Philosophy colloquium, Anthony Cross

Taking Aesthetic Obligations Seriously

By Anthony Cross (Texas State, Philosophy)

Date: Thursday 27th, 2020

Time: 1540-1710

Place: H-232

Abstract: Are there any aesthetic obligations? The standard story of aesthetic normativity says no: aesthetic value may generate reasons, but these are never obligatory. I first introduce several cases that demonstrate that the standard story is incorrect, and that obligations play a significant role in our aesthetic lives. Taking such obligations seriously raises a number of questions: how are such obligations grounded? And what makes them aesthetic? I argue that aesthetic obligations are grounded in commitments to aesthetic objects with which we have an appreciative relationship. I then concede that there may be nothing distinctively “aesthetic” about aesthetic obligations, besides the fact that they involve commitments to aesthetic objects. The upshot, I argue, is that aesthetic obligations can acquire the same status and importance as other, more familiar forms of commitment. I conclude by considering the question of why we might form obligation-grounding commitments to aesthetic objects; I argue that such obligations are useful tools for fixing our practical identities, for enabling long-term creative and appreciative projects, and for securing the temporal structure of our aesthetic lives.

About the speaker: Anthony Cross is a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at Texas State University. His primary research interests are in aesthetics and ethics; his research focuses on the normative significance of relationships with artworks and cultural objects. In June 2017, he completed his Ph.D. in philosophy at Princeton University, where his advisors were Alexander Nehamas and Michael Smith. He received a B.A. in philosophy from Duke University. Prior to teaching at Texas State, he was a visiting lecturer at U.C.L.A from 2013-2016. He has published in journals such as The British Journal of Aesthetics and The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.


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