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by Elizabeth Ashley Zeron Compton February 23, 2012

A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University at Buffalo, State University of New York in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of Philosophy

UMI Number: 3516527

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Copyright by Elizabeth Ashley Zeron Compton 2012 ii


I would like to thank my dissertation committee, Carolyn Korsmeyer, Neil Williams, and Randall Dipert, for their inspiration, advice, and support, without which this dissertation would not have been possible. Carolyns writing group and mentoring were especially critical in getting the project off to a good start, and Neils long-distance phone conversations brought me invaluable clarity in the later stages. I am indebted to Susan Callaway for organizing the faculty writing retreats at the University of St. Thomas, and to Kimberly Eridon for her assistance in editing the manuscript. My thanks also go to my husband, Paul Compton, for his editing assistance, but more so for his faithful, loving support throughout my doctoral research, for which I am grateful beyond measure. Finally, may all glory and praise be to God who blesses beyond human wisdom or expectation, and has made everything beautiful in its time.


Table of Contents
Acknowledgements Abstract Introduction Backdrop: The Complexity of Aesthetic Responses and Judgments My Approach: The Dispositional Model The Scope and Plan of the Project iii vii 1 3 6 10

Chapter 1: Aesthetic Properties 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 A Functional Concept of Aesthetic Properties Aesthetic Language and Sibleys Aesthetic and Non-Aesthetic Aesthetically-Relevant Properties: The Aesthetic Simpliciter and the Artistic Objectivity and Realism The Spectrum of Aesthetic Property Views Supervenience and Emergence Defending Aesthetic Property Realism Emergence and Gestalt Properties

12 12 16 21 29 34 43 47 52

Chapter 2: A Theory of Powers and Dispositions 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Recognizing Dispositional Language Two Caveats Regarding Isomorphism Recognizing Causal Powers at Work A Model for Powers at Work

56 56 58 61 65

v 2.4.1 2.4.2 2.5 2.6 2.6.1 2.6.2 Manifestations Conditions for Manifestation The Conditional Analysis The Brentano Thesis and Physical Intentionality Directedness: The First Mark of Intentionality The Possibility of Inexistent Objects and Indeterminate Objects as Marks of 76 79 82 85 89 65 67 69 73 74

Intentionality 2.6.3 2.7 2.8 2.9 Linguistic Characteristics as a Mark of Intentionality A Worry Regarding Animism and Panpsychism Directedness, Reciprocity, and the Causal Essence of Powers Conclusion

Chapter 3: Response-Dependence and Projectivism 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 3.10 Motivations For a Realist Account of Sensory Properties The Prima Facie Appeal of Projectivism Conceptual Response-Dependence Responses, Conditions, and Objectivity Ontological Response Dependence Zangwills Non-Realist Aesthetic Response-Dependence Two Versions of the Primary/Secondary Quality Distinction Are Sense-Perceptible Properties Relative? Are Sense-Perceptible Property Dispositions Relations? Zangwills Argument From the Possibility of Divergence

91 92 94 99 104 107 110 111 113 115 119

vi Chapter 4: Colors and Other Sense-Perceptible Properties 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 Colors and Chromatic Phenomenal Properties Manifest Colors The Model Applied to Color Paradigmatic Colors Standard Viewing Conditions and the Question of Subjectivity Colors: Dispositional, Objective, and Irreducible Other Modes of Sense-Perception Conflation of Powers and Manifestations in Sense-Perceptible Properties Revisiting Conditions and Subjectivity 123 123 126 129 131 133 136 138 141 143

Chapter 5: The Dispositional Account of Aesthetic Properties 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Aesthetic Properties: A Case Study Aesthetic Property Manifestations and Abundance A Rival Account: Ways of Appearing Revelation and Manifest Properties Can the Dispositional and Ways of Appearing Models be Reconciled? Reasons to Prefer a Dispositional Account

145 145 151 157 165 173 177 184 190

Conclusion Bibliography


Delicacy, vibrancy, garishness, and other aesthetic properties feature prominently in our aesthetic experiences, and we intuitively speak of them as if they were real properties of the objects of those experiences. We also frequently disagree in our aesthetic judgments, however, leading to worries about subjectivism. I argue that Aesthetic properties are dispositions and genuine properties of objects in the external world in virtue of which those objects cause aesthetic experiences for humans under the right conditions. Aesthetic dispositions are defined by their manifestations (the characteristic qualities they impart to aesthetic experience), by reference to which we identify and classify them. They are, nevertheless, properties of objects rather than observers; as such, they serve an explanatory role with reference to aesthetic experience, serve as truthmakers for aesthetic claims, and underwrite the normative elements of aesthetic discourse. Given the inescapable subjective elements in human aesthetic experience, some have concluded that if aesthetic properties can be said to exist at all, they depend for their existence on observers. On the contrary, I argue that aesthetic properties depend for their existence solely on the objects in the external world that instantiate them. I support this claim by arguing for a dispositional model where the aesthetic disposition is carefully distinguished from its manifestation (the aesthetic response it causes) and the conditions for manifestation (a qualified observer in appropriate background conditions). Aesthetic properties, like non-aesthetic sense-perceptible properties such as colors and sounds, are dispositions whose conditions for manifestation require the presence of a qualified observer. The qualified observer, in turn, possesses dispositions to respond to such properties, such as


normal color vision or hearing in the case of sense-perceptible properties, and aesthetic taste (in Frank Sibley's sense) in the case of aesthetic properties. These observer dispositions form reciprocal pairs with the dispositions of the objects of sense or aesthetic perception, where each meets the conditions of manifestation for the other, and a joint manifestation event occurs. I contend that differences in aesthetic judgment regarding the (descriptive) aesthetic character of an artwork or other object can in many cases be resolved by pointing to differences in observers or conditions of observation. In other cases, however, we have little reason to privilege one kind of response over another, and I conclude that objects may well have multiple sets of aesthetic dispositions, only some of which will manifest to any given observer. These aesthetic properties may even manifest themselves in nearly opposite sorts of responses; I conclude that this does not defeat a realism about aesthetic properties because it is possible for an object to have dispositions to bring about opposing states, relative to the conditions that obtain. This explains aesthetic differences across times and cultures, and allows me to maintain that aesthetic properties are genuine features of objects in the world.

What sort of thing is an aesthetic property? Answers to this question could range from an overt realism at one extremewhere aesthetic properties are thought to be objective features of things in the external world, definable without any reference to human responsesto a projectivist error theory at the other extreme, where they are held to be mere projections of perceivers responses. An overt realist would claim that aesthetic properties are mindindependent and can be understood objectively; like triangularity or crystallinity, they are taken to be features of the world that do not depend on perceivers for their existence or nature. The second sort of position denies this claim, as dependence on perceivers responses would preclude mind-independence and result in subjectivity. Neither extreme is satisfactory; however, they do not completely satisfy the criteria that a suitable account of aesthetic properties should: first, it must incorporate human experience into our understanding of what aesthetic properties are; and second, it must explain why some judgments about aesthetic properties are more apt than others. The answer, I argue, lies somewhere in the middle. The first criterion, that an account of aesthetic properties should refer to human experience, is important because our explanations of what it means to be beautiful, elegant, melancholy or vibrant simply cannot be given without reference to our aesthetic responses. It is telling, I think, that in the modern, Western tradition that founds contemporary aesthetics, beauty was first analyzed as a species of pleasure enjoyed in our aesthetic experience. While the contemporary literature often treats beauty as one of many properties of an aesthetic object to which we respond with pleasure, in 18th-century subjectivist views, the beauty was the perceivers response itself. The nature of an aesthetic property thus looks to be significantly

2 different from that of such paradigmatic mind-independent properties as shape or structural composition. The second criterion is important because it represents a basic, commonsense intuition apparent in our aesthetic discourse: some aesthetic judgments are apt, and some are not. It is this latter fact, that some aesthetic judgments are not apt, that explains and justifies our surprise and discomfort when we discover that we disagree with the aesthetic judgments of others. Hume thus observed that it is natural for us to seek a standard of taste, in order to reconcile disagreements in aesthetic judgment.1 A successful account of aesthetic experience should underwrite these normative elements of aesthetic discourse. A response-dependence account of aesthetic properties from the projectivist end of the spectrum gives human aesthetic experience a very significant role in our understanding of what it means for an artwork to be beautiful, elegant, melancholy, balanced, or vibrant. It goes too far, however, if it reduces aesthetic properties to the mere projection of observers responses onto objects, for how can this explain the fact that some aesthetic judgments are more apt than others? Conversely, an overtly realist account of aesthetic properties can provide a strong basis for explaining normativityif beauty, elegance, melancholy, or vibrancy are real features of the world which objects either do or do not possess, then it is easy to explain what makes judgments about such properties apt. But such an overtly realist account (which few, if any, would actually hold) makes no reference to human aesthetic experiences, and so fails on the first criterion. My account of aesthetic properties treats them as dispositional properties of aesthetic objects, that is, properties in virtue of which they cause and shape the character of our aesthetic experiences. These causal powers, I shall argue, are rooted in the sense-perceptible properties of

David Hume, Of the Standard of Taste, 1757.

3 the objectstheir colors, sounds, textures, flavors, and so on. They exist in objects even when no perceiver is present to experience them, but when a perceiver is present and the conditions are right, they manifest themselves by causing the relevant sort of experience. This dispositional account thus occupies the middle ground between the two extremes I have described, as it acknowledges the importance of human responses in the formation of our aesthetic concepts, while at the same time it grounds the aptness (or inaptness) of aesthetic judgments in objective properties of the aesthetic objects. Accordingly, it satisfies both of the criteria stated above, unlike overt realism and projectivist response-dependence.

Backdrop: The Complexity of Aesthetic Responses and Judgments While our everyday aesthetic experience may incline us towards an overt realismwe tend to assume that the properties we experience objects as having are simply there for our enjoymentprojectivism has its appeal as well. Accounting for differences in aesthetic judgments is a difficult matter, and it is certainly tempting to fall back on a subjective view of aesthetic properties to explain those differences. A single artwork can generate many different responses, with many factors coming into play in determining those responses. Consider, for instance, the 18th century Japanese artist Ogata Korins Eight-Planked Bridge, consisting of a pair of painted screens, which depict a stylized bridge surrounded by clumps of irises. As I view the screens, I enjoy the rich blues and greens in the irises, and the dynamic lines and contrast created by the overall composition, and I judge the piece to be simply but dramatically composed, vibrant, and full of sensuous beauty.2 My personal aesthetic experience and response

"Ogata Korin: Eight-Planked Bridge (Yatsuhashi) (53.7.1-2)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/53.7.1-2 (October 2006).

4 to the piece, however, is only one of many possibilities; the counterfactuals generated by an example like this are rich and complex. Had the piece been differently composed or colored, for instance, it may have had an overall bland or mundane quality, or have been less beautiful. If I had encountered the screens in a different environmentsay, presented in a gilded Western-style frame, under fluorescent lighting, or against a distractingly paisley-papered wall in someones home instead of the carefully lit, neutral surfaces of the art gallerythen I might have failed to recognize the beauty of its simple composition. If I had been distracted by noises around me, suffering from a headache, or otherwise inattentive to the piece, I might have taken its stylized depiction for austerity. Had I been differently educated, I might have failed to recognize the visual drama generated by the piece's composition, or I might have further noticed that it was particularly dramatic for its genre. I might even have understood the significance of the piece as an illustration of a Japanese literary classic dealing with love and journeying, and the symbolic use of the iris. Indeed, I am inclined to agree with Ellen Dissanayakes claim that our aesthetic responses demonstrate two tiers of accomplishment, an aesthetic sensitivity displayed in our reactions to elementary sensory psycho-physiological stimuli, and a predominantly cognitive ability to appreciate the ways in which these stimuli are combined with each other and with other humanly-significant features and presented as works of art. The former, she thinks, is a universal human ability derived from our common evolutionary heritage, while the latter ability is typically the result of experience and familiarity with the tradition in which a work of art is situated.3 Due to my lack of experience and understanding of Japanese artistic traditions, I
Ellen Dissanayake, Aesthetic Experience and Human Evolution, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 41, Winter 1982, 145-155, p. 153.

5 would have to say that my first encounter was marked more by the more basic sort of aesthetic sensitivity, accompanied by a certain sense of novelty; later encounters with the piece were informed by a growing understanding of its cultural context, enabling a greater appreciation of its artistic merits. Judgments regarding artistic or aesthetic merit are still another complication in our responses to objects such as the pair of screens. Some aesthetic language is largely substantive, or descriptive, such as my judgment that the screen was simply but dramatically composed, while other language like full of sensuous beauty is much more verdictive or evaluative in nature. Some aesthetic terms seem to have both descriptive and evaluative components: vibrant" has a more positive evaluative connotation than other descriptions I could have chosen, such as the negative garish, or a more neutral pulsing with activity. While I am inclined to follow Zangwill and Levinson in emphasizing the substantive/descriptive aspects of aesthetic discourse apparent in our ascription of aesthetic properties, others have argued that what is descriptive in an aesthetic term cannot be isolated from the evaluative/verdictive. As the Eight-Planked Bridge example demonstrates, many different factors affect our perceptions of and responses to even a single artwork. The layers of complexity included representation in the depiction of the bridge and flowers, expression in the dramatic qualities of the composition, a positive evaluation of the sensuous beauty of the work, a heightened interest and sense of novelty due to my limited encounters with Japanese screens, and a growing appreciation of the literary reference, genre-positioning, and cultural background of the piece. Some of these factors are internal to the work, some internal to us, and some are contributed by the surrounding conditions. The dispositional account of aesthetic properties responds to the challenge of this complexity by carefully delineating three metaphysical components and their

6 relationships in the dispositional model: First, there is the viewer with her dispositions to perceive aesthetic properties, second, the aesthetic object and its dispositions to produce aesthetic responses, and third, the conditions of manifestation for those two sets of dispositions. My project is to give a clear account of the relationships between our aesthetic responses and the aesthetic properties of the objects we experience, demonstrating the sense in which aesthetic properties are real features of the world, external to our minds and thus objective.

My Approach: The Dispositional Model The relationship between aesthetic properties and human responses is, I believe, well suited to a dispositional analysis. In the most general sense, a disposition is a capacity or tendency of an object to behave in a certain manner under certain conditions. How dispositions are treated, beyond this, varies from theory to theory. On some views they are reduced to events governed by natural laws, and nothing more. On other views they are treated as genuine properties of objects whose essence is a directedness towards their defining manifestation events, waiting only for the right conditions to unleash their power.4 It is this latter treatment, which grounds observable tendencies and capacities in the genuine properties of objects, that will serve to focus my account of aesthetic properties. The model accompanying this analysis can be seen in the example of the property fragility: an object is fragile if it has some property in virtue of which it breaks in conditions such as smashing or dropping. Fragility is the observable disposition, and is grounded in a power of the object that manifests itself definitively in breaking events under appropriate conditions. Note that a fragile object has the property of fragility regardless of whether it actually breaks: a

See, for instance, D. H. Mellor (1974), Sidney Shoemaker (1980), and George Molnar (2003).

7 wineglass can justifiably be said to be fragile without ever being dropped or smashed. Though we are often prone to confusing dispositions with their manifestations, being fragile is not the same as breakingthe former is a property, while the latter is an event. The third distinct element in the model is the set of conditions for manifestation, which should also not be confused with the disposition or manifestation. Aesthetic properties, I shall suggest, are dispositional properties of the objects to which they belong. They are not always manifested: we would not want to say that every encounter with a work of art, for instance, will lead to a full awareness of all of its aesthetic properties, for sometimes the lighting is poor, or the subject is distracted. Nor would we want to say that they only exist when they are perceived, for surely the screen does not lose its vibrancy or beauty when wrapped and packed for shipping, just because no one can see it. Rather, we should say that the manifestations of aesthetic properties depend on the presence of a perceiver in the right conditions. Unsurprisingly enough, the dispositions of the perceivers themselves are conditions for the manifestation of aesthetic properties. Poor eyesight, for instance, can block the manifestation of aesthetic properties for a person, or a difference in education could result in a different set of aesthetic properties being manifested. The dispositions of the perceiver and the dispositions of the aesthetic object are, in fact, reciprocal dispositions, as each is a condition for the other, and they share a manifestation event in common, the revelation of the aesthetic propertys nature via the perceivers aesthetic experience. The vibrancy of a decorated screen as we experience it is thus the manifestation of both the screens vibrancy and the perceivers disposition to enjoy such experiences of vibrant things. Examples of reciprocal dispositions are readily accommodated by the dispositional model I use, and are not limited to the aesthetic: a windowpanes fragility and a

8 flying rocks disposition to smash things, for instance, will manifest together in the event that the rock strikes the window and it breaks. Because perceivers are part of the conditions of manifestation for aesthetic properties, on my account the identities of aesthetic properties incorporate human experience, unlike an extreme, overt realism. The responses an aesthetic property is directed towards might involve recognition of substantive character, recognition of merit, or affective responses; indeed, for some aesthetic properties, the entire mental makeup of the human audience is involved in the conditions for manifestation. Perhaps the greatest challenge for a dispositional theory of aesthetic properties will be accounting for the relationships of artworks to the contexts in which they are created and presented.5 The physical environment in which an artwork is presentedthe lighting conditions, framing, or surrounding environmentshave already been mentioned as factors affecting a perceivers response to a piece; I believe that they can be straightforwardly incorporated into the conditions of manifestation element of the model, and so I do not view them as factors determining whether or not the artwork or other object actually has the aesthetic properties in question. But what of cultural context? Can it also be accounted for as a manifestation condition? Can we say that cultural context may help determine whether or not an aesthetic property will manifest itself, but that whether or not an object has an aesthetic property in the first place is independent of its cultural context? Or should we instead take the relation of an artwork to its cultural context to be part of the base of its aesthetic dispositions? Perhaps artworks are only vibrant or beautiful in certain contexts. But I find the explanation invoking cultural context as part of the conditions of manifestation more plausible,

Indeed, this is a challenge for any aesthetic theory, though I wonder sometimes if questions about art-historical context have been elevated in the discussion to the detriment of the more basic metaphysics of aesthetic properties and experience applicable to everyday aesthetics as well.

9 and for several reasons. First, it seems to me that having aesthetic properties does not always require being situated in a particular cultural context: there are many natural aesthetic objects, which manifest aesthetic properties without being considered in a cultural context. Perhaps there is a minimal cultural context condition implicit in the necessary presence of a human perceiver, him or herself a cultural being. But I dont think one needs to see an object found in nature as a work of art before one can perceive it as graceful, vibrant, garish, or lovely. This intuition is part of my motivation to distinguish between artistic properties (specific to artifactual aesthetic objects) and aesthetic properties simpliciter (found in non-artifacts as well) in chapter 1. A second reason to favor an explanation that accounts for contextual issues as part of the conditions for manifestation is that it is well-suited for issues of cultural context: given the reciprocal nature of aesthetic properties and perceivers dispositions to experience them, the dispositions of the perceiver are already part of the aesthetic properties conditions for manifestation. I am inclined to think that cultural contextual relations are a function of a society, and more particularly of the people who belong to it. The perceiver is typically a human being belonging to such a society, and it is thus natural to expect a cultures influence on the manifestation of an aesthetic disposition to occur via its influence on the perceivers dispositions. Finally, this explanation of the role of cultural context has several consequences which may at first seem unwelcome, but which on further consideration I find quite attractive. One such consequence is the abundance of aesthetic properties: an objects aesthetic properties are richer than can ever be experienced by any one person. Another is its implications regarding the stability of aesthetic properties: the set of aesthetic properties of an object that are actually experienced can change over time without the object gaining and losing properties. In the end, I

10 think this feature is perhaps what makes the dispositional model the best realist account of aesthetic properties.

The Scope and Plan of the Project The properties that play important roles in our aesthetic experiences are numerous, whether they are the abundance of ordinary aesthetic properties we encounter in our everyday sensory experiences, or the formal or contextual features of artworks. All these I take to be members of the class of aesthetically-relevant properties, a class that is more or less equivalent to the aesthetic properties as discussed in the aesthetic literature generally. In order to delineate the scope of the current project, I shall divide this class of aesthetically-relevant properties into two subclasses: artistic properties and aesthetic properties simpliciter, with the difference between the two being that artistic properties are found only in artifacts, while what I shall call the aesthetic properties simpliciter are found in non-artifacts as well. In the case of an artifact, there is a history of human intent behind the object; an artificer has contemplated and modified its materials so that they will serve some purpose. The cultural and historical aspect of artifacts creates a whole realm of complications not found in natural objects, such as historical and cultural context, genre, style, and oeuvre considerations, authors intent, and representational and allusive functions; I shall take natural objects, by contrast, to be paradigmatic sources of aesthetic properties simpliciter. My primary motivation in the current project is to lay the metaphysical groundwork for a realist account of aesthetic properties as objective features of the external world. This will involve addressing worries surrounding subjectivism and projectivism that come into play for sense-perceptible properties and transfer to aesthetic properties, and I shall treat them primarily

11 in the context of the aesthetic properties simpliciter, these being the more straightforward cases of aesthetically-relevant properties. I believe that a number of the issues derived from aesthetic objects connections to their cultural contexts might be handled as a further complexity of the conditions for manifestation of an aesthetic property, though I acknowledge that a more complete account of the aesthetically-relevant likely cannot be given as a simple extension of what I will present here. I begin my case for aesthetic dispositions by surveying the aesthetic property landscape in chapter one, exploring the relevant concepts of objectivity and subjectivity, a range of aesthetic property theories from realism to projectivism, and the aesthetic/non-aesthetic property relationship. I shall introduce the realist dispositional theory I favor and a model for powers at work in chapter two, and use this as a basis for my critique of a rival theory of aesthetic properties, Nick Zangwills response-dependence, in chapter three. In the fourth chapter I shall apply the powers model to examples drawn from the philosophy of color and then extend it to other modes of sense perception, drawing out various implications for the issue of objectivity in the process. The final chapter will address a rival form of aesthetic realism and detail my application of the model to aesthetic properties; I shall argue that on such a theory one can justifiably hold that aesthetic properties are genuine, objective, and mind-independent features of objects in the external world. If successful, this theory will secure an explanatory role for aesthetic properties, illuminate aesthetic disagreement, and in so doing underwrite the normativity of our aesthetic judgments and discourse.


Chapter 1: Aesthetic Properties

1.1 A Functional Concept of Aesthetic Properties Aesthetic properties, unlike shape properties for instance, are difficult to delineate as a class by reference to their formal or material characteristics. Whereas shapes belong to surfaces, are composed of lines, and can be further classified by such criteria as the number of their angles and relative length of their sides, it seems one can have an aesthetic experience of nearly anything, be it scenery, animal, person, or artwork; visual image, sound, narrative, or movement. Even shape properties themselves can be counted as aesthetic properties due to their function in aesthetic experience, and I think that aesthetic properties should in fact be defined by the way they function in bringing about and determining the character of aesthetic experiences. This function has been spelled out in a number of ways: aesthetic properties, we are told, function uniquely as objects of a special faculty of taste and discrimination, or they serve as reasons for attributing aesthetic value to objects, or they are those physical properties of objects with the unique function of being culturally identified as worthy of attention.1 Various features have likewise been proposed as essential to aesthetic experience, in terms of which aesthetic properties are thus to be defined. It has been described as being characterized by a certain sort of fixed attention together with freedom from outside concerns, featuring affect detached from practical ends, involving discovery, and resulting in the integration of the self and experience; or as involving our imagination of properties as belonging to objects and appreciating those objects for their own sakes.2 I personally favor a characterization of aesthetic experience as essentially involving pleasure derived from grasping and reflecting on an objects content and character, both for itself and in relation to its structural
1 2

Sibley (1959, 1965), Beardsley (1973), and Eaton (1994). Beardsley (1981), Scruton (1974).

13 base.3 But however we identify the essence of aesthetic experience and describe the human disposition to experience things aesthetically, I believe that aesthetic properties as a class should be functionally unified by their directedness toward such experiences (more on directedness in chapter 2). It is this unique function in relation to human aesthetic experience that makes them sui generis, a class unto themselves. Even if we could pinpoint a clear supervenience basis for these aesthetic functionsa possibility that Sibleys work on aesthetic conditions has rendered dubitable (see 1.2)they would not be reducible to non-aesthetic functions unless aesthetic experience could itself be reduced to non-aesthetic experience. Not only is function in aesthetic experience the unifying characteristic of aesthetic properties as a class, it is also what unifies individual aesthetic properties. It is rather unremarkable if two prints from a woodcut or two copies of a novel have the same aesthetic properties; this is to be expected from multiplyinstanced works. Similarly, two performances of a musical or dramatic work are also quite likely to have the same aesthetic properties, although these art forms often allow for greater deviation in their instances than do printmaking and literature. In these cases, we might think that having the same non-aesthetic properties is sufficient to guarantee that two objects have the same aesthetic properties, and perhaps it is. We expect two identical strings of text characters to have the same literary properties, and playing a musical recording twice will produce identical sounds and evidence identical musical properties. The covariance principle at work hereno change in aesthetic properties without some corresponding change in non-aesthetic properties is the most basic sense of supervenience, in which aesthetic properties are said to supervene on

Levinson (1996).

14 non-aesthetic properties.4 But having the same non-aesthetic properties is by no means a necessary condition for two things to instantiate the same aesthetic property. Different objects can have the same aesthetic propertiessometimes very different objects indeed, and here it is more obviously their powers to produce a particular sort of experience that unifies them as instances of the same property. Some of these cases will again seem quite unremarkable upon first consideration: in mimetic or representative artworks, for instance, the artist frequently seeks to create something with the same aesthetic properties as his or her subject. The Russian artist Viktor Hartmanns depiction of oxen drawing a wagon with enormous wheels was presumably intended to capture the ponderousness of the plodding beasts.5 Upon viewing an exhibition of Hartmanns work after his untimely death, Modest Mussorgsky responded by composing his 1874 piano suite, Pictures at an Exhibition, capturing this ponderousness in the fourth movement, Bydlo. Joseph-Maurice Ravel likewise incorporated a depiction of the ponderous nature of the beasts into his 1922 orchestral arrangement of the suite. What the Bydlo example illustrates is that the same property, ponderousness, can belong to both natural objects (the oxen) and artifacts (the artworks), to two different works in the same artistic medium (Mussorgskys piano suite and Ravels orchestral arrangement), and to objects in different media (Hartmanns visual art works and Mussorgsky and Ravels musical works). Furthermore, the same aesthetic property can be instantiated in both enduring objects and ephemeral performances. A functional account of ponderousness unifies these quite different instances by pointing to the characteristic manifestation, a particular kind of aesthetic experience, rather than focusing on the very different

I will discuss supervenience at length in 1.6. I say presumably, because the picture is lost; we have only descriptions of it. See Alfred Frankensteins Victor Hartmann and Modeste Musorgsky in The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 3 (1939) for a discussion of the piece.

15 sets of non-aesthetic properties of objects, which ground their power to produce such an experience. The aesthetic functions of an object are closely connected to their non-aesthetic functions, particularly the functions of the objects sense-perceptible properties. In the Bydlo example, ponderousness is captured in the painting in its visual properties, and in the music in its aural properties. It is thus impossible to have an aesthetic experience of ponderousness in these cases if one is blind or deaf, respectively. The aesthetic property of ponderousness is intimately connected to sense-perceptible properties in the form of sights for the painting and to sounds and haptic properties in the music; in an actual ox-cart it would primarily be a matter of haptic properties attending the thudding sensations caused by the motions of the oxen and cart. Sights, sounds, feels, motions, and combinations thereof are thus at the heart of our aesthetic experiences. As Nick Zangwill notes, delicate performances of pieces of music would not be delicate unless they consisted of certain temporal arrangements of sounds.6 Sense-perceptible properties like sights and sounds are thus strong candidates for inclusion in the supervenience base for aesthetic properties. I would also add tastes, smells, and kinesthetic properties to the list of perceptible properties that ground aesthetic properties, although historically they have received much less attention than sights and sounds.7 Gustatory taste properties and the aesthetic properties they support are subject to several factors that tend to remove them from our consideration: food and drink are often a less exalted part of our everyday lives, they must be physically consumed in order to be properly experienced, and this incorporation of the object into the subjects own body

6 7

Aesthetic/Sensory Dependence in The Metaphysics of Beauty, p. 127. See the first chapter of Carolyn Korsmeyers Making Sense of Taste for a critique of the traditional hierarchy that places the senses of taste and smell below those of vision and hearing.

16 obscures the location of the taste or aesthetic property.8 The peppery taste of arugula is experienced as located in the mouth, though it is more properly understood as a power of the salad green to cause such a sensation. Smells are similarly difficult to locate, as are kinesthetic properties; in the latter case, textures are typically experienced as located on objects, but temperatures or the experience of acceleration or change of direction in a dance are more often experienced in ones own body. My treatment of aesthetic properties as dispositions is thus intended to extend beyond the familiar art forms of music and the visual arts, and to include everyday aesthetic experiences grounded in this whole range of sense-perceptible properties, including combinations thereof. I see an abundance of aesthetic properties in the world of everyday experience, as abundant as the sense-perceptible properties that ground them. I will explore the connections between senseperceptible and aesthetic properties of objects in 1.6 when I examine supervenience and emergence, in chapter 3 where I critique Zangwills conclusions regarding the objectivity of the two kinds of properties, and in chapter 4 when I examine color and other sense-perceptible properties. The similarities between the two kinds of properties will, finally, inform my theory of aesthetic properties as it is developed in chapter 5.


Aesthetic Language and Sibleys Aesthetic and Non-Aesthetic Sense-perceptible properties such as sights, sounds, tastes, smells and feels are all sources

of examples for Sibleys aesthetic/non-aesthetic distinction; indeed, he seems open to the possibility that nearly any sort of bodily sensation could be the subject of aesthetic interest.9 Sensory perception is immediate and firsthand, as is aesthetic perception; for Sibley the richness
8 9

More on this in chapter 4. Frank Sibley, Tastes, Smells, and Aesthetics in Approach to Aesthetics, p. 213.

17 of aesthetic experience is located in this firsthand perception of properties, expressible in a variety of aesthetic language, rather than in the emotional, imaginative, or cognitive aspects of appreciation. I agree with Sibley that a things aesthetic character results from the totality of its relevant non-aesthetic characteristics; I hold that such non-aesthetic characteristics are not sufficient for the manifestation of aesthetic character, however, because it can only be properly manifested in the presence of an appropriately disposed perceiver.10 Sibleys focus on the firsthand sense-perception-based aspect of aesthetic properties informs my own theory, as does a shared assumption that a descriptive level of aesthetic discourse is separable from the evaluative; like Sibley, I think that aesthetic terms are often specific and descriptive, even though their meanings may be figurative or metaphorical.11 Jerrold Levinson follows Sibley when he argues that aesthetic attributions have a purely descriptive, distinctively aesthetic content, consisting in an emergent, holistic impression, acknowledged by suitably backgrounded perceiversor more precisely, the disposition to afford such an impression to those perceivers,12 a construal quite in keeping with the account I shall give. Nick Zangwill explains evaluation as a matter of conversational implicature (in Grices sense) for most aesthetic judgments, rather than it being part of the content or sense of the

Aesthetic properties are possessed by objects regardless of the presence of appropriately disposed perceivers, however. 11 See Emily Brady, Sibleys Vision, Aesthetic Concepts: Essays After Sibley, for a discussion of these aspects of Sibleys philosophy and also for his reasons for focusing on aesthetic language rather than aesthetic properties. 12 Jerrold Levinson, "Being Realistic About Aesthetic Properties." Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 52(3): 351-354. 1994. pp. 351-352. He cites such evidence for the separability of the descriptive as 1) alternate, valueneutral descriptions, 2) agreement among critics regarding aesthetic character despite disagreement regarding value, 3) the need to explain what competent critics with an evaluative difference of opinion could really be talking about, and 4) the role of distinctive aesthetic impressions in explaining what appreciators aesthetic experiences consist in. Levinson addresses critics evaluative differences further in his "Aesthetic Properties, Evaluative Force, and Differences of Sensibility" in Aesthetic Concepts: Essays after Sibley, eds. Jerrold Levinson and Emily Brady. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. 61-80.


18 judgment.13 In what follows I shall rely on their arguments and focus on aesthetic language as referring to the substantive aesthetic character of the objects of our experience. Where my approach differs significantly from Sibleys is in focusing on the metaphysical and ontological aspects of aesthetic properties rather than on linguistics and justification for judgment. I take seriously Ted Cohens criticisms of Sibleys aesthetic/non-aesthetic distinction as applied to terms: there seems to be no sensible and important way of dividing terms according to whether taste or only normality is needed to apply them, the problematic result being that for any aesthetic term it seems we can find an application of it which can be managed by any normal man, and if no term invariably requires taste for its application, then what, after all, is an aesthetic term?14 As a methodological consideration, I believe that any study of aesthetic properties must be sensitive to the fact that there is no strict one-to-one correlation between aesthetic properties and the terms we use for them. While looking at the logic of our aesthetic discourse is not without value, as Cohen points out there are many terms that seem to have both aesthetic and non-aesthetic uses; furthermore, many aesthetic qualities have no established names. There are also many aesthetic properties that have more than one name: a significant difficulty with our aesthetic language is that our names for aesthetic properties are not simply a means of referring to something in the world, but instead carry with them all sorts of connotations arising from the metaphorical application of non-aesthetic words for aesthetic purposes and from our typical evaluative responses to aesthetic properties. The outcome of this, I believe, is that our language is often misleading as a guide for picking out aesthetic properties;

13 14

Nick Zangwill, The Beautiful, The Dainty, and the Dumpy, British Journal of Aesthetics 35 (1995), 317-329, p. 322. Paul Grice, Studies in the Way of Words, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989, pp. 39, 40.

Ted Cohen, A Critique of Sibleys Position: Aesthetic/Non-Aesthetic and the Concept of Taste, from Aesthetics: A Critical Anthology, 2nd ed. Ed. G. Dickie, R. Selafani, R Roblin. NY: St. Martins Press, 1989, pp. 381-387.

19 there are sure to be many unnamed aesthetic property types, as well as aesthetic properties with multiple names.15 My focus on the metaphysics of aesthetic properties, in contrast with Sibleys emphasis on aesthetic language, leads me to apply the aesthetic/non-aesthetic distinction to properties, rather than to terms, concepts, or judgments. Unlike Sibley, I am comfortable speaking of causeeffect relationships between objects and experiences, and in fact I favor such language because on my account aesthetic experiences are caused by objects in virtue of their aesthetic properties. At the heart of Sibleys distinction is the necessity of using taste to apply aesthetic concepts, but not non-aesthetic concepts. Taste for Sibley is a special kind of perceptual attention or sensitivity; the closest equivalent in my theory would be the perceivers dispositions to experience aesthetic properties during the course of an aesthetic experience. For me, both aesthetic properties and aesthetic attentiveness are identified by their functional roles in aesthetic experience, and so taste is not the ultimate basis for the aesthetic/non-aesthetic distinction. Where Sibleys use of aesthetic/non-aesthetic was vulnerable to Cohens criticism that there are no clear aesthetic terms, on my account there are clear aesthetic properties. I shall return to Cohens critique of the aesthetic/non-aesthetic in 1.3. Where Sibleys emphasis was on what justification we have for judging an artwork to have an aesthetic quality, I prefer to speak of aesthetic and non-aesthetic properties and their relationships. Adapted for aesthetic properties, his thesis would be that there are no necessary and sufficient conditions regarding the non-aesthetic properties a thing must have in order to have a particular aesthetic property. This means that we cannot point to any non-aesthetic properties as necessary for instances of aesthetic properties: a thing need not be of a particular

As has been noted, we also often have both value-laden and value-neutral terms that pick out the same things; where this is the case, I endeavor to use value-neutral language.

