SCRUTON’S AESTHETICS CONFERENCE
Greg Currie (Nottingham): “Ironic pictures”.
Expressive (sometimes called verbal) irony is easier to find in language than in pictures. True, we routinely describe pictures of various kinds as ironic, and sometimes we are right to do so. There are ironic pictures on my account. But our practice in calling pictures ironic is confused and profligate; there are fewer ironic pictures than our labelling habit suggests. And pictures that reward being thought of as ironic are relatively uncommon. While there is irony in pictures, the pictorial medium tends to make irony work in ways that are different from the ways it works in language. I suggest that the reason for this is the iconic nature of pictures, which makes it easy to confuse the irony of a situation with the expressive irony of a representation. In explaining the irony of pictures I focus mostly, but not exclusively, on photographs.
Cain Todd (Lancaster): "Scruton on Wine: Outlining the Normative Terroir of Tastes and Smells"
Roger Scruton has, on the one hand, made strong and eloquent claims for the cultural significance of wine and for the importance of its intoxicating power in what he calls ‘the life of a rational being’. He claims, for instance, that ‘what we taste in the wine is not just the fruit and its ferment’, for in ‘savouring [wine] we are knowing – by acquaintance, as it were – the history, geography and customs of a community’. However, on the other hand, he also argues that our experience of wine is at best only marginally aesthetic, for the smells and tastes of which it is constituted lack features necessary for genuine aesthetic interest. Primarily, Scruton holds, they lack cognitive content in that they do not represent the objects that possess them and, unlike sights and sounds, ‘acquire meaning only by the association of ideas’, not by bearing expressive content in themselves.
One of my aims in this paper is to show that Scruton’s claims about the significance of wine and the nature of our appreciation of tastes and smells are in tension with each other. I do so by arguing for the main claim of my paper, which is that our appreciation of wine meets Scruton’s own constraints on aesthetic interest and can possess high aesthetic value. Indeed, the cultural significance Scruton attaches to wine is necessarily dependent on its aesthetic value, and to show this I argue that wine is in fact capable of being expressive and embodying certain kinds of meaning.
First, I defend the aesthetic interest and value of tastes and smells by showing that descriptive and evaluative judgements about wine are subject to strong normative standards of evaluation and interpretation. Specifically, appealing to a well-known argument of Kendall Walton’s, I argue that these judgements can be correct or incorrect relative to the categories that govern wine’s production and its proper appreciation and understanding. As such, far from being whimsical and far-fetched, the vocabulary of wine criticism is governed by clear normative constraints. I thus reject, in the case of wine, the distinction Scruton posits between the description of tastes and smells and the objects that possess them, and I show that tastes and smells can attain aesthetic significance in virtue of the types of objects they constitute.
Second, I show, against Scruton, that relative to these ‘wine categories’, tastes and smells in wine can exhibit certain organised patterns and structural arrangements, and that there is a phenomenon of ‘smelling/tasting in/as’ parallel to that which holds for the objects of sights and sounds. Despite some salient differences which I discuss, I suggest finally that wine can to some extent express certain emotions, values, ideas and intentions, and hence embody meaning, in ways analogous to music.
