How to Be a Pessimist about Aesthetic Testimony

Journal of Philosophy 108 (3):138-157 (2011)
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Is testimony a legitimate source of aesthetic belief? Can I, for instance, learn that a film is excellent on your say-so? Optimists say yes, pessimists no. But pessimism comes in two forms. One claims that testimony is not a legitimate source of aesthetic belief because it cannot yield aesthetic knowledge. The other accepts that testimony can be a source of aesthetic knowledge, yet insists that some further norm prohibits us from exploiting that resource. I argue that this second form of pessimism has certain advantages over the first. I offer two candidates for the non-epistemic norm that, on this view, stands in the way of our taking aesthetic testimony. And I argue that this form of pessimism meets a challenge to pessimism in general – that of explaining why, if testimony cannot be a legitimate source of aesthetic belief, we can nonetheless rightly rely on the aesthetic recommendations of others.
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