20 medium or genre, or even an artwork at all, to have a ponderous quality, as the Bydlo example above illustrated. While Ravels orchestration used the tritone, the interval between pitches most unsettling to the Western ear, to capture the ponderous quality of the oxen, use of tritones is not necessary for a musical work to be ponderous.16 Sufficient conditions for aesthetic properties are as difficult as necessary conditions; painting in bright, high-contrasting colors is not sufficient for producing a piece with a garish quality, nor is writing a musical composition in a minor key and with a slow tempo sufficient to make it funereal. Aesthetic and non-aesthetic qualities likely stand in supervenience or emergence relationships to one another, but it seems impossible to give any further principles as to what non-aesthetic properties will suffice to produce an instance of any given aesthetic property. But this is no great surprise: much of our respect for artists is due to their creative vision and ability to work out how to instantiate aesthetic properties in the absence of such rules. We would likely value their work less if producing aesthetically and artistically valuable pieces were as simple as painting-by-number. If there are any conditions or rules governing what non-aesthetic properties give rise to what aesthetic properties, I think they are (as Sibley suggested) likely in the form of negative conditions: in the visual arts, a piece done all in pastel colors, with no high contrast, cannot be garish, or perhaps a musical work with slow tempo in a minor key cannot be exuberant.17 One further kind of condition may apply to artworks, however: certain artistic properties related to

I see aesthetic properties as being very like artifacts with regards to their definitive functions being realized in such varying ways. A table, for instance, often has a flat surface supported by legs and is thus suitable for eating or writing on or collecting ones mail and keys as one enters the house. It could, however, be legless (for instance affixed to a wall by brackets), and even the surface may not be strictly necessary (one could imagine a carefullyengineered force field which would serve the same function). Different thermostats likewise operate by quite different mechanisms, but serve the same function, to trigger a heat source when a particular temperature is reached. 17 Frank Sibley, Aesthetic Concepts, Philosophical Review 68 (Oct 1959) 421-450. Peter Kivy argues, however, that aesthetic features are such that there are open-ended classes of features where none are necessary, but some number is sufficient. See his 1975 What Makes Aesthetic Terms Aesthetic?, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 36, 197-211, p. 202.


21 genre and style are governed by conditions on the non-aesthetic properties on which they are based. One might say, for instance, that a tango cannot be serene, or that in order to be in the style of Beethoven something must first of all be a musical work. But these conditions apply to a class of properties, which are unique to the artifactual aesthetic arena, the world of art.


Aesthetically-Relevant Properties: The Aesthetic Simpliciter and the Artistic The class of aesthetically-relevant properties can be usefully divided into two subclasses:

artistic properties and aesthetic properties simpliciter, with the difference between the two being that artistic properties are found only in artifacts, while what I shall call the aesthetic properties simpliciter are found in non-artifacts as well. Stephen Davies describes these aesthetic properties simpliciter as being internal to the object of appreciation and directly available for perception in that their recognition does not require knowledge of matters external to the object of appreciation, particularly knowledge of the circumstances under which the item was made or about its intended or possible functions. Aesthetic properties simpliciter, he continues, announce their significance, as it were, through the experience they provide.18 In the case of an artifact, by contrast, there is a history of human intent behind the object; an artificer has contemplated it for its usefulness and modified it so that it will serve some purpose, with the result that others can recognize its intended purpose as well. When the artifact is an artwork, there is often a very specific sort of purpose that the artist has in mind, that of having a certain aesthetic character so as to cause certain sorts of aesthetic experiences in its

Stephen Davies, The Philosophy of Art, Oxford: Blackwell, 2006, pp. 53-54. Davies distinguishes between aesthetic and artistic properties, where I prefer to speak of aesthetic properties simpliciter and artistic properties; this is because artistic properties are certainly aesthetically relevant, though not internal to artworks or immediately available from the work itself.


22 audience.19 Even more so than other artifacts, artworks exist in a web of culturally significant relationships, and in virtue of those relationships have numerous properties with important functions in our aesthetic experience, their artistic properties. They are created to be the sorts of things that recognizably represent and express, embody political, religious, or philosophical ideas, and derive or deviate from previous works. The historical aspects of artworks, along with the fact of the artists cultural situation, thus create a whole realm of complications not found in natural objects, among them historical and cultural context, genre, style, and oeuvre considerations, authors intent, and representational and allusive functions. Davies mentions, for instance, the conventions of religious iconography doves with olive branches symbolizing peace, for example, or an old man with a lion in a desert representing St. Jeromewhich are used by artists, but not among their paintings perceptible content. He also offers further examples of artistic properties such as the fact that one work may quote from, refer to, or allude to another... It can be original, influenced by some earlier work, the first of its artists middle phase, the swansong of a tired genre, or unusual for its treatment of shadows. It can be intended to emulate, subvert, reject, or redirect the default art traditions, genres, and practices of its time. Some works belong to kinds with specific functionsthey are elegies, portraits, or hymns, for exampleand this is not apparent from their aesthetic properties alone.20 In all these examples of artistic properties, recognition and appreciation goes beyond consideration of just the internal features of the work and into its relationships with external objects and events.


My use of artifact here follows Randy Diperts in his 1993 Artifacts, Art Works, and Agency, except that I use artifact somewhat loosely to include what he terms tools rather than distinguishing them from artifacts proper. There are many artifacts, of course, which are evidently the product of intentional activity and modification for a purpose but are not artworks, however we may end up defining art. Nick Zangwill has offered a functional theory of art, whereby artworks are understood as being intentionally created to function as objects with aesthetic properties, in his 2001 Aesthetic Functionalism in Aesthetic Concepts: Sibley and After, Emily Brady and Jerrold Levinson (eds.), Oxford University Press. Davies, 2006, p. 54.


23 We can turn to Frank Sibleys work for paradigmatic examples of aesthetic properties simpliciter: unified, balanced, integrated, lifeless, serene, somber, dynamic, powerful, vivid, delicate, moving, graceful, dainty, handsome, comely, elegant, and garish.21 These aesthetic qualities can be found and appreciated in non-artifacts, whereas only artifacts exhibit artistic properties. Our aesthetic experiences of natural landscapes and seascapes often center on their serenity, for instance, while waterfalls and thunderstorms delight us with their powerfulness; rock formations may be unified, and skies somber. Birds plumage displays aesthetic properties such as vividness and garishness, while antelope exhibit grace in their forms and movements, cats exhibit daintiness, and ostriches appear aesthetically unbalanced. I think that these and other aesthetic properties simpliciter are the sorts of things which can be appreciated without reference to any particular cultural context, although the presence of a human perceiverhim or herself a cultural beingis of course a condition on their appreciation, and introduces a minimal cultural background. But I think there is a clear difference between such minimal cultural conditions for perception of the aesthetic properties simpliciter and the educated taste so often demanded by the Western art world. Ellen Dissanayakes bio-evolutionary view of aesthetics suggests a similar divide in our abilities to appreciate aesthetically-relevant properties in aesthetic experience. She describes the human response to art as representing a two-tier accomplishment, evident in our species evolutionary history and in the maturing aesthetic sensibilities of individual humans: ...the human species, like the individual child, required a certain degree of maturity before it could use in art the abilities that developed in non-art contexts. In a similar fashion, it can be argued that just as the babys emotional life begins in its awareness of modal/vectoral properties [such as the rhythmically patterned and dynamically varied vocalizations and gestures that make up babytalk or motherese], the infant human

Frank Sibleys Aesthetic Concepts, Philosophical Review 68 (1959), 421-450, and Aesthetic and NonAesthetic, Philosophical Review 74 (1965), 135-159.

24 species first displayed its nascent aesthetic sensitivity in reacting to elementary sensory psycho-physiological stimuli. Presumably this abilitythis responsivenessremains operative in everyone. More complex aesthetic responsiveness requires one to employ and develop a predominantly cognitive ability to appreciate the ways in which these stimuli are combined with each other and with other humanly-significant features and presented as works of art.22 Dissanayake notes that the ability to respond to art is evidenced differentially by individuals and cultural groups, and describes examples of aesthetic experience outside of ones cultural background where the untrained response plays a greater role: The two tiers are not to be separated in actual aesthetic experience, but the untrained response relies more on the fundamental layer. The person who knows little about, say, classical music may nevertheless be gloriously affected by a symphonys rhythmic and dynamic contrasts, its flowing melody and repeated developments of intensity. An unknowledgeable Western listener to classical Indian music may respond powerfully to the performance of a raga, recognizing something of the breathtaking dexterity of the performers and reacting to the manipulated elements of rhythm and intensity.23 In such cases it seems reasonable to say that the operative aesthetic abilitiesor dispositions, as I would call themare directed towards what I have called aesthetic properties simpliciter. They involve apprehension of basic aesthetic character (not unlike the use of taste as Sibley understood it) and affective responses, and give rise to verdictive judgments as well. The responses of the experienced listener who is acquainted with the tradition or code within which the performance comes to being, by contrast, demonstrate perceiver dispositions directed towards artistic properties, while at the same time involving responses to the more fundamental layer as Dissanayake has described it. According to Dissanayake, a bio-evolutionary view of human aesthetic behavior suggests that aesthetic experience in a general sense is universal, fundamental, and necessary to

Ellen Dissanayake, Aesthetic Experience and Human Evolution, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 41 (Winter 1982), 145-155, p. 152. See her 2001 article Aesthetic Incunabula, Philosophy and Literature 25.2, pp. 335-346 for a discussion of the aesthetic educative aspects of baby talk or motherese.


Dissanayake (1982), p. 152.

25 man.24 This is supported by cross-cultural agreement on a number of aesthetically pleasing properties found in nature and emphasized in various art traditions. She thinks such inherently pleasing and gratifying elements can be called aesthetic or perhaps proto-aesthetic, even when they occur naturally in nonaesthetic contexts. These pleasing characteristics are those that would have been selected-for in human evolution as indicating that something is wholesome and good: for example, visual signs of health, youth, and vitality such as smoothness, glossiness, warm or true colors, cleanness, fineness, or lack of blemish, and vigor, precision, and comeliness of movement. Thus we find that most, if not all, societies value agility, endurance, and grace in dance; sonority, vividness, and rhythmic or phonic echoing (rhyme and other poetic devices) in language; and resonance and power in percussion... In the arts of the West, high value has also been given to skillfully made polished marble statuary, implements and ornaments of burnished metal, vivid glowing tempera and oil paintings, and ornately sumptuous or softly diaphanous textiles.25 This dual appearance in art traditions and natural, non-aesthetic contexts suggests that these properties are a close fit for my aesthetic properties simpliciter. Finally, my distinction between aesthetic properties simpliciter and artistic properties is not unlike Marcia Muelder Eatons use of aesthetic and artistic. Eaton holds that the class of artistic objects is strictly included in the class of aesthetic objects, which is to say, all works of art are aesthetic objects, but not all aesthetic objects are works of art. She offers such examples of non-art aesthetic objects as sunsets, forests, seashells, a childs laughter, or a bird in flight.26 One important reason for classifying the aesthetic and artistic this way is to account for the similarities and differences in our appreciation of art and nature. Like Kant, Eaton agrees that

Ibid, p. 154. She goes on to note, however, that the type of experience presupposed by advanced Western aesthetics seems to be bound to one culture, and rare even within that. 25 Ellen Dissanayake, Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why, New York: Macmillian, 1992, p. 54. She also suggests that it is the obvious lack of these inherently pleasurable or beautiful features that has made it so difficult for unsophisticated people to accept certain works of art made during the past century or so as art, for the artists deliberate choices to defy traditional expectations regarding pleasing characteristics have set their works outside the pale of recognizable art. 26 Marcia Muelder Eaton, Art and the Aesthetic, The Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics, ed. Peter Kivy, Oxford: Blackwell, 2004, 63-77, p. 63-64.


26 the pleasure we take in each is similar, but she follows Allen Carlson in saying that the difference is not a matter of there being knowledge involved in our appreciation of art but not of nature. Rather, cognitive models are required for both types of appreciation, but different sets of cognitions are relevant in each case. If to aesthetically appreciate art we have knowledge of artistic traditions and styles within those traditions, to aesthetically appreciate nature we must have knowledge of the different environments of nature and of the systems and elements within those environments.27 The knowledge of categories applied to art include such things as what genre and style one is viewing (those categories addressed by Kendall Walton28) while the categories one must know in order to fully appreciate what one sees, smells, or hears in nature include such things as whether one is looking at a desert or a forest. For Carlson, it is a dangerous mistake to treat nature as art, as doing so may well lead us to dismiss or minimize what is authentic and truly natural in a biotic system or environment, or to misapply the boundaries or foci of aesthetic significance found in artworks because of their artifactuality. Eaton takes a broad view of the aesthetic (which I favor as well), extending it beyond its historic locus of beauty and the pleasure we take in it. She defines an aesthetic property as an intrinsic property of x considered worthy of attention (perception and/or reflection) in culture C.29 For Eaton, an intrinsic property is one for which direct inspection is necessary to verify a claim predicating the property of an object, and direct inspection is sufficient for such verification for someone who knows the aesthetic predicate. Looks Indian is an example of an intrinsic property, while was made in India is an extrinsic property. To know whether something was made in India, direct inspection is not necessary, and neither is it sufficient; to
Allen Carlson, Appreciation and the Natural Environment, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Spring 1979, 267-275, p.273.
28 29 27

Kendall Walton, Categories of Art, Philosophical Review 79, July 1970, 334-367. Eaton (2004), p. 73.

27 know whether something looks Indian, by contrast, direct inspection is necessary, and will also be sufficient for someone who understands what is meant by looks Indian.30 In most cases, my aesthetic properties simpliciter will correspond to Eatons intrinsic properties, while my artistic properties will correspond to her extrinsic properties. Where she gives an epistemic definition for intrinsic, I prefer to consider a property intrinsic insofar as its instantiation by an object depends on that object alone, independently of any other thing.31 This metaphysical definition is roughly equivalent to Davies use of internal to the object of appreciation as a descriptor for aesthetic properties simpliciter. As regards the epistemology of aesthetic experience, Eaton makes the helpful point that we can know the intrinsic even while being aware of the extrinsic, and that knowledge of the extrinsic often has at its focus some insight regarding the intrinsic. I take knowledge of the two to be somewhat cyclical, with some sort of feedback mechanism at work, where recognition of what is being represented helps us to notice intrinsic/aesthetic properties we might have missed before. I also appreciate Eatons definition of aesthetic properties because it retains the perceptual element emphasized by Kant as a core component, but also leaves room for cognitive and conceptual abilities. I see several difficulties with her definition, however. For one, Eaton has treated the property represents so-and-so as intrinsic, while I hold that representational properties are artistic properties.32 This is because I prefer to say that while natural objects may resemble other things, only artifacts can have representative properties because they centrally

For more on Eatons intrinsic and extrinsic, see her 1989 Aesthetics and the Good Life, Cranbury, New Jersey: Associated University Presses, pp. 138-147, and her 1994 The Intrinsic, Non-Supervenient Nature of Aesthetic Properties, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 52:4, 383-397, p. 391. See J. Michael Dunns 1990, Relevant Predication 2: Intrinsic Properties and Internal Relations, Philosophical Studies 60: 177-206, p. 178, and David Lewis & Rae Langtons 1998 Defining intrinsic. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 58. Reprinted in Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology. Cambridge University Press, New York. 1999: 116-132. Eaton (1989).



28 involve pictorial or figurative representation. Someone may, of course, look at a natural object and ascribe a representational property to it, for instance claiming that it resembles a whale. In this case, however, if the person is contemplating the cloud for its use as a representation, it has already progressed one step along the road to becoming an artifact.33 Another more serious concern I have with Eatons definition of aesthetic properties is its implications regarding their subjectivity. Her aesthetic properties are those intrinsic properties of objects that are culturally selected as worthy of perception or reflection, a criterion that seems to me to suggest that an object could gain or lose aesthetic properties simply by being viewed in different cultures. The dispositional account I offer will allow that observers from different cultures can (and often do) perceive and appreciate different, even conflicting aesthetic properties in the same object. I shall argue, however, that this is not a matter of gaining and losing properties so much as it is a matter of different sets of the objects abundance of properties being manifested under different conditions. One final benefit of my distinction between artistic properties and aesthetic properties simpliciter is its use in addressing a qualm of Cohens regarding Sibleys aesthetic and nonaesthetic. Cohen takes issue with Sibleys intuition that one can distinguish without too great a difficulty between terms that require taste and those that do not, and he offers a list of problemcases for anyone who is inclined to agree with Sibley. For reasons discussed earlier my account does not focus on terms, so I shall take his list to be examples of problematic properties instead. What is intriguing to note is that in many cases, the difficulty in sorting an item on the list into the aesthetic or non-aesthetic class is due to an artifactual aspect of the property, rendering it on my distinction an artistic property rather than an aesthetic property simpliciter. Because artistic


See Dipert for more on the role of contemplation for use in the creation of artifacts.

29 properties have artifactual histories, they can in many cases be identified without any personal aesthetic experience (or, for Sibley, taste). Take nationalistic, one of Cohens examples: I can listen to a piece of music and recognize its incorporation of a particular set of folk melodies in a manner which suggests patriotism or pride in ones nation, and do so without exercising taste in Sibleys sense. Yet the nationalistic properties are clearly relevant to the aesthetic experience such a piece has the power to cause, as they partially determine the character of such an experience. Most, if not all of Cohens problematic examples thus fall into what I have described as the larger class of aesthetically-relevant properties, yet can be recognized without taste, being condition-governed in virtue of their artifactual histories. This is in contrast to my aesthetic properties simpliciter, which correspond more directly to Sibleys central examples of aesthetic properties and are recognized primarily by their manifestation in aesthetic experience.34


Objectivity and Realism Our observations about aesthetic experience are at times conflicting, in that they

sometimes suggest it is quite subjective, and sometimes that it must be objective. First, consider the sort of observations that suggest our aesthetic experiences have an inescapable subjective element. Aesthetic properties, it seems, are the sorts of things that call for direct, personal involvement in order to be understood. To judge what aesthetic properties a thing has, it is not enough to just hear a description of a painting or musical work, or read about a dish on a restaurant menu; one has to see the painting, hear the actual music, and smell and taste the dish. Aesthetic claims are claims about personal experiences. In trying to describe such an experience to others we are at times met with uncomprehending stares, and find ourselves falling back on
Sibley follows a similar strategy when he considers natural or non-artefactual tastes and smells in addition to artefactual ones as objects of aesthetic interest; Tastes, Smells, and Aesthetics in Approach to Aesthetics, p. 208.

30 the line, I guess you just had to be there. We often find that two persons may watch the same film or read the same novel, and have wholly different aesthetic experiences to report. In some cases our disagreement is over the basic aesthetic character of the piece in questiona label depicting citrus fruits on a beverage bottle might seem playful to one person, but dull to another. In other cases the individuals might agree on the basic aesthetic character of the beverage label (that it is playful), but while one person judges this to be an aesthetic merit and points to the clever marketing ploy, the other finds it deceptive (say, because it contains no actual juice), and judges it to be therefore lacking in aesthetic merit. The subjective element here has to do with the different ways in which the observers apprehend and experience the aesthetic properties of the label, both substantive and verdictive. In yet another scenario, two people might agree on both the basic aesthetic character and the merit of the piece, and still disagree in their likes and dislikes, discovering that apparently theres no accounting for taste.35 Finally, there are cases in which our aesthetic experiences vary in an entirely different sort of way. In the previous examples we saw how there is a subjective element present when we apprehend aesthetic properties, which clearly seem to be in the object. A further complication suggesting that aesthetic experience is inescapably subjective comes from cases where the qualities apprehended in an experience seems instead to be projections of our own responses, rather than genuine properties of the objects at all. I recall a situation where a colleague and I were looking at a poster in a seminar room where a new floor had recently been installed. The poster was a somewhat garish collage of clip-art accompanied by various slogans, including slippers are encouraged, tennis shoes are welcome, and high heels are strictly forbidden. I interpreted the poster as a humorous (albeit tacky) plea not to scuff up the new

Hume famously sets up the problem of taste in his essay Of the Standard of Taste, asking how we are to identify a universal standard allowing us to confirm some sentiments while condemning others, given the evident disagreement over aesthetic matters we observe around us.

31 floor, but my colleague, focusing on the reference to high heels, interpreted it as being discriminatory towards women, and judged it both morally offensive and lacking in aesthetic merit. Here I was inclined to think that the discriminatory character was more a projection of my colleagues response than it was a genuine property perceived in the object. Taken to the extreme, these observations about the subjective elements of aesthetic experience seem to support an account on which aesthetic properties depend for their very existence on the perceiving subjects. Such an account would minimize the second significant set of observations I wish to address, those which suggest that aesthetic properties are objective features of things in the world, existing independently of our responses.36 We commonly believe, for example, that we are justified in not only ascribing aesthetic properties to objects in the external world, but also in expecting others to agree with us in such judgments at least some of the time. We act as if there is some understanding that ought to be reached, if only a person has properly experienced the aesthetic object in question. In the beverage bottle example, while we might disagree over whether a label is cheerful or dull, clever or deceptive, we are inclined to discuss it and seek some point of agreement rather than pass our differences off as inexplicable and inescapable. Another feature of our folk aesthetics favoring an objective account is that we expect aesthetic properties to be located in objects outside of ourselves, and largely stable. It seems odd to suppose that when my colleague and I left the room, the poster stopped being humorous and tacky, or that when I leave an art gallery, the paintings and sculptures lose their vividness, somberness, stark realism, or elegance. This intuition is addressed in the next section as the

Where I refer to observations about subjectivity and objectivity regarding aesthetic experience, Nick Zangwill mentions experientiality and normativity as the defining features of aesthetic judgments. See his 2003 piece Aesthetic Realism 1 in The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, ed. J. Levinson, Oxford University Press, 64-79.

32 criteria of Location and Stability, which are connected with Explanation and Dependence; not only do our repeatable experiences lead us to believe that aesthetic properties are stable and located in objects in the external world, but also that those objects play an important causal role in bringing about our aesthetic experiences and determining their character. The connections we discover between our aesthetic experiences and the physical properties of objects encountered in sense perception suggest to us that aesthetic properties depend to some degree on physical ones, and that aesthetic properties might be objective in the same way that physical properties are. With these observations in mind, let us say that an objective property is (roughly) one that is located in an object in the external world. This would be in contrast to a subjective property belonging to the observer (such as a ringing in ones ears). Objective properties might also be expected to belong to objects in and of themselves, and thus internal or intrinsic to the objects they belong to, as opposed to external or relational properties (such as being to ones left, or the last of its kind).37 Goran Hermeren, for instance, recognizes a sense of objective which involves existence in objects independently of perceiving subjects, one possessed by primary qualities, but he thinks aesthetic qualities are phenomenal properties and by definition subjective in the sense that they are dependent on the human perceptual apparatus and the conditions of perception.38 I find helpful John McDowells discussion of two related senses of objectivity and subjectivity, a conceivability sense and an existence sense.39 The first sense of subjective is apparent in secondary qualities, which are not adequately conceivable except in terms of certain

37 38 39

Relational properties could also be considered objective insofar as they do not depend on observers or their responses, but a relational property would not be a property of an object in and of itself. Goran Hermeren, The Nature of Aesthetic Qualities, Lund: Lund University Press, 1988, pp 79-80.

Labeling these senses of subjectivity as conceivability and existence is my doing, and not original to McDowells discussion.

33 subjective states, and [are] thus subjective themselves in a sense that that characterization defines. In the natural contrast, a primary quality would be objective in the sense that what it is for something to have it can be adequately understood otherwise than in terms of dispositions to give rise to subjective states.40 We can understand what it means for a stop sign to be octagonal, for instance, because this shape property can be understood without making reference to how it appears to us; the stop signs redness, on the other hand, cannot be understood without reference to the sort of perceptual experience it affords. McDowell applies this conceivability sense of subjective to secondary qualities like color.41 While Hermeren and McDowell would agree that secondary qualities cannot be adequately conceived without reference to the experiences of human perceivers, McDowell points out that this conceivability sense of subjectivity is not equivalent to another sense of subjectivity with which it is easily confused, an existence sense. In this second sense, to call a putative object of awareness objective is to say that it is there to be experienced, as opposed to being a mere figment of the subjective state that purports to be an experience of it. This involves a contrast between veridical and illusory experience, for whenever we project such mere figments of our subjective states onto the world, we are in error. McDowell concludes that it is only acceptable to say that secondary qualities are subjective in the first sense that is, that their concepts necessarily involve reference to subjective states and that it would be simply wrong to suppose that this gives any support to the idea that they are subjective in the second.42 I will address these issues at greater length in chapter 3.

John McDowell, Values and Secondary Qualities, in Morality and Objectivity, ed. Ted Honderich, Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985, 110-129, p. 113.
41 42


This sense of subjectivity amounts to what I call conceptual response-dependence (discussed in chapter 3). Ibid, pp. 113-114.

34 As if we did not already have enough possible senses of objectivity and subjectivity on the table, I should mention one more, and draw the appropriate connections between objectivity and realism, which will be discussed in the next section. We shall see in chapter 3 that responsedependent concepts, those that involve necessary reference to perceivers responses, are more or less subjective depending on the range of responses that are considered relevant. A rigid account that only takes the responses of normal humans in normal conditions to be relevant, for instance, will be more robustly realist than a non-rigid account that takes perceivers and conditions in possible worlds to be relevant. It is important that not just any response or experience be allowed, for epistemically, a statement might be considered objective if its truth-value can be determined inter-subjectively by generally-agreed upon methods. In the case of the beverage bottle, a judgment of its aesthetic character could be considered objective if we agree on a standard of taste, but such agreement need not say anything about whether the aesthetic character belongs to the object or is in the eye of the beholders. This understanding of objectivity would be logically compatible with a systematic projectivism and an error theory; my own view aims at a metaphysical objectivity where aesthetic properties are there to be experienced in objects in the external world.


The Spectrum of Aesthetic Property Views In what follows, I describe the spectrum of aesthetic property views, arranged according

to the degree of ontological realism assigned to aesthetic properties, from projectivism through reductive phenomenalism and realism. It will be helpful, I think, to keep in mind Derek Matravers list of five characteristics of aesthetic properties that we would want to be entailed by

35 an account of such a property. Of the five, I will argue for a qualified version of Revelation in 5.2, but make use of the others as they stand. i. Location: The property must belong to its object of attribution. That is, the property should be of the ballet dancer, not (for example) of the observers experience or visual field. ii. Stability: The property must be such that it can exist unobserved. iii. Explanation: The property must explain the experience we have of it. iv. Revelation: The intrinsic nature of the property must be revealed to us in immediate perception. v. Dependence: The property depends (in large part) for its nature and existence on nonaesthetic, perceptual, properties.43 To borrow from Matravers example, a lissome dancer will herself instantiate the property of lissomness, truly having a look of graceful flexibility, rather than it being merely the way she is perceived by an observer, and she will be lissome even if dancing alone, unobserved. When observed, however, (at least some part of) her lissome character is revealed directly through immediate perception, and it explains why the observers resulting experience has the character it does. Her instantiation of the aesthetic property of lissomness is in part a matter of her instantiation of lower-level sense-perceptible properties, such as athletic strength and certain proportions of limb. I should note that while I consider lissomness an example of what I have called a substantive (or descriptive) aesthetic property simpliciter (see 1.2 and 1.3), the historical figures mentioned in what follows were more concerned with verdictive properties such as beauty, making classification of their views somewhat tenuous. Projectivism about aesthetic properties is a form of non-realism. On a projectivist treatment, aesthetic properties are taken to be nothing more than properties of perceivers experiences or responses that they project onto external objects. George Santayana, for instance,


Matravers, Derek. Aesthetic Properties I, Aristotelian Society: Supplementary Volume. 79 (2005): 191-210, p. 202.

36 held that Beauty is an emotional element, a pleasure of ours, which nevertheless we regard as a quality of things.44 If one was a projectivist regarding substantive aesthetic properties as well as verdictive ones, one would say of the dancer that her lissomness was likewise merely a matter of the perceivers response, not an objective feature of the dancer herself. On one reading of Hutcheson and Humes aesthetic theories, their treatments of aesthetic properties amount ontologically to versions of projectivism. For Hume, taste is a productive faculty, and gilding or staining all natural objects with the colours, borrowed from internal sentiment, raises, in a manner, a new creation, namely beauty and deformity, virtue and vice.45 In this he follows Frances Hutchesons treatment of aesthetic qualities, though he makes beauty an impression rather than an idea: Hutcheson holds that virtue and beauty are not qualities of the people and things to which they are attributed. We may speak as if objects and people have moral and aesthetic properties, but the relevant property is merely an idea raised in us.46 This location of beauty in the eye of the beholder, rather than the object itself, is what leads me to classify their theories as projectivist. A more extreme version of projectivism for aesthetic properties (and I am not certain anyone holds it) might allow that perceivers experiences and responses are an indefeasible guide for aesthetic judgment, even in the face of conflicting expert judgments, a thesis known as Autonomy. Such a view would require a strong version of expressivism regarding aesthetic language, since it would [deny] the obvious: that aesthetic attributions operate in many contexts

44 45

1896, The Sense of Beauty: Being an Outline of Aesthetic Theory, New York: Scribner, p. 30.

An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, in Enquiries concerning Human Understanding and concerning the Principles of Morals, edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge, 3rd edition revised by P. H. Nidditch, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975, 294. Alternatively, Hume could be classified as a phenomenalist (see below) insofar as he draws attention to the properties of objects that prompt aesthetic appreciation. Gracyk, Ted, "Hume's Aesthetics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2008/entries/hume-aesthetics/>.

37 very much like standard propositions.47 For the expressivist, the normal linguistic referential and truthmaking relations with objects external to the observer are replaced by expressions of emotion, feeling, or sentiment.48 On such a view, the observers feeling that the dancer is lissome or beautiful is all that is needed to justify the corresponding aesthetic judgment, and the sentence the dancer is lissome would be an expression of the observers response, not a declarative statement. This sort of extreme projectivism does not even countenance intersubjective agreement as a standard for objectivity. Projectivism is also found in some readings of Locke on the secondary qualities (such as Mackies), where secondary qualities present themselves as being out there in the world in the same way that primary qualities are, but because there are no such objective qualities, experience is judged to be misleading or erroneous.49 This error theory is apparent in some places in the literature on color, where a contrast is drawn between the phenomenal colors present in our experiences of things and the light-reflectance dispositions actually possessed by them.50 Taking the dancers lissomeness to be ultimately a property of our experience, rather than of the dancer herself (as experience leads us to believe), would give us an analogous error theory for aesthetic properties. This turning to phenomenal properties (for either color or aesthetic properties) leaves us with the same result: we lose location, stability, and explanation for the properties in question. Insofar as a projectivist account locates aesthetic properties in the perceivers experience instead
Matravers, Derek. Aesthetic Properties I, Aristotelian Society: Supplementary Volume. 79 (2005): 191-210, p. 200. Emotivism is one classic version of expressivism, much discussed in moral theory. A. J. Ayer, for instance, argued that in the sentence You acted wrongly in stealing that money, the literal meaning of the sentence is nothing more than You stole that money, because the acted wrongly language is nothing more than an expression of a feeling of moral disapproval. Ayer, A.J., (1946) Language, Truth, and Logic (New York: Dover Publications, 2nd Edition), p. 107.
49 50 48 47

Benbaji, 32.

See, for instance, Christopher Peacocke, Colour Concepts and Colour Experiences, Synthese 58 (1984), 365382.

38 of the external world, it cannot have aesthetic properties existing unobserved, and neither can it have them serving the sort of explanatory role with regards to our experiences that a realist account does.51 If a projectivist account of aesthetic properties treats aesthetic predicates as non-cognitive (thus being a form of expressivism), the resulting error theory is what makes it a form of nonrealism. Not all projectivisms are expressivist and non-cognitivist, however. For instance, there is a projective element in Kants view of aesthetic propertiesWe speak of beauty as if it were a property of things52but as Zangwill observes, Kants view is not happily classed as noncognitive, since for Kant pleasure in the beautiful is, or is intimately bound up with, the free play of our cognitive faculties. While the cognitive faculties are not engaged in their regular business of acquiring knowledge or holding beliefs, entertaining a thought or using the imagination still is cognitive.53 Kants account is still a version of non-realism for aesthetic properties, however, as it gives us an error theorywe are mistaken in thinking beauty is a property there for the experiencing in the external world. Reductive phenomenalist views make up the second class of aesthetic property views to be considered here. According to the reductive phenomenalist, aesthetic properties are phenomenal (as the projectivist would say) and also systematically reducible to relations between non-aesthetic properties and perceivers properties. There is a sort of commonsense idea that

Hutcheson and Hume fought the loss of normativity this seems to entail, however, with Hutcheson pointing to uniformity amidst diversity in an object to account for the stable perception of beauty, and Hume pointing to certain qualities in objects, such as formal design, which could support a convergence of refined taste.
52 53


Kant, Critique of Judgement, trans. James Meredith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1928, p. 52.

Nick Zangwill, The Metaphysics of Beauty, Ithaca: Cornell, 2001, p. 204. Zangwill also mentions Roger Scrutons Art and Imagination (London: Methuen, 1982) for its similarity to Kants view in this regard. Perhaps Zangwill is contrasting cognitivist here with Hume and Hutchisons sentimentalist emphasis on taste rather than reasoned analysis, but Hume treats beauty as a cognitive pleasure, so Zangwills classification may be causing more confusion than it resolves.

39 individual instances of aesthetic properties are in some respects reducible to non-aesthetic properties, as when we allow that a lissome dancer is lissome in virtue of her motions and positions, but reductive phenomenalism goes a step further than this token-identity reduction. It claims that not only are particular tokens or instances of an aesthetic property reducible to nonaesthetic ones, but that aesthetic property types can be reduced to the non-aesthetic and thus eliminated from ones ontology. The only distinctly aesthetic thing remaining, then, is an experience of a certain kind. So reductive phenomenalism is anti-realist like projectivism in that it denies aesthetic properties a real place in its ontology, and because it implies that experience is misleading. It differs from projectivism, however, in that it emphasizes the non-aesthetic properties of objects in the external world, in addition to perceivers properties. Though he would perhaps not use the label himself, Derek Matravers offers what I consider to be a reductive phenomenalist view when he says that talk of aesthetic properties obscures rather than claries the issues. Aesthetic attributions are grounded in experiences of certain distinctive sorts that are caused by non-aesthetic properties, and which exhibit a wide measure of inter-subjective agreement... anti-realism is ontologically parsimonious... If there is some intuitive force to saying that grace is a property, there seems little to making the same claim for gemlike re or marmoreal hardness.54 Matravers would thus have it that claims such as the dancer is lissome are apt because there is a distinctive sort of generally agreed upon experience of non-aesthetic properties that grounds such claims, not because the dancer has any aesthetic property over and above the non-aesthetic ones. Her apparent lissomeness is a phenomenon reducible to her non-aesthetic properties and the perceivers response, and due to intersubjective agreement the property lissomeness itself is reducible to the non-aesthetic, doing away with talk of aesthetic properties altogether.

Matravers, Derek. Aesthetic Properties I, Aristotelian Society: Supplementary Volume. 79 (2005): 191-210, pp. 208-209.

40 Due to his emphasis on supervenience on non-aesthetic properties, I would also classify the response-dependence view that Nick Zangwill flirts with as a version of reductive phenomenalism, though he himself might prefer to call it projectivism: The realist, he tells us, can say that the beauty of music is where the sounds are, or perhaps that its beauty is realized in or constituted by sounds. A nonrealist, by contrast, says that, really, there is only soundthe rest is something projected onto it by us.55 Though I shall discuss Zangwills views at length in chapter 3, I wish to note here that his account of sense-perceptible properties presents them as dependent upon responses and minds (apparently for their very existence), and that aesthetic properties likewise depend upon minds if they exist at all, since they supervene on senseperceptible properties.56 He considers this view a sort of quasi-realism, insofar as his aesthetic properties depend on mental states real states, if not real features of the external world. For Zangwill, insofar as the dancers lissomeness can be said to exist at all, it seems to depend for its existence on an observers response, and so it is not a feature of the dancer but rather of the relation between the dancers non-aesthetic properties and the observers mind. Insofar as accounts like Matravers and Zangwills emphasize dependence on mental states, they sacrifice the location consideration: beauty, as Zangwill puts it, winds up in the eye of the beholder. Stability is likewise at risk, for if an aesthetic property depends for its existence on both senseperceptible properties and perceivers responses, it is not clear how it can exist unobserved. On such views, aesthetic properties are both reducible and eliminable, with the explanatory work they appear to do being performed by non-aesthetic properties and perceivers states. Realism, the final category of aesthetic property views, occupies the opposite end of the objectivity/subjectivity spectrum from projectivism, and includes those views which grant
55 56

Nick Zangwill, The Metaphysics of Beauty, Ithaca: Cornell, 2001, p. 186 This argument will be addressed at length in chapter 3.

