The Value of Aesthetic Experience
Keynote Speakers


11 June 2004, Senate House, University of London

Keynote speakers:

'In Search of Aesthetic Experience'

Richard Shusterman (Temple University, Philadelphia USA)

'On Beautiful Art'

Paul Davies (Sussex University, UK)

The conference, which is a postgraduate-led initiative, is being supported by the British Society of Aesthetics and the Analysis Trust.

Graduate Speakers

Exclusively for Everyone,

Julie Kuhlken (Middlesex)


On the Social Significance of Aesthetic Autonomy: The Value of Kant's

Conception of Aesthetic Experience

Patrycja Kaszynska (Oxford)


'Consciousness Duplication' and Our Capacity to Learn from Literary


Allison Mitchell (Warwick)


The Impact of Aesthetic Experience on Our Ethical Approach towards


Christian Denker (Paris-1, France)


The BSA will be awarding a cash prize for the best graduate paper.

Conference Theme

Though long considered the most essential of aesthetic concepts, as including but also surpassing the realm of art, aesthetic experience has in the last half-century come under increasing critique. Not only its value but also its very existence has been questioned. Many analytic philosophers, taking Duchamp literally, tried to accommodate 20th Century art works by focusing on how we define a work of art and the role played by artworld institutions in that definition. While Dewey celebrated aesthetic experience, making it the very centre of his philosophy of art, Danto virtually shuns the concept, warning (after Duchamp) that its "aesthetic delectation is a danger to be avoided." The preoccupation with the anaesthetic thrust of the 20th century's artistic avant-garde, as Richard Shusterman recently argued, may itself be symptomatic of much larger transformations in our basic sensibility as we move increasingly from an experiential to an informational culture. What is clear, however, is that many philosophers and non-philosophers are concerned that this theoretical focus is misplaced and furthermore has helped legitimise a lot of bad art. Many people feel that classificatory definitions and artistic activity geared towards subverting these definitions neglect what is valuable about art and aesthetic experience.

Evidence to this effect is wide spread. Recent publications in analytic aesthetics have placed emphasis on the reach and value of the aesthetic including topics such as the aesthetic appreciation of nature, the connection between the aesthetic and ethics and the value of Beauty. This shift of emphasis is also paralleled in the art community. Contemporary artists and curators are moving away from producing art as idea or concept and beginning to re-evaluate and re-acknowledge the value of aesthetic experience and the role the artwork plays in that experience. This year, among the Turner Prize nominees are works of significant craftsmanship, aiming to create a striking visual effect. They are less about wordplay or definitions than about shocking or impressive images.

The aim of the conference is to re-examine the importance of the value of aesthetic experience as well as to challenge the direction that much analytic aesthetic theory in the 20th Century has taken.


If you want to register for the conference please send your name, address, email details. Please also state whether or not you are a student and if so what you are studying and where. There will be no conference registration fee.
For any further information, please do not hesitate to contact the conference organiser by e-mail on

Graduate Study Group

A University of London graduate aesthetics study group was set up in November 2003, by Adele Tomlin a research student at Kings College, London with the support of Alison Lord, a postgraduate student at Birkbeck College, London. Postgraduate students from Birkbeck, Heythrop, UCL and Kings as well as academics in the University are supporting this successful group. For more info on the group's activities click on this link Aesthetics Graduate Study Group. The Graduate conference will build on the work of the study group as well as promote and encourage postgraduate work in Aesthetics.


Relevant Links

British Society of Aesthetics

The BSA's declared foundational aim is to promote study, research and discussion of the fine arts and related types of experience from a philosophical, psychological, sociological, historical, critical and educational standpoint. For example, it is currently engaged in promoting the post-graduate study of the subject and recently launched a section on their website specifically aimed at postgraduates. It financially supports, though necessarily on a modest scale, other societies and individuals engaged in projects in aesthetics who apply to it.

The End of Aesthetic Experience

The ambiguous title of the philosopher Richard Shusterman's recent paper, "the end of aesthetic experience," has two goals: a reasoned account of its demise, and an argument for reconceiving and thus redeeming its purpose.