Project Review 2015: Research

Intellectual work can feel lonely, even when you are working with others. Most of the time you work on these research projects that take years to see the light of day, after countless iterations and refinements. Sometimes, the research projects never even see the light of day, for one reason or another. Where did the hours go? The loneliness comes when it feels like there’s nothing new to share.

So, it can be helpful to take a step back, to remind yourself of what you have done that can, in fact, be shared. Here is such an attempt, to remind ourselves what we, the Experimental Philosophical Aesthetics and Human Nature Project, have achieved in 2015. This post focuses on the research accomplishments. (The next year-in-review post focuses on the impact of the Project.)

Overview Phase of the Project

The first phase of the Project surveys the philosophical aesthetics literature in aesthetics for topics that lend themselves to empirical investigations. This phase has resulted in four overview articles and one bibliography.

There are two articles on the phenomenon of imaginative resistance (Miyazono and Liao 2016; Liao and Gendler 2016). There is an article on the ethical criticism of art debate, as it relates to food (Liao and Meskin forthcoming, “Morality and Aesthetics of Food”, Oxford Handbook of Food Ethics). And there is a bibliography on imagination and belief (Ichino, Miyazono, and Liao forthcoming, “Imagination and Belief”, Oxford Bibliographies in Philosophy).

Most importantly, there is now an overview article that introduces the subfield of experimental philosophical aesthetics (Cova, Garcia, and Liao 2015). As I wrote in an earlier blog post, since this subfield of study is so new, my co-authors and I have chosen a somewhat unusual approach for this overview: in addition to describing the works that have been done, we are also previewing some works in progress and envisioning what the field could become.

Experiment Phase of the Project

The second phase of the Project uses methods from cognitive science to investigate topics in philosophical aesthetics. We have conducted many studies in 2014 and 2015. And this year, we have traveled to many places to share the results with diverse audiences, giving eight research talks in total.

This year also brought the first major research publication of the Project. In “Aesthetic Adjectives” (Liao and Meskin forthcomingPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research), we report four studies that investigate the context-sensitivity of aesthetic adjectives. In short, we found that aesthetic adjectives behave weirdly, in ways that are not obviously anticipated by philosophical aestheticians or philosophers of language. This work continues the discussions initiated at the Project’s language of aesthetics workshop in 2014.

Individual Accomplishments

Aaron has articles published or in press on: imagination (Wiltshire and Meskin 2016), comics (Cook and Meskin 2015), taste-imony (Meskin and Robson 2015), the concept of art (Fokt and Meskin forthcoming, “Errors in ‘The History of an Error'”, British Journal of Aesthetics), and videogames (Meskin and Robson forthcoming, “Videogames as Self-Involving Interactive Fictions”, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism).

I have an article in press on imaginative resistance (Liao forthcoming).

And James Andow, who joined us from December 2014 to January 2015 as LHRI Postdoctoral Fellow, has an impressive number of published or in press articles as well.

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