41 aesthetic properties the ontological status of genuine, irreducible, sui generis properties. One kind of realist view would be a naive physicalist aesthetic realism, where aesthetic properties are irreducibly constituted by, realized by, or identical to physical properties. One of the biggest draws of such a view is that our folk metaphysics includes concepts of aesthetic properties on which they are causally and spatiotemporally endowed, The physical structure of seeds is causally efficacious in bringing about the beauty of the flowers that grow from them. Treading on flowers, on the other hand, destroys their beauty. The beauty and elegance of a work of art is brought about by the artist who creates it. The beauty of flowers and works of art cause people to dwell when gazing at them... instantiations of aesthetic properties seem to be effects and they seem to cause aesthetic reactions in human beings, a considerable causal role.57 Physicalist aesthetic realism requires strong supervenience of aesthetic properties on physical properties; on this view the dancers lissomeness would be constituted by, realized by, or identical to her physical properties. It is a naive view insofar as it does not account for two things. The first is the way in which aesthetic properties as they are experienced are at the center of their identity, suggesting a functional concept as I argued in 1.1. The second is the difficulty of giving any necessary or sufficient conditions for aesthetic properties in terms of the nonaesthetic properties that would constitute, realize, or be identical to them, noted by Sibley and discussed in 1.2. This kind of view is generally problematic because it does not account for the subjective elements of aesthetic experience addressed in 1.4. Another variation on aesthetic property realism, patterned after a theory of color held by Colin McGinn, John Campbell, and others, would make aesthetic properties primitive or basic. McGinn allows that colors supervene on dispositions to appear, but holds that it is the color that appears: the dispositions control the colours, via supervenience, while not collapsing the colours


Ibid, p. 180.

42 into the dispositions.58 The analogous view for aesthetic properties would have it that they are supervenient upon (presumably non-aesthetic) dispositions to appear, but not reducible to such dispositions (thus satisfying Dependence). The dancers lissomeness would thus be connected to dispositions to appear in certain ways to an observer, but would be primitive and unanalyzable. As an ontologically basic property of the dancer, lissomeness would satisfy Location and Stability constraints, and be well-suited for Explanation as well. Revelation would be somehow accounted for by the connection to dispositions to appear. Jerrold Levinson argues for a sui generis view of aesthetic properties motivated by Revelation, one on which they are higher-order ways of appearing that depend upon but cannot be reduced to lower-order (that is, non-aesthetic sense-perceptible) ways of appearing.59 This way of spelling out the connection between the aesthetic and non-aesthetic is in keeping with Sibleys work on the difficulty of determining conditions governing the two. Treating aesthetic properties as ways of appearing makes them akin to Mark Johnstons manifest properties, those properties that reveal their natures in and through their appearances.60 This view would have the dancers lissomeness to be a characteristic sort of look that is directly available to the observer, again dependent upon but not reducible to other characteristic (but non-aesthetic) looks or ways of appearing. Levinson, like McGinn, resists the analytic collapse into dispositions; his arguments that ways of appearing are not equivalent to dispositions to appear will be discussed in chapter 5.

Colin McGinn, Another Look at Colour, The Journal of Philosophy, 93:11, Nov 1996, 537-553, p. 547. See also Campbells A Simple View of Colour in John Haldane and Crispin Wright (eds.), Reality: Representation and Projection (Oxford: OUP 1993), 257-268. 59 Jerrold Levinson, Aesthetic Properties II, Aristotelian Society: Supplementary Volume. 79 (2005): 211-227.


Mark Johnston, Chapter 5, The Manifest, web document. Access date: 3/29/2011 http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/courses/consciousness97/papers/johnston/chap5.html

43 Matravers notes that in at least some cases primitivism has a hard time explaining how the same non-aesthetic properties affect different sensibilities differently, because which sui generis property the object possesses is determined by the nature of the experience had by the observer.61 Levinson worries, for instance, that some aesthetic properties may essentially involve reference to perceivers responses, with the result that they would be responsedependent; this would imply that at least some such aesthetic properties are not primitive, after all. Still, primitivism does a tolerable job of accounting for location, stability, explanation, revelation, and dependence for aesthetic properties.


Supervenience and Emergence The versions of aesthetic realism discussed in the previous section make use of

supervenience to explain the connections between aesthetic and non-aesthetic properties. What does it mean to say that aesthetic properties supervene on non-aesthetic properties? In the supervenience relation, the supervenient properties co-vary with the base properties; this means that there can be no difference in the supervenient aesthetic properties without a difference in their base non-aesthetic properties. Levinson formulates aesthetic supervenience accordingly: (AS): Two objects (e.g., artworks) that differ aesthetically necessarily differ nonaesthetically. [i.e., there could not be two objects that were aesthetically different yet non-aesthetically identical.] [i.e., fixing the non-aesthetic properties of an object fixes its aesthetic properties.]62 The greatest challenge in elucidating the relationship between aesthetic and non-aesthetic properties is in determining what sorts of non-aesthetic properties are to be included in the
61 62

Matravers, Derek. Aesthetic Properties I, Aristotelian Society: Supplementary Volume. 79 (2005): 191-210, pp. 206-207. Jerrold Levinson, Aesthetic Supervenience, Southern Journal of Philosophy, 22:Supplement (1984) 93-109, p. 93.

44 supervenience base. Structural properties are strong candidates; included in this category are properties such as the colored regions of a Mondrian, a dancers arabesques and pirouettes, the dynamic variation in the bass tubas part in Bydlo, and the head notes of a perfumeroughly any perceivable, intrinsic, but non-aesthetic feature of an object, as Levinson says. Changes in substructural propertiesany physical attribute that is not perceivable as such, that is, discernible from an alternative at the same level of specificitywould also account for changes in aesthetic properties. Examples of substructural properties might include specific angles in the dancers position, chemical components in the perfume, light-reflectance mechanisms in the painting, or relations between pitch and volume in the music, which are not discernible by the unaugmented human powers of perception, yet could affect the overall aesthetic character of the work. In most cases, however, it seems that changes to the aesthetic properties co-vary with perceivable changes in its non-aesthetic intrinsic properties, those properties that it possesses regardless of its relations to other objects. Separating non-aesthetic intrinsic properties into the structural and substructural is not, I think, generally necessary. Together, the structural and substructural properties make up the supervenience base for the aesthetic properties of non-art objects; fixing the structural and substructural properties of a nonart object would seem to be sufficient for fixing its aesthetic properties. In the case of artworks, however, a third dimension of non-aesthetic property changes arguably affects aesthetic character as well. These are changes in what Levinson terms contextual properties, where a contextual property is an appreciatively important relation of the object to the artistic context in which it is situated. Contextual properties would likely include such properties as authenticity (as opposed to status as a forgery), references or allusions to other works, representative functions, genres and styles, and authors intentions regarding

45 interpretation. Insofar as our experiences of artworks and the responses and judgments that result are cognitive and affected by our understanding of these sorts of contextual properties, they look to be candidates for inclusion in a supervenience base as well. I have some reservations about including contextual properties in the supervenience base for aesthetic properties, however, because I prefer to trace their influence on aesthetic experience as occurring through the appropriately disposed perceiver. I agree that contextual properties (what I have called artistic properties) are aesthetically relevant, but I do not think they fix what aesthetic properties a thing has so much as which ones are likely to be manifest to a given observer.63 A corollary of Levinsons aesthetic supervenience thesis is that two objects that differ aesthetically, but neither contextually nor (purely) substructurally, necessarily differ structurally. If an artist produces two treatments of the same subject, in the same genre and with the same influences at work, there are no physical differences at a level beyond ordinary observation, and the two works differ aesthetically, the difference will necessarily be a structural one. If one is sober and the other flamboyant, we should look to their particular lines, shapes, colors, etc. for an explanation of the aesthetic differences.64 Aesthetic supervenience tells us where and when to expect covariance, but not why. One reason to expect covariance would be if aesthetic properties were entirely reducible to nonaesthetic properties and thus eliminable, a scenario in keeping with the sort of reductive phenomenalism discussed in the previous section. Here and in the following section I shall argue instead that covariance is to be expected because it accompanies an emergent relationship between aesthetic and non-aesthetic properties, and I shall maintain that the explanatory role of

See Waltons 1970 Categories of Art, Philosophical Review, vol. 79, and Nick Zangwills The Metaphysics of Beauty, Ithaca: Cornell, 2001, pp. 43-44.


Levinson (1984), pp. 93-94.

46 aesthetic properties merits their inclusion in ones ontology. The emergence account I favor is thus compatible with supervenience, but not eliminative reductivism. The motivations for an emergence account can be seen in the aesthetic literature in the debate surrounding the possibility of conditions governing the relations between aesthetic and non-aesthetic properties. Here, the issue is often presented as a question of whether there are any structural conditions governing the application of aesthetic predicates. Peter Kivy answers this question in the affirmative, defending a view whereon he takes non-aesthetic descriptions to be sometimes sufficient to logically guarantee the applicability of an aesthetic description.65 Levinson, championing Sibleys view that that there are no necessary and sufficient conditions governing the relations between aesthetic and non-aesthetic properties, maintains that while the non-aesthetic effects of a painting underlie its aesthetic effects, the aesthetic effects do not simply collapse into non-aesthetic ones. He acknowledges Kivys point that we can defend aesthetic ascriptions by pointing to the attribute-making features of the object in question, but not simple sense-perceptible ascriptions; Levinson thinks the differences may be explicable due to the complexity of the aesthetic compared to the sense-perceptible, however, and points out that features which tend to make for a particular aesthetic attribute do not actually guarantee it.66 He holds that if a property is regarded as emergent on a given underlying basis, it will be conceivable that it might have emerged from a different underlying basis, or that the underlying basis that in fact generates it might not have done so. In his example of a Mondrian having a cool blue square and airy background, the colored regions and arrangements of lines suffice for them to be cool and airy; the aesthetic properties of coolness and airiness, he would say, are

Kivy, Peter. What Makes Aesthetic Terms Aesthetic? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 36 (1975): 197-211. 66 Levinson (1984), pp. 96, 106-107.


47 essentially tied to their characteristic ways of appearing (or functions in aesthetic experience, as I would have it), but only contingently related to specifiable non-aesthetic conditions.67 This consideration of conditions leads Levinson to his position on supervenience, emergence and reducibility: Coextensiveness, even necessary coextensiveness, does not establish property identity. Furthermore, rather than being in conflict with supervenience and the coextensiveness consequence it carries, the idea of emergence seems to require a supporting and correlatable substructure out of which, and in relation to, emergent properties will do their emerging. Emergentism is not mysticism, after all.68 According to an emergence view, aesthetic properties co-vary with non-aesthetic properties because the former are grounded in the latter. We could even go so far as to say that there is a token identity reduction, such that particular instantiations of aesthetic properties are determined by the non-aesthetic properties from which they emerge; the important factor for maintaining aesthetic property realism, however, is that we do not allow for a type identity reduction. I will return to token and type identity reduction and elminativism in the following section.


Defending Aesthetic Property Realism A realism about aesthetic properties is certainly desirable if such a view can be justified.

It would locate aesthetic properties in objects in the external world, justifying our use of aesthetic predicates in propositional utterances. It would explain their apparent stability, supporting our intuition that unseen paintings, unread books, and unperformed musical works are not without aesthetic character. Aesthetic property realism would justify our appeals to aesthetic properties of objects in explanations of our aesthetic experiences. Finally, it would explain the normativity

Ibid, pp. 101-103. Ibid. Levinson allows that there may be a continuum of aesthetic properties (at one end of which the properties are more wholly emergent), or that he should insist on only substantial (rather than complete) conceptual distinctness from the structural base.


48 that attaches to our aesthetic discourse, wherein we judge some aesthetic ascriptions to be more correct or apt than others. How, then, can we argue for aesthetic property realism in the face of projectivism and reductive phenomenalism, which hold that aesthetic properties are dependent for their existence upon perceivers responses? Furthermore, if aesthetic properties are reducible to non-aesthetic properties such that there is no point in talking of aesthetic properties at all, as Matravers has suggested, then reductivism appears to entail eliminativism. So the proponent of aesthetic property realism must defend his or her view on two fronts, demonstrating both that aesthetic properties are ontologically independent from perceivers responses and that they cannot be eliminated by reduction to non-aesthetic properties. In chapter 3 I shall consider Zangwills treatment of projectivism and discuss response-dependence at length, arguing that we can accept conceptual response-dependence (that is, that aesthetic concepts must be defined and understood by reference to perceivers responses) without being forced to accept that aesthetic properties depend ontologically (for their very existence) on the actual responses of perceivers. My focus in the present section is thus on the question of whether aesthetic properties can be effectively reduced to non-aesthetic properties. I do not, of course, wish to argue that aesthetic properties have no connection to non-aesthetic properties; I accept Dependence, as explained at the beginning of this chapter. What is needed, I think, is an emergence account such as was introduced in 1.6, wherein aesthetic properties supervene on non-aesthetic senseperceptible ones but are not reducible in a way that makes them eliminable. We want to say that changes in aesthetic properties track changes in non-aesthetic properties, but that aesthetic properties cannot be collapsed into non-aesthetic ones. The lissome dancer will not become stiff or ungainly without undergoing changes in her form, stance or movement, but lissomeness is

49 more than simple rule-following where form, stance, and movement are concerned, even if it is determined by such non-aesthetic properties in its particular instantiations. Jerrold Levinson argues for the irreducibility of aesthetic properties to non-aesthetic ones by appealing to the unified looks and feels he thinks we attend to in aesthetic experience and ascribe to aesthetic objects. These unified ways of appearing, he holds, are very different from the combinations of non-aesthetic properties that the reductivist directs our attention to: when we ascribe an aesthetic property it seems that what we are ascribing, at base, is an emergent way of appearing, and not a range of ensembles of disparate traits that, it so happens, are able to sustain such a way of appearing.69 In the example of the dancer, the lissomeness we attend to and appreciate would be this unified sort of look, and not merely a set of forms, stances, and movements that support the appearance of lissomeness. This point is in keeping with Sibleys case for the lack of rules governing the aesthetic and non-aesthetic, and is evidenced here by the difficulty of the beginning dancers imitation of the teacher, where methodically following the demonstrated steps lays a foundation for the desired aesthetic quality but does not guarantee it. Second, Levinson highlights the normative aspect of aesthetic discourse. For the realist, aesthetic attributions admit of being correct or incorrect because objects really do have or fail to have aesthetic properties; but equally, the socio-linguistic fact of there being correct and incorrect aesthetic attributions gives us grounds to posit corresponding properties in explanation of that fact. Because what we ascribe (a lissome look, for example) is more like an emergent way of appearing than some gerrymandered disjunction of non-aesthetic properties (various forms, stances, and movements), the most natural candidates for truthmakers (or determiners of correctness/aptness) for our ascriptions will be aesthetic properties that correspond to those
Levinson, Jerrold. "Aesthetic Properties, Evaluative Force, and Differences of Sensibility." Aesthetic Concepts: Essays after Sibley. Eds. Jerrold Levinson and Emily Brady. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. 61-80. p. 69.

50 descriptive aesthetic predicates. So the second piece of his argument (as I have reconstructed it here) is that aesthetic properties just are the best such explanation available of the normativity apparent in aesthetic discourse. The reductivist alternative is problematic because no one has ever succeeded in elucidating how such indenitely varying and cognitively unruly ensembles can serve to underwrite the normativity of aesthetic judgments.70 To draw out the further implications of Levinsons argument here, it is not just that aesthetic properties are better truthmakers/determiners of aptness for aesthetic claims than disjunctions of non-aesthetic properties; more fundamentally, they are better at explaining our aesthetic experiences because they capture the more complex, higher-level, holistic functions of artworks and other aesthetic objects. With emergence, aesthetic properties are subject to variable realization; this is to say that the base-level properties determine the upper-level properties, but different instantiations of the same aesthetic property can be determined by quite different non-aesthetic structures. Aesthetic supervenience leaves room for variable realization insofar as it tells us that changes in aesthetic properties will be linked to changes in non-aesthetic properties, but not that variation in the base properties entails variation in the supervenient properties. On this point, Zangwill acknowledges that since not all of an objects non-aesthetic properties are relevant in determining its aesthetic properties, the challenge is to say how much variation there can be in a supervenience base before we see a change in the supervenient properties.71 Zangwills solution to the puzzle regarding the variability in the differences possible in base properties before we see differences in supervenient properties involves a strategy similar to

Jerrold Levinson, Aesthetic Properties, Aristotelian Society: Supplementary Volume. 79 (2005): 211-227, p. 215.


The Metaphysics of Beauty, Ithaca: Cornell, 2001, p. 46.

51 Monroe Beardsleys;72 Zangwill distinguishes between the specific aesthetic properties an object has and its total aesthetic character. Specific aesthetic properties can be instantiated with remarkably different non-aesthetic bases (for instance in a painting or a musical work, which have very different non-aesthetic properties). But where the total aesthetic character of an artwork or other object is concerned, even small changes in the non-aesthetic properties that make up the supervenience base are likely to change the total aesthetic character of a thing. Chuck Closes photo-realist paintings, which are only realist in terms of their total aesthetic character, illustrate this point well. Closes painting Lucas, a portrait of fellow artist Lucas Samaras, is roughly eight by seven feet in dimension, and entirely composed of elliptical daubs of color, which when viewed from a distance coalesce into the image of a face standing out against a dark background. The piece has a disconcertingly dynamic quality, yet is composed of hundreds of simple daubs of paint of roughly the same size, any of which considered apart from the piece fails to be particularly dynamic. There is a sort of sorites paradox here: a heap constituted by only a few paint daubs will not have the artistic property of realism or the aesthetic property of dynamism, yet the whole of a Close piece is both realistic and dynamic. The paradox works in the other direction, as well: if the painting is altered by darkening a few of the paint daubs at the edge of the face, the dynamism would not likely be altered, but darken enough of them and the face is lost in the background. Zangwill allows there will be degrees of


Monroe Beardsley, Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism, Indianapolis: Hackett, 1981, p. 86. He distinguished between local qualities (homogenous perceptible properties like patches of color) that belong to the parts of a whole, and the regional qualities that belong to the whole region but not to its parts. In some cases, the various low-level features of a thing come together to produce a whole with a quality that differs only from those of its parts as a matter of degree, but in other cases, objects considered as wholes have qualities that are not possessed by their parts.

52 sensitivity to change in the subvenience base in between the extreme cases of specific aesthetic properties and total aesthetic character, but this, he thinks, is exactly what we should expect.73 On a functional characterization of the aesthetic (such as I promoted in 1.1), aesthetic properties are unified by the character they impart to aesthetic experience, not by their connections to specific sorts of non-aesthetic properties. Since on my view ox-carts, paintings, and musical works can all instantiate the aesthetic property of ponderousness, I have no problem allowing that certain minor (and even major) changes can occur in base properties without entailing changes in the supervenient properties. This variable realization is, in my opinion, one of the positive outcomes of emergence, as it allows for token-identity reduction between the aesthetic and non-aesthetic, but not type-identity reduction.


Emergence and Gestalt Properties Emergence bears more than a passing resemblance to gestalt theory, which I shall address

before concluding my general treatment of aesthetic properties in this chapter. Because of the parallels between the higher and lower-level classes of properties, emergentism and theories of regional/gestalt qualities appear to have much in common. Just as aesthetic properties, considered as emergent qualities, are dependent upon but not entirely reducible to non-aesthetic properties, gestalt and regional qualities of the whole of a thing are understood to be dependent upon but not reducible to the qualities of its parts. Rudolf Arnheim suggests, for instance, that gestalt theory is at some level a reaction to and rejection of the atomistic approach to explaining qualities of wholes as merely the sums of local effects, qualities, and isolated elements.74

73 74

Ibid, pp. 47-49. Gestalt and Art

53 K. Mitchells has criticized Frank Sibley for taking non-aesthetic qualities to belong to parts of artworks that make up wholes having aesthetic properties. He proposes instead that a whole object can be perceived in either a non-aesthetic mode (focusing on analyzing qualities abstracted from perceptual context for information) or an aesthetic mode (focusing on an appreciating what we perceive for its own sake, and being receptive to its character qualities). Non-aesthetic qualities are thus potentially aesthetic, and the aesthetic mode of perception reveals the aesthetic aspect of the object; Mitchells considers both non-aesthetic and aesthetic perception to involve gestalt perception. Furthermore, parts often have gestalt qualities, and parts and wholes exist in complex hierarchies; a simple property like a patch of red can be seen either neutrally as an area of a certain hue, or aesthetically as having a certain character (warm and expansive, for instance), and the same difference in approach will lead to differences in perceptions for more complex qualities. In any case, Mitchells argues, recognition of the nonaesthetic features is not required before the gestalt aesthetic qualities of an object can be perceived; rather, the gestalt qualities are irreducible, and the parts that manifest themselves to perception are determined by the shape of the whole as much as the whole is determined by its parts.75 If Mitchells is right about the complex nature of perception, what are the implications for a realist theory of aesthetic properties? Can gestalt properties be real, objective properties of objects, or must we take them to be the subjective projections of the perceiver?76 Rudolf Arnheim makes the case that the organizational processes involved in perception do justice to
Aesthetic Perception and Aesthetic Qualities, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, Vol. 67, (1966 - 1967), pp. 53-72. 76 Harold Osborne argues that the emergent qualities in pointillism are not exemplary of the significant part-whole relationships in aesthetic structures because it is what he calls a side effect of viewpoint: such qualities can be altered if we stand closer to the piece. He questions whether gestalt unity can be equivalent to the aesthetic unity noticed by aesthetic formalism. See Artistic Unity and Gestalt, The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 56 (Jul., 1964), pp. 214-228, p. 216.

54 organization already present in nature. It is not the case that perception finds balance, symmetry, unity, harmony, tension, and so on where it does not exist; rather, there is an isomorphism, an identity of form, between psychological and physical processes.77 This fit is necessary for aesthetic experience to occur, and for aesthetic properties to explain the specific character of our aesthetic experiences. Regardless, Levinson argues that we have good reasons not to identify emergent and regional/gestalt properties: The divergence comes about, basically, because regionality or Gestalthood is a feature of perceptual qualities vis--vis their more elementary perceptual conditions, whereas emergence, so far characterized, is a feature of qualities vis--vis their supervenience bases, which may not be perceptual ones. An additional reason for not insisting that emergent qualities be regional... is that there may be graspable aesthetic qualities that are not regional, but which we would presumably want to recognize as emergent on their phenomenal bearers.78 Such non-regional, emergent qualities might be qualities of simple colors and sounds, he suggests, for instance a uniform patch of a saturated red may have a certain vibrancy, one of blue a certain coolness, while a violins high E may be steely and a bassoons low E flat woolly. Furthermore, where summative regional qualities are concerned, the regional quality is not different in nature from the lower-level qualities it depends upon, and is conceptually reducible to them, unlike an emergent quality: For example, if we take two three-inch squares and conjoin them, the resulting object has an area of eighteen square inches, which neither of the two contributions possesses, though their respective areas, as related, are responsible for the area of the rectangles so formed. Such summative regional attributes as being eighteen square inches in area are

77 78

Gestalt and Art, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 2, No. 8 (Autumn, 1943), pp. 71-75. Jerrold Levinson, Aesthetic Supervenience, Southern Journal of Philosophy 22:Supplement, 1984, 93-109, p. 102.

55 not happily construed as emergent on less extensive area-attributes though they are clearly supervenient on them (together, perhaps, with positional attributes).79 Emergent and gestalt/regional qualities have some features in common, but the resemblances only go so far, and it would be a mistake to identify the two kinds of properties. To summarize: I hold a robustly realist view of aesthetic properties whereon they are stable features of objects in the external world, emergent from lower-level non-aesthetic properties but not eliminable. I will allow that our concepts of aesthetic properties necessarily refer to the responses of perceiving subjects and are thus subjective in this limited sense, but I maintain that they are objective in that they are genuine features of the external world, not of perceivers mental states or subjective experiences. Aesthetic properties are thus ideal candidates for explaining the existence and nature of our aesthetic experiences, justifying aesthetic ascriptions, and underwriting normativity for aesthetic judgment. In the following chapter I shall lay out the theory of powers and dispositions from which I shall critique Zangwills response-dependence account of sense-perceptible and aesthetic properties in chapter 3, and I shall develop my own dispositional account in chapters 4 and 5.


Jerrold Levinson, Aesthetic Supervenience, Southern Journal of Philosophy 22:Supplement, 1984, 93-109, pp. 102-103.


Chapter 2: A Theory of Powers and Dispositions

The account of aesthetic properties that I am developing is a realism that maintains that they belong to objects in the external world, and that we are (at least sometimes) correct in making aesthetic claims to that effect. Their essence, I have suggested, is a functional one, and it is for this reason that I turn to powers and dispositions as a suitable model for aesthetic properties. In this chapter I will lay out the general framework for an account of properties as powers, demonstrating the aptness of dispositional language for both everyday experience and more technical discourse. I will offer a series of examples of powers at work, highlighting their functional nature, and develop a model that clearly distinguishes between dispositions or powers, their manifestations, and the conditions under which they manifest themselves. I will touch briefly on the conditional analysis that has been offered for dispositions and powers, rejecting it in favor of an account of intentionality and (more particularly) directedness as the mark of the dispositional. Finally, I will indicate how such directedness towards a manifestation type gives the essence of a power, and explain how reciprocal dispositions manifest jointly by meeting each others conditions for manifestation.


Recognizing Dispositional Language Dispositional language is commonly used to express tendencies and inclinations of

people and objects to behave (or refuse to behave) in various ways. Consider the following three common forms of dispositional language, introduced from the most to least obviously dispositional idioms. First, the most obvious examples of dispositional language are those constructions that wear their hearts on their sleeves, as it were, making prominent use of the terms disposition or disposed. Examples include saying that a person has a cheerful

57 disposition, or that water is disposed to freeze at zero degrees Celsius. This sort of dispositional language is easy to use as well as to recognize, as it requires no explicit reference to the conditions accompanying the expected behavior and thus lends itself to the vague generalizations suitable for everyday purposes. The second common form of dispositional language is a class of adjectives created by adding the Latin suffixes -ile and -ble (indicating an ability or suitability) to various verb stems. Examples of this include soluble, excitable, volatile, and agile. We apply these terms to persons and objects that behave in predictable ways under certain conditions: soluble objects dissolve if placed in water, fragile objects break when dropped or knocked, and so forth. While there isnt always an existing term of this sort that is suited for our purposes, we frequently take advantage of the construction to invent one that does the job: an ad for furniture slipcovers, for instance, claims that they are removable, washable, and change-your-mindable.1 Finally, the third common idiom I will mention, the least obviously dispositional, uses subjunctive conditionals to connect conditions and behaviors in an expanded construction, as in the sentence if placed in water, the substance will dissolve.2 This type of dispositional language is particularly easy to use, as conditionals can be formed from any two declarative statements describing conditions and behaviors.3 All three forms of dispositional language mentioned here are subject to a greater or lesser degree of specificity. The conditions under which a behavior occurs can be described in a fairly general waysugar dissolves if placed in wateror more specifically, if placed in water at a temperature of one hundred degrees Celsius. (Similarly, we might describe sugar as water1

This construction is more common than one might expect; examples of words that dont lend themselves familiarly to it are hard to come by. 2 See Molnar (2003) pp. 27-28 and his reference to Quine (1973). 3 More will be said about the prospects for conditionals as a tool for analyzing dispositions in section 3.3.

58 soluble or boiling-water-soluble, or say that it is disposed to dissolve in water or in boiling water.) As we can describe how objects and persons are inclined to behave under general or specific conditions, we can also describe the behaviors themselves generally or specifically: consider if Rob is harassed constantly, he will lose his temper vs. if Rob is harassed constantly, he will lose his temper and hit someone.4 To understand an object or substance in terms of its behavioral tendencies, then, is a common, familiar practice, as well as a heuristically valuable one: witness the successes of standard scientific methodology with its emphasis on experimentation via controlled conditions. Dispositional language is quite common in our discourse, both everyday and technical. We use it to describe things in terms of the (more or less specific) behaviors they demonstrate under (more or less specific) conditions. Dispositional language is easy enough to identify, and easier still to generate; for any tendency of an object we can specify its behavior to increasing depth, and similarly the conditions under which that behavior occurs.


Two Caveats Regarding Isomorphism A word of caution is in order here, however: the wealth of predicates that an object

satisfies often belies a much smaller class of properties actually belonging to the object.5 My neighbor satisfies the predicates owns a German Mastiff, owns a boarhound, and owns a Great Dane, but has only one dog. As is demonstrated by this example, there is no guarantee that for every applicable predicate there exists a distinct property, or vice versa. In fact, there are

Note that statements making use of very general descriptions are less likely to be true than those using very specific descriptions, unless we assume an implied ceterus parabus (all other things being equal) clause. 5 This tends to be the case with dispositional predicates, I think, though the opposite situation (more properties than we have predicates naming) certainly happens as well, as Molnar points out.

59 several reasons why we should not expect to see an isomorphism of predicates and properties, reasons that George Molnar has summed up quite nicely: First, although it does not flatter human vanity to admit it, there are omnitemporally unknown properties to which no predicates correspond. Second, there are predicates, such as is a game, that apply to many objects by virtue of a family resemblance among the objects and not by virtue of each of them having one member of a set of exactly resembling tropes. Third, the converse of Wittgensteins famous point also holds and counts against isomorphism. There are co-denoting non-synonymous predicates, such as has the shape of a ball-bearing and is spherical, both of which can apply to the same object by virtue of a single trope of that object. Fourth predicates can be generated out of other predicates and out of sentences, in accordance with accepted formation rules, up to many orders of infinity Last, there are the paradoxical predicates. Is a property to which no predicate corresponds corresponds to a property only if it does not. So it does not correspond to any property.6 Instead of looking for an isomorphism between predicates and properties, Molnar advocates the adoption of what Brian Ellis and Caroline Lierse call the Principle of Non-Proliferation: satisfaction of a predicate is not a sufficient condition for the existence of a real property distinguished by that predicate.7 Following such a principle can help prevent unnecessary inflation of ones ontology. While it is easy enough to generate dispositional language for each behavioral tendency we observe in an object or substance, it is more difficult to ascertain how many distinct properties of the object actually account for those behavioral tendencies. Take, for instance, a sandbar shark that follows prey in murky waters, but avoids bait intended for tuna and swordfish. A single feature of the shark explains these two behaviors: its ampullae of Lorenzini, jelly-filled nodules on its nose that conduct electricity. It uses them to detect the heartbeat of its prey, but

Molnar (2003) pp. 25-26. Molnar offers an additional argument, making use of the real number system and our lack of an uncountable infinity of expressions needed to describe the points of a real line segment. 7 See Molnar (2003) p. 26 and Ellis and Learse (1994) p. 9.

60 avoids bait that has been specially equipped with an alloy that reacts with salt water to blast any nearby sharks with an uncomfortable level of electrical current.8 There are many such cases where several of a things behavioral tendencies, which I shall henceforth refer to as its dispositions, are accounted for by fewer distinct, genuine properties. By distinct here I mean numerically distinct, as picked out by whatever individuation conditions govern the property kind; by genuine I wish to indicate roughly the properties that, at the end of the day, will turn out to be ontologically basic and not reducible to other properties. These distinct, genuine properties, in virtue of which an object has its dispositions, I call powers: lodestones, for example, have both the disposition to attract iron and the disposition to attract nickel in virtue of their magnetism, the power to create a magnetic field. We might say that the power magnetism grounds or supports the two dispositions. As explained in the previous section, we are not guaranteed any one-to-one correlation between predicates and properties, and by the same token we should also not expect such an isomorphism where dispositions and powers are concerned. What we see instead is situations that take the form of what Neil Williams calls a hub-and-spoke model: a genuine power serves as a hub from which radiate the various dispositions (abilities, he calls them) that the power grounds or supports.9 I thus use the term disposition much more freely, and feel that its use is justified whenever we think or speak of an objects behaviors, however general or specific, and whether verified by empirical research or not. The correct application of the term power, however, requires that an object or substance have some distinct, genuine property that is the cause of such behaviors.

See Eric Blands Shark Repellent Disk Emits Electric Volts, Discovery News, <http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/08/06/shark-repellent.html>, accessed September 24, 2009. 9 See his 2010 Puzzling Powers: The Problem of Fit, in The Metaphysics of Powers: Their Grounding and Their Manifestations, ed. Anna Marmodoro, Routledge.

61 I should note here that I recognize that many of the functions and dispositions I discuss may be reducible to some lower level (even microphysical) functions or powers. Insofar as I want to maintain that these higher-level functions and dispositions are real, my understanding of what it means for a property to be real centers on causal significance; in the case of aesthetic dispositions and powers I allow for token-identity reduction, but not type-identity reduction, as explained in chapter 1. Aesthetic dispositions, like the higher-level properties postulated in other disciplines, fill explanatory roles more effectively than the lower-level properties that determine them, and I believe that this justifies their place in my ontology.10


Recognizing Causal Powers at Work So far I have given a sort of field guide to dispositional language, and added the caveats

that 1) we should not assume (or even expect) a one-to-one correlation between predicates and properties, and 2) we likewise should not assume such an isomorphism for an objects dispositions (explained as behavioral tendencies) and powers (the distinct, genuine properties in virtue of which objects have their dispositions). The question remains as to how we can recognize an objects powers. I shall make a first pass at answering this question by way of presenting several more or less uncontroversial examples of powers and drawing attention to two important characteristics of powers, their functionality and directedness, features that I will examine in more detail in sections 2.6 and 2.7 of this chapter. For my first paradigm of causal powers at work I turn to the physical sciences. If a mechanical engineer wishes to determine how a metal product will respond to a certain kind of physical stress, he can apply what is known as a bend test, bending a material around its axis or
Putnam makes a similar argument for the importance of shape properties as opposed to the microphysical ones that determine them in his 1975 piece Philosophy and Our Mental Life, in Mind, Language, and Reality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

62 an outside radius. Such a test can tell him how ductile the metal is whether it can easily be fashioned into a new form or not. In some applications, ductility is highly desirable (aluminum foil, for instance) while in others (like the girders used in construction projects) it is not. Whether desirable or not, the ductility of the metal is inescapably understood in terms of how it behaves and what sorts of state of affairs it is capable of causing. How a thing behaves, its function, and its tendencies to bring about certain kinds of events, its directedness at such bending events, are central to the notion of a things ductility and mark the presence of a genuine power. Function and directedness are, I suggest, likewise central in each of the range of properties indicated by the following list of terms: abrasive, adhesive, brittle, compressible, conductive, corrosive, elastic, incandescent, inert, magnetic, malleable, permeable, reflective, resonant, rigid, stable, soluble, solvent, translucent, unstable, and viscous. A second paradigmatic example of powers at work in the physical sciences is available at the microphysical level. The Large Hadron Collider in Geneva explores subatomic physics by colliding accelerated proton particles; among other projects, researchers are hoping to use data from the collision of accelerated protons to try to establish the existence of the Higgs boson, thought to be responsible for the mass of particles. The mass of a particle is the property that determines how strongly it creates and reacts to gravitational fieldsa property described entirely in terms of behavioral functions and the states of affairs the particle is capable of causing. Particle mass, along with charge and spin, demonstrates that we find powers at work at our most fine-grained level of scientific research and explanation, and not just in the realm of the familiar, common properties of ordinary objects. Physicists seem to find themselves inevitably speaking in the language of dispositions and powers; while this does not guarantee that dispositional essentialism (according to which there are at least some dispositions with no further

63 grounding in categorical/structural properties) is the only way of accounting for the causal potency in the physical world, it is arguably the simplest way of doing so. 11 A third example of a causal power at work comes from the field of psychology. An individual who is agoraphobic exhibits persistent and irrational fear of being in public or open spaces (including ones that present no realistic danger), connected with the difficulty or embarrassment of a hasty exit to find help should a panic attack occur. He or she behaves in such a way as to avoid situations like elevators, bridges, shopping malls, or airplanes, and may only feel truly safe at home. An individuals pathological fear of public or open spaces may cause him or her to exhibit physical symptoms similar to a panic attack, such as lightheadedness, nausea, chest pain, or difficulty swallowing. Agoraphobia also manifests itself behaviorally in a reluctance or refusal to enter such spaces, sometimes to the point of refusing to leave ones home. Agoraphobia is characterized functionally, in terms of persistent behaviors under certain conditions, and is essentially understood in terms of the states of affairs towards which the pathology is directed. Psychological disorders that are analyzed similarly include other phobias, panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, hypochondria, anorexia, and bulimia. For my final example of a power at work, consider the theory of color found in John Lockes Essay Concerning Human Understanding. A violet growing in a forest can be experienced visually, making us think it is blue. Locke considered color a secondary quality, an ability to cause the idea of blue in our minds.12 A contemporary version of Lockes theory of color would take the flowers blueness to be a disposition to cause in us a certain kind of visual
George Molnar has argued that microphysics demonstrates that causal powers are ineliminable in his Powers, Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 133. This does not guarantee that there are powers and only powers all the way down, however, as the very methods of physics predispose its researchers to characterize their findings in terms of behaviors and effects on instruments of measurement. See Frank Jacksons From Metaphysics to Ethics, Oxford: Clarendon, 1998, p. 23, and Neil Williams 2011 Dispositions and the Argument From Science, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 89:1, 71-90. 12 II, viii, 13 and 15, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1689/1975.