Deniz Peters (Institute of Electronic Music and Acoustics, Graz): "Musical Understanding, Leib, and Intersubjectivity"
How do we hear, experience, and understand musical expression? In his seminal The Aesthetics of Music (1997), Roger Scruton argues that music is essentially not a representational but an expressive art. Expression resides in the articulation of emotion that requires the listener’s provision of sounds with “life”, turning them into tones. It is on a musically reached understanding between the third person behind the sounding structure, and the listener’s first-person point of view that the experience of expression as stemming from “metaphorical movement in metaphorical space” rests (Scruton, 1997:364). Listening with understanding transforms musical events into an “intentional world” (ibid.). How much of this “intentional world” is subject of the will? Building on Scruton’s conceptualisation, I shall explore the body’s role as a possible source of metaphor, and as an agent ordering the perceived shape of musical gestalt and events, on which intention can be said to act. In distinguishing between the physical and the phenomenological body, the Leib, I shall develop a concept of felt bodily action as immanent to musical experience. Via the Leib, I argue, we extend into the perceived sound: expression in the literal sense, meaning the generating of sound via bodily motion (say, a pen’s sliding noise on paper; scratching an itch; or bumping into an object) involves a transformative cycle between touch, pressure, and emphasis within a gesture on the one hand, and sonic effect of touch and friction and its felt dimension regarding its production on the other hand. Actual listening with understanding seems to— apart from theoretical and cultural knowledge—depend on past experience of the causal interrelation between auditory and haptic perception while being in the world. Given the intersubjectivity of the described bodily experience, I propose listening with understanding involves a type of bodily expression, as what we hear summons a phantom haptic companion.
That companion is, to a degree, intersubjective. It is a manifestation of one’s personal synaesthetic bodily knowledge of being in the world. The “life that is no one’s” (Scruton, 1997:364) may originate at this very point. This is also where Jerrold Levinson’s concept of musical persona as an agent of personal emotional expression may be seen to refer to a concrete person: the person whose body we hear when listening with understanding. At least three bodies intermingle in this: the composer’s, the performer’s, and the listener’s. And, if my line of argument as extended in this paper is sustainable, this appears to be a genuine basis for the “world of metaphor” Scruton (1997:117) convincingly defends, linking it to the “world of sound” (ibid.) via a pronounced intersubjective structure: our musical Leib
Ed Winters (Department of Fine Art, West Dean College): "Street Life, Street Furniture, Graffiti, Junkyards and Being Drunk: An urbane Response to Rusticity"
In this (PowerPoint) illustrated paper, I shall look at the subjectivity of aesthetic experience and offer a suggestion along Scrutonian lines as to how we might think there is some imaginative experience at the heart of our response to art; and that we can come to share such experience by entering into conversation with others. In the second part of the paper I discuss two essays Roger Scruton has written for City Journal. In one he argues that Postmodernism is really kitsch; and that kitsch is to be understood as harmful sentimentality. In the other he argues the case for the conservation of telephone boxes and for the good manners of street furniture – street-lights, pillar-boxes etc. Taking examples I shall claim that graffiti, street clutter, bar-shambling and outright drunkenness can form the basis of an aesthetic life; and that, moreover, they can form the basis of authentic works of art.
Chris Stevens (Maryland): "Aesthetics, Culture, and Conservative Perfectionist Politics: are Liberal Aestheticians Unwittingly Committed to Scrutonian Cultural Perfectionism?"
Commentators shortchange both their fellow aestheticians and Roger Scruton when discussing specific art, music, and architecture-related aspects of Scruton’s aesthetics without, however, their mentioning or showing concern for the cultural, moral, and political views which in large part motivate his aesthetic preoccupations. Scruton is shortchanged not because such commentators are unfair—it’s no intellectual crime, of course, to discuss discrete portions of a thinker’s work on their own terms—but because they’re myopic with respect the potential breadth of the discipline of aesthetics, despite obvious connections existing between putative aesthetic objects, culture conceived as in part consisting of those objects and their production, fitting treatment, and social effects, and those objects’ perceivers conceived as citizens of a state having moral obligations to safeguard quality of life. Fellow aestheticians are shortchanged by the further deprivation such discussions cause via their contribution, as missed opportunities, to the shameful dearth of informed treatments of aesthetic issues as those issues bear on other areas of philosophy. We should, instead, actively recognize those connections and be pleased to welcome opportunities to bring aesthetics to bear, in careful and sophisticated ways, on philosophical considerations of matters having aesthetic objects as part of their focus, rather than shy away from them. And because it’s so obvious we should do that, the rarity of such wide-ranging contributions to aesthetics as Scruton’s deserves explanation, as does the shortage of aestheticians who’ve chosen to tangle with him about what he has to say on topics at the intersection of aesthetics, culture, and politics.
