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Two Thumbs UpHow Critics Aid Appreciation$
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Stephanie Ross

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226064284

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226705033.001.0001

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When Critics Disagree

When Critics Disagree

(p.107) 5. When Critics Disagree
Two Thumbs Up

Stephanie Ross

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines disagreement between ideal critics and the prospects for realism in aesthetics. Hume’s posit of blameless differences, his supposition that critics will differ based on (i) their temperament and (ii) the manners and cultures of their time, occupies center stage. I formalize and assess two opposing views regarding critical disagreement, Alan Goldman’s argument for non-realism in aesthetics and Jerold Levinson’s argument for realism. When two critics disagree in their ascription of aesthetic qualities, we need to determine whether the disputants are perceiving the same quality but evaluating it differently (Levinson’s claim) or discerning two distinct qualities whose descriptive and evaluative aspects are inextricably linked (Goldman’s proposal). I propose that this debate leads to a verificationist impasse and canvas four possible solutions: attending closely to Hume’s wording in introducing blameless differences, maintaining that disputants are talking by one another unless they are discussing aesthetic properties experienced in common, reconfiguring our understanding of aesthetic qualities in light of aesthetic empiricism, and introducing the insights of recent empirical work on aesthetic preference. Since none of these approaches resolves the dilemma, I urge that we put in place a Suitability Requirement: critics ought only assess works of types capable of interesting them.

Keywords:   aesthetic realism, verificationist impasse, aesthetic empiricism, empirical research, suitability requirement

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