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XIII-1, 2021 – Pragmatist Legacies in Aesthetics

The 2021/1 issue of the EJPAP explores the diverse ways of doing aesthetics in the wake of Pragmatism.

Even though the term Pragmatist Aesthetics has become a quasi-label for characterizing Richard Shusterman’s seminal work in the ‘90s, one main goal of the present issue is mapping and giving emphasis to the plural heritage of Pragmatism in aesthetics. A second purpose is making more evident that English speaking aesthetics is much larger than analytic aesthetics as well as that philosophical aesthetics has been conceived – and is still thought – as broader than the Philosophy of Art. Pragmatists approaches have been independently evolving within the aesthetic field (social aesthetics, environmental aesthetics, everyday aesthetics); at the same time, Pragmatist topics and categories exercised a more or less deep influence on some important figures taking part to the analytical debate in aesthetics (e.g. Nelson Goodman, Richard Rorty and Joseph Margolis); furthermore, Pragmatist options are still very much alive among emerging trends in aesthetics (cf. Mark Johnson’s work on the aesthetic in experience, Alva Noë’s conception of artworks as ‘strange tools’ and, more recently, Shaun Gallagher’s inquiries into artistic performance).

Therefore, EJPAP welcomes the submission of papers explicating (either sympathetically or critically) and/or developing the connections between Pragmatism and the following lines of investigations:

Social Aesthetics and Pragmatism

According to Rick Tilman’s and Trygve Thorntveit’s reconstructions, a native trend within American philosophy is represented by social aesthetics, stemming from John Dewey, Thorstein Veblen and C. Wright Mills. From this viewpoint, aesthetic theory has the role of promoting the reconstruction of (post)industrial societies in view of shared goods that could be communally enjoyed, given human strongly social interdependence and pervasive aesthetic needs. Applicability of this kind of approach to current societies and economic systems are in need to be considered and tested.

Environmental Aesthetics and Pragmatism

Environmental aesthetics is not simply focused in a renovated interest for beauty in nature, even if this point has been important within the analytical debate for enlarging the field of aesthetics beyond a philosophy of art and the artworld (Carlson). As recognized by Arnold Berleant, it involves the development of some basic insights by John Dewey. On the one hand, it can be based on an idea of experience as constituted by both organic and environmental resources rather than considering experience as a subjective process; on the other hand, an ecological-oriented aesthetics favors new convergences between aesthetics and ethical issues as against a compartmental view of the two fields. Thomas Alexander’s eco-ontology and aesthetics of existence seems going in a similar direction, although its relationships with other positions within Environmental Aesthetics have not been investigated. Evidently, explicit and implicit connections between Pragmatism and current positions in Environmental aesthetics are in need to be clarified, developed and discussed.

Everyday Aesthetics and Pragmatism

By relying on Dewey’s criticism of the museum conception of art as well as on his thesis that eminently artistic practices enhance aspects and features belonging to ordinary experience, Yuriko Saito claimed against art-centered aesthetics and in favor of a new focus on quotidian aesthetic interactions and processes. Complementarily, Thomas Leddy emphasized the mutual influence between everyday aesthetics and the aesthetics of art. Both the theoretical range of such approaches and their socio-political consequences deserve being further developed.

Somaesthetics and Pragmatism

Shusterman’s contribution to revitalizing a Pragmatist interest for aesthetics cannot be underestimated: his radicalization of Dewey’s approach for problematizing the boundaries between Fine and Popular Arts as well as limiting the role and range of interpretation within aesthetic experience represented a novelty within aesthetic debates in the nineties. His further somaesthetic turn toward a conception of aesthetic as cultivation of body consciousness received likewise emphasis. The transition from pragmatist aesthetics to somaesthetics deserves attentive consideration, both at a theoretic level and by considering the differences the two approaches can make to people’s lives.

Enactivist Aesthetics and Pragmatism

Interesting convergences between Pragmatist insights and supporters of conceptions of the mind as radically embodied, embedded, extended and enacted are on the rising. Within the aesthetic field, this mutual engagement brought to emphasizing the role of aesthetic, qualitative features in the structures of the bodily experience of the world in continuity with James and Dewey (Johnson), the rooting of artistic activities in the practices and technics through which we configure our lives (Noë) as well as into the continuity between ordinary and artistic performances (Gallagher). Connections as well as divergences between progressive trends in cognitive sciences and Pragmatist assumptions should be considered in detail.

Application of Peirce’s insights within the aesthetic field

Peirce’s semiotic had and still has a great circulation and use within the field of aesthetics, theory of art and design, the concept and role of interpretation in artistic practices and fruition (Umberto Eco’s work is probably the most outstanding example of this use of Peircean resources). Even Peirce’s theory of quality, although far less articulated than his theory of signs, had important consequences for aesthetics (as stated by Innis, Maddalena and others) that still are waiting for a systematic treatment.

Papers should be sent to Roberta Dreon (robdre[at] by December 15th, 2020. They should not exceed 8,000 words and must include an abstract of 150-400 words and a list of works cited. Papers will be selected on the basis of a process of blind review. They will be published in April 2021.

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