In hopes of helping to remedy the shortage and account for the rarity, I offer five reasons that go some way toward filling out that explanation: (i) confusion about just what Scruton’s cultural conservatism is, including the central role aesthetics plays within it; (ii) a perceived incompatibility between foundational principles of liberal politics and the ethical and political ramifications of an aesthetically-charged cultural conservatism, together with (iii) assumptions about what liberalism entails with respect to what has come to be called the principle of state neutrality, i.e., the notion that the state should remain neutral with respect differing conceptions of the good life; (iv) confusion about what aestheticians are logically committed to with respect the political ramifications of their moral views, assuming they hold objective views about aesthetic better and worse, and will not deny the possibility of an empirical correlation between quality, quantity, and diversity of type of aesthetic experiences and human welfare; and (v) ambivalence about the role which a non-theistic conception of the sacred—such as Scruton favors—might play in a secular society, stemming in part from aversions toward linking notions of aesthetic experience with quasi-religious experience, or aesthetic value with kinds of value describable as in some justifiable sense sacred or sacrosanct. After discussing these five points in hopes of clarifying the content, force, attractiveness and, most surprisingly, the sheer inescapability of some of Scruton’s more controversial claims about the arts, culture, and politics, I suggest that, contrary to what might be thought, it’s not Scruton who bears the burden of convincing us of the soundness of his views but, rather, it’s the politically liberal aesthetician who need justify his aversion to both embracing and, ultimately, advocating them.
Jerrold Levinson (Maryland): “The Aesthetic Appreciation of Music”.
In this short essay I sketch what the aesthetic appreciation of music might be said to consist in, underlining both what makes it appreciation and what makes it aesthetic, as well as bringing out what is specially musical in such appreciation. I touch particularly on three things: the apprehension of motion and gesture in music; the grasp of emotional expression in music; and the connection between musical understanding and corporeal response in the listener. An illustration of some of these points is afforded by a quick look at a piece of chamber music by Gabriel Faure.
Katrina Mitcheson (Warwick): “Representation in Photography”
Scruton claims photography cannot be representational and thus cannot be appreciated aesthetically. To deny this conclusion we can proceed either by challenging Scruton’s limitation of any possible aesthetic interest in photography to an interest in representation or his insistence that photography cannot be representational. In this paper I make the latter challenge.
Distinguishing photography from painting, Scruton stipulates an essentialist definition of the ideal photograph as standing in a causal relation to the subject photographed, as opposed to an intentional relation. I will argue that Scruton’s approach excludes aesthetic interest in photography by operating with an ideal definition, rather than one embedded in an empirical discussion of photographs, by dichotomising between the causal and intentional relation to the subject of the artwork, and by limiting the idea of what can be represented.
If we look at core examples of photographs, which a definition of photography should not exclude a priori if it is to have any relevance to actual photography, we find photographers representing without needing to conflate their activity with painting. For Scruton representation necessarily involves intentionality but this need not imply that it relies on the selection of every detail; intentionality can be expressed, through framing, perspective, context, or the details selected for our attention; it is compatible with the existence of causal constraints determining other details. I discuss examples where we can be interested in how the photographer has controlled some of the properties we see, thus the interest is in the photograph itself not just the properties. For instance in reducing the depth of field and leaving the background obscure, the foreground with stark contrast, Sander’s Earthbound Father focuses on the details of the wrinkled, weather beaten face of the sitter, while Adams in representing the individuals she photographs places them in the context of Americana by keeping in focus the commercial backdrop of billboards and shop signs.
