Convergence, Community, and Force in Aesthetic Discourse

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 8 (47) (2021)
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Abstract

Philosophers often characterize discourse in general as aiming at some sort of convergence (in beliefs, plans, dispositions, feelings, etc.), and many views about aesthetic discourse in particular affirm this thought. I argue that a convergence norm does not govern aesthetic discourse. The conversational dynamics of aesthetic discourse suggest that typical aesthetic claims have directive force. I distinguish between dynamic and illocutionary force and develop related theories of each for aesthetic discourse. I argue that the illocutionary force of aesthetic utterances is typically invitational because its dynamic force is influenced by a ‘communal’ norm. I draw on dynamic pragmatics to develop a formal account of this dynamic force that explains why invitation has pride of place in aesthetic conversation. It turns out that the end of aesthetic discourse is not convergence but a distinctive form of community, a kind of harmony of individuality, that is compatible with aesthetic disagreement. If this is right, then convergence theories of aesthetic and normative discourse, and of conversation in general, need to be revised.

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Nick Riggle
University of San Diego

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