupting her life. We salute her grace and courage in speaking out.

We recognize that failure to respond appropriately to reports of sexual harassment contributes to a culture of  gender discrimination. We undertake to act collectively, as members of the Society, to ensure that in the future the  Society speaks clearly and unequivocally on matters of discrimination and harassment.”

(For more background, see our previous post on this issue.)

In related news, the ASA has named Dr. Jeanette Bicknell the new ombudsperson for the ASA. The basic role of the ombudsperson is to “receive complaints of discrimination and harassment and, where possible, serve as a resource to members regarding such complaints.” The ombudsperson’s full duties are detailed at this post on the ASA website.

They also invite nominations (including self-nominations) for a five-person standing committee on Discrimination, Harassment, and Respectful Behavior.

For the announcement and more information about the invitation, see the ASA’s post here.

This post has been updated. An earlier version incorrectly stated that the email went out to all ASA members.


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THE ASA JUST NEEDS TO APOLOGIZE — A RESPONSE TO LAST WEEK’S STATEMENT

What follows is a guest post by Brian Soucek (UC Davis).

Two weeks after its false statements forced an ASA member to out herself as the philosopher who’d been sexually harassed at the last Annual Meeting, the ASA has finally apologized.

Oh wait…no it hasn’t. The ASA’s statement this week “acknowledge[s]” the call to do better; it “promise[s]” that the Officers and Trustees will “do our very best to ensure a productive environment in which all ASA members” (including, presumably, the harasser who had reportedly been given a spot on the upcoming Program) “can flourish”; and it “thanks[s]” members who have challenged it “to better express and promote … our deepest values.” Continue reading


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UPDATE: A STATEMENT REGARDING THE ASA HARASSMENT INCIDENT

Last November, AFB reported on an accusation of sexual harassment at the American Society for Aesthetics (ASA) Annual Meeting. Five days ago, AFB reported that the accused harasser was on the program for the upcoming ASA Annual Meeting, along with the accuser. Since then, a number of differing accounts have emerged regarding how the original accusation was lodged, largely via discussions on social media. In particular, some members of ASA leadership have stated that no official complaint was ever made by the accuser. The accuser has asked us to publish the following statement. Continue reading


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UPDATE: HOW IS THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR AESTHETICS DOING ON DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION?

Last November, we reported an accusation of sexual harassment at the American Society for Aesthetics (ASA) Annual Meeting. ASA member Anne Eaton wrote:

“One alleged case of sexual harassment by a senior man toward a junior woman. I say “alleged” because the case has not been (nor will it be) officially adjudicated, although it has been reported to ASA governance. I know the details of this case and find it 100% credible. In fact, I have myself in the past had trouble with the senior male philosopher in question.”

We also reported that, in response,

“…the ASA leadership took immediate and decisive action in response to the report of sexual harassment. In addition to sending a forceful message to the harasser, ASA leadership immediately set up a committee to develop an official policy on sexual harassment.”

The ASA has recently released new policies regarding discrimination (including best practices and how to process and handle accusations). However, it remains to be seen how and to what extent these policies will be implemented.

Quite worryingly, AFB has received reports from credible sources that the accused harasser is on the program for the upcoming ASA Annual Meeting in Toronto. We feel that it is the responsibility of this blog to make this information known. It is the responsibility of members and concerned parties to respond in whatever ways they deem appropriate.