I consider the objection that Scruton would contend that the possibility of fiction is essential to representation; while the painter can represent the fictional the photographer cannot, we cannot ask about the photograph’s relation to reality. This claim, however, stems from the assumption that what is represented has to be the immediate object off which the light bounced. The photograph Migrant Mother can be seen to represent not the sitter but an idealised idea of enduring motherhood that may not exist. Once we allow that the causal object of the image is not the only possible subject of representation further examples of representation in photography present themselves. I end my paper by discussing the aesthetic properties in the photography (and not merely the set up of the photographed scene) of Sherman, who uses angles, focus and framing to represent not merely the women in front of the lens but the male gaze and the nature of objectification. Contra Scruton’s claim, Sherman uses photographic techniques to represent, and we can aesthetically evaluate the success with which she expresses her intentions and challenge the reality of what she represents.
Rob van Gerwen (Utrecht): "Expression as Success: The Psychological Reality of Musical Performance"
Roger Scruton's ontology of sound is found lacking on two counts. Scruton removes from music the import of the performer's manipulating of his instrument. This misconceives the phenomenology of hearing and, as a consequence, impoverishes our understanding of music. I argue that the musician's manipulations can be heard in the music; that these manipulations have psychological reality, and that it is this psychological reality which brings to life the sui generis musical persona of musical expressiveness.
Kathleen Stock (Sussex): “Fantasy, Imagination and Art”
In ‘Fantasy, Imagination and the Screen’ Roger Scruton asserts a contrast between what it is to treat a fictional work as an opportunity for fantasy, and to imaginatively engage with it. Roughly, to treat a work as an opportunity for fantasy is to be motivated by a desire, which one prohibits oneself from pursuing, for some entity, and to seek out the experience provided by the work as some sort of substitute for satisfaction of this desire. Meanwhile, to engage imaginatively with a fictional work is to be somewhat conscious of its unreality, and where appropriate, to experience imaginary desires and emotions towards its content; yet with a view, apparently paradoxically, to understanding reality through such responses. I shall argue that, at the level of detail, this contrast as drawn by Scruton breaks down in certain places; but that something like it can be resurrected with the thought that to treat a work as an opportunity for fantasy, unlike to treat is as fictional art, is to be wholly imaginatively focused on the particular, without any consideration of its relation to the general.
Rafael De Clercq (Leuven/Lingnan University, Hong Kong.), "Scruton's Philosophy of Architecture"
In the analytic strand in the philosophy of architecture, only one work seems to merit the status of a genuine classic: Roger Scruton’s The Aesthetics of Architecture, published in 1979. Fortunately, the book is so rich in ideas that it does not leave the philosophy of architecture in a pitiful state. The aim of this paper is to lay out in the clearest way possible some of the main arguments of The Aesthetics of Architecture and its follow-up, The Classical Vernacular. My claim is that, properly laid-out, the arguments are very strong, and can be used to give precise answers to the following two fundamental questions:
(1) What does designing a building consist in? Are design problems theoretical or irreducibly practical problems?
(2) In what style should one build? Is the answer to this question dictated by the Zeitgeist, as
historicists claim, or rather by the building traditions that exist at a certain time and place, as vernacularists claim?
Parts of The Aesthetics of Architecture also suggest a precise answer to the following question:
(3) Should a building be well-proportioned or merely appear well-proportioned? For example, should architects adjust certain ratios to compensate for a distorted view of the true ratios that may result from the building’s height and our position at ground-level?
However, for reasons to be given, the suggested answer to (3) may be less convincing than the answers provided in response to questions (1) and (2). Perhaps, though, no definite answer to (3) is really suggested by the Aesthetics of Architecture. My hope is that this interpretative issue can be cleared up at the conference.
Mark Dooley (National University of Ireland, Maynooth): "Saving the Sacred: Scruton and Rorty on Religion"
Richard Rorty tells us that getting rid of God-talk is "no big deal." From his neo-pragmatist perspective, it is simply a matter of reweaving a particular belief that has run its course. But can our webs of belief and desire be rewoven so randomly? Roger Scruton argues that even though the "human world is a social world, and socially constructed," we cannot follow Rorty in constructing it "simply as we please." There are, he says, "constants of human nature - moral, aesthetic and political - which we defy at our peril, and which we must strive to obey." This paper seeks to defend Scruton's position, and to show (pace Rorty) that mankind's "peculiar metaphysical predicament" persists in spite of neo-pragmatism in particular and postmodernism in general. For Scruton, that "predicament" is revealed in the tension between the subjective viewpoint and the world of objects, a tension that ultimately "gives rise to the experience of sanctity.