64 experienceor, we might say, a directedness at that sort of visual experience. It might further note that this ability is due to the way it reflects light in normal conditions such as bright sunlight, a functional account that gives us the conditions under which it behaves in the relevant way.13 As in previous examples, the evidence for a power at work here is found in the functional understanding of the property in question, the flowers blueness, along with the emphasis on the state of affairs it is directed towards, a certain kind of visual experience. This analysis is, of course, applicable to other colors as well, and it can arguably be extended to other forms of sense perception, such as smell, taste, touch, and hearing; more will be said on the philosophy of color in the next chapter. These examples were not chosen arbitrarily. Together they demonstrate the ease with which we discover powers at work across the various fields of study and human experience. I have touched on the familiar, paradigmatic powers studied and utilized in the physical and applied sciences, and I have introduced examples of powers at work at the microphysical level, in the social sciences, and in situations involving human perception. In each of these examples we see a functional characterization of the power, with an emphasis on the state of affairs it brings about. I shall continue my discussion of dispositions and powers by developing a model of powers at work before proceeding to examine in more depth the functionality of powers and their directedness at the states of affairs that they cause.

See Colin McGinns 1983 The Subjective View: Secondary Qualities and Indexical Thoughts, Oxford: Clarendon Press, J. McDowells 1985 Values and Secondary Qualities, in Morality and Objectivity, ed. T. Honderich, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, and Mark Johnstons 1992 How to Speak of the Colors, Philosophical Studies 68, 221-263.


65 2.4 A Model for Powers at Work In each of the four examples discussed in the previous section, we see the following elements: an object having a causal power brings about some state of affairs when some conditions obtain. A ductile metal is fashioned into a new form when bent around its axis; a particle with mass reacts to a gravitational field; an agoraphobic individual feels lightheaded or nauseous at the prospect of using an elevator; a violet viewed on a sunny day is perceived as having a blue color. In each case the work done by the objects power, the state of affairs that is brought about, is called the manifestation of the power. In each case the powers manifestation is enabled by the conditions that obtain, its conditions for manifestation. The model, then, is as follows: An object with a power, P, under appropriate conditions of manifestation, C, brings about the manifestation of the power, M. Simple though this model may be, failing to distinguish between the various elements can lead to a number of problems, such as the erroneous assumption that the existence of a power depends on its manifestation (which I will discuss in 2.6.2 below), or the conflation of powers and their manifestations, which can lead to an unnecessary subjectivity (as we shall see in chapters 3 and 4). In the following sections I shall discuss the manifestations and conditions of manifestation, examine the prospects of a conditional analysis in linking these two elements in order to give an account of powers, and then, finding the conditional analysis unsatisfactory, proceed to discuss powers in terms of their directedness and functionality.


Manifestations The evidence of a power at work is found in its manifestation (or manifestations). The

magnetism of a lodestone is evident when it attracts steel pins or iron shavings. The fragility of a

66 wineglass is evident when it shatters upon being dropped or knocked. Ontologically speaking, the manifestations of powers are events or states of affairs, be they attractions of pins or iron shavings, shatterings of wineglasses, or their counterparts in other examples of powers at work. While a wineglass exists, and its crystalline structure and fragility exist by being instantiated in it, the shattering of the wineglass is something that occurs.14 Jaegwon Kims theory of events, where an event is the exemplification of a property, by a substance, at a time, works well for my purposes; we might well call events tropes (property instances) located at spatiotemporal zones, as does Jonathan Bennett.15 The manifestation of a power is neither an object, nor a(n abstract) property, but the instantiation of the property by a substance.16 Many powers manifest themselves as relations between substances, as in the case of the wineglasss fragility being manifested in the disarray of glass shards after it has been dropped, but Kims theory of events handles this complexity with facility by allowing for n-adic relations exemplified by n-tuples of substances in addition to simpler cases of properties exemplified by substances. In many cases, the manifestation is an event with (more or less) clear spatio-temporal boundaries marked by discernable changes: the shattering of the wineglass is of this sort. In some cases, however, no discernable change marks the manifestation of a power: rather, it takes the form of a continuing state of affairs, such as my basil plants remaining upright (as opposed to wilting). The basil plants cells remain turgid as their fluid-content is maintained, and so long as I care for it properly, it continues to manifest its power to stand upright without any change

For more on the difference between existing and occurring, see P.M.S. Hacker, Events, Ontology and Grammar, Philosophy, 57, 1982, 477-86; reprinted in Events, ed. Roberto Casati and Achille Varzi, Aldershot: Dartmouth, 1996, 79-88. 15 Kim, J., 1976, Events as Property Exemplifications, in M. Brand and D. Walton (eds.), Action Theory, Dordrecht: Reidel, pp. 159-77; reprinted in Events, ed. Roberto Casati and Achille Varzi, Aldershot: Dartmouth, 1996, pp. 117-35. Bennett, J., 1996, What Events Are in Events, ed. Roberto Casati and Achille Varzi, Aldershot: Dartmouth, 1996, pp. 137-151. 16 Further, I take events to be ontologically non-reductive to continuants.


67 marking the manifestation. The earths mass similarly manifests itself without evident change as it holds the moon in orbit in its gravitational field. Those who feel that change is essential to being an event may prefer to classify such manifestations as remaining turgid and continuing to orbit the earth as states of affairs rather than events, a possibility which my view can accommodate easily enough, though I tend to think change is not essential to being an event.17 Some manifestations are marked by discernible changes, but exhibit them over the course of a chain of eventsa processfor which the spatio-temporal boundaries may be unclear. It is hard to say exactly when an agoraphobes anxiety, for instance, begins and ends. The important point for my present purpose is that manifestations of powers are neither objects nor properties simpliciter, but rather occurrencesthe instantiations of properties by objects. Manifestations are important, not just because of the epistemic evidence of powers at work that they provide, but because powers are essentially powers to manifest in some way. The kind a power belongs to, its type, is given by the way(s) in which it manifests itself, a feature I shall examine in more depth in 2.6.1.


Conditions for Manifestation That an object has a power to bring about certain states of affairs is, by itself, rarely

sufficient for the powers manifestation. The relatively fragile skeleton of an individual with osteoporosis causes distinct results when a bone density test is performed in the form of a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry scan (DXA). But the fragility of the bones alone is not enough to bring about the x-ray results; the x-ray itself has to be performed. Similarly, the fragility of a wineglass, manifested in a shattering event, is only manifested when it is subject to sudden force

For a view which insists on change as essential to events, see Lawrence Brian Lombards Events, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 9, 1986, 425-460, reprinted in Events, ed. Roberto Casati and Achille Varzi, Aldershot: Dartmouth, 1996, 177-212.

68 such as dropping or knocking. The conditions under which a power manifests are, like the manifestations themselves, events or states of affairs. Most of what has been said about manifestations in the previous section, then, applies equally to manifestation conditions: they are, properly speaking, said to occur rather than exist; they are instantiations of properties or relations by substances; and sometimes they are ongoing states of affairs not marked by any particularly evident changes and lacking clear spatio-temporal boundaries. Manifestations and conditions for manifestation are, however, dissimilar in one important respect: it is a powers manifestation event-type that determines its identity more so than its conditions for manifestation. At a rather coarse-grained level, we consider fragile objects to be those that shatter under the impact of force in everyday circumstances, such as falling off a table or being struck by a car door. Under dropping or knocking conditions as are used in industrial shock testing, fragility is relativized and its identity as a power is determined more by the conditions for manifestation in concert with the manifestation event-type. As regards change, it is at times useful to think of the conditions for manifestation as being of two sorts: stimulus or trigger conditions, such as my dropping of a glass, appear to have some particularly salient causal role in bringing about the powers manifestation, while background conditions do not. This is because what we are likely to consider the stimulus or trigger conditions are those that change so as to bring about a manifestation at a particular time, while the more stable background conditions do not exhibit any noticeable change in their contributions to the causal story. The background conditions for the manifestation of a glasss fragility will likely include such normal conditions as the operation of the earths gravitational field, standard temperatures and atmospheric pressure (such that, for instance the glass is not slowed in its fall or melted before it has a chance to break), or there being no brilliant Jeevesian

69 figure present to catch dropped glassware. Because of the ease with which we can suggest hypotheticals, especially negative conditions like the lack of a Jeevesian figure, background conditions are often dealt with all at once in descriptions of powers by the use of a ceterus parabus (or all other things being equal) clause: all other things being equal, a fragile wineglass will shatter upon being dropped. The dim prospects for a conditional analysis of causal powers, discussed in the next section, are in large part due to the multiplicity of background conditions for the manifestation of a power.


The Conditional Analysis As was discussed in the first section of this chapter, subjunctive conditionals are well

suited to a dispositional idiom, as they link a powers manifestation type with the conditions for its manifestation. The conditions for manifestation are given in the antecedent of the conditional, and the manifestation event type in the consequent: if the substance is placed in water, then it will dissolve, if the material is viewed in bright sunlight, then the viewer will have an experience of a certain sort, if the individual enters an elevator, then she will have a panic attack, and so on. The degree to which subjunctive conditionals are suited to describing dispositional behavior has led many to defend a conditional analysis of powers, under which disposition ascriptions such as the salt is water-soluble are analyzed as more or less glossed conditionals.18 The powers are thus thought to be reducible to events, or to relations between the objects that bear them and the type of events in which they manifest themselves.19 Either kind of

Examples of this view are found in David Lewis 1997 Finkish Dispositions, The Philosophical Quarterly 47:187, 143-158, and Lars Gundersons 2002 In Defence of the Conditional Account of Dispositions, Synthese 130: 389-411. 19 See Mumford (2000) pp. 36-37. I will return to this issue in 3.9.


70 reduction, if successful, would amount to the elimination of dispositions from ones ontology at the end of the day. In its simplest form, the analysis focuses on the subjunctive conditional used to ascribe a disposition to an object, a conditional that links the two events to which the disposition is intended to be reduced.20 The conditional analysis, in pointing our attention to the connection between the having of a disposition and the truth of a conditional statement, is the first step in an attempt at reducing dispositions, but the project fails to get off the groundand does so quickly in its simplest forms. George Molnar formulates the nave conditional analysis as follows: NCA Something x is disposed at time t to give response r to stimulus s iff if x were to undergo stimulus s at time t, then x would give response r. 21 The inadequacies of NCA have been demonstrated by a number of problem cases; I will only mention C. B. Martins example of finkishness, as it is sufficient for my purposes here.22 Martin proposes a scenario in which the power ascription the wire is live is apparently true iff if the wire is touched by a conductor then electrical current flows from the wire to the conductor. Under NCA, the wire is live is claimed to be equivalent to this conditional, which links the event described as the wire is touched by a conductor with the one described as electrical current flows from the wire to the conductor. Were the conditional analysis to succeed here, there would be a perfect correlation between the truth of the dispositional statement that the wire is live and the truth of the subjunctive conditional. For the Humean

It is worth noting here that even should there be a perfect conceptual alignment between the having of a power and the use of the subjunctive, this does not guarantee a reduction, since it could be that the having of a genuine power is what makes the subjunctive conditional true. 21 2003, p. 84. See also his 1999 piece Are Dispositions Reducible? The Philosophical Quarterly, 49:1-17. 22 Other problem cases may be found, for instance, in Mark Johnstons 1992 How to Speak of the Colors, Philosophical Studies 68, 221-263, and Alexander Birds 1998 Dispositions and Antidotes, The Philosophical Quarterly, 48: 227-234.


71 event ontologist or anyone else hoping to eliminate powers from their ontology, establishing this sort of correlation is the first step towards that end. In Martins scenario, an ordinary wire is connected to a not-so-ordinary machine called an electro-fink that detects contact with any conductor and alters the wire in such a way that the conditional analysis fails. The failure might be one of two sorts: first, when the wire is (in and of itself) dead, the machine will detect contact with the conductor and instantaneously render it live; second, when the wire is (in and of itself) live, the machine will detect contact with the conductor and instantaneously render it dead. In the first case, the conditional is true even though the power ascription (the wire is live) is false; in the second case the conditional is false when the power ascription is true. In both problem cases, the biconditional is demonstrated to be false; it is thus neither logically sufficient nor necessary for the power ascription it is intended to analyze. Lacking the hoped-for correlation between the dispositional statement the wire is live and the subjunctive conditional, the nave version of the conditional analysis fails.23 To circumvent problem cases like finkishness where some external factors involvement defeats analysis of power ascriptions using conditionals, David Lewis has offered a reformed version of the conditional analysis: RCA Something x is disposed at time t to give response r to stimulus s iff, for some intrinsic property B that x has at t, for some time t after t, if x were to undergo stimulus s at time t and retain property B until t, s and xs having of B would jointly be an x-complete cause of xs giving response r.24 RCA differs from NCA by restricting the causal factors to an objects intrinsic properties together with genuine stimulus conditions, thus excluding finks from the mix, and disallowing changes to the intrinsic factors in the interval between stimulus and manifestation events. The

23 24

C.B. Martin, Dispositions and Conditionals, The Philosophical Quarterly, 44:174, Jan 1994. David Lewis, 1997, Finkish Dispositions, The Philosophical Quarterly, 47:143-158, p. 157.

72 latter restriction, however, is still not a sufficient response to problem cases where an object can truly be said to have a power, the stimulus event occurs, and the object does not change, but the powers manifestation is blocked or masked by the manifestation of another power of the same object. Jet airplanes have a great deal of mass, a property which should cause them to plummet to the earth at high speeds if they are at high altitudes, and yet this manifestation is (happily!) blocked by their other powers. The ability of the wings to create lift combines with the engines ability to create thrust to provide an antidote for the planes mass.25 To summarize, RCA introduces a number of restrictions to the conditions under which a power can be expected to manifest itself, but, it seems, there will always be cases in which some additional unspecified condition or other defeats our expectations. It is tempting to make a lastditch attempt to defeat this hydra of hypothetical conditions and save the conditional analysis by attaching a ceteris paribus clause to the conditional analysis: we might wish to say that if the manifestation conditions are met, then the power will manifest itself, all other things being equal. Unfortunately, such an attempt renders the conditional vacuously true, because it amounts to no more than a footnote to the effect that when the antecedent is realized then the consequent will be realized unless something stops it.26 The conditional analysis thus fails to reduce powers to relations between events; in order to get a clearer understanding of the nature of powers I shall turn instead to a discussion of functionality and directedness in the next section.

For further discussion of antidotes, see Alexander Birds 1998 Dispositions and Antidotes, The Philosophical Quarterly, 48: 227-234, Sungho Chois 2003 Improving Birds Antidotes, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 81:4, 573-580, and Anthony Everetts 2009 Intrinsic Finks, Masks, and Mimics, Erkenntnis, 71(2), 191-203. 26 Stephen Mumford, Dispositions, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 87.


73 2.6 The Brentano Thesis and Physical Intentionality As explained in the previous section, we can often pair disposition ascriptions with corresponding subjunctive conditionals, but even a constant correlation would not guarantee that dispositions are reducible to events. Dispositional realists hold instead that dispositions and powers are ontologically basic, that is to say, not reducible to any other ontological category.27 Even ontologically basic entities are candidates for explanation, however, and the theories offered by dispositional realists tend to focus on either directedness or functionality to help us better understand powers. The first candidate, directedness, is also known as intentionality. In this section I shall briefly restate the parallels observed by Ullin Place and George Molnar between mental intentionality and physical intentionality, distinguish between the concepts of Tintentionality and S-intensionality, and explain how directedness is believed by Place and Molnar to be the mark or essence of the dispositional. The Brentano thesis, as it is known in philosophy of mind, states that intentionality is the feature that demarcates between the mental and non-mental (or physical); intentionality is thus thought to be necessary and sufficient for the mental, and non-intentionality is necessary and sufficient for the non-mental.28 What it means for a mental entity to be intentional can be illustrated by the example of the belief that the present king of France is bald, a belief that exhibits four marks of intentionality. Firstly, and most importantly, it is directed towards an object beyond itself (it is a belief about something else); second, that object need not actually exist; third, the object need not be completely determinate (that is, the belief need not involve
Alexander Bird, "Dispositions and Antidotes," The Philosophical Quarterly, 48:191, 227-234, 1998. C.B. Martin, "Dispositions and Conditionals," The Philosophical Quarterly, 44:174, 1-8, 1994. C.B. Martin and John Heil, "The Ontological Turn," Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 23, 34-60, 1999. Stephen Mumford, Dispositions, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. George Molnar, Powers, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. For a detailed treatment of Brentanos thoughts on intentionality, see Dale Jacquettes Brentanos Concept of Intentionality, in The Cambridge Companion to Brentano, ed. Dale Jacquette, Cambridge University Press, 2004, 98-130.
28 27

74 any further details about the object). Finally, the belief is such that a statement asserting that someone holds the belief is referentially opaque (we cannot freely substitute co-referential descriptions without changing its truth-value), and its truth-value does not depend on the truthvalue of the proposition believed (it may be true that someone believes France presently has a bald king, though France has no king, bald or otherwise).


Directedness: The First Mark of Intentionality Ullin Place and George Molnar hold that it is not the mental that is characteristically for

or directed towards something beyond itself, but that this is instead a mark of the dispositional.29 Place relies on three observations in claiming that physical dispositions, as well as mental dispositions, are intentional: We invariably characterize a disposition in terms of its manifestations 2. In the case where a disposition has not been or is not currently being manifested, no manifestation exists 3. It follows that in characterizing an unmanifested disposition by reference to its manifestations we are characterizing it in terms of its relation to something that has all the hallmarks of an intentional object. It does not exist, and many never do so (it is inexistent). It is vague or indeterminate in the sense that although every actual manifestation is determinate, there is always a range of possible manifestations only a tiny fraction of which actually occurs or exists.30

George Molnar also argues that we see the marks of intentionality in the realm of the physical as well as the mental, and he joins Place in positing physical intentionality in addition to mental intentionality. The first and most important of the four marks, directedness towards something beyond the thing itself, is the defining feature of powers, physical as well as psychological: Of


This argument was introduced by C. B. Martin and K. Pfeifer in their 1986 article Intentionality and the NonPsychological in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 46, pp. 531-554. 30 Ullin Place, Intentionality and the Physical: A Reply to Mumford, The Philosophical Quarterly, 49:195, 1999, 225-231. See also his 1996 Intentionality as the Mark of the Dispositional, Dialectica 50:2, 91-120.

75 the many ways of characterizing a power, the only one that reveals the nature (identity) of the power is the characterization in terms of its manifestation. Consequently the nexus between the power and its manifestation is non-contingent. A physical power is essentially an executable property.31 We simply cannot understand a power without understanding what it is a power for, understanding the kind of event or state of affairs by which it manifests itself. Molnar thus contends that directedness towards a particular manifestation is what constitutes a power property: in metaphysical terms, the identity of a power type is given by its definitive manifestation, and the numerical identity of a power trope is given by the object which instantiates the power together with its type-identity.32 To return to my examples from section 2.3, what it is for a metal to be ductile is thus given by the sorts of bending and re-shaping events it is capable of and directed at; we cannot understand what it is for a subatomic particle to have mass without understanding a kind of reaction to gravitational fields; an individuals agoraphobia is constituted by his or her directedness towards phobic responses in public places; and we only capture the identity of a flowers color when we characterize it in terms of the human visual experiences it causes. The centrality of the defining manifestation-type will be of great interest in chapters 3 and 4 where I examine sense-perceptible properties, whose manifestations are the responses and experiences of human perceivers.

George Molnar, Powers, Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 63. Ibid, 60-61. We might add, however, that the conditions for manifestation also determine the identity of a power, insofar as its manifestation event-type is relativized to specific conditions, as was described in 2.4.2.


76 2.6.2 The Possibility of Inexistent Objects and Indeterminate Objects as Marks of

Intentionality The parallels between the physical and psychological in the second and third marks of intentionality follow from the parallel found in directedness. The second mark, that the intentional object need not exist, applies both in the case of the psychological and in the physical. There is general agreement in the literature on mental intentionality that objects of thought need not have any existence beyond whatever is internal to the thoughts themselves, an idea that William Lyons articulates as follows: the contents of beliefs are independent of their having a referent in the world of spacetime [and] also independent of whether or not the believer knows they have no referent in space-time. This independence of content from object gives the contents of our propositional attitudes the status of having an aboutness which is inesse (or existing in) and so internal to the propositional attitudes themselves.33 D. M. Armstrongs observations on unmanifested powers also emphasize the importance of directedness towards manifestation-types rather than tokens, as no token events exist for the intentional objects of unmanifested powers: A particular may have a disposition or power, but may fail to manifest that disposition or power. This, indeed, is the normal thing. One would suppose it to be the case that no particular ever manifests all its powers, and perhaps most particulars fail to manifest most of their powers during the span of their existence. When a particular has an unmanifested power, then the particular cannot be related to the potential manifestation of this power because the instantiation of a relation demands that all its terms exist. It is true, of course, that the particular still has the power. But, by hypothesis, the manifestation does not exist, so the particular cannot be related to it.34 We can also imagine an object with the physical disposition to attract a pretzel-shaped piece of metal, even if no such metal pretzels existan example of a disposition directed towards an inexistent object. Analogous to the aboutness which is inesse that Lyons and others attribute
33 34

William Lyons Approaches to Intentionality, Oxford: Clarendon, 1995, p. 214. D. M. Armstrong, A World of States of Affairs, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 70.

77 to the mental intentional, is a causal, physical directedness at events which do not yet (and need not at all) exist in the world; it is enough that their types are the objects of directedness, uninstantiated though they may be. Not only might intentional objects be inexistentsome intentional objects could also be impossible. Anders Nes, in attacking the case for intentionality as necessary and sufficient for the mental, discusses such impossible intentional objects as wealth in dollars greater than the greatest prime. We can think of or desire such impossible objects, and he suggests furthermore that directedness on inexistent or impossible objects is not a sufficient criterion for the mental. Nes even goes so far as to suggest that there is a case to be made for physical dispositional ascriptions directed upon the impossible: attributions of the same disposition directed upon the impossible to different objects sometimes intuitively differ in truth-value. For example, a house of cards but not an oil platform is disposed to be brought down by the impact of a feather. Intuitively, the colour (say) of the feather is just irrelevant to whether its disposed to bring something down upon impact. So, intuitively, a house of cards but not an oil platform is disposed to be brought down by the impact of a feather thats red and green all over.35 While I agree with Nes that this example is not conclusive, I think it does reinforce the point that the object of intentionality need not be instantiated for an objects powers to be directed towards it, especially as directedness is a relation to a manifestation-type. I can thus desire wealth in dollars greater than the greatest prime, and a Ming vase that never breaks is still fragile (that is, it still possesses a power directed at such a breaking event). That there can be no such quantity of dollars, or that the vase never breaks, poses no problems for an intentionality theory of powers. Though powers are linked essentially and noncontingently with their manifestations, the manifestations need not occur, as the essential

Anders Nes, Are Only Mental Phenomena Intentional? Analysis 68:3, July 2008, 205-215, p. 210.

78 connection is between the identity of the power and the type of manifestation that it is a power for. The existence of a power is not ontologically dependent on the existence of its manifestation; this point is illustrated by Stephen Mumfords example of x-ray machines. Objects passed through an x-ray machine have the capability to block the films exposure to radiation in varying amounts, creating an image on the film in the process. The objects did not suddenly gain this power when x-ray machines were inventedrather, they had the power all along, but the conditions for manifestation were not fulfilled, and so the manifestation type was never instantiated. It would be a mistake to say that objects do not possess powers until the time of manifestation; intuitively, we should recognize that dense objects would have had the power to block radiation and create an x-ray image even if the radiation emitters and film had never been developed.36 This possibility of directedness towards inexistent objects is an important condition of intentionality, and will come up again in section 2.7 where I address a worry of Mumfords about the intentionality theory of powers, as well as in chapter 5, where I note that artworks and other aesthetic objects have the power to cause aesthetic experiences even if no one ever sees them. Once weve accepted that the intentional object need not exist (or even be metaphysically possible!) for an objects physical or psychological power to be directed towards it, we should find that the third mark of intentionality follows easily: the object of intentionality need not be determinate. As an example of indeterminacy in the intentional object of a psychological disposition, consider a man who believes that he has a secret admirer. If the secret admirer does in fact exist, that individual either is or is not a coffee drinker, but this does not entail that the man believes his secret admirer drinks coffee. The nature of the object as conceptualized by the


Stephen Mumford, 1998, Dispositions, Oxford University Press, p. 56.

79 believer may well be indeterminate on this or many other points. This indeterminacy follows from the independence of the contents of beliefs from any referents they might have in the world of space-time, their existence being instead inesseinternal to the propositional attitudes in which they feature. Similarly, we have the case of a man being mortal, who possesses a power directed towards a death event. Although his death will occur in a particular manner and in a particular locationsay with the lead pipe in the billiards roomit does not follow that his mortality is per se a disposition to die in the billiards room by lead pipe, or in any other particular manner or location. Mortality is thus a general directedness at a death event of an indeterminate nature, an event whose instances will have specific details though its type does not. Non-mental dispositions and powers differ in how specific or determinate their conditions for manifestation and their manifestation event-types are. The object of the physical intentional is again analogous to the object of the mental intentional in that it need not be determinate.


Linguistic Characteristics as a Mark of Intentionality We come, finally, to Molnars treatment of what he takes to be the fourth mark of

intentionality, concerning embedded declarative sentences and referential opacity. The first part of this mark of intentionality, regarding embedded declarative sentences, is demonstrated in the example of the sentence The weatherman predicts that the drought will break, which has embedded in it the declarative sentence, The drought will break. Whether it is true or false that the weatherman predicts that the drought will break is independent of the truth-value of the embedded declarative sentence, the drought will break, because once again the intentional object of the propositional attitude has its existence internal to the belief. Molnar offers an example of

80 Martin and Pfeifers to make his point: Neither is The cloud seeding apparatus has the capacity to bring it about that the drought will break a truth-function of The drought will break. This is another parallel between MI [Mental Intentionality] and PI [Physical Intentionality]. Molnar likewise sees a parallel between the physical and psychological intentional as regards the second part of this mark of intentionality, referential opacity. Referential opacity with regard to belief ascriptions is, essentially, a block on the substitution of co-referential descriptions. Physical dispositional ascriptions are similarly subject to referential opacity: The statement (A) Andrew believes that George Eliot wrote Middlemarch, does not entail (B) Andrew believes that Mary Ann Evans wrote Middlemarch and the statement (A1) Acid has the power to turn this piece of litmus paper red does not entail (B1) Acid has the power to turn this piece of litmus paper the colour of Post Office pillar boxes. Extensionality fails equally in M[ental]-intentional and in P[hysical]-intentional contexts.37 Whether this fourth criterion is in fact a mark of the intentional, however, has been called into question by Ullin Place. As I agree with Place on this point, I shall treat it here briefly and then dismiss what he calls S-intensionality as tangential for my purposes. The intension (spelled with an s) of a term has to do with the sense or meaning with which it is used, rather than the object to which it refers. Place calls this S-intensionality, and as one might expect, it plays a key role in determining the truth-value of statements about beliefs, particularly with regard to referential opacity as was just explained. While it is thus true that as a child I believed that Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, it is not true that as a child I believed that Samuel Langhorne Clemens wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, since I was not then aware that Mark Twain was Clemens pen name. The truth-values of statements about beliefs (beliefs being T-intentional) are indeed tied to the proper use of descriptions,
2003, p. 64; the embedded declarative sentence example is from C.B. Martin and K. Pfeifers 1986 Intentionality and the Non-Psychological, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 46, 531-554.

81 (descriptions being S-intensional). But it is important to note that it is directedness that is the essence of the T-intentional: though S-intensionality is responsible for the referential opacity of statements about beliefs and dispositions which are T-intentional, S-intensionality is not essential to an ontological characterization of T-intentionality. Although Molnar demonstrates the applicability of the fourth mark for both psychological and physical intentionality, I believe Place is correct to reject this fourth mark as inessential to the ontological characterization of the dispositional, as it is more of a linguistic feature. Having distinguished between the two terms, I shall hereafter use the term directedness (meaning T-intentionality) where possible to avoid the confusion with S-intensionality.38 In summary, what Molnar has shown is that the essence of a power is to be directed at something beyond itself, namely, an event type that (along with the conditions for its occurrence) need not be fully determinate or even instantiated at all. Ductility is thus a power directed at a bending or stretching; a metal can be ductile without ever being stretched, and its power to be thus reshaped is indeterminate as regards the exact details of such a stretching event. Similarly, we can imagine an individual who is agoraphobic but is somehow happily preserved from ever suffering the manifestation of the phobia (and diagnosis too, of course); furthermore, the phobia is a directedness towards panic-attack-like symptoms in public or open spaces, but the symptoms may vary, and the environmental trigger event-types are likewise indeterminate. Finally, as has been said, the color of a flower can be analyzed as a directedness towards a particular kind of visual experience, thus giving us the example of a violet that is blue 1) even if no one ever sees it
One further use of intentionality that is outside the scope of the current discussion is that used by Joseph Margolis. He also argues that the intentional is not limited to the mental, but his contention is that the Intentional = the cultural (or culturally significant and significative) and so should include the public artifacts of cultural life, that is, speech, behavior, technology, and art. Margolis concern is more with the extent to which humans, having minds, shape and are shaped by the world they live in; my concern is instead with the parallels between mental and physical dispositions. Here again my focus is on the directedness that is the classical essence of Brentanos intentionality, rather than on the mental and its pervasive effects on human endeavors.

82 (a nonexistent intentional object), and 2) when seen by different viewers under a variety of conditions (the conditions for the seeing event being to some degree indeterminate). This directedness towards an inexistent and indeterminate object will be important in chapter 5 when I discuss artworks that have never been appreciated.


A Worry Regarding Animism and Panpsychism While Place and Molnar describe the relationship between the disposition and its

manifestation as physical intentionality, Stephen Mumford has taken issue with this view, worrying that it leads to a form of animism and panpsychism (since dispositional realists see dispositions everywhere in the universe).39 Mumfords critique of directedness accounts, it seems to me, was based on a unfortunate misunderstanding of the terminology employedone which is easily dispelled once S-intensionality is recognized as a red herring in this context. It is worth treating here, however, because it is important to reinforce that in the context of Molnar and Places theories of powers, intentionality is not equivalent to the mental, and thus powers and dispositions are not as spooky as they might otherwise seem to be. Mumfords worry about directedness accounts is, essentially, a worry that since intentionality is supposed to be the mark of the mental, if all dispositional properties are intentional as Place claims, then they are all mental. He notes that objects having minds do act in such a way as to strive and aim for events, but that such striving requires having a concept of the event in question, desiring it, forming plans to achieve it, and refining and executing such plansall examples of the inesse existence characteristic of mental intentionality as I discussed it in section 2.6.2. Since objects without minds do not have such choices, Mumford

1999 Intentionality and the Physical: A New Theory of Disposition Ascription. The Philosophical Quarterly, 49:195, 215-225.

83 says there is no preferred or desired class of events towards which they can properly be said to strive, and he thus concludes they cannot be intentional.40 It seems to me that Mumfords worry boils down to an assumption that directedness is more or less equivalent to having intentions in the way that only things with minds can: a sort of resolution to act in a certain way to achieve their goals. But Place is clear that the kind of intentionality he is concerned with is not supposed to be the mark of the mental at all; furthermore, while S-intensional linguistic expressions turn out to be the sort of expressions used by things with minds, the criteria treated as the fourth mark of intentionality do not belong to the ontological essence of dispositions, as I argued in section 2.6.41 So Mumfords argument, to this extent, does appear to beg the question on a point that Place begins by disputing. Mumford adds, however, that what a non-animistic version of intentionality looks like is by no means immediately obvious, and that Place does not say enough about what he means by directedness. I shall show here that Mumfords problem cases pose no serious challenge for an intentionality account of powers, but I think his general criticism is correct, and so in section 2.8 I shall continue to flesh out this notion of directedness and describe in more detail the way in which physical intentionality exhibits directedness upon inexistent objects in a manner analogous to the inesse existence of the mental intentional. Mumford suggests two examples of non-mental directedness, examples of an arrow directed at a target and a falling rock directed toward a road below, which he finds problematic because they do not allow for directedness involving a nonexistent intentional object, one of the necessary conditions for intentionality.42 If we take the flying arrow and falling rock to have been aimed and launched by an agent having a mind, then of course the agents mental
40 41

Ibid, 221. See Ullin Places 1999 Intentionality and the Physical: A Reply to Mumford, The Philosophical Quarterly, 49:195, 225-231. 42 1999 Intentionality and the Physical: A New Theory of Disposition Ascription. The Philosophical Quarterly, 49:195, 221.

