Solving the Puzzle of Aesthetic Testimony
Anti-realism holds an attraction for many philosophers across the range of evaluative domains. But while some of the motivations for anti-realism are shared in the ethical and aesthetic domains (e.g. the existence of widespread and apparently ineliminable disagreement, worries about verification), others are domain-specific. For example, internalism – in particular motivational internalism (the view that there is an internal connection between moral judgment and motivation) – drove much of the ethical anti-realism of the latter half of the twentieth century, but motivational internalism has never played a significant role in arguments for aesthetic anti-realism, since the internalist intuition is much less robust in aesthetics than in ethics.
In this paper I focus on a distinctive motivation for aesthetic anti-realism – a motivation that I refer to as the puzzle of aesthetic testimony. This puzzle has to do with a noticeable difference between the way we treat aesthetic and non-aesthetic testimony. While we are quick to form beliefs on the basis of what others tell us about many non-aesthetic matters, we are hesitant to form aesthetic judgments on the basis of what others tell us. And while we are often comfortable counting someone as justified on the basis of nonaesthetic testimony, we tend not to be so inclined in the aesthetic case. These are puzzling disanalogies, and – as I shall show – they lend some attraction to aesthetic anti-realism. But aesthetic anti-realism can be resisted. I offer a solution to the puzzle of aesthetic testimony that is perfectly consistent with full-fledged aesthetic realism.
KeywordsNormative Judgment Aesthetic Judgment Moral Utterance Moral Testimony Epistemic Asymmetry
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