Peter Lamarque (York): "The Disintegration of Aesthetics".
Following up some claims in Scruton’s most recent BJA paper (July 2007) about the foundations of aesthetics, the paper reflects on the status of the subject and how far, in the hands of analytic philosophers, it has moved from these foundations. It is argued that much that currently goes under the name of aesthetics is mislabelled. Much (but not all) of what is called “philosophy of art” has little to do with aesthetics and in any case philosophy of art is fragmenting into the philosophy of individual arts (music, literature, dance, film, etc). Scruton’s thought that aesthetics properly so-called necessarily involves both value and experience is endorsed. But the problem of historicity and culture-specificity looms up. Could there be a universal aesthetics? Or does aesthetics, even in its limited sense, fragment into culture-specific applications? Some suggestions are made for how both aesthetics and philosophy of art might attain a kind of universality, and thus be amenable to ahistorical analytic methods. But the costs are noted too.
Andy Hamilton (Durham): “Scruton's Philosophy of Culture: Elitism, Populism and Classic Art”.
Roger Scruton would be most people's idea of a contemporary elitist. In Culture Counts he describes culture as "an acquisition that may not be shared by every member of a community, and which opens the hearts, minds and senses of those who possess it to an intellectual and artistic patrimony. [It] is the creation and creator of elites. This does not mean, however, that culture has nothing to do with membership [of society] or with the social need to define and conserve a shared way of life. Although an elite product, its meaning lies in emotions and aspirations that are common to all". Here we see Scruton's elitism and humanism in balance, or tension. He distinguishes (i) the anthropological concept of "common culture", "the practices and beliefs which form the self-identity of a tribe" (from Herder), and (ii) the aesthetic concept of "high culture", Matthew Arnold's "the best that has been thought and said", "the property of an educated elite…which involves intellect and study" (also from Humboldt, Eliot).
This paper shares Scruton's humanist, and Kantian, viewpoint. However, elitism proves a surprisingly difficult concept to define, and it is not even clear that Scruton is the elitist he is commonly taken to be. Elitism originated as a reaction to what J.S. Mill described as the "tyranny of the majority" – the culture of mediocrity which, according to classical liberals and conservatives alike, may be engendered by democratic forms of government. I criticise elitism but do not use it as a pejorative, developing a position that constitutes a middle way between elitism and populism, focussing on the case of high culture and artistic criticism. Elitism should be contrasted with populism, and not with (i) egalitarianism, or (ii) individualism in the sense of Mill's Liberty Principle. I offer in its place a meritocratic standpoint which affirms individual autonomy in aesthetic judgment, and which interprets the concept of high culture in terms of the less tendentious concept of classic art and music.
Dawn Phillips (Warwick): "Photography and Causation: Responding to Scruton’s Scepticism" Many so-called sceptical challenges represent unoccupied positions; but this is not the case for the aesthetics of photography. In ‘Photography and Repr esentation’, Roger Scruton forcefully defends his own, genuinely held, sceptical viewpoint. Philosophers of photography are drawn to this rich paper because though few, if any, accept the thesis, all recognise that they are not dealing with a ‘paper’ sceptic. I canvass four responses to Scruton’s scepticism:
i) Photographs can have aesthetic interest in virtue of their intentionality.
ii) Photographs can have aesthetic interest in virtue of their transparency.
iii) Causation and intentionality are not a zero-sum opposition.
iv) Photographs can have aesthetic interest in virtue of their causal history.
