Sunday, October 29, 2017

The VIIIth International Wassard Elea Symposium: call for papers

Taste, Bad Taste, Tastelessness

May 25-28, 2018
Ascea, Italy

~call for papers~

Taste is a common sense concept. Almost everyone thinks that they have taste – indeed, thinks they have good taste – in such things as conduct, arts, dress, design, cuisine, and so on. But many of them are also wrong. Frank Sibley described taste as an ability involving perceptiveness, sensitivity, aesthetic discrimination, and appreciation, and further noted that taste “is a somewhat more rare capacity than other human capacities”; relativists and skeptics would dispute this, and argue that taste is little more than liking, or preferring, some things over others. This call is for fresh and detailed examinations of the logic of the concept of ‘taste’. Rehearsals and exegesis of tradition or history (e.g. Hume, Kant, etc.), sociology (e.g. Bourdieu), empiricism (e.g. Brunius) fall outside the scope of this conference as does criticism of such types of speculations unless significantly advancing philosophical explication of the concept of ‘taste’.

The VIIIth International Wassard Elea Symposium is dedicated to ransacking this core topic in aesthetics. We seek to engage philosophers and scholars in a conceptual analysis of what it means to have – or lack – taste. To this end, we invite papers that focus on, e.g., the following topics:

1. Taste as liking the right things for the right reasons—and bad taste as the reverse;
2. Taste as a capacity, and how it can be improved;
3. Distinction(s) between bad taste and tastelessness;
4. Relationships between liking and appraising or appreciating;
5. Taste being a kind of judgement, verdict or valuation;
6. Distinction(s) between lapses and mistakes of taste and flaws in taste.

Wassard Elea invites philosophers and aestheticians to submit papers on the topics of this year’s theme. Sessions of 90 min. include speaker, commentator and open discussion (40/20/30). Participants whose papers are accepted are expected to also prepare a commentary on another presentation at the meeting. All suitable contributions are published in our journal, Wassard Elea Rivista.

Inquiries are welcome. Full papers (format: word) should be sent directly to co-organizers: Prof. Lars Aagaard-Mogensen, Italy:, or Prof. Jane Forsey, University of Winnipeg, Canada:

Deadline for submissions: February 15, 2018.

There is no registration fee; details about accommodations will be posted in due course.

Wassard Elea
Refugium for writers, artists, composers, and scholars in Southern Italy

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Conference Report 2017: Aesthetic Foundations

Conference Report

Aesthetic Foundations, May 19-21, 2017

Wassard Elea, the refugium for artists and scholars, held its VIIth International Wassard Elea Symposium, in Ascea, focused on the theme of Aesthetic Foundations. The contemporary diversification of aesthetics as applied to sport, film, video games, food, and so on, has involved a confident and facile use of such notions as aesthetic experience, aesthetic value, aesthetic judgement and aesthetic pleasure. But this use in fact often belies confusion about what these terms mean, or what we mean when we use them. The question of what makes any kind of encounter or object a particularly aesthetic one cuts to the heart of the discipline at its most complex. This year’s symposium was dedicated to the analysis of some core problems in aesthetics, such as the nature of aesthetic experience, the link between the aesthetic and pleasure, the kinds of objects that can rightly be called aesthetic, as well as the modality of aesthetic judgements.

With two intensive all-day sessions, the symposium was able to accommodate eight presentations with commentaries and twelve discussants, coming from Taiwan, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Sweden, USA and Canada. A range of approaches to the theme were represented, from a conceptual analysis of the role of verdictive judgments in artistic appreciation to a Nietzschean challenge to the primacy of pleasure in aesthetic encounters. A number of papers sought to clarify the nature of aesthetic experience, as, for instance, being characterized by genuineness and authenticity; as being educative or formative at its core; as being fundamentally interpretive; or as leading to harmony and unity on a Deweyan model. As to what objects can be said to be aesthetic, the range of responses was from (a) anything, to (b) works of art only, and (c) design in particular. Design, it was suggested, can best illustrate how aesthetic categories have changed due to contemporary changes in production and media culture. A defense of Adorno argued that only works of art are aesthetic objects, and moreover that ugly art has an important role to play in social and political critique. The issue of art’s autonomy or heteronomy, and the distinction between aesthetic and artistic values produced lively and, we hope, fruitful discussion for all participants.

The organizers would like to thank all those who submitted papers, and to the symposium’s contributors, for a successful event. Proceedings of the symposium have been published in Wassard Elea Rivista, IV, nos. 3, 4, and V,1. The theme for the VIIIth International Wassard Elea Symposium is tentatively entitled “Taste, Bad Taste and Tastelessness”. A call for papers is expected in the fall.