Response-Dependence and Aesthetic Theory

In Chris Howard & R. A. Rowland (eds.), Fittingness. Oxford: OUP. pp. 309-326 (2023)
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Response-dependence theories have historically been very popular in aesthetics, and aesthetic response-dependence has motivated response-dependence in ethics. This chapter closely examines the prospects for such theories. It breaks this category down into dispositional and fittingness strands of response-dependence, corresponding to descriptive and normative ideal observer theories. It argues that the latter have advantages over the former but are not themselves without issue. Special attention is paid to the relationship between hedonism and response-dependence. The chapter also introduces two aesthetic properties that lead to wrong kinds of reasons problems for aesthetic response-dependence: insightfulness and the capacity to change one’s perspective. These properties do not have obvious parallels in the ethical domain, and so present an obstacle for response-dependence even in aesthetics. The chapter ends by examining replies on behalf of the response-dependence theorist, ultimately suggesting that a restricted form of response-dependence is the most promising way forward for fans of such theories.

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Alex King
Simon Fraser University


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