I explain why (i) (proposed by the majority of critics) and (ii) (proposed by Lopes) are not adequate responses to Scruton’s scepticism and that (iii), whilst viable, would not leave us with a rewarding outcome. In my opinion, (iv) is the only response that properly stands up to Scruton’s challenge.
In the second half of my paper I propose an account of how this challenge can be met. My positive account introduces a notion I call ‘the photographic event’. In offering a rich characterization of the photographic event, I aim to redress the relative poverty in treatments of this aspect of the photographic process throughout most of the literature. I claim that, properly understood, every photograph essentially has a causal history that is traced back to a photographic event. Scruton, and many others, assume that a photograph has a different causal history: one where the photograph stands in a relation to a ‘pro-filmic event’ (the scene in front of the camera). This mistaken characterization of the causal history generates the idea that the pro-filmic event, rather than the photograph is the actual object of aesthetic interest. Once we have a proper understanding of the photographic event, we can see how a photograph can have aesthetic interest in virtue of its causal relation to its subject matter, yet this interest is not equivalent to an interest in the pro-filmic event. The photographic event provides the basis for a category of aesthetic interest that is distinctive to appreciating a photograph qua photograph.
Hannah McKeown (Chicago): “Atonality and Meaning”
Theories of musical meaning, understanding, expression, and communication are often the end of a philosophical consideration of music. They seem to be informed partly by experience – a genuine feeling that tonal music in particular affects us in a way peculiar to that which communicates, expresses, or has meaning – and partly by our tendency, probably stemming from that same experience, to liken music to a sort of language. Many of us, at least, find “linguistic” descriptions or theories about music somehow satisfying. One such popular theory is based on Chomskian ideas of generative grammar. However, such ways of understanding musical meaning fall flat, particularly where atonal music is concerned. Here I discuss the objections Roger Scruton makes to generative grammar theories, as well as the merits of his privileging of space and movement in the musical experience. While both he and the “generative grammarians” have aesthetic objections to much of the music I will discuss, his ideas do offer more potential for making meaningful sense of our experience of atonal music.
Roger Scruton (Wiltshire): “Imagination and its Discontents”.
I have argued in all my work that the imagination is central to aesthetic appreciation, and that it is a faculty unique to, and distinctive of, rational beings. However it is manifest in many ways, and is subject to corruption. Imagination can degenerate into fantasy, and also into various forms of image addiction. There is a discipline of the imagination, a kind of 'reality principle', and literary criticism has much to say about this (though not necessarily in those terms). There are also specific problems in understanding the relation between imagination and perception, imagination and belief, imagination and inter-personal emotion: these are at the root of our worries about fiction, tragedy and the relation between art and life. Getting clear about imagination and its discontents is part of understanding the meaning of life.
Martin Holt (Film Department, City University London): "Metaphorical Movement, versus Movement as Metamorphosis: A response to Scruton on Musical Movement.
In The Aesthetics of Music and The Aesthetic Understanding, Roger Scruton argues that musical movement is not real but intentional; music, together with the imagination and understanding, provides the spectator with an intentional musical space, orientation, and a virtual causality, and via this we get musical ‘movement’. The arguments for these claims will be examined and tested, and against them will be set the idea that musical movement is directly grounded in real change.
Scruton argues musical understanding essentially involves metaphor, and that music as a profound experience cannot exist without it. His theory of metaphor will be examined and briefly compared and contrasted with the views of Black and Goodman, White and Peacocke. A problem for his view is raised – what sustains the metaphorical transfer? If it is real structure, why can’t we talk about this directly? If not, what saves the experience from becoming entirely subjective? Contra his view, it will be argued that metaphors in music are often dead metaphors sustained in detail by a real structure; when not dead, spatial change and causal musical metaphors can often be reduced to terms for literal change through time, or real physical movement or cause and effect relationships within a performance.
