Aesthetic Properties as Powers

European Journal of Philosophy 25 (4):1434-1453 (2017)
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This paper argues for a realist position in the metaphysics of aesthetic properties. Realist positions about aesthetic properties are few and far between, though sometimes developed by analogy to realism about colours. By contrast, my position is based on a disanalogy between aesthetic properties and colours. Unlike colours, aesthetic properties are perceived as relatively unsteady properties: as powers that objects have to cause a certain experience in the observer. Following on from this observation, I develop a realist account of aesthetic properties as causally efficient powers, analogous to properties like fragility or poisonousness. To show how such a view can be made ontologically respectable, I draw on recent ‘dispositionalist’ accounts of powers in philosophical metaphysics. I then offer two arguments in favour of this view. First, the view matches the phenomenology of aesthetic judgement. Second, the view offers an explanation of how it is that critics can demand agreement with their aesthetic judgements.
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