‘The Limits of Aesthetic Empiricism’ (2014)

Aesthetics and the Sciences of the Mind, edited by Gregory Currie, Matthew Kieran, Aaron Meskin & Jon Robson, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, pp. 75-100.

Published Version | Final Draft | PhilPapers

(This is not a translation of my paper ‘Die Grenzen des ästhetischen Empirismus’.)


In this chapter, I argue against empiricist positions which claim that empirical evidence can be sufficient to defeasibly justify aesthetic judgements, or judgements about the adequacy of aesthetic judgements, or sceptical judgements about someone’s capacity to form adequate aesthetic judgements. First, empirical evidence provides neither inferential, nor non-inferential justification for aesthetic opinions. Second, while empirical evidence may tell us how we do respond aesthetically to artworks, it cannot tell us how we should respond to them. And, third, empirical insights into the irrationality of many of our aesthetic judgements do not warrant the sceptical conclusion that we ought to refrain from forming aesthetic opinions. As a consequence of these limitations to aesthetic empiricism, we should endorse the rationalist position that aesthetic criticism is largely a matter of reasoning and, moreover, a collective undertaking.