84 dispositions come into play. The notion of directedness in question is supposed to be nonmental, though, so consider instead a rock that is falling towards a road below it, without having been purposefully aimed and dropped. The rock is directed in a simple geometric sense, its path of movement following a straight line that intersects the road. Places account allows for dispositions such as the way a body of any appreciable mass has a propensity, unless somehow prevented from so doing, to fall towards the center of the earth,43 so how might he allow for a non-existent object of intentionality in this example? The solution to Mumfords problem case hinges on recognition of the ontological category to which the object of intentionality belongs. The object of intentionality is identical to the manifestation of a power, as I discussed in section 2.4, and as such it will be an event or state of affairs. What the falling rock is directed towards, in the relevant sense, cannot therefore be the road: it is only directed towards the road in a geometrical sense. Furthermore, as explained in section 2.4.1, the intentional object is an eventtype, and so we should say that in virtue of its mass it is directed towards an event of the type falling towards the center of the earth. To answer Mumfords criticism, non-existence is possible for this sort of eventwe can imagine a world where the rock were securely embedded in an asphalt road surface. The event type is also subject to a degree of indeterminacy, as its instances might involve passing through a body of water, or interruption by contact with a passing vehicle, or a collision with the road surface. Non-mental objects can thus be directed towards event types that are subject to inexistence and indeterminacy in the same way that minds can, and there is no risk of animism or panpsychism as a consequence. The problem he sees for the theory, that it might lead to panpsychism or animism, I have shown to be the result of a misplaced emphasis on the propositional attitude and accompanying


1996 Intentionality as the Mark of the Dispositional, Dialectica 50:2, 116.

85 intentions that allow us to form resolutions and plans, instead of on the genuine marks of intentionality. These marks, including the possible non-existence of the intentional object, are present for physical dispositions as well as mental ones. Place thinks, and I agree with him, that there is no reason why Mumfords functionality account should be considered incompatible with the intentionality theory of powers: it turns out that the only differences between his view of the nature and function of dispositions and my own are differences of terminology.44 Mumfords own view is that disposition ascriptions are understood as ascriptions of functionally characterized states or instantiated properties of objects. Disposition-talk, he suggests, is a kind of function-talk, whereby properties or states are described according to the causal contribution they can make to the interaction of things that possess them, and his version of functionalism allows that dispositions bring about their manifestations.45 While Mumfords terminology focuses on disposition ascriptions rather than their metaphysical status, he does emphasize that the identity criterion for a disposition are, first, its causal mediation between stimulus events and manifestation events, and second, the specific stimulus and manifestation events between which it causally mediates.


Directedness, Reciprocity, and the Causal Essence of Powers An objects powers are essentially properties with a dual modality, being both actual and

potential in nature. They are actual in that they are the genuine properties that it possesses here and now, in many cases in virtue of its structural or otherwise occurrent nature.46 Failing to lose

1999 Intentionality and the Physical: A Reply to Mumford, The Philosophical Quarterly 49:195, 230-231. 1999 Intentionality and the Physical: A New Theory of Disposition Ascription, The Philosophical Quarterly 49:195, 222. 46 In Prior, Pargetter, and Jacksons 1982 article Three Theses about Dispositions, American Philosophical Quarterly, 19:251-256, for example, it is argued that necessarily, all powers/dispositions have causal bases distinct


86 sight of this leads to the sort of problems found in Colin McGinns views on color and other sense-perceptible properties that I shall discuss in chapter 3. Powers are actual properties of objects, but they are also potential in nature; in fact, they are defined in terms of their potential to cause events, states, or processes. This second modality, potentiality, is a function of the powers directedness, which is seen in the mental intentional as the aboutness of a belief, and can be defined more generally as the relation between the power and its manifestation type. This relation is that of a potential cause, and when the power manifests itself under the appropriate conditions it brings about the instantiation of its definitive event type; it serves as the actual cause (partial or completemore on this below) of an event, state, or process. We can thus say that directedness is a second-order property (that is, a property of a property), and it is possessed by powers but not by non-powers. It is this causal essence that Molnar and Place are gesturing at when they argue that the intentional, directedness towards something beyond the object itself, is the mark of the dispositional: the properties of an object, insofar as they are categorical (or occurrent), are static and causally impotent. Place thus holds that dispositions provide truthmakers for all the modal, conditional, and non-categorical aspects of the causal relation, including causal law statements and the counterfactuals they sustain.47 It is in virtue of the objects powers that it has the potential to bring about changes, cause events, and bring into being something over and above the current state of affairs. It is this mediation between current events and conditions and as yet unmanifested events and conditions that Mumford emphasizes when he describes dispositions as

from themselves; George Molnar argues in his 2003 Powers that many powers do have grounds, but that it is likely that at least some powers, such as those belonging to the fundamental particles, do not (see chapter 8). 47 1999 Intentionality and the Physical: A Reply to Mumford, The Philosophical Quarterly 49:195, 230.

87 functionally characterized; concepts of dispositions and powers necessarily involve causal connections between stimulus conditions or events and manifestation events. One situation in which the manifesting power is a partial cause of the resulting state is when it is one of a pair of reciprocally manifesting powers. To explore the notion of reciprocity, I shall first consider an analogous concept from the literature on mental intentionality, aspectual shape, and then show how this concept can be expanded into the notion of reciprocity used by C. B. Martin and others. Tim Cranes version of the Brentano thesis emphasizes directedness along with what he calls aspectual shape. All thoughts, he notes, are thoughts about something or other, and thus directed upon an object, and whenever an object is thought of, it is done so with regard to some particular aspect, thus having an aspectual shape.48 William Lyons recognizes something akin to Cranes notion of aspectual shape when he notes that propositional attitudes are intentional in a perspectival way: our beliefs are about people and things as known or believed to be so-and-so; that is known or believed under a certain limited slant or description. Our propositional attitudes, he adds, would likely change a great deal if we were omniscient.49 Anders Nes takes this concept of aspectual shape and applies it to non-mental dispositions as follows: [W]henever an object is attracted, it is attracted in a certain way: gravitationally, electrically, magnetically, or perhaps in some other way. If a metal ball, say, gravitationally attracts a metal bar, say, it attracts it as a thing having a certain mass. If the metal ball electrically attracts the metal bar, it attracts it as a thing with a certain charge. The ball attracts the bar, here, in the different cases, as an exemplar of different features. It figures in the state of attraction under different aspects.50
48 49

Tim Crane, Elements of Mind, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. William Lyons, Approaches to Intentionality, Oxford: Clarendon, 1995, p. 217. 50 Anders Nes, Are Only Mental Phenomena Intentional? Analysis 68:3, July 2008, 205-215, p. 207. Nes concludes that while a refined theory of aspectual shape may provide a sufficient criterion for intentionality, it cannot be necessary as well, since it would rule out certain states that should be considered mental.


Aspectual shape, when applied to dispositions in general, is equivalent to what was introduced as the conditions for manifestation in 2.4.2. Gravitational attraction here is a power of the ball to attract the bar, a power directed at an event wherein the ball and bar are brought into closer physical proximity. The bar figures here insofar as it has a mass susceptible to the balls gravitational power; in other words, insofar as it meets the conditions for the manifestation of the balls powers. The conditions for manifestation thus shape the overall event in which a power is manifested, determining the powers identity to some degree insofar as it is relativized to a more or less specific set of conditions or aspectual shape. In any case where the manifestation of an objects powers involve other objectswhich is to say in most cases51the two objects powers will cooperate in mutual manifestation, each meeting the conditions for the others manifestation. Armstrong describes this cooperation in the classic language of active and passive powers: Active and passive powers are manifested, if and when they are manifested, in causal processes. Characteristically, these involve the causal action of one particular upon another the action will always be one side of an interaction. This ensures that in all such action active and passive powers of both particulars are involved.52 C. B. Martin calls the phenomenon reciprocity and lists it as one of three ways in which he says we can categorize properties with their dispositions: Reciprocity between properties of different things or parts of things for the manifestation that is their common product for example, the soluble salt and solvent water for the solution of the salt in the water. The reciprocity of properties with their dispositions for the manifestations that are their common products is deep and complex The important point remains that the manifestation of a given dispositional state will require the cooperation of some other dispositional states amongst its reciprocating partners. The

51 52

Radioactive decay is an example of a power whose manifestation does not involve other objects. D. M. Armstrong, A World of States of Affairs, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 73.

89 manifestation of the dispositional state of the match needs, amongst others, the cooperation of the reciprocal dispositional state of the enfolding oxygen. 53 Reciprocity, evident here in the examples of solubility and flammability, is also found in the paradigmatic cases offered early in this chapter. In the ductility example, the disposition of a piece of metal to bend is manifested together with the reciprocal disposition of the object exerting force on the metal. The mass of a particle, its potential to create and respond to gravitational fields, works like that of the ball and bar mentioned above. The agoraphobics disposition to panic attack-like symptoms in open, public spaces has as its apparent reciprocal partner the ability of open, public spaces to trigger such attacks.54 Finally, the color of the violet has as its reciprocal partner the human capacity for color-vision, the two manifesting together in the humans visual experience.


Conclusion In this chapter I have demonstrated the familiarity of powers from our everyday language

and experience, and also their heuristic value in our scientific research. I have explained a model for powers at work, in which we see that the genuine powers of an object are the properties whereby it brings about manifestation events under appropriate conditions. I have argued that the essence of a power is its directedness towards the event-type which, relative to its conditions of manifestation, determines the powers identity, and that such events need not be instantiated or fully determinate. Physical dispositions and powers, I have shown, display the same marks of

C. B. Martin, Power for Realists, pp. 175-194, p. 182. Martin goes on to say This view of the interconnectedness and reciprocities of properties, largely unknown but existent still, contrasts with the simpleminded view that because nature does not lay out The Cause of each event, causality itself is mind-dependent. Here he is critiquing the Humean view of causality, which his theory of powers is intended to replace, a discussion which is beyond the scope of this project. 54 This example, and others like it, seems to perhaps stretch the notion of reciprocity and genuine powers a little far; a similar example will be addressed in the context of aesthetic objects in chapter 5.


90 intentionality as do mental entities such as beliefs. This is not, however, reason for concern, as recognizing intentionality as a mark of the dispositional does not entail animism or panpsychism; rather, it points us towards the causal essence of powers and dispositions, their dual modality being that of an actual property of an object which has the power to cause events and states of affairs which are as yet only potential. In the chapters that follow I shall use this model and theory of powers as a basis for critiquing response-dependence accounts of aesthetic properties and to offer my own realist, objectivist account of aesthetic properties.


Chapter 3: Response-Dependence and Projectivism

In my first chapter I noted that the aesthetic property realist faces a dual challenge: to establish that aesthetic properties cannot be eliminated by a reduction to non-aesthetic properties, and to establish that they do not depend for their existence on the responses of observers. I addressed elimination in 1.7, and in this chapter I shall return to the dependence concern, arguing that the existence of aesthetic properties is independent of the existence of perceivers and their minds/responses. I believe that that even if we allow that the nature or essence of an aesthetic property is determined in part by perceivers responses, this does not entail that the propertys existence is dependent. The separability of these two issues has not always been clear in the response-dependence literature, and Nick Zangwill in particular offers a response-dependent account of aesthetic properties that conflates the two issues with unfortunate results. While discussing the issue of response-dependence, it is thus instructive to ask whether it is the propertys very existence that is thought to depend on our responses, or whether we mean that the propertys essence is to some degree determined by responses, leading to a situation where our ability to understand or form a concept of the property depends on responses. Where existence is in question, I shall specify the issue as one of ontological response-dependence (ORD), and where the emphasis is on our concepts of such properties, I shall speak of conceptual response-dependence (CRD). My thesis in this chapter can thus be stated as follows: aesthetic properties are arguably conceptually response-dependent, but this does not entail that they are ontologically response-dependent. This is because although their natures or essences are in part determined by our responses, their existence depends on the objects to which they belong. On my account we should expect that the nature of an aesthetic property is determined in part by our responses (a concept of such a property must reference responses) because the manifestation-

92 type towards which a disposition is directed is what determines the dispositions identity (see 2.6.1), and the manifestations of aesthetic dispositions are the aesthetic responses of perceivers. Response-dependence accounts, like the dispositional account I favor, aim to occupy a sort of middle ground among theories of sense-perceptible properties. In the course of this chapter I shall explore their potential for navigating and reconciling the observations discussed in section 1.4 regarding the subjective and objective elements of aesthetic experience. I shall introduce response-dependence as a feature of concepts and go on to explore its potential as a feature of properties. I shall argue that accepting response-dependence for the concept of a property, be it sensory or aesthetic, does not entail accepting an ontological response-dependence for the existence of the property itself. I shall then critique Nick Zangwills treatment of aesthetic properties, according to which they are ontologically response-dependent and minddependent, if they exist at all.


Motivations For a Realist Account of Sensory Properties Zangwills argument that aesthetic properties cannot be mind-independent rests heavily

on his argument for the same claim regarding the properties involved in sense perception, particularly colors and sounds. I will likewise begin by discussing these non-aesthetic properties, recognizing that if I am to successfully argue for an objective, realist account of aesthetic properties, I must begin by securing the possibility of an objective, realist account of properties like colors and sounds.1 While the explanations of much of what goes on in the world can be traced to microphysical properties, the world as we experience it features shapes and colors, sounds, tastes
A note on terminology: Zangwill consistently refers to colors, sounds, etc. collectively as sensory properties; I will speak of sensory language, concepts, and experiences, but intentionally deviate in speaking of sense-perceptible properties, as this is more in keeping with my own account.

93 and smells, and sensations of temperature, texture, and movement. This is taken by some to support a projectivism about sense-perceptible properties. Projectivism is a kind of error theory: it suggests that the world of our day-to-day experience is not the objective world, but is rather a world colored (and flavored, and so on) by our experiences of it. This projection of our experiences onto the external world is thought to lead us to make aesthetic claims that are inevitably in error, since the properties involved in sensory experience are regarded as nothing more than the subjective responses that we have projected onto the real world. This latter suggestion is one that I wish to resist. Motivated as I am to provide a realist account of aesthetic properties, and given the intimate connections between sense-perceptible and aesthetic properties, it is prudent to lay the foundations for such an account by first developing a realist account of the properties involved in sensory experience. In fact, I think such an account is desirable in its own right for sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and textures because like aesthetic properties, they occupy important causal and explanatory roles. When I note and enjoy the spiciness of my food, the softness of a set of bed linens, the smell of an evergreen tree, or the color of a ripe apricot, it is the sense-perceptible properties and not the underlying microphysical properties that I point to as the causes of my delight. Senseperceptible properties also explain many social and cultural practices. Taste properties, for instance, have led to the development of many culinary traditions, while texture properties have resulted in dedicated textile industries. I take these cultural practices to be engaged in a process of discovery of pleasing sense-perceptible properties rather than fabrication of the same: experimentation, I think, leads to the fuller realization of the possibilities inherent in their materials, not the ex nihilio creation of new sensory experiences. The materials, I suspect, would neither lack nor lose those inherent possibilities if they were suddenly forgotten, or had they

94 never been discovered: this leads me to believe that the existence and nature of colors, sounds, tastes, smells, and feels are rooted firmly in objects in the world. These are the objects that serve as the focus of such experimentation, being adjusted, manipulated, or wholly recombined in a way that tasters and testers can enjoy and appreciate, rather than it being the human subjects that are manipulated.


The Prima Facie Appeal of Projectivism While we might desire a realist account of sense-perceptible properties, are they in fact

suited for such an account? Our sensory experiences are determined by the qualities of the objects we experience and the conditions under which we encounter those objects, both of these arguably objective features of the world, but, the projectivist will continue, are they not equally determined by our own subjective natures? Sense-perceptible properties are traditionally considered dissimilar enough to physical properties like structure and movement that a categorical divide between the two is warranted: colors and other sense-perceptible properties have been treated as secondary to such primary properties as shape and size, considered inescapably tainted by the subjectivity of the perceivers who experience them, and judged reducible to primary properties and perceivers responses. Since my aim is to resist this sort of treatment, I believe it will be valuable to identify here the reasons that make subjectivism appear inevitable for sense-perceptible properties, reasons that I shall address in chapter 4. I believe there are three main sources of projectivisms appeal: the anthropocentric problem, the importance of direct, personal experience of sense-perceptible properties, and a certain set of intuitions regarding the implications of extreme changes in our perceptual mechanisms.

95 How we understand sensory properties is determined, it seems, as much by our perceptual abilities as by the physical natures of the objects of our experience, a situation we can refer to as the anthropocentric problem. Taking colors as an example, we can give a fairly sophisticated account of the science of color perception, recognizing the eyes mechanistic ability to detect specific ranges of the light spectrum that are reflected by surfaces. This would seem to indicate that particular colors (red, green, etc.) can be identified with particular ranges of electromagnetic radiation; as it turns out, however, color perception is not so simple. For one thing, the human brain interprets various combinations of reflected wavelengths as being the same color, so for instance there is more than one way to appear yellow. For another, certain colors like magenta dont correspond directly to any particular range of electromagnetic radiation at all: magenta is instead how the brain handles simultaneous perception of wavelengths from the short and long ends of the spectrum (violet and red, respectively), in effect recognizing a new color altogether. So in some of these problem cases, our use of color terms picks out disjunctions of properties of light-reflectance, and in other cases, it picks out complexes of such properties, and in both sorts of situations it seems to be the nature of the color perceiver that determines to which physical properties the color terms apply.2 The anthropocentric problem is not limited to color, but also applies to tastes, smells, feels, and sounds. Flavor substitutes exemplify the anthropocentric problem in the area of gustatory taste: when baking, a dish might just as easily be vanilla flavored due to the chemical in imitation vanilla as to the use of genuine vanilla extract. The physical substances are quite different, but they affect us in the same way, and here again we find that our understanding of a sense-perceptible property, the flavor vanilla, is determined as much by our own perceptual
For a discussion of the disjunctive nature of colors like yellow, see Edward Wilson Averill, Color and the Anthropocentric Problem, in The Philosophy of Color, ed. A. Byrne and D. Hilbert, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1997.

96 capacities (which respond similarly to the two substances) as by the physical properties of the two flavoring agents. Scented candles mimic familiar smells, and we refer to them as berry, pine, or cookie scented, though the waxy substance is quite dissimilar to fruit, trees, or baked goods, except in the way it smells to us. Many textiles created with artificial materials feel just like their natural counterpartsimitation dupioni silk made from polyester, faux fur, microfibers that are indistinguishable from suede, and so on.3 When we listen to a string ensembles performance, what we perceive as a very loud sound coming from a violin is, physically speaking, a waveform with much less energy than the waveform produced by a bass, which we are likely to perceive as equally loud. This is because the human ear is less sensitive to lower sounds than it is to mid-range or higher sounds; we are thus at times inclined to judge two sounds with markedly different decibel levels as being equally loud, and our understanding of loudness is shaped by the peculiarities of the human ears abilities as much as by the physical properties of the sounds themselves.4 The color terms and other sensory property terms we use, then, appear to have extensions determined by our natures as much as by those of the objects of our experience. I will address the anthropocentric problem in section 3.10 and in chapter 4, arguing that the role of the human perceptual apparatus can be reasonably understood on a powers model to determine in part the nature of a sense-perceptible property, that is its identity or essence, but that the propertys existence is objective in the sense that its existence is wholly determined by the object that possesses it. The second source of appeal for Projectivism is the apparent necessity for an individual to experience sense-perceptible properties directly for him or herself in order to actually
Texture examples are perhaps less subject to the anthropocentric problem than are other sensory property examples, as their sensual similarities are more likely to be accounted for by microphysical, structural properties. 4 Interestingly, apparent similarities in most other properties of sound are very much determined by actual physical similarities: a CD sounds like the original music group in terms of pitch, timbre, etc. because the waveforms produced by playing the recording are (very nearly) physically identical to the original.

97 understand such properties. This point can be illustrated by a personal olfactory example: as a child I had frequent sinus infections, greatly impairing my sense of smell. It wasnt until I was diagnosed and treated for allergies that I began to experience (and thus could fully comprehend) certain odors, among them those associated with gas grills and overheating computers. These odors now cause distinct behaviors in meconcern, and often a need to investigate of the source of the smellas well as in others who detect them. This causal role would seem to indicate that such smells are an objective feature of the world, and yet it wasnt until my own abilities were developed and I had formed the appropriate concepts that they became real for me. One likewise does not expect individuals who have never seen any colors or heard any sounds to be capable of fully understanding those properties, let alone of responding to them; they may well have electromagnetic radiation or vibration of matter explained to them, but to fully understand what it means for a thing to be colored or make a sound one needs to experience it oneself.5 Not only does direct, personal experience seem necessary to a complete understanding of sense-perceptible properties, but our commonsense understanding of colors suggests that direct, personal experience may in fact be sufficient to fully reveal the nature of the properties in question. Mark Johnston thus notes that it is often believed that the intrinsic nature of canary yellow is fully revealed by a standard visual experience as of a canary yellow thing.6 If this were true, then once one has seen canary yellow there is no more to know about the way canary yellow is. But we know from the psychophysics of perception that our experiences of canary yellow are subject to further explanation in terms of the surface reflectance properties and nonSee, for example, Frank Jacksons example of Mary, the color scientist who has only ever experienced things in black and white, in his Epiphenomenal Qualia, Philosophical Quarterly 32, 1982, 126-136, and What Mary Didnt Know, Journal of Philosophy 83:5, 1986, 291-295. Locke also discusses this in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book 2, chapter 2, section 2, and considers Molyneuxs Problem in chapter 9, section 8 whether a man born blind who learned to identify geometrical solids could, if he gained vision, later identify them through sight alone. 6 How to Speak of the Colors, p. 138.

98 dispositional microphysical properties of objects.7 This means that direct, personal experience does not fully reveal the nature of a color, even if it is necessary to fully understand the color. I shall say more about the direct involvement needed for sense-perceptible properties in 3.8, and address the question of revelation in 4.2 and 4.3. The third feature of sensory experience that makes projectivism attractive is our intuition that if our perceptual mechanisms were to change enough, things in the world could give us sensory experiences that would be drastically different from the ones we have now. In the case mentioned above, the treatment of my allergy symptoms led to a drastic change in my ability to detect certain odors, and the world seemed to me to take on a whole new range of properties as a result. One might imagine such a change on a larger scale: perhaps whole populations might, over time, become more or less aware of certain sense-perceptible properties, or even begin to experience things as having drastically different colors or tastes than previously. Where a certain portion of the reflected light spectrum was previously identified with the color green, we can imagine that a change in our perceptual mechanisms might lead to its identification with the color blue. Or we might consider animals with perceptual abilities different from our own: if I were to experience the world as does a dog, would it lack distinct reds and greens, or have smells of which I am now unaware? What is the world like for bats and other animals that use sonar? Hypothetical situations involving such perceptual differences lead us to suspect that the properties involved in sensory experience are not straightforwardly objective features of the world. But they do so, I think, because they rely on the anthropocentric nature of our commonsense understanding. I shall consider the possibility of divergence in sensory experience in 3.10.

How to Speak of the Colors, p. 140.

99 If the properties involved in sensory experience are uncertain candidates for a realist theory, aesthetic properties are doubly so. Not only do they inherit all of the problems of the sense-perceptible properties upon which they supervene, but they have unique difficulties of their own. If there are many ways (microphysically speaking) for a thing to be such that we experience it as yellow, there are many ways (with regard to sensory properties) for a thing to be garish or elegant, let alone beautiful or ugly. And although aesthetic properties are determined at least in part by sense-perceptible properties, as Sibley has argued, this relationship does not seem to be one governed by rules. Keeping this in mind, I shall postpone further discussion of aesthetic properties and continue with my discussion of response-dependence for the properties involved in sensory experience. Our intuitions about the latter, I have claimed, are conflicting: on the one hand, they appear to play important causal and explanatory roles, suggesting that their ontological status is that of real, objective features of the world; on the other hand, they are closely tied to our own natures, and conceptualized in terms of our subjective experiences, with the result being that a certain degree of subjectivism seems inescapable.


Conceptual Response-Dependence Response-dependence theories such Mark Johnstons aim at a middle ground between

objectivity and subjectivity by allowing that our sensory property concepts essentially track the experiences of perceiving subjects, while leaving open the possibility that those concepts pick out objective features of the world. For Johnston, a concept associated with the predicate is C is response-dependent when it is a priori true that something is C if and only if it is such as to produce response R in subjects S under conditions K. Such a concept is thus dependent on

100 concepts of the responses of subjects, hence the label response-dependent.8 For Johnston, the concept red will (roughly speaking) be response-dependent if it is true that things are red if and only if they are such as to look a certain way to normal perceivers under normal lighting conditions. Other concepts which Johnston takes to be straightforwardly response-dependent include concepts of the nauseating and dizzying, the tasty or titillating, the shymaking or embarrassing, the agreeable or irritating, and the plausible or credible. In all these cases he thinks that what it means to be nauseating, dizzying, tasty, and so on is explained in terms of human responses; these concepts are thus said to be interdependent with or dependent upon concepts of subjects responses.9 He holds that such a response-dependence account of a concept will be a qualified realism: realist because it allows that genuine instances of the concept exist, but qualified because it denies the independence of the concept in question from concepts of the subjects responses under specified conditions.10 Johnstons account illustrates two important features of response-dependent concepts: first, they are dispositional, and second, they are response-privileging. I have addressed dispositions at length in chapter 2, so I shall simply note here that a concept is dispositional when it represents something as a disposition to bring about a certain type of state of affairs under certain conditions. In Johnstons account, the language being such as to under conditions K makes the dispositional nature of response-dependent concepts apparent. The in responsedependence accounts is filled in as produce response R in subjects S, and this introduces the second key feature of response-dependent concepts, that they are response-privileging.

Mark Johnston, Dispositional Theories of Value, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, 63 (1989) 139-174, 145. 9 Ibid, 146. 10 Ibid, 148.

101 According to Philip Pettit, a concept is response-privileging when it leaves no room for either ignorance or error in the corresponding responses under the appropriate conditions. If red is a response-privileging concept, for instance, then It is a priori knowable that if something is red then it will look red in normal circumstances to normal observers, so ignorance is ruled out in that situation. And it is a priori knowable that if something looks red in normal circumstances to normal observers then it is red, so error is equally ruled out in that situation. The sensations are not judgments but they lead observers to make judgments, and the point is that in appropriate conditions they will neither fail to lead, as in allowing ignorance, nor mislead, as in generating error.11 This response-privileging feature is what makes response-dependence a qualified realism. Response-dependent concepts are thought to be objective insofar as they rule out some conditions and responses as irrelevant, thus making it possible that we are sometimes in error. When the relevant conditions and responses obtain, however, we are supposed to have a guarantee of successful judgment, so that not every judgment is in error. Ruling out the irrelevant responses is what keeps a response-dependent concept from falling into subjectivism; privileging the relevant responses is what keeps it from devolving into an error theory. This attempt at finding a middle way between the objective and subjective is apparent in response-dependence accounts of moral and other normative concepts as well, as Peter Vallentyne explains. [It appears] to incorporate the plausible elements of each of subjectivism and objectivism without their corresponding implausible elements. Like subjectivism, response-dependent accounts ground normativity in the concerns and attitudes of mental beingsand thus avoid postulating mysterious objectively prescriptive attributes. Like objectivism, plausible response-dependent accounts deny that normativity is grounded in the concerns and attitudes that we happen to haveit is only certain sorts of response of certain sorts of mental being under certain sorts of condition that are relevant. Because we may not


Philip Pettit, Realism and Response-Dependence, Mind, 100:4, Oct 1991, 587-626, p. 597; emphasis mine.

102 meet these conditions, our responses may well be in errorboth individually and collectively.12 If Vallentyne is correct, then response-dependence appears plausible for sensory concepts and moral concepts for the same reason: it bridges the divide between the subjective and objective features of those concepts. Whether our concepts of red and right are more or less correct is keyed to the way humans experience redness and rightness, so a certain level of subjectivity is automatically incorporated into a response-dependent account. But not just any response or experience is thereby deemed correct, and this is of the utmost importance because leaving room for error is what allows a response-dependent account to be an objective account. Barry C. Smith deals with a version of this questionto what extent our subjective experiences can be a guide to a things objective propertiesin an essay on wine-tasting, where he concludes that the fact that tasting sensations are the conscious experiences of individual tasters does not thereby prevent them from providing information about the objective characteristics of the wines tasted.13 According to Smith, it is only when there is room for a contrast between opinions and what makes them true that we are dealing with objective matters, and we do admit a gap, on occasions, between how things strike us and how they are. We distinguish, for example, between the way a wine tastes, and how it tastes to us after sucking a lemon.14 Here the conditions under which a subject tastes a wine are essential to determining whether that experience is a suitable guide to the wines taste properties, and some responses can be ruled out as irrelevant because they involve errors in judgment. Setting limits on which conditions and responses are relevant is what allows for the possibility of error and thus

Peter Vallentyne, Response-Dependence, Rigidification, and Objectivity, Erkenntnis, 44:1, 101-112, 101. Barry C. Smith, The Objectivity of Tastes and Tasting, Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine, ed. Barry C. Smith. Oxford: Signal Books, 2007, 41-77, 48. 14 Ibid, 46-47.


103 objectivity, guarding against an extreme version of subjectivism. But delineating a class of relevant responses and conditions also serves to rule out an error theory, as we shall see in the following section. It should be noted that the two key features of response-dependence concepts can come apart and are thus independent: our concepts may be dispositional without being responseprivileging, or they may be response-privileging without being dispositional. One example of a dispositional concept that is not response-privileging involves a simplistic physicalist concept of the color red, where red is identified with a disposition to emit or reflect a certain range of wavelengths of light, measurable by scientific instruments. This way of conceiving of the color red does not involve human responses, and we should not take it for granted that because a concept is dispositional, it will be a disposition to produce a response. An example of a response-privileging concept that is not dispositional can also be given for the color red, following a schema provided by Pettit. Suppose that we form a concept of the color red by having red things presented to us under certain conditionsapples, fire engines, and so on, presented in bright sunlight. We then find it primitively salient to extrapolate from those exemplars to other cases that look appropriately similar to us under the same lighting conditions. According to Pettit, conceiving of red this way will rule out both ignorance and error; red things so conceived will reliably present themselves as being saliently similar to our exemplars, and anything that presents itself as saliently similar to our exemplars will be red. This means that such a concept is response-privileging, but note, it is not dispositional: this is because in the scenario described red is never identified with a disposition to evoke the relevant responses, though we do rely on our responses in recognizing the similarities.15


Pettit, 1991, p. 598.

104 3.4 Responses, Conditions, and Objectivity In a response-dependent account of sense-perceptible properties such as Mark Johnstons, then, we are supposed to find a middle ground between objectivism and subjectivism: the account is objective and realist because it allows that genuine instances of sense-perceptible properties exist, but it is subjective to the extent that it recognizes that our sensory property concepts are essentially bound up in our sensory experience concepts. But the degree to which a response-dependence account is subjective depends on what sorts of responses are deemed relevant, a point which I shall elaborate here. In the scheme being such as to produce responses R in subjects S under conditions K that is used to describe a response-dependent property, there are several possibilities for how we fill in S and K. To capture our everyday concept of color, it is natural to restrict the relevant subjects to humans with normal vision (ruling out the color-blind, for instance), and to restrict the conditions to situations with good lightingbright sunlight or its equivalent, sayand an absence of obscuring objects. Edward Wilson Averills account, however, extends the lighting conditions to include all possible sources of light, with the color of an object being identified with the whole class of resulting ways it reacts to those light sources.16 And Nick Zangwill includes non-normal subjects and discusses possible worlds in which the perceiving subjects are aliens or humans with perceptual mechanisms drastically different from our own (a topic to which I shall return in 3.10). Response-dependence theorists have distinguished between two ways of limiting the conditions and responses privileged in their accounts, with the result being that a response-


Color and the Anthropocentric Problem in The Philosophy of Color, ed. A. Byrne and D. Hilbert, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1997. Averill also allows for the inclusion of non-human animal observers in the subjects whose responses are deemed relevant.

105 dependence account can be classified as either rigid or non-rigid. In a rigid responsedependence account, the subjects and conditions whose responses are relevant are restricted so that they are the same across times and worlds. Such a restriction is typically generated by fixing on the actual world: we could say, for instance, that a wine in any possible world should be judged as having a smooth finish if it would taste a particular way to an ideal wine taster from the actual world under normal tasting circumstances for the actual world. Or we could say that a fire engine is red if ordinary perceivers in normal conditions for the actual world experience it as red. Rigid accounts can thus limit the relevant subjects to normal persons from the actual world, or perhaps a more limited pool of ideal observers. A non-rigid response-dependence account, by contrast, does not fix concepts by reference to the actual world: subjects very unlike those in the actual world, under conditions very unlike those in the actual world, are included in such an account. This approach allows that in some worlds our red fire engines could legitimately be judged green due to looking a certain way to those worlds occupants (be they aliens or humans with differing perceptual mechanisms than ours), or due to being seen in conditions unlike those found in the actual world.17 If responsedependent concepts result in a qualified realism because they depend on concepts of our responses and experiences, then the degree of qualification for a realist view will be greater or lesser depending on the range of responses considered relevant. A rigid account that only takes the responses of normal humans in normal conditions to be relevant will be more robustly realist than a non-rigid account that takes perceivers and conditions in possible worlds to be relevant. The issue of rigidity affects the objectivity of a response-dependent because of the way in which the constraints on the subjects and conditions affect the possibility for error. As explained

See Vallentyne 1996 for further explanation and examples of rigidification on response-dependence accounts; the rigid language is also used in Zangwill 2000.

106 in the previous section, response-dependence accounts are response-privileging in that our responses are deemed reliable in certain conditions: under many a rigid account, the normal perceivers and conditions found in the actual world are taken to be the reliable ones. Any responses that do not live up to this standard will be considered in error, and because there is a possibility for error, the account is considered objective, as Smiths wine-tasting examples illustrated. By contrast, a non-rigid account results in response-dependent concepts with a lesser possibility for error because the pool of perceiving subjects and conditions deemed relevant are greater and more varied. If objects may be justifiably judged red only so long as they look a certain way to someone under some conditions or other, then it becomes quite difficult to say when a judgmentthat US interstate highway exit signs are red, for instanceis in error. What should be clear from this discussion of rigidification and response-dependence is that it is possible to maintain an important role for the perceiving subject and his/her responses in ones theory of sense-perceptible properties while not privileging responses to a degree that just anything goes. An error theory is not inevitable, and we can judge some claims about senseperceptible properties to be right or wrong, particularly if we individuate sense-perceptible properties in a sufficiently fine-grained manner. On my account this is explained by the fact that colors and other sense-perceptible properties are dispositions whose identities are keyed to their manifestations and conditions for manifestation, but are ultimately grounded in the nature of the powers of the objects that possess them. While avoidance of an error theory is a necessary condition for an objectivist theory of sense-perceptible properties, the account I favor meets a higher standard for realism because of its use of a realist ontology of powers and dispositions.

107 3.5 Ontological Response-Dependence I have, so far, limited my discussion of response-dependence to concepts. I now wish to ask the question, what do advocates of response-dependence accounts mean when they say that a property is response-dependent? Two possibilities, at least, present themselves: firstly, they might simply be claiming that the conceptual response-dependence (CRD) discussed above applies, thus that our concepts of the property in question are inescapably bound up with concepts of our responses. Secondly, they could be making the more serious ontological response-dependence claim (ORD) that the property in question depends for its very existence on our responses. This second, ontological claim entails mind-dependence for the properties in question, to the extent that the responses in question are mental: put simply, the reasoning goes, if the property cannot exist without the appropriate responses existing, and the responses depend for their existence on minds, then the propertys existence will also be dependent on the minds existence.18 One might, of course, accept both claims, but what I wish to point out is that accepting the conceptual claim does not entail acceptance of the ontological claim. CRD is one way in which we might understand the relation between a property and our responses, and ORD a very different way. The two may well both apply in the same cases, such as in the value of monetary currency, where a five dollar bill has only as much buying power as our responses give it, and both an understanding of the value and its having of that value depend quite heavily on the existence of persons having the appropriate responses, namely the relevant beliefs and judgments regarding its value. But CRD does not entail ORD: there are also clear cases where the concept of a property is bound up in concepts of responses, but the property itself does not depend for its


Mental responses would include beliefs, judgments, etc., but not, for instance, purely somatic responses.