It is argued that musical performances are the basis of the experience of musical movement, and performances can best be described as four dimensional objects, or as events, in either case with causally interacting parts, and with properties that change over time. Also performances essentially involve a mixture of continuity and expected and unexpected change – what will be called a musical metamorphosis. This can be understood as the transformation in a performance of a work of one musical pattern into another musical pattern – the final pattern often being very different. But change by itself, even radical change is not enough to explain the feeling of speed or propulsion in a piece of music, as Scruton points out.
Film analogies will be used, in pursuit of what needs to be added to musical metamorphosis to account for musical movement, with examples drawn from the apparent movement of objects in a shot, camera movement in shot, accelerated montage, and continuity editing techniques to subjectively extend and collapse time. The abstract films from Oskar Fischinger, Len Lye et al, will be used to test Scruton’s proposal that music has a virtual causality, but also to argue that musical structure is rich enough to sustain dead spatial metaphors, and to represent complex visual structures – such as water in movement.
Scruton flirts with transposing Richard Wollheim’s account of seeing-in to music as hearing-in; in the end he opts for a different proposal - musical movement is intentional and sustained by metaphorical transfer. So space and causation are not literally in the music, but they are directly heard in it, somehow sustained by metaphorical transfer. Wollheim’s view though, has interesting consequences if transferred to music. He stresses the importance of what he calls the two-fold nature of seeing-in –and even Scruton admits to a double intentionality; as we see the movement, say, in the painting, we also see the brushstrokes that create it, and the canvas surface, and by extension, the effort and intention of production or creation. If we transfer this to musical performances, including performers along with composers as certainly producers and perhaps creators, we get rid of the purely acousmatic way of listening to music for which Scruton argues.
Nor does the visual representation parallel work for space or causation. In painting we see movement, space and cause and effect in the canvass, and sometimes this is inescapable, as we see the wheel spinning in the Valasquez’s Las Hilanderas or as we see someone’s fall causing another’s on the ice in Avercamp’s Winter Scene, Skaters Near a Castle. And in both cases we see depth in the paintings.
But the kinds of things depicted in paintings really are physical, spatial, and causal kinds of things, as of course they are in films, even when fictions, and we would, in reality, be able to see what we see depicted. To suggest that we can directly hear orientation in sounds, or causation, is a much more radical hypothesis requiring us to create a new sound world in our imagination, somehow loosely patterned on the physical world as seen; a new musical world completely outside of our experience, and beyond nature’s design of us, and yet unselfconsciously created. It is argued that musical movement as musical metamorphosis is a more plausible account, if currently incomplete.
Michael Funk Deckard (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven/Lenoir-Rhyne College, North Carolina): "Delicacy of Taste and the Imagination: Aesthetic Concepts in Sibley and the Early Scruton Revisited"
Delicacy of taste needs to be cultivated by means of utilising the imagination. If one were never to practice using the imagination when reading stories, encountering paintings, listening to music, etc. then one will be missing a valuable if not essential part of aesthetic experience. Beginning in the eighteenth century with Abbé Du Bos and David Hume, delicacy of taste has been seen as one of the foremost constitutive elements of aesthetics. However, the notion of ‘delicacy’ practically disappeared from the philosophical literature until Frank Sibley’s ‘Aesthetic Concepts’ (1959). This paper will take into account both Sibley’s discussion of ‘delicacy’ followed by an examination of Roger Scruton’s earliest work, Art and Imagination: A Study in the Philosophy of Mind (1974), in which Scruton expands upon Sibley’s aesthetic concept of delicacy by contributing to it a theory of imagination.
Michael Spitzer (Music, Durham), 'Scruton's "hearing as" and musical metaphor'.
