Explanations: Aesthetic and Scientific
Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement
In recent years, aesthetics – like many other philosophical areas – has gradually replaced conceptual analysis projects with theory construction projects. For example, in a presidential speech of the American Society for Aesthetics, Kendall Walton advocates for the theory-construction methodology, which does not primarily aim to capture the meaning of aesthetic terms in ordinary English. Instead of trying to define what beauty or art is, philosophers have shifted their focus to explaining aesthetic phenomena that arise from our interactions with narratives and artworks. We are experiencing a shift from what Jonathan Weinberg and Aaron Meskin call the ‘traditional paradox-and-analysis model’ to a new paradigm, the ‘phenomenon-and-explanation model’. The methodology of the new paradigm explicitly takes its cue from the sciences: look for observable data, propose theories that aim to explain the data, adjudicate competing theories, and repeat.
Liao, Shen-yi (2014). Explanations: Aesthetic and Scientific. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 75:127-149.