108 very existence on those responses. When I pick up a box of books, for instance, I experience its mass as gravitational pull. My nave concept of mass is thus very likely to be bound up with concepts of this sensation of weightiness, a type of human response. This makes CRD plausible for mass, yet we would not want to say that an objects having mass depends on the existence of human responses, and I think we would be quite loathe to call mass a mind-dependent property. Whether a property is ontologically response-dependent and potentially mind-dependent, then, is determined not by fact that it is merely related to our responses, but by the nature of the relation, and in particular the kind of dependence involved, if there is any. The two claims have very different consequences for the ontological status of response-dependent properties: to borrow Zangwills way of framing the difference, someone who accepts ORD for senseperceptible or aesthetic properties would seem to be accepting that a world without humans and their responses is colorless and without grace or beauty. Indeed, with the sort of anti-realism he discusses, a world with humans in it is still, in itself, colorless and lacking grace and beauty, as these are located in the eye of the beholder. But if an account only holds that CRD applies to such properties, it is not thereby committed to this ontology; something further must still be said about the ontological status of response-dependent properties in relation to humans and their responses. Which claims the response-dependence theorist is willing to make depends, in large part, on what subjects and conditions he or she considers relevant to the response-dependent property in question. A rigid response-dependence, for instance, does not entail acceptance of the ontological claim, as Peter Vallentyne explains in the context of normative/moral concepts: The core point has been that rigid response-dependent accounts are not genuinely ontologically response-dependent. They are rather forms of objectivism. They do not track in any interesting sense the responses of the specified beings. Rigid responsedependence accounts merely appeal to responsive dispositions and conditions to rigidly

109 identify certain non-response-dependent attributes as normative attributes. Although this point is implicitly recognized by many, there is still a tendency to view rigid responsedependent accounts as non-objectivist theories. For example, rigid response-dependent accounts of moral properties are thought to be non-objective in contrast with Cornell realists accounts. If the above argument is correct, however, rigid response-dependent accounts may be simply picking out dispositionally the sort of objective moral attribute the realists believe in.19 The sort of rigid response-dependence account that Vallentyne describes here makes use of concepts that are both dispositional and response-privileging, and so may be classified as response-dependent. But it demonstrates a coherent way in which a response-dependence theorist might accept CRD but not ORD for normative properties, and analogously for senseperceptible and aesthetic properties. Allowing that sense-perceptible or aesthetic properties are conceptually responsedependent may, in fact, say nothing at all about their ontological status. For it may just be the minimal claim that we have a property under a certain sort of description, such that the property can exist even in a world without people; the lack of minds means only that the description is not available, while the objective property is. It is thus very important to be clear about exactly what a response-dependence theory means when it involves the claim that sense-perceptible or aesthetic properties are response-dependent: is it saying that they depend for their very existence on human responses, or just that our concepts necessarily involve reference to such responses? In the context of response-dependence accounts, we must remember that CRD does not entail ORD, and this means that any argument for subjectivism or mind-dependence about senseperceptible or aesthetic will have to do more than demonstrate that our concepts of such properties depend on concepts of our responses. In the broader context, the important point is that although the identity or nature of a sense-perceptible property is determined in part by

Peter Vallentyne, Response-Dependence, Rigidification, and Objectivity, Erkenntnis, 44:1, 101-112, 109.

110 manifestation-type and conditions of manifestation, thus involving perceivers and their responses, the existence of the property is a matter of its possession by an object in the external world.


Zangwills Non-Realist Aesthetic Response-Dependence According to Nick Zangwill, if aesthetic properties exist at all, they are a certain kind of

mind-dependent property, and not part of the objective worlda world that is left over when we subtract human beings. This conclusion is the result of two theses: first, that if aesthetic properties exist, they must supervene on sensory properties such as colors and sounds; and second, that those sensory properties are response-dependent. For Zangwill, sensory property response-dependence is equivalent to mind-dependence, indicating that he has ontological response-dependence in mind, with the result being a projectivism or non-realism for sensory properties. His understanding of supervenience is such that if the base sensory properties are mind-dependent, so also must the supervenient aesthetic properties be mind-dependent. 20 Granting Zangwill his supervenience thesis, I shall focus my critique on his argument for a non-realism or projectivism about response-dependent sensory properties, addressing three different threads of his argument: the particular version of the primary/secondary quality distinction that he employs, the resulting claim that sensory properties understood as dispositions are relations, and the possibility of divergence from the normal correlations between our sensory experiences and the properties of the objects that cause them. I find two major difficulties with his argument for sensory property response-dependence: first, an unjustified move from CRD to ORD, and second, a conflation of the sense-perceptible property dispositions and their

Nick Zangwill, Skin-Deep or in the Eye of the Beholder in The Metaphysics of Beauty (Ithaca: Cornell, 2001) p. 176-200.

111 manifestations. If my assessment is correct, Zangwills argument only succeeds in making conceptual response-dependence plausible for sensory properties, and he has not ruled out the possibility of realism for both sense-perceptible and aesthetic properties.


Two Versions of the Primary/Secondary Quality Distinction Zangwills pessimism regarding realist accounts of sense-perceptible properties begins

with the claim that sensory properties are secondary qualities, a claim that requires some unpacking in light of Lockes primary/secondary quality distinction. According to Locke, an objects secondary qualities just are its powers to operate on our senses, producing in us the ideas of colors, sounds, smells, tastes, etc. These powers to affect our senses depend on its primary qualities, such as mass, structure, and motion. Changes in the secondary qualities of an object are effected by changes to its primary qualities: pounding an almond, for example, changes its color from a clear white to a dirty color by changing its texture, a structural quality.21 Lockes discussion emphasizes two criteria for the primary/secondary quality distinction that are important for my purposes here. Michael Jacovides explains that Because Locke believes that primary qualities are explanatory and that secondary qualities are not, he concludes that our ideas of primary qualities resemble and that our ideas of secondary qualities do not. Because our ideas of primary qualities resemble and our ideas of secondary qualities do not, he concludes that our ideas of primary qualities represent intrinsic, mind-independent, real qualities and that our ideas of secondary qualities represent powers to produce ideas in us.22

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Bk. II, Ch. VIII, 20-25. Michael Jacovides, "Locke's Distinctions between Primary and Secondary Qualities," The Cambridge Companion to Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding", ed. Lex Newman, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 101-156, 2007. Emphasis mine.


112 I shall refer to these as the resemblance criterion and the mind-independence criterion, respectively, and I suggest that an account of secondary qualities will be more or less realist depending on how it handles the mind-independence criterion. Now according to Zangwill, a secondary quality depends on the experiences of normal human beings under normal conditions, while a primary quality does not: Colors, sounds, tastes, and smells are all secondary qualities, it is said, because they depend on the specific character of the sensory experiences of normal human beings in normal circumstances. What it is to be red, loud, sweet, or pungent depends on what it is for normal human beings to experience them as red, round, sweet or pungent in normal conditions.23 On Zangwills account, then, it appears to be the independent existence criterion that is supposed to distinguish primary from secondary qualities, and he takes the result to be that secondary qualities are mind-dependent and so unsuited to a realist account. He notes that this distinction is purely stipulative, however, and references Colin McGinns comment that it is left open whether there are in fact any qualities of objects falling under either characterization; it is thus a substantive question whether (say) colour is a secondary quality.24 Stipulative, indeed, for one could just as easily formulate a primary/secondary quality distinction as being based on the resemblance criterion: primary qualities, one could say, are those that are essentially as we perceive them to be (for Locke, that our ideas resemble what is in the object), while the secondary qualities are not. If one formulates the primary/secondary quality distinction on the basis of the resemblance criterion, rather than jumping straight to the mind-independence criterion, then secondary qualities remain candidates for inclusion in a realist ontology, because there would be an open question regarding whether secondary qualities depend on minds for their existence,
23 24

2001, 186-187. The Subjective View, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1983), 5.

113 natures, or both. Furthermore, as I shall argue in 3.10, understanding secondary qualities functionally as powers (as described in the previous chapter) avoids mind-dependence as an outcome. My own account, given in chapter 4, will treat sense-perceptible properties as dispositions using the model laid out in the previous chapter, where dispositionality is explained in terms of directedness; it leads to an understanding of sense-perceptible properties of objects that exist independently of perceivers and do not resemble the sensory experiences they cause in us.25 As I have indicated previously, I hold that the identity or natures of sense-perceptible properties are in part determined by the kinds of responses in which they are manifested, but not their existence.


Are Sense-Perceptible Properties Relative? The primary/secondary quality distinction for color theory that Zangwill utilizes finds its

strongest statement, I think, in the account of Colin McGinns that Zangwill references. According to McGinn, It is entirely proper to speak of objects as red with respect to perceiver x and green with respect to perceiver y it is just to say that what it is for a secondary quality to be instantiated is for a certain relation to obtain between the object and some chosen group of perceivers.26 If the properties involved in sensory experience are relations, and if some of the relata in question are mental entitiesthe responses of perceiversthen ontological dependence on these responses entails the mind-dependence that leads Zangwill to his sensory property nonrealism. McGinn actually makes two claims about the relational nature of sensory properties in

My preference in addressing sense-perceptible properties is to follow the contemporary dispositional literature in speaking of a categorical/dispositional distinction. Categorical properties correspond roughly to primary qualities, and dispositional properties correspond roughly to Lockes secondary and tertiary qualities taken together. The rough correspondence between secondary qualities and dispositions is evident in Zangwills practice of using secondary quality, disposition, and response-dependent property more or less interchangeably. 26 1983, The Subjective View, Oxford University Press, 10.


114 this passage: first, that they are relative to the perceivers in question (red with respect to perceiver x), and second, that they are instantiated as relations between the object and the perceivers in question. I shall respond with a qualified acceptance of the relativity claim, and then dispute the instantiation claim. McGinn holds that colors (as well as all other sense-perceptible properties, presumably) are subjective in a specific sense, namely that their analysis involves experience: to grasp the concept of red it is necessary to know what it is for something to look red, and this knowledge is available only to one who enjoys those kinds of experiences sensory experiences which we have only from the first-person perspective.27 This point is illustrated by our expectation that blind persons cannot fully conceive of color, since they do not have experiences of things as looking colored. I allow that sense-perceptible properties are relative in the sense that they are understood as dispositions to produce responses in normal perceiversthose who experience things as looking colored, being scented, making sound, and so onin normal conditions. I allow that the manifestation event-types that sense-perceptible properties are directed and defined by are necessarily conceived relative to these perceivers. But as I have argued, this alone does not entail that the very existence of sense-perceptible properties is relative to human responses. My acceptance of McGinns relativity claim is thus qualified because I reject relativity as entailing the sort of ontological response-dependence that Zangwill espouses, leading to projectivism or anti-realism. A second qualification I would add is that it is not just sense-perceptible properties that turn out to be relative when understood as dispositions. Our concepts of physical dispositions like flammability and fragility are also relative insofar as their identities are given by


Ibid, 8-9.

115 manifestation event-types occurring in normal conditions, though perceivers and their responses are not typically part of the relevant conditions for these dispositions. Most things are flammable, given high enough temperatures, but our use of the term flammable is typically restricted to things that ignite easily and burn quickly at normal temperatures. Similarly, we use fragile for things which are easily broken or destroyed when dropped or knocked under normal conditions; although marshmallows shatter easily after being frozen in liquid nitrogen, they are only fragile in this relative sense. So it is not just sense-perceptible properties where we find it entirely proper to speak of an object having a property with respect to some specific conditions, be they normal or highly specific.


Are Sense-Perceptible Property Dispositions Relations? So much for the relativity claim, but what of the instantiation claim? Are secondary

qualities indeed instantiated as relations between objects and perceivers, in the form of experiential facts such as color sensations. Here I believe that my dispositional model can illuminate the major shortcoming of McGinns theory, the way in which it oversimplifies things. In particular, McGinns claim that secondary qualities are relations does not distinguish clearly between a disposition, its manifestation, and the conditions of manifestation. All three of these components are present in the model I introduced previously and in Mark Johnstons formulation, where for a dispositional concept C, something is C if and only if it is such as to produce response R in subjects S under conditions K.28 Confusing any two of the three elements in a dispositional analysisthe disposition, its manifestation, and its conditions for manifestationleads to problems. In this case, McGinn holds that sense-perceptible properties

Note that in the case of dispositions to provoke responses, the responses are the manifestation of the dispositions, and the subjects themselves are part of the conditions for manifestation.

116 such as colors are only instantiated as sensations, which on the dispositional model would be the manifestations of the properties, not the properties themselves; the effect of his account is thus to conflate dispositions and their manifestations. To see the dangers of conflating the elements in the dispositional model, consider the disposition of fragility: we say that an object is fragile when it has some property (a disposition) in virtue of which it will break (manifestation) when dropped or knocked (conditions of manifestation). When a glass is dropped and breaks, the breaking event is the manifestation of its fragility, but should not be conflated with the dropping event which causes it; the dropping here is one of the conditions of manifestation, not the manifestation itself. In the case of colorperception, the presence of a subject with normal color vision and the use of that ability, together with appropriate lighting conditions, make up the conditions for the manifestation of the color, which involves the perceivers response. It would be a mistake to conflate the perceivers color vision or the lighting conditions with the color itself, though McGinn avoids this more obvious error. Where McGinn errs, however, is in giving an account that effectively conflates the manifestation with the disposition itself. Dispositional realists typically hold that the existence of a disposition is distinct from and in no way ontologically dependent upon the existence of its manifestation. Stephen Mumfords example of the disposition to produce an image on an x-ray machine, which I discussed in 2.6.7, illustrates this point.29 Objects did not suddenly gain this power when x-ray machines were first invented; rather, one of the conditions of manifestation was finally met. The objects would have had the power to produce x-ray images regardless of whether the machine had been invented, though it is highly unlikely that we would have had


1998, Dispositions, Oxford University Press, 56.

117 concepts of x-ray images. Having the power to produce x-ray images is thus not ontologically dependent on actually manifesting the power at any given time (or ever at all). As I explained in 2.6.1, powers are like mental entities in that they are directed at something beyond themselves, without requiring that the something in question actually exists. While the manifestation eventtypes towards which powers are directed give their identities, the powers are not ontologically dependent upon their manifestations. In the case of physical dispositions like fragility, it is obvious to the casual observer that a glasss fragility is distinct from and exists independently of any breaking event that happens to itideally, one handles the glass carefully, before it ever breaks, knowing that it continues to be fragile (and hoping to prevent the fragility from manifesting). In the case of sense perception, however, the manifestation events are perceivers experiences of sense-perceptible properties, and this leads to a certain ambiguity in our color terms, which I shall explore in greater detail in 4.1 and 4.2. If we are to accurately analyze colors and other sense-perceptible properties dispositionally, we must distinguish between objects powers to create sensory experiences and the experiences thereby created. Keeping this distinction in mind, we begin to see the difficulty inherent in the secondary quality account used by McGinn and Zangwill. We can agree that a dispositional analysis of color and other sense-perceptible properties involves an important causal relation between the sense-perceptible properties and perceivers responses; the properties are causal powers and bring about the responses, which occupy the role of manifestation events in the powers model. The relation between the powers and responses is only a potential one, however, until the manifestation occurs.30 McGinns claim that response-dependent properties such as colors are
The relation that obtains outside of instantiation is that of directedness, but this relation stands between the power and its manifestation-type, not manifestation instances.

118 instantiated as relations between objects and perceivers entails that those properties have no stable, continuing existence. Their existence would instead depend on the responses of perceivers as well as the objects said to be colored, these being the relata. This metaphysical claim, that response-dependent properties are relations, is what makes McGinns secondary quality account entail mind-dependence for colors and other sense-perceptible properties. McGinns account of sense-perceptible qualities effectively conflates dispositions and their manifestations, and in doing so completely bypasses the alternative reference of our color terms, the objects powers themselves. By contrast, a dispositional theory of color such as Johnstons has color terms referring to properties located in the colored objects, with the ontological role of perceiving subjects accounted for as part of the conditions for manifestation. In this latter kind of account, the powers to produce such responses exist independently of their manifestation, and there is no reason to think that colors depend for their existence on responses or minds; the same would be expected to hold for other sense-perceptible properties. A sufficiently sophisticated dispositional theory of sense-perceptible or aesthetic properties such as I shall develop in the next chapter is thus well-placed to account for our intuitions about the subjective nature of sense-perceptible properties, while maintaining that they are real properties of objects. That powers are like mental entities, in being directed without requiring that the intentional object actually exist (see 2.6.2), is further evidence that they are properties rather than relations.31

Even when dispositional realists such as Ullin Place refers to the characterization of the disposition in terms of its relation to its manifestation, the disposition is not itself construed to be a relation.


119 3.10 Zangwills Argument From the Possibility of Divergence As far as I can tell, Zangwill does not consider the objects powers themselves as a candidate for the reference of our sensory property language. He does, however, make an argument intended to rule out the possibility of mind-independent realism for sense-perceptible properties. An adequate response to his position, then, must not only present a metaphysical alternative for the reference of our color terms, as I have done in the previous section, but also demonstrate that this alternative is not blocked by his argument that sensory properties, if they exist at all, are mind-dependent. Zangwills argument begins with the possibility that beings with perceptual mechanisms different from ours perceive colored things such that their experiences are systematically qualitatively different from ours (though equally fine-grained). He presents a thought experiment in which Martians systematically experience things with the color of healthy grass as appearing (what we would call) red, and systematically experience things with the color of London buses as appearing (what we would call) green. Although the difference between the Martians experiences and ours is due to a difference in perceptual mechanisms, it cannot be explained away as a deficiency in color vision such as red-green color blindness.32 Now, because these beings with different perceptual mechanisms have different color experiences, it is quite reasonable to expect that they would apply their color concepts differently

One of the difficulties with this thought experiment is that it is rather difficult to imagine the Martians actually having systematically different experiences. This is, I think, because use of our color concepts is tied up with an introspective recognition of similarity to what we consider paradigmatic colored objects. We can imagine a London bus that had been painted green, but then it would no longer be London-bus colored but rather grass-colored, and any Martian would agree with us that it was now grass-colored: the systematic nature of the color-reversal suggests that we would never know that we experienced things differently from the Martians. Zangwill acknowledges this difficulty when he offers the possibility of intrasubjective color-experience divergence, a change in a single subjects experiences over time. If it is difficult to imagine inter-subjective color-experience divergence such as that of the hypothetical Martians and ourselves, we can imagine instead that a single individuals perceptual mechanisms change over time such that the things he used to recognize as London-bus-colored now systematically appear grasscolored to him.


120 and make different color judgments than we do. What Zangwill wishes us to take away from the thought experiment is that if we were fully aware of the situation of these beings, we could not justifiably judge them to be in error in the application of their color concepts, or mistaken about the objects true colors. He holds that assuming that we are right and the other beings are wrong would be an arbitrary and thus baseless arrogance, since there is an exact symmetry between our situation and that of the Martians; they would be equally justified (or unjustified) in thinking our concepts and judgments erroneous. Zangwill thus concludes that a norm of tolerance is built into our concept of color. Thus far, so good; I agree with him. Zangwills conclusion goes a step further, however, as he takes the possibility of divergence to rule out the possibility of a mind-independent realism for sensory properties: a real property cannot both attach to a thing and not attach to it... If redness were a real mind-independent property, we would have to be intolerant and claim the Martians were mistaken. But surely we would not It is not just that we would be tolerant, but that we should be, for intolerance could have no basis.33 The argument hinges as much on this claim that a real property cannot both attach to a thing and not attach to it as it does on the claim that we ought to be tolerant. I agree, in fact, with both claims. My difficulty is with the fact that Zangwills color properties are insufficiently individuated: he does not make the necessary distinction between the powers or dispositions and their manifestations. If a response-dispositional property is that property in virtue of which an object produces responses in subjects under certain conditions, then it is the specification of responses, subjects, and conditions that allows us to distinguish between different dispositions.34 And in the case of possible divergence, it was clear all along that the diverging color experiences were due to differing perceptual mechanisms, rather than to any instability in the properties of
33 34

Skin-deep, 192. This was explained in 2.6.1. The manifestations of the powers, in particular, give their identities.

121 the grass or London buses. For Zangwill, the grass and London buses were not changing, but they were experienced as both red and not-red at the same time, suggesting that redness both attached and did not attach to them. This suggestion is one we do not have to accept, because the difference in the perceivers perceptual mechanisms marks the presence of two different color dispositions when they are individuated in a sufficiently fine-grained manner. One of the dispositions is to produce responses of type A in normal humans; the other is a disposition to produce responses of type B in normal Martians. I explained in 2.6 that the identity or nature of a disposition is determined both by its manifestation-type and by the conditions under which it manifests. It is not at all odd to recognize that objects often have powers to produce different, even opposite, responses under different conditions. This is an expected outcome of the hub-andspoke connection between powers and the dispositions they ground, as explained in 2.2. A magnetically charged object, I noted, is capable of both attracting objects with opposite charges and repelling objects with like charges, and of doing both simultaneously. Magnetism is the power that grounds both of these dispositions, but how it manifests itself will depend on which conditions are satisfied. Similarly, the London bus can appear red to humans and not-red to Martians because the two different groups of perceivers satisfy different conditions for manifestation. It can thus appear red and not-red at the same time, and we can be tolerant of our neighbors divergent color concepts and color judgments, because it has two distinct dispositions, each grounded in a real power. I shall return to this topic again in my discussion of colors as powers in 4.5 below. To conclude my discussion of Zangwills claim that sensory properties are minddependent, if they exist at all: If we treat colors and other sense-perceptible properties as

122 dispositions, individuate them sufficiently, and distinguish between the powers and their manifestations, then Zangwills claims regarding the possibility of divergence and the need for tolerance do not force us to accept his conclusion. There is still room for a realist theory of color and other sense-perceptible properties. In the following chapter I shall demonstrate what such a theory looks like.


Chapter 4: Colors and Other Sense-Perceptible Properties

If one wishes to work through the subjective aspects of perceptual experience that pose a challenge for a realist theory of aesthetic properties, the philosophy of color is an excellent place to start. We as humans rely heavily on our visual abilities, and artworks and other aesthetic objects that give rise to aesthetic experience by visual means are frequently the paradigm examples in our study of those experiences. In this chapter I shall demonstrate the suitability of a dispositional account for sense-perceptible properties, apply the powers model developed in chapter 2 to color, and account for several features of color experience that suggest it is subjective in nature. I shall then compare my findings for color to other modes of senseperception, including hearing, taste, smell, tactile and temperature sensations, and the vestibular sense (responsible for sensations of velocity and change in direction of movement).


Colors and Chromatic Phenomenal Properties Let us begin by agreeing that experiences as of red are those which are more like our

visual experiences of fire engines and ripe tomatoes in broad daylight than they are like visual experiences of healthy lawns, school buses, or United States Postal Service mailboxes. The term red is an ambiguous one, however, as it can be used (at the least) to mean or refer to either 1) the property of an object which causes such experiences to occur, or 2) a property of ones visual field caused by an experience as of a red thing. An example of the first use, the property of an object which causes an experience as of a colored thing, is found in the physicalist claim considered by J.J.C. Smart that color is a physical state of the surface of an object, that state which normally explains certain patterns of

124 discriminatory reactions of normal human percipients.1 This use would encompass any of the three options for external explanatory causes of our color experiences that Mark Johnston says psychopysics has given us: non-dispositional microphysical properties, light-dispositions (reflectance or Edwin Lands designator dispositions or something of that sort) or psychological dispositions (dispositions to appear colored) with microphysical or light-dispositional bases.2 The second use of the term is present in Christopher Peacockes discussion of the claim that when a normal human sees a red object in daylight, there is a certain property possessed by the region of his visual field in which that object is presented to him, a property that Peacocke would label red' in order to contrast it with the red of the object causing the experience.3 I shall speak of the properties of the perceivers visual field during color experience as chromatic phenomenal properties, reserving color for the properties of objects external to the perceiver. One of the difficulties in analyzing color concepts arises from the recognition that while the chromatic phenomenal properties are often correlated with certain properties of objects surfaces, this is not always the case. Not all instances of phenomenal red are caused by instances of a single kind of physical surface property of objects: if one stares at a bright green object for a minute and then looks at a neutral surface, one experiences a red afterimage, but this property of a region of ones visual field does not indicate the presence of an object with the sort of surface properties that normally cause red color experiences. Some non-illusory instances of phenomenal red are not caused by surfaces at all: examples of this would include translucent volumes, such as a glass of wine, or radiant sources such as LEDs.

1 2 3

J.J.C. Smart, On Some Criticisms of a Physicalist Theory of Colors, The Philosophy of Color, ed. Alex Byrne and David R. Hilbert, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1-10, p. 3. Mark Johnston, How to Speak of the Colors, The Philosophy of Color, ed. Alex Byrne and David R. Hilbert, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 137-176, p. 139. Christopher Peacocke, Colour Concepts and Colour Experiences, Synthese 58 (1984), 365-382, p. 373.

125 The correlation breaks down in the opposite direction as well: physical surface properties of objects do not always cause the same properties in our visual fields. The property of an object that would normally cause an instance of phenomenal red may fail to do so, as when a red car is viewed under the yellowish sodium-vapor lighting used on many city streets. These divergences from the normal correlations between the color of objects surfaces and the chromatic phenomenal properties of visual fields is what makes the red-green color change thought experiments discussed in 3.10 intelligible. We can imagine a world where there is a systematic change in the colors things appear to have: fire engines and ripe tomatoes appear green, interstate highway exit signs and healthy lawns look red, and so on. In this chapter, then, I will use the term red (and likewise color) to mean the properties of distal objects of visual perception, including surfaces, volumes, and radiant sources. Surface properties often serve as a paradigm for understanding colored things, and I take a surfaces color to be the result of its having one of a class of spectral-reflectance profiles, that is, dispositions to reflect a certain portion of the light spectrum.4 A red surface is thus disposed to reflect the longest portion of the visible spectrum of light; wavelengths in the same portion of the spectrum are transmitted by a volume of red liquid (say, the contents of a glass of wine), and emitted by the red LEDs in an alarm clock. I will reserve phenomenal red (and likewise phenomenal chromatic properties) for the properties of our visual fields.

Joseph Tolliver analyzes the relationship between the colors and the dispositions of physical objects to cause color experiences in perceivers as one of causal roles (the colors) and their occupants (the physical states). See his Revelations: On What is Manifest in Visual Experience, in Knowledge and Skepticism, ed. Joseph Keim Campbell, et al., Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2010, p.185.

126 4.2 Manifest Colors Which of these two uses of color language are emphasized and given definitional priority, generally speaking, marks the divide between experientalist and non-experientialist color theories.5 My own preference is to give phenomenal chromatic properties definitional priority, as I favor the use of introspectively recognizable similarity to paradigm color experiences as a means of identifying and classifying the colors of objects. We type-identify the colors according to our experiences of them as similar to/different from each other and our paradigms; this is why we apply our color concepts to volumes and radiant sources as well as surfaces with diverse underlying microphysical structures. While I give phenomenal chromatic properties definitional priority, I take the more ontologically basic entities to be the color properties of surfaces, volumes, and radiant sources that causally explain the existence of the chromatic properties belonging to our visual fields. Joseph Tollivers description of the connections between the properties of objects and the properties of perceivers is illustrative in this regard: Sense impressions, as I understand them, are mental representations that employ phenomenal properties as constituents of sensory representations of objects and properties. A visual sense impression of a surface incorporates a chromatic phenomenal property produced while perceiving that surface. The sense impression represents the surface as possessing some intrinsic property relevantly similar to the chromatic phenomenal property it includes. Corresponding to the representational content of the sense impression of the surface is some objective property that would have to exist for the world to be as the visual sense impression represents it as being.6 Tolliver thus connects the chromatic phenomenal properties with the objective properties of surfaces that cause them, and which they represent. Chromatic phenomenal properties do not

See Christopher Peacockes discussion of experientialist and non-experientialist concepts in his Colour Concepts and Colour Experiences, The Philosophy of Color, ed. Alex Byrne and David R. Hilbert, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 51-65. Tolliver 2010, 197-198. Emphasis mine.

127 represent the colors of objects in toto, however, as science can tell us a great deal about color which is not revealed in color experience.7 Tolliver takes the objective properties represented in experiences of colors to be members of yet another class of color properties: the manifest colors, which are the public face of the colors, as they reveal the looks of the colors to us. They are higher-order properties objects possess in virtue of having color properties that fill certain kinds of differential roles in visual perception.8 The manifest colors are nothing over and above the roles filled by the colors in our visual experiences, and so their intrinsic natures are fully revealed in those experiences.9 The type of role that defines the manifest colors is that of [rendering] object-surfaces and volumes manifestly similar to and different from each other. Manifest red, for example, is a quality that, when present in experience, affords the possibility of differences in mode of presentation between...lemons and oranges beyond their differences in shape and location.10 While manifest colors such as the manifest yellow and orange of a lemon and orange are directly presented in experience, the colors proper are present indirectly (red, for instancethe quality

E.g. the relationship between color and the underlying physical and chemical make-up of colored things, the psychophysics of the perception of color, the neurophysiology of the encoding and exploitation of color information in the brain, and the semantics of color categorization and color naming systems. See Tolliver (2010), 183. Tolliver, 2010, 197-198. Mark Johnston also argues that colors are manifest properties, but describes his position as a form of hylomorphism where colors are qualities constituted by light dispositions and surface lattice structures; I will return to his theory of manifest properties in chapter 5.

If we think that the nature of color is completely laid bare in our color experiences, as discussed in 3.2, we must take color to be nothing over and above the manifest colors. For more on Revelation, see also Mark Johnstons 1997 article How to Speak of the Colors in Readings on Color, ed. A. Byrne, vol. 1. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Tolliver, 2010, 192.

128 that defines one way in which the lemon and orange differis presented indirectly in an experience of the two fruits).11 I thus take our concepts of colors of objects to be defined by reference to the colors as we experience them (that portion of their natures which is manifest to us and thus represented in color experience), while our visual experiences (including the phenomenal chromatic properties that constitute them) are causally explained by the properties of the surfaces, volumes, and radiant sources presented to us in those experiences. To summarize, then, the manifest colors are roles filled by the colors of things, and their type-identities are given by the phenomenal chromatic properties of our visual fields. One of the consequences of type-individuating the manifest colors by reference to phenomenal chromatic properties, as Tolliver explains, is that objects can have many manifest colors, one for every type of visual sense impression its color properties can play a role in producing. This consequence will be treated further in 4.5 below.12 In the sections that follow, I shall show how the model for powers that I introduced in chapter 2 can be applied to the discussion of color. A note on terminology is in order here: the sense of manifestation used in the powers model is a metaphysical one, referring to a role played by events, while the sense in which the manifest colors are called manifest is an epistemological one, having to do with the knowledge we have of the colors through visual experience.

Tolliver (2010) offers the analogy of an experience of birdsong: the song is present to us directly in the experience, while the bird is present indirectly. He clarifies the notions of Presentation and Revelation, demonstrating that they are not equivalent: Presentation is necessary but not sufficient for Revelation. Ibid, 197-198. I suspect that of the three uses of color I have covered in this section and the previous one, the concept of manifest color is most in keeping with Zangwills conclusions about color as discussed in chapter 3, as I take him to only allow colors to be properties of objects in the sense that they are secondary qualities whose identities are given by reference to our experiences.


129 4.3 The Model Applied to Color The model for powers at work, introduced in chapter 2, includes the following elements: a causal power belonging to an object, a state of affairs brought about by that power and known as its manifestation, and a set of conditions under which the power is manifested. Examples of the model included a ductile metal being fashioned into a new form when bent around its axis; a particle with mass reacting to a gravitational field; an agoraphobic individual feeling lightheaded or nauseous at the prospect of riding in an elevator; a violet viewed on a sunny day being perceived as having a blue color. In each case the work done by the objects power, the state of affairs that is brought about, is called the manifestation of the power. In each case the powers manifestation is enabled by the conditions that obtain, its conditions for manifestation. I explained how directedness towards something beyond the object itself is the mark of the dispositional: powers are essentially powers for something, powers to cause events and states of affairs. This directedness is the essence of powers and dispositions, and the kind of event or state of affairs whereby a power manifests itself is what determines its identity. I also noted that in many cases powers manifest reciprocally, with each of a pair of powers playing a role in satisfying the others conditions for manifestation. Of the paradigm cases discussed in chapter 2, I now wish to return to Lockes example of the flower called the violet, which we can say has the disposition to cause an experience as of blue13 in a suitable human perceiver. The blue here is subject to the ambiguity discussed in the previous sections: when the human perceiver looks at the flower under bright sunlight, he experiences a property in his visual field, a phenomenal blue. This is causally explained by a physical property of the flower, the color blue. The manifest color blue is the functional role


We would actually say the flower is purple, but here I am following Lockes description of violets as blue.

130 occupied by the flowers color, the role of having a look that is relatively similar to clear sky, and different from ripe tomatoes, healthy lawns, lemons or oranges, etc. The look of the flower reveals the intrinsic nature of manifest blue entirely, though it is not revelatory of the whole intrinsic nature of the flowers blue (for instance, it doesnt tell us what the microphysical structure of its light-reflectance dispositions is). The blue of the flower (not just the features of blue that are laid bare in visual experience) is what causes and therefore explains the perceivers experience. The causal language here demonstrates the suitability of the powers model, hence my inclusion of color properties as a paradigmatic example. In this case, a color experience involves a property in the visual field of a human being, and it has as its cause a property of the flower. The perceivers color experience is a manifestation of the violets power, involving its microphysical structural qualities and corresponding light-reflectance profile. The presence of a human perceiver with normal color vision is one of the conditions of manifestation, but the capacity for color vision is itself a power that manifests when presented with an object such as the flower. The violets color and perceivers color vision are thus reciprocal powers that manifest together. Other conditions of manifestation include a source of light such as the sun, a lack of obstacles in the individuals line of sight, and so on. When Locke called the violet blue, he meant that it caused an idea of blue in his mind, and he argued (rightly, I think) that the idea of blue can only mistakenly be attributed to the flower itself. Lockes idea of blue corresponds roughly with what I have described as a property of the perceivers visual field (the phenomenal blue)the manifestation element in the powers model I have been usingand his point is akin to the one made in 3.9, that the manifestation is non-identical with the power that causes it. Conflation of powers and their manifestations is an

131 easy enough error to fall into, but one to be avoided. What we can truthfully ascribe to the violet is the color blue, understood as a particular spectral-reflectance profile that grounds the flowers disposition to cause experiences as of blue in normal human perceivers under normal viewing conditions. The violets blue is presented to us in a visual experience of the flower, though only its role as manifest blue is revealed by that experience.


Paradigmatic Colors Of the various color experiences we have, we find it useful to collect and identify those

experiences had under normal conditions which are similar in character. Paul Boghossian and David Velleman thus describe our ordinary referential use of phrases such as looks colored and looks blue as follows: ...one learns to associate these phrases directly with visual experiences that are introspectively recognizable as similar in kind to paradigmatic instances.14 We know that clear skies, calm water, United States Postal Service mailboxes, classic denim, and Crayola brand crayons with blue on their labels share an introspectively recognizable similarity when viewed under normal conditions. This reliance on paradigmatic instances and standard conditions is a natural way to understand and use color terms, and draws our attention to two features of color experience and language that I wish to discuss further in this section and the next: the intentionality of our color concepts, and the normative element found in our use of standard conditions as a reference point. The first of these, that our color concepts are intentional, can be seen in their grounding in the colors as we experience them. We type-identify colors as revealed to us in visual experience by reference to the chromatic phenomenal properties of our sense impressions. The

Paul A. Boghossian and J. David Velleman, Physicalist Theories of Color, The Philosophy of Color, ed. Alex Byrne and David R. Hilbert, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 105-136, p. 106.

132 properties presented in our visual fields in color experiences are the ones we thus take note of and categorize as being of one hue or another, red or blue or what have you. Experientialist theories of color thus take color as we experience it as conceptually prior to color understood as physical properties of surfaces such as light-reflectance dispositions. This is because we typically identify color instances based on our immediate experiences of them.15 Similar chromatic phenomenal properties are often caused by very different microphysical configurations in surfaces. The surface properties of a dandelion and of a color plate of it in a book are very different, but produce the same phenomenal yellow in our visual fields by reflecting only wavelengths in the yellow portion of the light spectrum. However, if the picture is viewed on a computer screen, the phenomenal yellow is not caused by means of yellow light at all, but by a mixture of red and green light. As a result of this asymmetry between the instances of phenomenal color on the one hand, and the various kinds of powers that ground dispositions to cause phenomenal color on the other hand, our concept of color winds up being a concept of a disjunctive property. This is to say, for example, that yellow can be realized by a particular spectral-reflectance profile, or a power to emit a certain mixture of red and green light, or by some other physical property or properties.16 Yellow, as Tolliver concludes, could be either a disposition to be manifest yellow under standard conditions of observation, or a disposition to produce experiences as of a manifest yellow under such conditions. In either case, the manifest yellow is type-identified by reference to phenomenal yellow, yellow as it features in our visual fields during color experience.