Scruton was the first musically-informed philosopher to link Wittgenstein and Hester’s ‘seeing as’ effect and music. Scruton assimilates ‘seeing as’ (now ‘hearing as’) to what he terms the ‘double intentionality’ of metaphor (1999: 87), so that metaphorical hearing as means ‘hearing sounds as music’, as an ‘ intentional object of musical perception’ (78). More specifically, ‘hearing as’ includes a listener’s ability to focus on particular structural or expressive aspects of the music at will; e.g. to choose to hear a bass-line as a melody, or to switch between iambic and trochaic patterns in a duple meter, or to hear ‘serenity’instead of ‘apprehension’in a piano piece by Janáÿek. But what are the limits of ‘hearing as’? Scruton confines ‘hearing as’ to basic levels of description, comprehending only isolated features or emotional qualities. Conspicuously absent are the conceptual, systemic metaphors developed
by musicologists. I argue that freedom of hearing is hedged on two sides. On the one side, the musical culture inculcates models of perception which change from one historical epoch to another. On the other hand, a compositional strategy, by definition, takes away much of a listener’s freedom to hear the music any way they like. For instance, to hear a Haydn string quartet as anything other than a ‘conversation’ is quite simply wrong.
Franz Knappik (Munich): "Scruton and Wittgenstein on expression in music"
The paper has two parts. In the first part, I discuss Scruton’s non-cognitivist account of musical expression in relation to the late Wittgenstein. The use he makes of Wittgenstein’s notion of aspect-perception enables Scruton to do justice to the “subjective” character of expression that makes it resist to paraphrase and explanation. He neglects, however, an opposed “public” side of expression, including the possibility of describing expression and arguing about it; or so I argue. In the second part, I sketch an alternative Wittgensteinean position which is supposed to account for both sides of expression. It stresses the way Wittgensteinean aspects, including expressive properties, are embedded in normative practices; and it applies to music Wittgenstein’s thought that the grammar of psychological terms displays a constitutive indeterminacy.
Daniel Gallagher (Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit): "Representational theory: the true Phantom of the Opera"
The terms “representation” and “expression” continue to spark lively debate among philosophers, musicologists, and artists today as they try to explain what happens in music. Roger Scruton has suggested that we need to reframe the representation/expression distinction, arguing that, although there are instances in which music “represents” something beyond itself, it should primarily be understood as a type of expression. Even when a composer intends to draw attention to the sounds of a chirping bird or a stormy sea through mimetic effects, an explicit recognition of such extra-musical subjects is not indispensable for a coherent understanding of the internal subject which is the music itself. In this essay, I reexamine the notion of “representation” within the specific context of opera. I begin by reviewing the reasons for which Roger Scruton and Peter Kivy hesitate to apply representational theory to opera. I then consider some of the differences between “representation” as understood by the practitioners of the stile rappresentativo and “representation” as a philosophical concept. Using the example of the “ensemble” as a compositional device, I illustrate how representation may help us to discern common elements that link different operatic styles over time. In so doing, I hope to lay the initial groundwork for a broader but more flexible conception of representation. I conclude that greater consideration needs to be given to the distinction between a philosophical notion of “representation” and “representation” as conceived by the original inventors of the operatic genre.
Nick Zangwill (Durham): “Scruton’s Musical Experiences”.
My talk has three short phases: (a) I sketch Scruton’s imagination view of musical experience; (b) I review the two main difficulties with that view -- a phenomenological problem and a normative problem; and (c) I undermine Scruton’s argument for the imaginative view from the prevalence of metaphorical descriptions of music. Making a sharp thought/talk distinction cleanly severs that argument. I point to a rival realist view.
Davies (McGill): "Scruton on
the Inscrutability of Photographs".
Roger Scruton has argued that we cannot take a properly aesthetic interest in photographs as representations. We can see in a painting how the subject has been rendered and thus appreciate the representational content of the painting 'for its own sake'. However, our awareness of the 'causal' manner whereby photographic images are generated leads us to look through them to their subjects. Indeed, photographs are representationally 'inscrutable': how a subject is represented in a photograph cannot be seen in but only inferred from its visible design. Contra Scruton I argue that even if photographs are 'transparent', this poses no problem for photography as a representational art, given Scruton's conception of the latter. Furthermore, photographs are not representationally inscrutable: we can 'see' how a subject is represented in a photograph in the same sense that we can 'see' how a subject is represented in a painting.