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Reimagining Aesthetic Experience and Beauty

When Aug 04, 2011
from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Where 101 Osmond Lab
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Dwayne Tunstall

Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Grand Valley State University

Dwayne Tunstall is the author of Yes, But Not Quite: Encountering Josiah Royce’s Ethico-Religious Insight (Fordham University Press, 2009). He is also the author of more than ten articles and book chapters on a variety of topics, including aesthetics, Africana philosophy, pragmatism, religious ethics, and social and political philosophy. His research explores how Africana philosophy, existential phenomenology, moral philosophy, religious ethics, and classical American philosophy can complement one another when thinking about issues of moral agency, personal identity, race, and the legacy of Western modernity. He is currently working on a book tentatively entitled, Doing Philosophy Personally: Thinking with Gabriel Marcel and Lewis Gordon about Metaphysics, Theism, and Antiblack Racism. This book explores how Gabriel Marcel’s religious existentialism, when coupled with Gordon’s Africana existentialism, can provide valuable resources for constructing a religious humanism that is opposed to anti-black racism.

"Reimagining Aesthetic Experience and Beauty"

Aesthetic experience and beauty, as traditionally conceived, are problematic concepts for at least two reasons. First, neither of these concepts can function as a reliable criterion for determining whether an object is a work of art. Second, these concepts, especially beauty, have been used historically to justify and promote the unjust discrimination and exotification of marginalized groups of people, particularly people of color.

Despite the problematic nature of aesthetic experienceand beauty, I think these concepts are still worthwhile and relevant to philosophical aesthetics. In an effort to rehabilitate these concepts, they will be reimagined as being two components of what I call a personal aesthetic judgment. Once these concepts are reconceived in this manner, they no longer need to be viewed as being either necessary or sufficient conditions for artwork. Moreover, they no longer would be effective tools to justify unjust discriminating against and exotifying marginalized groups of people. I will end this talk by imagining how these once problematic concepts might be useful in promoting a healthy appreciation for cultural pluralism.