Another means of identifying instances of various colors is by referring to the data gathered by a spectrophotometer, as when we analyze paint samples in order to create a color match. J.J.C Smart makes a case for the disjunctive nature of colors being no barrier to their objectivity in On Some Criticisms of a Physicalist Theory of Colors, pp. 3-5.


133 Accepting that the colors as we experience them are causally connected to the microphysical properties of surfaces and volumes (or radiant sources) we encounter through visual experience does not change the fact that we pick out and classify those causal powers by reference to our experiences of them. Furthermore, our experiences of color are determined by our perceptual apparatus and not just by the microphysical properties of the objects we perceive, which gives rise to the anthropocentric problem discussed in 3.2. But all of this is to be expected on the powers model: intentionality is the mark of the dispositional, and the essence of color properties on this model, understood as the powers of objects to cause certain visual experiences, just is their directedness towards those sorts of experiences. Furthermore, the manifestation type toward which a power is directed is what defines its identity, along with the conditions in which it manifestsconditions determined in part by our perceptual apparatus, in this case. So the powers model is well-suited to account for the conceptual priority of phenomenal colors over colors understood as the causal powers of object surfaces, volumes, and radiant sources. This is not, however, to say that we must be subjectivists about color, or that color manifestations are ontologically or causally independent of the causal powers of objects; I will return to this issue in the next section.


Standard Viewing Conditions and the Question of Subjectivity The second feature of color experience deserving further consideration is the normative

element of our references to standard conditions. The most obvious of the standard conditions has to do with the quality of the light under which we view a colored surface. Frank Jackson and Robert Pargetter use the example of a white wall viewed under a blue light: The blue light may actually change the relevant physical properties of the walls surface, in which case the right

134 thing to say is that the wall under blue light is blue...Acknowledging this does not, of course, prevent us from saying, as speakers of English typically do, that the wall is really white. They go on to observe that it is a convention in the English language that the colour an object has in white light is given, for reasons of convenience, a special label.17 This convention encodes in our language the commonsense idea that if we want to know what color an object really is, we ought to view it in white light. Sunlight, being the original source of light on our planet, sets a natural standard for full-spectrum or white light for us. If our sun were a red giant, we might find it more convenient to use the colors as seen under reddish or orange light as our standard, and adjust our norms for color viewing accordingly. But even sunlight is not a perfect standard, as it varies in quality at different times of the day and under different atmospheric conditions: one may thus notice on an overcast day how the greens in the landscape appear more vibrant, or in late afternoon how the landscape takes on a golden hue. Suppose that we allowed two different sets of conditions to be equally normalsay, viewing conditions in both bright sunlight and in incandescent light. I once purchased a shirt that looked to be a uniform shade of green in sunlight; later, however, I discovered that its trim had the appearance of a rather ugly brown when viewed under incandescent light. This phenomenon, known as metamerism, can be explained using Neil Williams hub-and-spoke analogy, which I introduced in 2.2. The microphysical surface properties of the material did not change between viewings, but the conditions did, and so its powers were manifested in a different way in each set of viewing conditions. For a society of beings who spend as much time under incandescent lighting as they do under sunlight, there does not seem to be a non-arbitrary answer as to whether the shirts trim was brown or green or both. In this example, the materials

Frank Jackson and Robert Pargetter, An Objectivists Guide to Subjectivism About Colour, The Philosophy of Color, ed. Alex Byrne and David R. Hilbert, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 67-79, p. 73.

135 genuine powers (the hub) are grounding multiple dispositions (the spokes). The materials lightreflectance dispositions, grounded in the microphysical structure of the materials surface, thus give rise to multiple manifest colorsas many manifest colors as there are phenomenal chromatic properties the objects plays a role in producing.18 The asymmetries between a few powers and colors of objects, on the one hand, and their multiple-realizations in the form of the supported dispositions and manifest colors, on the other hand, are opposite to the asymmetry which leads us to think of colors as disjunctive properties, where a single phenomenal property can be produced by any of a number of underlying microphysical properties. Our standard for normal conditions also involves reference to the visual capacities specific to the human eye, as exemplified in the case of the computer screen that essentially fools the human eye into seeing yellow, when in fact only red and green light are reaching it. Should our species biology have been such that fire engines and ripe tomatoes (with the same spectral-reflectance profiles they have now) appeared green, and interstate highway exit signs and healthy lawns (again, having the same physical surface properties) looked red, we would, I expect, have considered normal perceivers to be those individuals whose color vision led to the direct opposite of the experiences we actually do have in our world. We can imagine new normals for both lighting conditions and the operation of our color vision, each resulting in different correlations between objects and the colors we experience them as having.19 In either new normal thought experiment, however, the results are as we should expect on a powers model. Like magnets that both attract and repel, and elastic materials that both stretch and snap, colors understood as causal powers of objects are multi-track in that their manifestations can take
18 19

Tolliver, 2010, 198.

Tolliver holds that this is because the manifest colors, type-identified by reference to phenomenal colors, do not have connections to specific microphysical properties as part of their intrinsic natures: it is a contingent matter which manifest colors turn out to be the roles occupied by the colors of things. See his 2010, pp. 195-198.

136 any of a number of routes, and how they manifest themselves at a given time will depend on the surrounding conditions. Both lighting conditions and available perceivers are part of the conditions of manifestation for colors understood as powers. I allow, then, that it is possible that instances of phenomenal red and phenomenal green could diverge from or even be completely reversed from what we normally take to be the corresponding red and green surfaced objects. I also allow that the same object can be both green and brown at the same time, meaning by this that its powers ground both dispositions, to produce experiences as of manifest green and of manifest brown. This is not, of course, to say that both will manifest to the same perceiver in the same conditions, at the same time. In conclusion, I do not think that the fact that the normal correlation between objects with physical properties and instances of chromatic phenomenal properties is not a conceptually necessary correlation entails that color is subjective. Rather, I agree with Jackson and Pargetter: colours are objective properties of the world around us, but it is a subjective matter which objective properties are which colours to which persons in which circumstances at which times.20 Instances of phenomenal color are causally dependent on the physical properties of surfaces, volumes, and radiant sources, as all other manifestations are causally dependent on the powers that bring them about.


Colors: Dispositional, Objective, and Irreducible To summarize the previous sections, I take colors to be dispositional because as sense-

perceptible properties, the way they are presented to us during visual experience is their defining characteristic, and these presentations are the manifestations of the causal powers that occur


An Objectivists Guide to Subjectivism About Colour, p. 79.

137 under appropriate conditions. Insofar as the colors of things are made available or manifest to us, they occupy functional roles in having looks with recognizable characters, characters that stand in similarity and difference relations to the looks of other manifest colors. These manifest colors, we have said, give the type-identities for the phenomenal colors, those instances of colored regions in our visual fields that are the manifestations of objects powers to reflect, transmit, and emit certain portions of the light spectrum. I consider colors to be best conceived as sense-perceptible properties because our primary mode of learning about them is visual experience; visual experience is likewise the mode of direct experience required for aesthetic experiences based on the visual appearances of things. I thus favor an experientalist account of color, where color as experienced has definitional priority. My treatment of colors is not subjectivist, however: referencing a standard for normal conditions and normal perceivers guarantees that not every property presented in ones visual field counts in justifying our judgments about color. Standards for normal conditions and normal perceivers serve as boundaries within which our color experiences track the spectral-reflectance profiles21 that cause them, and so a sophisticated dispositional account is well-suited to explain the aptness of some judgments about color over others. Furthermore, when the colors as we experience them are understood as the manifestations of genuine causal powers of objects, they remain rooted in objective properties of the external world (even if conceived with reference to the experience of perceiving subjects). The manifestations are ontologically dependent upon perceivers, being properties of perceptual experiences, but the powers that cause them are ontologically independent of perceivers and their minds.


(or spectral-transmission or emission profiles, in the case of volumes and radiant sources.)

138 A sophisticated dispositional account of color can thus take into account 1) an essential reference to perceivers experiences in defining colors, 2) manifest colors as paradigms which are type-identified by reference to chromatic phenomenal properties, and 3) the resulting disjunctive concept of color. While doing so, such an account can still maintain ontological mind-independence for the causal powers of objects that ground our color experiences in objective properties of the world. One further question remains to be addressed, however: if we treat colors as causal powers of objects that are manifested in our color experiences, and allow that colors have microphysical or light-dispositional bases, must we be reductivists about color? My answer to this question is no: ontological dependence and causal explanation do not entail conceptual reduction. Necessarily defined as our color concepts are in the complex, higher-level properties of our perceptual experiences, they cannot simply be reduced to microphysical or lightdispositional properties, even when we understand them to be a function of those properties of objects. It is only in the higher-level emergent functions involving the complex nature of human perception that we find the materials to give a complete explanation of the human behaviors and cultural significance attending color discrimination.22


Other Modes of Sense-Perception In sections 4.3 through 4.6 I explored the powers model as applied to color vision, one of

the better-studied modes of sense perception. In this section I will discuss the ways in which other modes of sense perception involved in aesthetic experience differ from color vision, including hearing, taste, smell, tactile and temperature sensations, and the vestibular sense
For arguments as to why dispositions arent reducible to categorical properties more generally, see C.B. Martin and John Heil, The Ontological Turn, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 13, 1999, p. 47.

139 (responsible for sensations of velocity and direction of movement). The features explored in the discussion of color fall into roughly two groups. First, there was a set of ontological features, including the entities occupying the roles of power, manifestation, and conditions for manifestation in the model, as well as asymmetries as seen in disjunctive properties and multitrack dispositions. Second, there were a series of factors affecting our concept formation, including the possibility of divergence from the normal correlations between sense-perceptible properties as experienced and the physical properties that cause them, and the perceivers role in the manifestation conditions; felt proximity is another such factor, but one which is less noticeable until color vision is contrasted with other modes of sense perception. I will address each of these factors in this section, and then discuss their contribution to the likelihood of our conflation of powers and their manifestations in the next section. Finally, I will revisit the connections between conditions of manifestation involving our subjective experiences and the more general question of subjectivity about sense-perceptible properties in section 4.9. Consider, then, what the powers model looks like in the modes of sense perception other than color vision. In hearing, certain events and processes create and modulate vibrations in a medium, transmitting them to the human ears internal structure, and bringing about an experience of sound. In taste, the chemical properties of an object affect receptors in the tongue, bringing about sweet, sour, salty, or bitter sensations (or combinations thereof). In smell, inhaled molecules of a substance affect receptors in the nose and mouth, bringing about distinctly recognizable experiences of hundreds of different substances. In touch, the physical properties of objects, such as shape, density, and temperature cause corresponding felt sensations when the object comes into direct contact with the persons body. The changing physical properties of certain events and processes (such as heavy machinery) also create felt sensations, often without

140 direct contact. Finally, in the use of proprioception and the vestibular sense, we experience sensations of movement as a result of acceleration, deceleration, and change in the direction of our bodies movements. In each of these cases, I take the manifestation of the sense-perceptible property to be the sensation as experienced. This stands in contrast to the object or events powers to cause those sensations; often these same powers also manifest themselves in such a way that we can describe them in quantifiable physical terms. These powers are multi-track in that they ground both the dispositions at the center of our sense perception (manifesting as felt sensations) and physical dispositions (manifesting as physical events). Considered as sense-perceptible properties, sound, texture, and temperature manifest themselves in ways analogous to phenomenal color (phenomenal color being a property of our visual fields). Considered as physical properties, the same phenomena can be considered with regard to their structural aspects (in the case of texture) or in terms of measurable energy patterns (as in sound and temperature). My reason for treating the dispositions manifesting in sensation as conceptually prior to the physical dispositions for the whole range of modes of sense perception is the same as it was for color: aesthetic properties are properties of objects and events as we experience them, and the sense-perceptible properties with which they are intimately connected need to be conceived of accordingly. I thus consider the powers that manifest themselves in our sense-perception and aesthetic experience as intentional properties, defined by the relevant manifestations. Furthermore, color vision is not the only mode of perception where there is a possibility of divergence from the normal correlations between the sensation as we experience it and the physical properties of the object that normally cause that type of sensation. We can imagine worlds where sweet and sour flavors are reversed; we sometimes hear ringing in our ears; we

141 know that vertigo induces false sensations of movement, and that anesthesia prevents texture and temperature sensations.


Conflation of Powers and Manifestations in Sense-Perceptible Properties In color vision it is very natural to project the colors as experienced in our visual fields

(the phenomenal colors) onto the objects themselves. This is due, I think, to the tendency to conflate the color manifestations with the powers that cause them, the latter being the physical surface properties of the objects. This conflation is in turn traceable to the combination of what I call felt proximity together with the ease with which we forget our role as a condition of the colors manifestation, as we generally take our vision for granted. By felt proximity I mean perceivers experiences of their distance, both spatial and temporal, from the source of sensations. Other sense modalities differ from color in interesting ways as regards felt proximity and whether we intuitively recognize the perceivers role in the conditions of manifestation. But where conflation of powers and manifestations occurs, and projection of felt sensations onto the objects that cause them follows, we are inexorably drawn into subjectivism about our sense perception. This in turn translates into subjectivism about aesthetic perception, as demonstrated in Nick Zangwills theory of aesthetic properties, which I dealt with in chapter 3. In order to leave the door open for the objectivist, realist theory of aesthetic properties that I favor, in this section I shall review the likelihood of conflation of powers and their manifestations for modes of sense perception other than color vision. If we were to rank the various modes of sense perception in terms of the perceivers felt proximity, I think we might get something like the following result. In taste and touch, the perceiver makes direct bodily contact with the object experienced, and this direct contact results

142 in a very close felt proximity. In color vision there is a felt proximity (or access, perhaps) to the object even though direct contact is not part of the experience; this is probably due the fact that temporal delay is not normally detectable in vision the way it sometimes is in taste or the sensation of temperature. In the use of proprioception and the vestibular sense, the proximity is more a matter of participation in an event than contact with an object, but the internal bodily nature of the experience takes felt proximity to an extreme high. In hearing and smell, at the lower extreme, no direct contact is required with the object causing the sensation, and delays can be quite noticeable. Where felt proximity is low, I would suggest, we are less likely to conflate powers and their manifestations. In the case of sound, we find it very natural to distinguish between the sounds we hear and the objects that cause themthe noises and the noisemakers, as it were. We are accustomed to sounds starting and stopping, and we are familiar with the conditions under which hearing takes place: an available medium for sound to travel in (air is better than water), an appropriate acoustic environment, a human being whose physical ear structure is intact and unimpeded, and so on. While we often do attribute sounds as we hear them to the objects that make them (an alarm sounds shrill, or a coworker sounds like a frog), the fact that no immediate physical proximity is required to hear a sound makes it easy to experience sounds as distinct from the objects and agents who produce them (as with the bark of a distant dog, otherwise unobserved, or our recognition that while the concertmaster can get a lovely sound from his violin, we personally are unable to do so). Recognition of the perceiver as a condition of manifestation also affects the likelihood of conflation of powers and their manifestations with color vision, where we find it easy to forget our role as a condition of the sense-perceptible propertys manifestation. In tasting and smelling,

143 however, the differences in individuals sensitivity to flavors keeps the perceivers role as a condition of manifestation more noticeable. I think the felt close proximity involved in taste, however, balances this out, leaving us sometimes inclined to project the flavors as we experience them to the object, rather than recalling that flavor sensations are had by people and not the foods that cause them. This conflation of the powers and manifestations is, I think, curiously just as common for smells; this is perhaps due to the association of smells with the surrounding environment rather than the objects that cause them. With the vestibular sense, however, the perceiver is intuitively understood to be a condition for the manifestation of the sense-perceptible property: one only properly feels changes in movement while ones person is undergoing such changes, as is evidenced in how easily one forgets just how intense a particular roller coaster really is.


Revisiting Conditions and Subjectivity As we have just seen, recognizing that the human perceiver is a condition of

manifestation helps us to separate conceptually the powers and their manifestations for senseperception, leaving the door open for an objectivist theory. At the same time, however, it reminds us that the normal conditions for manifestation are human-relative for all modes of sense-perception, and necessarily so. When we define a disposition by the manifestation-type towards which it is directed, and that manifestation-type is a type of human experience, we define the disposition relative to human experience. This is why we can have a sensation of a vanilla taste caused by either real or imitation vanilla, feel the texture of suede in both leather and a synthetic textile, and hear a brassy sound produced by a trumpet or a recording of one, as

144 well as have a phenomenal yellow region appear in our visual fields because of yellow light reflected by a dandelion or a mixture of red and green light emitted by a computer screen. In all of these cases, not only are human perceivers conditions for the manifestation of sense-perceptible properties understood as powers, human physiology and psychology also constrain the other conditions for manifestation. Our concepts of smells and sounds are relative to our noses and ears, not those of dogs. We have no proper concepts of the various feels and sensations that our species does not experience, such as echolocation or the sensation of electrical fields. As I explained in 3.8, however, this relativity does not entail subjectivity. That the manifestation event-types that sense-perceptible properties are directed towards and defined by are necessarily conceived relative to human perceivers does not entail that those properties depend for their existence on human perceivers. The powers in the objects and manifestation events in perceivers are ontologically independent. Insofar as we understand sense-perceptible properties to be the physical properties of the objects that cause these sensory experiences, we can maintain an objectivism about sounds, tastes, smells, tactile sensations, and felt changes in movement as well as color. In the following chapter, I shall argue that aesthetic properties should be understood as dispositions much like the sense-perceptible properties upon which they depend, and that certain objections to the dispositional account of aesthetic properties can be dismissed because of the difference between the aesthetic dispositions and the roles they fill in our aesthetic experience.


Chapter 5: The Dispositional Account of Aesthetic Properties

Having addressed projectivist challenges to realism and applied the dispositional model for sense-perceptible properties, I shall turn in this chapter to what a dispositional account of aesthetic properties has to offer. I shall argue that in the case of what I have termed aesthetic properties simpliciter, the dispositional model can illuminate errors and disagreements in judgment; I also allow that some disagreements in aesthetic judgment may be the result of two legitimate, varying responses due to differences in perceivers backgrounds and the fulfillment of two different sets of manifestation conditions for two different dispositions. I hold that in such cases, the two different aesthetic functions will still be grounded in the objects causal powers, with the outcome being that they are objective features of the external world that are available to different types of observers. I shall address some objections to a dispositional model that have been raised by Jerrold Levinson and conclude that, while his ways of appearing account can be reconciled with my dispositional account to a certain degree, my own account is to be preferred because it gives a richer explanation of the metaphysical underpinnings of the objects of aesthetic experience.


Aesthetic Properties: A Case Study Randolph Rogers, a nineteenth-century American expatriate neoclassical sculptor,

modeled The Lost Pleaid in 1874 in his studio in Rome. It was very popular, with somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred marble versions created by his Italian teams of artisans during his lifetime. The statue is composed of a life-sized female figure leaning forward with a hand lifted to shade her eyes, supported by a circular base of cloudlike forms. A loose drapery falls from her shoulder down her torso and wraps around at the waist, leaving most of her torso bare, along

146 with her arms and a foot showing beneath the garment. The pitch of the figure (about thirty degrees from the vertical axis) and the way its lines spiral around and upwards in her outstretched limbs are wonderfully dynamic, and the suggestion of movement is increased by the windswept hair and drapery, which give the statue an evanescent quality well-suited to its aerial theme. The overall effect is one that is difficult to achieve in marble, and evokes a sense of wonder in the viewer, and perhaps pensiveness at the fleeting delicacy captured in such a durable, weighty material. An idealistic work, The Lost Pleiad depicts Merope, one of the seven sisters of the constellation known as the Pleiades, who is described in Ovids Fasti: When the night has passed, and the sky has just begun to blush, and dew-besprinkled birds are twittering plaintively, and the wayfarer, who all night long has waked, lays down his half-burnt torch, and the swain goes forth to his accustomed toil, the Pleiads will commence to lighten the burden that rests on their fathers shoulders; seven are they usually called, but six they usually are... six of the sisters were embraced by gods... the seventh, Merope, was married to a mortal man, to Sisyphus, and she repents of it, and from shame at the deed she alone of the sisters hides herself....1 Rogers Merope is depicted wandering the heavens, seeking her mythological family after having forfeited her place with her six sister stars due to her marriage. The Lost Pleiad contrasts the ephemeral and the eternal and captures the tension of Meropes hope mingled with regret. I have chosen this piece in part because its realist style features a number of aesthetic qualities that I believe can be appreciated without reference to its artifactual history or cultural context; put a different way, I believe it provides several examples of what I have called aesthetic properties simpliciter. To be sure, we cannot fully appreciate The Lost Pleiad as a historical piece without understanding, for instance, its literary reference and situation in the neoclassical genre, the way in which its title would have made its semi-nude figure acceptable in

Ovid, Fasti, IV, trans Sir James G. Fraser, London, 1931, lines 175ff

147 the minds of an audience possessing Victorian sensibilities, and perhaps its status as the artists favorite of his works. It possesses these latter features in virtue of its artifactuality, and they are the sorts of aesthetically relevant artifactual properties that I have called artistic properties. I wish to focus here, however, on the aesthetically-relevant properties of The Lost Pleaid that do not derive from its artifactual status.2 Because projectivist and non-realist accounts regard even what I have called the aesthetic properties simpliciter with suspicion, I feel it is important to show how they are objective features belonging to aesthetic objects despite the disagreements in judgment and differences in responses among perceivers. Consider, then, the properties of dynamism and ephemerality belonging to The Lost Pleiad. They are aesthetic properties simpliciter, for they are present in non-artifacts as well as artifacts. Dynamism, for instance, can be found in bodies in motion throughout the animal kingdom, and ephemerality in such objects as spider webs, cloud formations, and spring blossoms. In The Lost Pleiad, these properties emerge from a mix of sense-perceptible properties, including the polished surfaces, rippling and curling lines, and elongated, twisting forms. The statue is dynamic and ephemeral because of its lower-level sense-perceptible properties, but it cannot be reduced to non-aesthetic properties; while dynamism is connected to a display of energy or force, and ephemerality with a fleeting existence, such aesthetic properties are not condition-governed except (perhaps) in a negative sense.3 Something that looks overwhelmingly stable and still, for instance, might be thought incapable of being ephemeral or

As I have defined it, the artistic/aesthetic-simpliciter distinction can only be expected to be as clear as the artifact/non-artifact distinction on which it relies. If there is a continuum rather than a sharp distinction between artifacts and non-artifacts, then there will be a continuum between artistic properties and aesthetic properties simpliciter as well. Such a continuum is suggested by Randy Diperts action-theoretical account of artifacts, with its various degrees of appropriation, modification, and recognizable modification for a purpose in the creation of an artifact. I think, however, that there are at least some clear examples to be had of artistic properties and aesthetic properties simpliciter, even if there are others that admit of confusion. See 1.2.

148 dynamic, but for all that The Lost Pleiad is in fact a weighty marble piece, its aesthetic character is dynamic and ephemeral. This is because it does not look like a four-to-five hundred pound mass of marblerather, it affords us the impression of the fleeting motion of a female figure in flight. For an appropriate observer, viewing the statue under the right conditionswith calm attentiveness, in the American Art gallery at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, saywill result in apprehension of its dynamic, ephemeral character. This response is where we see The Lost Pleiads aesthetic powers at work: dynamism and ephemerality are dispositions of the statue, properties directed towards manifestation events wherein their particular ways of appearing are revealed. Like the ductility of a metal, certain conditions must obtain for the dynamism and ephemerality to be manifested: like the color of a flower, an appropriately disposed observer is part of those conditions, since the statues dispositions manifest reciprocally with the observers aesthetic response dispositions. What constitutes an appropriate observer, in this case? Insofar as The Lost Pleiad was executed in a neoclassical style, it depicts its subject realistically, with close attention to detail. An everyday understanding of the human figure and its movement would probably be sufficient for a Western observer, even a young, uneducated one, to apprehend its dynamic qualities, and I suspect these qualities would be accessible for most non-Western observers as well. Similarly, the round base of cloud-like forms that supports the figure is easily recognizable as such, as is the depiction of wind-blown clothing and hair that helps determine the overall ephemeral character of the piece. Because the pieces ephemerality is based in the use of natural weather elements present in different climates around the world, it seems to me that the qualifications for an observer of the statues ephemerality can be fairly easily met, even across cultures and times. To borrow from Ellen Dissannayakes use of tiers of aesthetic response, The Lost Pleiads

149 dynamism is probably available to the more basic tier, the aesthetic sensitivity in reacting to elementary sensory psycho-physiological stimuli that is possessed by infants and (presumably) operative in everyone. Dissanayake recognizes the similarities between the early development of this more basic aesthetic response and of emotional responses, and as closely linked as the aesthetic and affective are in aesthetic experience, I think it is to be expected that human perceivers aesthetic and affective dispositions are often both called for as part of the conditions for such an experience to occur.4 In viewing The Lost Pleiad, for instance, the perceivers affective response is likely to involve feelings of wonder, excitement, or delight at the statues dynamism, and wistfulness in the apprehension of its ephemerality, responses not unique to any one culture. The second tier of aesthetic response that Dissanayake identifies comes into play along with what I have termed artistic properties in a more complex kind of aesthetic experience, one where we appreciate the ways in which these [elementary sensory psycho-physiological] stimuli are combined with each other and with other humanly-significant features and presented as works of art.5 In viewing The Lost Pleiad, for instance, our attentiveness to and appreciation of the dynamism and ephemerality will be increased by an understanding of the narrative reference; these aesthetic properties simpliciter become more significant in the context of a mythological figure in search of her lost family, home, and high status. While the searching component is readily available to the viewer who recognizes a hand shading eyes that are gazing into the distance, the mythological reference is not directly accessible, though someone who recognized the style and was aware of the period fascination with classical mythology might infer that such a

4 5

Ellen Dissanayake, Aesthetic Experience and Human Evolution, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 41, 145-155, Winter 1982, p. 145. Ibid.

150 reference is involved. The title at least is helpful in this regard, though it only hints at the background necessary for interpretation and a complete understanding of the subject.6 The viewer who does understand the narrative reference, however, is enabled to respond to the artistic qualities, including its representational and expressive properties, and to begin to appreciate its artistic merit as regards Rogers choice and treatment of his subject. Responding to the artistic properties of The Lost Pleiad thus requires more from the viewer than responding to its dynamism or ephemerality; the viewer must not only see the statue as a human-like figure with an aesthetic character that captures the attention, but as the product of an artists intentional, creative activity. Randolph Rogers purpose in producing The Lost Pleaid included what Randall Dipert has described as the articulation of complex, subtle, and intrinsically valuable emotional or cognitive content.7 In this case, I believe Rogers purpose involved presenting the viewer with Meropes situation in a way that evokes an attitude of both wonder and melancholy, but one that is so particular that it cannot be adequately described in wordsone must view the statue for oneself to grasp its subtlety. But for someone who is capable of observing and appreciating The Lost Pleaids artistic properties, its ephemerality and dynamism become something more; the aesthetic properties instantiated by the work of art are transformed and manifested as artistic properties under these conditions. While I shall continue to focus on addressing the metaphysical challenges for aesthetic property realism that apply even at the more basic level of aesthetic properties simpliciter, I anticipate that laying this groundwork would not only shore up the prospects for a wider

At the time of its creation, The Lost Pleiads literary title would have been helpful only for the most widely read viewers in its audience, though it almost certainly functioned to make the partially-nude figure acceptable to Victorian sensibilities. See Millard F. Rogers, Jr., Randolph Rogers: American Sculptor in Rome, University of Massachusetts Press, 1971, pp. 140-142.

Randall Dipert, Artifacts, Art Works, and Agency, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993, p. 178.

151 aesthetic property realism, but also indicate how one might usefully proceed with a more complete theory of aesthetically relevant properties, including the representational and expressive. This groundwork is also useful for the evaluative and verdictive qualities of artworks, which are arguably determined in part by their lower-level descriptive or substantive aesthetic properties, in addition to being essentially related to the artifactual and contextual backgrounds of such works.8 Because such higher-level properties are like descriptive aesthetic properties in that they are not manifested every time the work is viewed, but only when the viewer is qualified (in this case, has an appropriate cultural background), I believe that a dispositional analysis would shed light on more complex aesthetic properties even if it cannot be straightforwardly extended to include them. Insofar as the lower-level sense-perceptible properties aesthetic properties simpliciter are essentially dispositional in nature, and the higherlevel evaluative and artistic properties build on them as a foundation, a more complete account of aesthetic properties would also do well to incorporate the dispositional model where appropriate.


Aesthetic Property Manifestations and Abundance Whether or not a particular viewer will respond to the ephemerality and dynamism of

Rogers The Lost Pleiad depends in part, as we have seen, on the viewers background and qualifications. We can imagine various cases in which someone would not be adequately qualified: Living ones whole life in an artificial, enclosed environment on a planet with no atmosphere, for instance, might well result in an inability to grasp the ephemerality of the piece, expressed as it is via the windswept quality and the base of cloudlike forms. As familiar as the changing weather is to us as Earths surface-dwellers, life would be very different for someone in

Nick Zangwill argues that verdictive aesthetic properties depend on substantive ones in The Beautiful, The Dainty, and The Dumpy, British Journal of Aesthetics, 35:4, October 1995.

152 the self-sustaining environment of an enclosed habitat. A proponent of associationist aesthetics would likely explain this individuals inability to enjoy the aesthetic qualities of the statue by noting its inability to initiate a chain of associated ideas provoking an emotional response. I would agree that this associationist analysis helps explain such a viewers lack of qualifications, insofar as it points out a particular way in which the aesthetic properties conditions of manifestation are not met, but I do not think an associationist aesthetic provides a complete explanation.9 In a more obvious way, it would be a challenge for a blind person to respond to these qualities, insofar as The Lost Pleiad is primarily experienced as a visual medium. If direct visual experience is not possible, then the statues aesthetic properties cannot be manifested for a person. There is, perhaps, a spectrum of more and less qualified viewers, with a works ideal audience at one extreme, and individuals who cannot respond to its aesthetic properties at all at the other extreme.10 Even for members of an ideal audience, however, the aesthetic properties of The Lost Pleiad may fail to be completely manifested at times. The conditions of aesthetic property manifestation include more than just the presence of a qualified viewer; it also matters whether the viewer encounters the object in an appropriate environment. As I noted in the introduction, viewing a tranquil Japanese screen against the paisley-papered wall of someones parlor is not likely to result in a complete manifestation of its aesthetic and artistic properties, even for the most ideal viewer. Adequate lighting, freedom from sensory distractions, and so on all

Archibald Allisons 1811 Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste proposes such an associationist aesthetic, for example. 10 It does not make sense, I think, to talk of an ideal audience in the case of non-artifactual aesthetic objects; insofar as no artist has considered and intentionally modified them for some purpose, there is no reason to single out one audience as better suited than another to engage with the objects purpose. We may, of course, draw attention to the aesthetic properties of a natural object, perhaps even removing it to an art museum for contemplation; in doing so, however, we have intentionally used it and thus taken the first step along the path of creating a true artifact. See Dipert 1993, pp 23-27.

153 contribute to meeting the conditions for aesthetic property manifestation. Varying degrees of success in meeting such environmental conditions can, I think, explain a great deal of our differences in aesthetic judgment, as the failure to meet such conditions contributes to our errors in judgment; I believe that a good deal of further differences should be traceable to variations in our cultural backgrounds and understandings of artistic context. Sometimes the differences in response are explicable as a matter of degrees from an ideal audiences qualifications: my limited understanding of Japanese art, for instance, removes me several degrees from belonging to an ideal audience for Ogata Korins Eight-Planked Bridge, and my response to the screens is very likely different from a knowledgeable person from the Japanese culture. My lack of understanding of the context and genre of Wassily Kandinskys work likewise makes my response to his paintings different from someone who possesses such an understanding. Differences in observer types also result in differences in responses in a rather more interesting way than what I have described so far, however. One implication of viewing aesthetic properties as dispositions directed towards particular manifestation event types (i.e. paradigmatic responses) is that in some cases we will find that artworks and other aesthetic objects possess a variety of aesthetic properties, not all of which will be accessible to every viewer. In the same way that our concepts of colors and other sensory properties are anthropocentrictheir natures being defined in terms of their effects on viewers with certain perceptual abilitiesour concepts of the aesthetic properties that emerge from sense-perceptible properties are also anthropocentric. We conceive of and identify aesthetic properties as introspectively similar or dissimilar to other, paradigmatic examples of aesthetic properties as we have experienced them. So when we see different groups of viewers with systematically different responses, using different paradigms, it seems reasonable to me to say those varying

154 responses may be justified insofar as they are the results of different aesthetic properties that are being manifested. We should, however, expect the dispositions to be unified by the more basic powers that ground them: for instance, if one viewer experiences an aesthetic object as garish while another experiences it as vibrant, the two dispositions are likely both grounded by a fundamental causal power which gives rise to different responses in the different viewers insofar as they each meet a different set of manifestation conditions. In the case of The Lost Pleiad, the original audiences Victorian sensibilities contributed an extra degree of intensity to their responses to this semi-nude female figure, where a contemporary viewers response is likely to be informed by a different set of expectations regarding the use of nude figures in art. We might thus say that a different set of aesthetic dispositions has manifested for each audience. Similarly, while the nineteenth century tourist sought the picturesque in natural landscapes, more recently environmental aesthetics has emphasized ecological qualities in natural environments.11 One of the advantages of the dispositional account I have been advocating is that in such cases we need not speak of objects gaining and losing aesthetic properties over time; rather, we can say that different audience sensibilities are enabling different dispositions to manifest, different aesthetic properties that have been present in the object all throughout its history even when unmanifested. The result of this is that, on my view, the objects that feature in our aesthetic experiences have what I consider an abundance of aesthetic propertiessets of aesthetic dispositions that give rise to a variety of justifiable aesthetic responses, not all of which may be available to any single viewer. Now, this might look as if it would lead us to logical contradictions, especially

See, for example, J. Baird Callicotts 1994, The Land Aesthetic, in Ecological Prospects: Scientific, Religious, and Aesthetic Perspectives, C. K. Chapple (ed.), Albany: State University of New York Press, and Marcia Meulder Eatons 1997 articles, The Beauty that Requires Health, in Placing Nature: Culture and Landscape Ecology, J. I. Nassauer (ed.), Washington, D.C.: Island Press and The Role of Aesthetics in Designing Sustainable Landscapes, in Real World Design: The Foundations and Practice of Environmental Aesthetics, Y. Sepnmaa (ed.), Helsinki: University of Helsinki.

155 where it encompasses a certain amount of disagreement in aesthetic judgment. It allows that some disagreements could be the result of two legitimate responses, even where a single object possesses two seemingly opposite or mutually exclusive aesthetic qualities: perhaps, for instance, the same work will be justifiably judged sensuous by one viewer and austere by another. The reason this is not a logical problem on my account is that attributing a disposition to an object is saying something about what it is disposed to do under certain circumstances, and the different types of observers that would be involved in such a scenario would meet the conditions for both aesthetic dispositions to manifest, one for each of the viewers. As I explained in 3.10, objects are quite often capable of producing quite opposite results under different circumstancesthink of magnetism, for instance, which can result in either attraction or repulsion. It would, however, be problematic to claim that the same object produces opposite results for the same viewer in the same circumstances, and I do not wish to allow for this much variation in response. I do not think that allowing for different types of observers along cultural lines as I have been describing imperils a realism about aesthetic properties, though having aesthetic properties relativized to multiple observer-types with the same cultural qualifications but different aesthetic sensibilities would be a problem for realism.12 One might wonder whether this aesthetic property abundance thesis trivializes the concept of an aesthetic property, or whether we can hold it and consistently maintain any sort of objectivity. Does any and every aesthetic response count as evidence for a corresponding aesthetic property? Is the theory promiscuous in this respect? While I see an abundance of aesthetic properties, and hence room for allowing for some justifiable disagreement, I wish to


Levinson defends aesthetic realism against this latter prospect in his 2001 "Aesthetic Properties, Evaluative Force, and Differences of Sensibility in Aesthetic Concepts: Essays after Sibley, eds. Jerrold Levinson and Emily Brady. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 61-80, pp. 74-75.

