Grounding Aesthetic Obligations

British Journal of Aesthetics 58 (3):271-285 (2018)
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Many writers describe a sense of requirement in aesthetic experience: some aesthetic objects seem to demand our attention. In this paper, I consider whether this experienced demand could ever constitute a genuine normative requirement, which I call an aesthetic obligation. I explicate the content, form, and satisfaction conditions of these aesthetic obligations, then argue that they would have to be grounded neither in the special weight of some aesthetic considerations, nor in a normative relation we bear to aesthetic objects as such, but in the connections that certain aesthetic considerations have to our practical identities. On the practical identity approach, aesthetic obligation is best understood as a species of promissory obligation, namely self-promising. But this means that the experienced demand can have, at best, the status of a veridical hallucination: although both have the same content, it is the self-promise, and not the experienced demand, that gives rise to the obligation. While aesthetic obligations concern aesthetic objects, they are not obligations to the aesthetic per se.
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