156 maintain that not just any response is a sign of a genuine aesthetic property. I think that in most cases, disagreement in aesthetic judgment is due to a lack of qualifications on the part of one or both viewers or an unsuitable viewing environment, and dialogue about the aesthetic objects sense-perceptible properties and contextual issues can clear up a great deal of the disagreement. Furthermore, the reason I allow for what I have termed an abundance of aesthetic properties is that I see the more fundamental powers of objects grounding varying functions relative to varying conditions of manifestation, resulting in a variety of aesthetic dispositions that are unified by their ontological bases. I believe that, in such cases, the underlying unity of apparently disparate aesthetic dispositions can be discovered through careful analysis, and I take such situations to be exceptions rather than the norm. Furthermore, as I explained in 1.4, we can categorize something as objective or subjective based on whether it is there to be experienced in the external world or not (as opposed to being a mere figment of the subjective state that purports to be an experience of it, as McDowell put it). Though we make use of the subjective states we have in aesthetic experience as grounds for talking about aesthetic properties, we do so in order to reference the object and those of its properties that such states are specially focused on. So what I wish to argue here is that the properties themselves are true features of objects in the external world, not all of which are guaranteed to be operative in any one given aesthetic experience. In some cases trivialization can be avoided by reference to an ideal observer, artists intentions, or cultural agreement on the meaning of an aesthetic term and paradigmatic instances of it. Furthermore, as I shall continue to argue in the remainder of this chapter, there is a deeper story to tell about the genuine causal powers of objects that support and explain the abundance of aesthetic dispositions

157 they manifest to us under various conditions. This story takes us beyond the surface level of our experiences of aesthetic property manifestations to their metaphysical underpinnings.


A Rival Account: Ways of Appearing While I am not aware of any other serious attempts to give a dispositional account of

aesthetic properties at this time, Jerrold Levinson has considered the possibility of such an account and raised an objection to which I ought to respond. A contrast class for the dispositional has traditionally been found in what I shall refer to as the occurrent (sometimes also called the categorical or the qualitative); Levinsons objections imply that aesthetic properties are better understood as belonging to this category than to that of the dispositional. 13 The question of whether we have something occurrent or dispositional comes up in our consideration of senseperceptible properties as well as aesthetic ones, and even for such a paradigmatically occurrent property as the geometric straightness of a line, at least when it is considered visually. What is it for a line to be straight, visually speaking? asks Levinson. He allows that there are conditions of visual straightness in terms of molecular facts, or at a grosser and more readily expressible physical level, in terms of positions and relations of chemically specified mini-regions of pigment. But he thinks that as a visual feature of a line, straightness is not equivalent to the satisfaction of various physical conditions. Rather, when we come to understand and apply the concept of a visual straight line, what we do is record a certain kind of visual appearance, cognize a certain variety of visual impression, and it is this that provides the core meaning of straightness for visible lines. (This inevitable reference to our experiences of sense-perceptible

Note that I am not asking whether aesthetic properties are primary or secondary qualities; I prefer the dispositional/occurrent distinction because it is not as mired in confusion of metaphysical and epistemological criteria. Strictly speaking, however, I do not endorse this as anything other than a conceptual distinction, because I hold that the same property can be viewed in either a dispositional or occurrent light.

158 properties is what leads us to conceive of them anthropocentrically.) The dispositional/occurrent distinction comes into play in how we construe that characteristic appearance or impression of looking-straight: ...straightness in lines can be understood as either the capacity to look-straight to a normal viewer in various standard and non-deceptive conditions, or else as that directly perceivable feature of a line that the sensation of looking-straight registers (and informs one of, given standard, non-deceptive conditions).14 Levinson sees these two construals as the basis for two models for sense-perceptible and aesthetic properties, a dispositional effect model (such as I favor) and a manifest appearance or ways of appearing model. As I already speak of manifestations on the dispositional model I favor, I shall refer to the second model by the label he uses for his own version of it, as a ways of appearing model. On the dispositional model, we can say that aesthetic properties are dispositions to afford the relevant aesthetic looks, feels, impressions, etc.; on Levinsons account, we would say instead that they are occurrent ways of appearing that are only related to (not identifiable with) such dispositions. The model Levinson favors analyzes them as ways of appearing, a subclass of ways of being, because ontologically speaking the ways things standardly appear are in effect a part of how they are. They are supposed to be roughly equivalent to what Johnston and others have called manifest properties, properties whose natures are revealed in and through their appearances. On Levinsons view, aesthetic properties are connected to sense-perceptible properties because they are higher-order ways of appearing in modalities such as the visual, aural, or tactile, and are dependent in systematic fashion on lower-order ways of appearing such as colors, sounds, textures, etc. When a perceiver interacts with an object and one of its


Jerrold Levinson, Aesthetic Supervenience, Southern Journal of Philosophy, 22: Supplement (1984) 93-109, pp. 97-98. Emphasis mine.

159 ways of appearing, he tells us, the result is an event, what one can call an appearing. (He does not think, however, that there are appearances, in the sense of introspectable mental things, existing within the mind.15) The appearing events of the higher-order aesthetic ways of appearing, Levinson suggests, are constituted by the appearing events of lower-order ways of appearing, i.e. their colors, sounds, and so on.16 In the example of The Lost Pleaid, Levinson would presumably say that the statues dynamism is a directly perceivable feature, a way that it appears to human observers with an appropriate sensory-perceptual-cognitive apparatus under appropriate circumstances, the foremost of which would be adequate lighting (such as one finds in art galleries).17 The dynamism depends on lower-level non-aesthetic properties, including its lines, contours, and shadows and the microphysical structure and light-reflection dispositions of its smooth surfaces. So far, this discussion of conditions and appropriate observers in Levinsons ways of appearing account is compatible with my discussion of dynamism as a dispositional property. The difference is that Levinsons account focuses on what is directly perceivedthe aesthetic property as it is manifest to usand hence the aesthetic looks that we ascribe to objects. But dispositions, as we have said, are perceived indirectly, including the disposition to appear a certain way aesthetically (or to cause certain characteristic aesthetic responses in appropriate viewers under appropriate conditions). The manifestations of dispositions are known directly, however, so it is tempting to identify Levinsons ways of appearing with the manifestations of the aesthetic dispositions I have described. But such a reading of Levinsons account will not do for maintaining realism: if ways of appearing are identified with aesthetic dispositions
15 16 17

Aristotelian Society: Supplementary Volume. 79 (2005): 211-227. 217-218.

This is because he questions the application of a composition or constitution relation to properties, taking them to be abstract entities. Levinson, 2005, pp. 217-218.

160 manifestations, then they will not be stable properties of objects but rather events that necessarily involve observers minds. This would make aesthetic properties mind-dependent and subjective. Furthermore, Levinson is adamant that the concept of a way of appearing does not involve reference to conditions or kinds of observers. The question, then, is whether the essence of an aesthetic property is a static way of being or a matter of an objects function and power to cause aesthetic experiences. So far I have been suggesting that aesthetic properties are objects capacities for affording us aesthetic experiences, rather than static ways of being and appearing, but Levinsons objection deserves some consideration. The dispositional/occurrent category distinction is itself a matter of debate, and I believe that rather than dividing the world into two kinds of properties, we should instead view the dispositional/occurrent distinction as a merely conceptual one; the result is that I allow that aesthetic properties can be considered in an occurrent as well as a dispositional light, though I take the latter to more accurately represent their true character. C.B. Martin and John Heil argue that for any property that is intrinsic and irreducible, what is dispositional and what is [occurrent] are one and the same property differently considered: considered as what the property exhibits of its nature, and considered as what the property is directive and selective for as its manifestations.18 In the case of dynamism, a dynamic statue could be considered as having the disposition to give an appropriate observer an aesthetic experience marked by a particular definitive aesthetic character. In this case, when the observer meets the conditions of manifestation (e.g. normal vision and depth perception), the manifestation event is the resulting aesthetic experience. On the other hand, considered as an occurrent property, the statues dynamism could be characterized by what it exhibits of its nature, a distinctive look as of

C.B. Martin and John Heil, The Ontological Turn, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 23 (1999), 34-60, p. 47. Emphasis mine; Martin & Heil use the term qualitative rather than occurrent.

161 movement in the object. Martin and Heil suggest that the inseparability of the occurrent and dispositional is analogous to the inseparability of a two-faced coin, or of the old lady and the young woman in Leepers famous ambiguous figure. I favor applying their analysis to aesthetic properties because I think it can account for the pull towards occurrent in our intuitions. I shall argue that while epistemic considerations often direct our attention towards the occurrent, manifest public face of aesthetic properties, we can have only an incomplete account if we ignore their fundamentally dispositional natures. As I believe it is a mistake to construe the dispositional/occurrent property distinction as anything more than a conceptual one, I do not see the dispositional and ways of appearing models as being necessarily at odds with each other or mutually exclusive. Rather, I think each emphasizes a different consideration with respect to aesthetic properties: the ways of appearing model highlights the nature of the property as we experience it, and the dispositional model fixes on the virtues of the property that determine its manifestations. Thus, if one is primarily guided by the epistemological question of the extent to which aesthetic properties are knowable in aesthetic experience, the ways of appearing model will be very attractive; the dispositional effect model comes into its own, however, when we consider the metaphysical question of how aesthetic properties give rise to and explain aesthetic experience. Now if the relation between the dispositional and occurrent is as I have been describing, any apparent tensions between a dispositional model and a ways of appearing model should be resolvable; I shall thus describe the way in which Jerrold Levinsons ways of appearing account emphasizes the occurrent, and the extent to which I think it is compatible with my own dispositional account. First, however, I wish to consider the undesirable consequences of taking aesthetic properties to be purely occurrent, a set of consequences of Levinsons account which I found objectionable.

162 In 1.5 I listed five characteristics of aesthetic properties that Derek Matravers has identified as desirable entailments of an aesthetic property account. The first two, Location and Stability, involve actually belonging to the objects they are attributed to (rather than to the observers experience or visual field, as a projectivist would have it) and existing independently of observation, respectively. If aesthetic properties are genuine properties of objects in the external world, then they will be well-suited for Explanation, which says simply that an aesthetic property should explain the experience we have of it. The final two criteria concern the perceptual character of aesthetic properties: according to Revelation, the intrinsic natures of aesthetic properties are revealed to us in immediate perception, and Dependence says that aesthetic properties largely depend on non-aesthetic perceptual properties for their natures and existence. Any account of aesthetic properties that construes them as purely occurrent will, I think, face undesirable consequences for Location and Explanation. If aesthetic properties were purely occurrent, they would have to belong to perceiving subjects, objects in the external world, or (perhaps) aesthetic experience events, and as we saw in Zangwills response-dependence view (discussed chapter 3), treating aesthetic properties as non-dispositional qualities leads to subjectivism, as they are left in the eye of the beholder. But the Location and Explanation constraints give us reason to rule out this possibility that aesthetic properties are occurrent features of perceiving subjects, because what we are inclined to ascribe to objects on the basis of our aesthetic experiences would not be located in the objects at all: we would have an error theory and a form of projectivism on our hands, and aesthetic properties could do no explanatory work. The two remaining possibilities, that aesthetic properties belong to objects in the external world or aesthetic experience events, are also problematic if purely occurrent. In either case, the

163 static, occurrent nature of the properties would raise difficulties surrounding their causal significance, and it is thus hard to see how they could explain our aesthetic experiences of them.19 In the debate regarding whether the dispositional or the occurrent should have metaphysical primacy, for instance, those who favor the dispositional argue that nondispositional properties can have no causal significance for the objects that possess them: A nondispositional property would be, like God or the number two, in pure act, incapable of anything further, as Martin and Heil put it.20 And if aesthetic properties are features of aesthetic experiences, how can they be purely occurrent? Aesthetic experiences are events with beginnings and endings, they involve change (unlike pure acts), and they are contingent on the presence of appropriate human perceivers. This would seem to make their existence dependent upon actual observation, contradicting the Stability consideration. For these reasons I believe we must recognize that aesthetic properties are dispositional, not purely occurrent, if we want a robustly realist account of aesthetic properties. Now, there is a prima facie worry about construing aesthetic properties to be wholly dispositional, since our experiences of aesthetic properties are such that they do not typically look dispositional: rather, they look like static, occurrent qualities, ways of being rather than capacities for appearing. It is not that some lines strike us as tending to appear straight; they look like they just are straight. Certain paintings and articles of clothing do not strike us as appearing garish, so much as being garish. A wolfs howl does not just seem to have a capacity for sounding eerie, it is an eerie sound. Fine chocolate does not seem to just afford a rich taste,

They might underwrite the normativity of our aesthetic discourse, however, by serving as truthmakers for aesthetic claims. Also, Levinson is aware of the difficulty regarding aesthetic properties and explanation, as evidenced by his (2005) pp. 214-215.


Martin & Heil (1999), p. 46.

164 its taste is rich, and so on.21 If aesthetic properties were dispositions, the worry goes, then they would look like dispositions, and this is not in keeping with what we know of them from direct perception. Perhaps if aesthetic properties are dispositions that are directly perceived, then when we enter an art gallery and turn the lights on the aesthetic properties of the artworks should seem to us to be activated, and not merely revealed. When we turn the lights off again, they would look as if they were becoming dormant, rather than being concealed or shrouded in the surrounding darkness.22 Now, I suspect that in sense modalities other than the visual, a number of aesthetic properties do in fact seem to us to be activated and then allowed to returned to dormancy: examples of this might include the sounding of cathedral bells or the performance of a concerto, the lighting of incense or baking of a pie, and the percussive footwork of a flamenco dance. But aesthetic experience often does seem to reveal the actual, occurrent, intrinsic natures of aesthetic properties to us, though I shall ultimately argue that this is only a phenomenological side-effect. What can the proponent of a dispositional account say to defend an understanding of their natures as dispositional? Firstly, powers and dispositions (as explained in 2.8) are in fact actual and occurrent in that they genuinely belong to objects in the present, while being defined by their potential for causing manifestation events at other times in addition to the present. So my account of aesthetic properties has no need to construe them as purely potential. The manifestations of aesthetic dispositions are also actual; whenever we experience a dispositions

This insight is apparent in Levinsons classification of ways of appearing as ways of being. Aesthetic Properties II, Aristotelian Society: Supplementary Volume 79 (2005): 211-227, p. 217-218.


This is how Boghossian and Velleman express the same worry with respect to color in their 1989 Colour as a Secondary Quality, Mind, 98:81-103, p. 85.

165 manifestation, that manifestation is, of course, an occurring event.23 Secondly, holding that aesthetic properties are essentially dispositional does not force me to discount the role of their experienced character or public faces. We identify aesthetic properties by the way their manifestations are introspectively similar to paradigmatic instances, and we typically gain knowledge of an objects causal powers indirectly, via their manifestations (we might also infer their existence in virtue of the objects membership in a class of things that we know to have such powers). The intersection of this epistemic fact about dispositionality and Revelations emphasis on the knowledge gained via immediate perceptual experience is the locus of the main tension between the dispositional and ways of appearing models. The appeal of a ways of appearing model lies largely in its emphasis on our direct experience of aesthetic properties and the purportedly complete revelation of their intrinsic natures in experience. In the next section, however, I shall dispute this assumption and the extent to which the intrinsic natures of aesthetic properties are revealed in aesthetic experience.


Revelation and Manifest Aesthetic Properties Because I agree that aesthetic properties are manifested to perceivers during aesthetic

experience, I would not want to flat-out reject the association of aesthetic properties with ways of appearing. I do think, however, that a ways of appearing analysis such as Levinson gives does not do complete justice to the nature of aesthetic properties. I believe that we have no need to limit our notion of aesthetic properties to those aspects that are completely revealed in experience when a more complete account that addresses their dispositionality can both explain


Manifestations were discussed in 2.4.1. Insofar as events can be said to have properties (though I would prefer to say that they are the instantiations of properties) I suppose that events could be both occurrent and dispositional in nature.

166 our aesthetic experiences and underwrite the normativity of aesthetic claims. In this section I shall discuss the Revelation criterion and introduce a distinction between aesthetic properties and manifest aesthetic properties; I believe that the only way a ways of appearing account can preserve Revelation is to limit its treatment to the manifest aesthetic properties. A commitment to Revelation, according to which the intrinsic nature of a property must be revealed to us in immediate perception, seems to me to be the impetus for Levinsons ways of appearing account; he resists a dispositional model of aesthetic properties because he holds that they are directly perceived, unlike dispositions. 24 Joseph Tolliver addresses Revelation as a doctrine about (explicit or tacit) beliefs about the nature of the colors that are acquired as a result of experiences as of those colors. Understood this way, Revelation entails that a person familiar with a color should have no false beliefs about what that color is in itself.25 Analogously, if Revelation is true for aesthetic properties, then a person familiar with dynamism should have no false beliefs about what that property is in itself, because its intrinsic nature will be completely revealed through direct experiences as of dynamic things. But Tolliver concludes that, understood this way, Revelation is false for the colors.26 He argues that the intrinsic natures of the colors are presented rather than revealed in our experiences of them, a finding that I think holds true for aesthetic properties as well. One reason a person who has directly experienced an aesthetic property could still have false beliefs about that property is that by their natures aesthetic properties are essentially involved in structured similarity and dissimilarity relations to
Revelation, as used here, traces back to Mark Johnstons 1997 How to Speak of the Colors in A. Byrne and D. Hilbert, eds. Readings on Color, volume 1, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. 25 Joseph Tolliver, Revelations: On What is Manifest in Visual Experience, in Knowledge and Skepticism, ed. Joseph Keim Campbell, et al., Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2010, p. 188. 26 Tollivers argument is that colors must be complex because they essentially involve structured similarity and dissimilarity relations to other colors; his counterexample is the relation of desaturation between salmon pink and orangish red. A person can experience salmon pink without acquiring the belief that salmon pink is similar to orangish red in hue, but dissimilar in saturation, and so he or she would have an incomplete knowledge of the intrinsic nature of salmon pink.

167 other aesthetic properties (though they are not as easily specified by coordinates as are colors on a color map). Dynamism, for instance, stands in similarity relations to liveliness, sprightliness, and vigor, and in dissimilarity relations to lethargy, frailty, and torpidity; ephemerality is similar to delicacy, but dissimilar from stolidity; garishness is similar to vibrancy, but dissimilar from sobriety. In a direct experience of a dynamic statue such as The Lost Pleaid, the dynamism is certainly presented to the appropriate viewer, but he or she is not thereby inoculated against all false beliefs about what dynamism is in itself. If relations to other aesthetic properties are part of the intrinsic nature of an aesthetic property, then the entire intrinsic nature is not completely revealed through direct experience of an object instantiating the property: the viewer is by no means guaranteed a complete understanding of how dynamism is situated in relation to sprightliness or torpidity.27 Now, although we should resist the idea that the intrinsic natures of the aesthetic properties are completely revealed in aesthetic experience, we can say that aesthetic experience reveals entirely the intrinsic natures of the manifest aesthetic properties, which are the roles played by the aesthetic properties in such experience. (These roles are not to be confused with the manifestations of dispositions; though similar language is used, the roles are labeled manifest insofar as they are supposed to be revelatory, while the manifestations of dispositions are the events in which we see their power at work.) The ways things look aesthetically and the possibilities afforded for looking similar to or different from paradigmatic aesthetic looks are revealed in direct experience of the aesthetic properties, and a ways of appearing account can

I argued in chapter 3 that sense-perceptible dispositions are not relations but rather intrinsic properties of objects in virtue of which they are directed towards their manifestation event types. I would say the same is true for aesthetic properties; the complex natures and essential similarity relations discussed here are, more properly, relations between the manifestation event types. Since directedness towards such manifestation event-types is what defines a power or disposition, however, the identity criteria of the powers involve these structured relations, even though they themselves are not relations but rather intrinsic properties of the objects that instantiate them. Directedness was discussed in 2.6.1.

168 preserve Revelation if it limits itself in this regard. These manifest aesthetic properties are what we reference when we identify and classify aesthetic properties, and they account for the subjectivity mentioned in 1.4 whereby aesthetic properties involve essential reference to perceivers states. But I think we should follow Tollivers lead and say that while the manifest aesthetic properties are roles occupied by aesthetic properties, there is more to an aesthetic property than what is manifest in aesthetic experience. As I shall argue in the next section, a ways of appearing account of aesthetic properties such as Levinson favors cannot be a complete account of aesthetic properties for this reason: there is more to the intrinsic nature of an aesthetic property than that which is manifest or revealed in direct perceptual experience of it. Tollivers treatment of manifest properties addresses them both epistemically and metaphysically, and I have adapted it here for multiple sensory modes and aesthetic experience. First, epistemically, manifest properties are what we know about how things must be intrinsically similar to and different from each other to conform to the distinctive character of our visual or other sensory experiences of the world. The various modes of sensory experience reveal distinct ways that things must look, sound, smell, taste, feel, etc. in order for objects to be present to us in the relevant sensory mode. The content of the knowledge gained through revelatory experience, Tolliver argues, is not a set of beliefs but rather a concept, acquired via sensory experience, of ways things can appear to the senses. In the case of a visual experience of a canary, for instance, the perceiver acquires the ability to see the canary, and other things, as manifestly canary yellow. In the experience of The Lost Pleaid, we can say that the perceiver acquires the ability to see the statue as dynamic. When the conditions of observation are favorable, Tolliver concludes, it contains a distinctive mode of the presentation of canary yellow, one wherein canary yellow things look like themselves... [it] lets us know what canary yellow and canary

169 yellow things both look like. This is the knowledge acquired in a revelatory experience.28 Similarly, what is revealed under the appropriate conditions for viewing The Lost Pleaid is what dynamic things look like. For Tolliver, the epistemic difference between sense-perceptible properties and manifest sense-perceptible properties is that the knowledge gained in a revelatory experience exhausts the intrinsic nature of the manifest properties, but does not exhaust the intrinsic nature of the sense-perceptible properties qua themselves. So Revelation is true for the manifest colors, but not the colors themselves, and analogously it will be true for the manifest aesthetic properties, but not the aesthetic properties themselves. Second, Tolliver lays out the metaphysical difference between properties and manifest properties in the case of color, which I shall explain before discussing the metaphysical difference between aesthetic properties and manifest aesthetic properties. The manifest colors, he explains, are role-fillers for differentiative roles of the colorsthat is, they are properties the colors have in virtue of visually presenting objects in experience as intrinsically similar or different from each other in certain ways...they are properties of properties of first-order things. For colors (and presumably other sense-perceptible properties as well), the manifest properties occupy roles, though not causal ones: Rather than filling functional roles such as, tending to bring about x and tending to be brought about by y, manifest colors fill roles such as: x is intrinsically similar in way RcO to y and intrinsically dissimilar in way R/cG from z, where RcO is a way that red things appear similar in color to orange things in circumstances C, and R/cG is a way that red things appear dissimilar in color to green things in circumstances C.29
28 29

Ibid, p. 194.

Ibid, p. 195. For Tolliver, which manifest colors fill which differentiative roles is a contingent matterthey might have occupied different roles had the nature of the colors been differentfor instance, had there been more or fewer colors than there are, or had there been different, novel colors. For this reason, manifest properties like the manifest colors cannot be defined in terms of the roles they occupy. Tolliver does think, however, that the manifest colors can be type-identified by means of their essential connection to the types of phenomenal properties involved in their perception...each manifest color is the objective property represented by all the sense impressions that incorporate the same chromatic phenomenal property. (pp. 197-198)


In the example of a yellow canary, the difference between the color yellow and the manifest color yellow is as follows: the bird instantiates the property yellow, which we can say is a disposition to be manifest canary yellow under standard conditions of observation.30 The manifest yellow is the role played by the property yellow in visual experience, that of revealing some part of the propertys intrinsic nature to us: it reveals the look of the color yellow (its public face, as Tolliver says), and also a way of appearing in which canaries look similar to goldfinches but different from bluebirds. The intrinsic nature of the color yellow, however, goes beyond what is revealed in visual experience (while the intrinsic nature of the manifest yellow does not). To summarize Tollivers explanation of the difference between sense-perceptible properties and manifest properties, then, the sense-perceptible properties themselves are the objective, intrinsic basis for an objects contribution to the content and structure of sensory experience, while the manifest properties are the simple properties that manifest that content and present that structure. Sensory experience presents us with both, but only the manifest properties are truly revealed in that experience.31 I shall continue by developing an aesthetic example that illustrates the metaphysical differences between aesthetic properties and manifest aesthetic properties. Instead of considering the canary in terms of its iconic yellow coloration, let us note its aesthetic qualities. It is a cheerful, lively little bird, its movements delightful and at times comical. Its body is slender and graceful, its delicate wings exquisitely feathered. Its dark eye is sober, its grasping feet twiglike, its song famously sweet. Taking its delicacy as an example,
On a functionalist understanding, the intrinsic nature of the colors would be their nature as higher-order properties, powers if you will, of physical states involving primary qualities, to cause certain types of responses in observers in certain circumstances of observation. Tolliver suggests that on this view, the colors are involved in the explanation of chromatic experience, not as causes but as causal roles that the physical states fill. (p. 185)
31 30

Ibid, pp. 194-195.

171 metaphysically, the bird is an object that instantiates the aesthetic property of delicacy; delicacy in turn has the second-order property of manifest delicacy in virtue of presenting objects in aesthetic experience as intrinsically similar or different from each other in certain ways. In particular, the differentiative role that manifest delicacy fills is one in which the delicate bird is presented as being aesthetically similar to paradigmatic delicate things (butterflies, soap bubbles, orchid flowers, or wineglasses, for instance) and also aesthetically similar to dainty things and different from ungainly things. Epistemically, the birds delicacy is only presented to the observer in aesthetic experience; what is revealed is manifest delicacy, the look or public face of delicacy. This revelation of manifest delicacy gives the viewer a concept of how the delicate object is capable of appearing similar to, for example, mocking birds and snowy egrets, but different from toucans and pelicans. While this differentiative role of delicacy is completely revealed, the viewer is not thereby inoculated against erroneous beliefs about delicacy itself: he or she can come away from the experience without understanding, for instance, that delicacy in a canary is very unlike ungainliness in a pelican. In sum, the manifest delicacy is fully revealed in an aesthetic experience, but the intrinsic nature of the property delicacy itself is not completely revealed. It is for this reason that I dispute Revelation for aesthetic properties: it is true for the manifest aesthetic properties, but not for the aesthetic properties in the entirety of their intrinsic natures. Unlike manifest aesthetic properties, the aesthetic properties themselves have a deeper nature that is not revealed completely in aesthetic experience. So while an aesthetic experience of a delicate canary lets the viewer know what delicacy and delicate things both look like, there is more to delicacy than this. More can be said about delicacy than is revealed in aesthetic experience, including how it causes an aesthetic experience of delicacy. Its dispositional nature can be described, as can the many of the details of its

172 conditions of manifestation, such as the nature of human vision and perception. Empirical research can discover the physical properties of the bird, its bone structure, musculature, and feathering, from which its delicacy emerges; it can also discover a whole range of candidate nonaesthetic properties from which delicacy might emerge in an object, and perhaps even some negative conditions governing emergence for delicacy. In the case of an artwork, there is even more to be learned about the aesthetic properties than is directly available in aesthetic experience, particularly as the aesthetic properties of artworks are influenced by contextual matters such as genre, location within the artists oeuvre, literary reference, or representational qualities. These are all important aspects of aesthetic properties which are not revealed in aesthetic experience, aspects which are lost if one limits ones account to ways of appearing for the sake of preserving Revelation. In 5.3 I explained that properties can be considered as dispositional or occurrent, but that it is a mistake to think that the two aspects are mutually exclusive. In the present example, I would say that the canarys delicacy is an occurrent property in that its power to produce aesthetic experiences of manifest delicacy is present regardless of actual manifestation; it supervenes on but is not reducible to the birds occurrent structural properties. It also manifests itself in an occurrent characteristic look or way of appearing. That the delicacy is dispositional, however, can be seen in that it manifests itself only when a suitable perceiver is present and the right conditions obtain. Now, the manifest delicacy of the bird, which certainly looks like an occurrent property to the perceiver during an aesthetic experience, is an occurrent property, and this is the focus of Levinsons account as I understand him. I take his ways of appearing, which are directly perceived, to be equivalent to the manifest aesthetic properties. I think such ways of appearing cannot be identified with aesthetic properties in toto, however, because they only

173 correspond to the public face of aesthetic properties, and as I have argued, there is more to the intrinsic nature of an aesthetic property than what is manifest during aesthetic experience. That the public face seems to reveal the whole of the aesthetic propertys nature is a misleading phenomenological side-effect.


Can the Dispositional and Ways of Appearing Models be Reconciled? If there is going to be any reconciliation between a ways of appearing account and my

own dispositional account of aesthetic properties, it cannot be because ways of appearing just are the manifestations of aesthetic dispositions. Instead, I have suggested that Levinsons ways of appearing are roughly equivalent to the manifest aesthetic properties described in 5.4. These are the roles that aesthetic properties play when they present their characteristic looks in aesthetic experiencelooks that afford introspectively recognizable similarities to and differences from other paradigmatic aesthetic looks. On this reading, the manifest dynamism of The Lost Pleiad is that aspect of dynamism that is directly available to the perceiver in aesthetic experience. It is entirely revealed during aesthetic experience, though the complete nature of the aesthetic property that fills this role (dynamism itself) is not. This is why Levinsons concepts of ways of appearing only make implicit reference to conditions and kinds of observers: the knowledge of aesthetic differentiative roles gained in aesthetic experience is exhaustive of their natures, but not of the deeper natures of the aesthetic properties themselves, which I have been arguing are dispositional and would essentially involve conditions and observers.32 Recognizing this

Levinson allows that in order to properly judge of a given way of appearing, such as a colour/look, timbre/sound, avour/taste, the conditions of observation have to be apt, and you have to be an apt sort of observer. This is to say, he continues, that such properties are inherently indexed to such parameters or implicitly relative to them. But neither the conditions of observation nor the types of observers, he thinks, are part of the concept of the way of appearing, since the way of appearing is that which is both directly perceived and ascribed to the object that presents it. Dispositions, on the other hand, are supposed to explicitly include such parameters, and be (he thinks)


174 distinction between a property and a manifest property, aesthetic dispositions and the roles they play in experience, allows a degree of reconciliation between the dispositional account and a ways of appearing account. The relationship between the properties and manifest properties explains why manifest ways of appearing are directly perceived, while aesthetic dispositions are presented as ways of appearing when they manifest themselves in these roles in our aesthetic experience. However, the ways of appearing account remains incomplete. While I hold that this model for properties and manifest properties is sufficient reason to think that Levinsons account can be subsumed under what I am offering as a more complete account of aesthetic properties, Levinson has stated a few objections to a dispositional account. He worries, for instance, that ways of appearing or manifest properties are too unlike dispositions for aesthetic properties to be analyzable as dispositions. I do not see this as an insurmountable problem, however, because I do not think his concept of ways of appearing adequately captures the essence of an aesthetic property. His contention is that an object can have such a way of appearing without having the disposition to appear that way to the relevant observers, and so he tries to prove that an object can have an aesthetic property without having the relevant aesthetic disposition. He borrows a color example from Mark Johnston to motivate this claim: We can imagine special cases in which something will have a color but not have the disposition to appear that color. One such case is the radiation zone, the region inside the sun immediately surrounding its core. From the conjectured physical character of its contents the radiation zone is thought to emit spectral red light. It is thus conjectured to be a radiant red region. However the radiation zone is encased within the convection zone, which is exceedingly hot; so hot that it is physically impossible for any sighted
relational properties. Typically, dispositions and powers are understood in terms of both conditions for manifestation and a manifestation event type, as is demonstrated by the appeal of attempts to give a conditional analysis of dispositions. I suspect that a vague concept of a way of appearing may only involve implicit reference to conditions of observation, but the more clear it becomes, the more explicit those conditions will be. I thus find that the concept of a way of appearing is sufficiently similar to a dispositional concept where conditions of observation are concerned, and I see no difficulty in taking appearing events of manifest properties to be equivalent to the manifestation of a disposition on the dispositional model.

175 being to pass through it and so see the radiation zone. On any reasonable account of dispositions...it is implausible to regard the radiation zone as having the disposition to appear radiant red.33 The red of the suns radiation zone is considered an example of a way of appearing or a manifest property here because its nature is revealed in and through its appearance. Typically, part of what it means to be manifest red is to have the disposition to appear red, but in this example the two seem to come apart: the radiation zone of the sun is believed to be red because its physical properties should emit spectral red light, but it is physically impossible for us to observe that it actually does emit such light. This means that while we have reason to believe it appears red, it cannot actually appear red to us; there can be no interaction between an observer and the radiation zones way of appearing that would give rise to an appearing event. Johnston and Levinson judge this to be a case in which we are justified in attributing a manifest property to the object, but not a disposition to appear in the relevant way: because the radiation zones behavior doesnt typically involve appearing red to the relevant perceivers, it would seem we cant justifiably say it is disposed to do so. As a judgment about the radiation zones typical behavior, this seems to me to be fair enough. But if by dispositions we mean all the genuine capacities of an object (as I think we should), not merely those which have been activated, then I think there is a very real sense in which the radiation zone of the sun is disposed to appear red. On a conditional analysis, the relevant conditional would be If a suitable observer were present, then the sun would appear red to that perceiver. That the condition described in the antecedent of the conditional has never obtained (and indeed cannot, given our current technology) does not falsify the conditional. Dispositions can in some cases be
The example is borrowed from Mark Johnston, Chapter 5, The Manifest, web document. Access date: 3/29/2011 http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/courses/consciousness97/papers/johnston/chap5.html I take Johnstons limitation of his discussion of color to the manifest colors to be problematic, for reasons outlined in chapter 4.

176 justifiably attributed to an object even if they have never (or will never) been manifested. In fact, the dispositional account I favor explains that directedness towards an inexistent object (even an impossible one) is one of the marks of physical intentionality, as explained in 2.6.2. What I think we should say here is that the radiation zones conjectured ability to emit spectral red light is a power of the sort that grounds being red, one of several ways in which a thing can look red (or appear red, or be manifestly red). The manifestation of this power is blocked or masked by another of the suns dispositions, however, that of producing such an extreme heat that relevant observers are unable to approach. (Johnston himself allows elsewhere that an object can truly be said to have a disposition even though its manifestation is masked.34) The conjecture that it is a radiant red region is an intelligible one because it refers to the condition under which the region would appear red, namely, if a sighted being were able to see it; that this condition does not currently obtain (and may never obtain) does not make it any less a disposition to appear red. So I think Levinson cannot use this example to say that an object can have a way of appearing without having the relevant disposition. The masking of the radiation zones disposition to appear red, while unproblematic for a robust dispositional account, does seem to present a problem for the ways of appearing account. Insofar as we infer that an object has a disposition to appear red because we judge it to belong to a kind having such powers, or to have the physical properties known to ground such a disposition, we are justified in calling it red even if it cannot appear red to us. But how can Levinson justifiably say an object has a way of appearing if it is specifically not disposed to appear that way to the relevant observers? If the intrinsic nature of a way of appearing just is

How to Speak of the Colors.1997. 146-147. While Johnston only considers extrinsic maskers, others have offered plausible cases of intrinsic maskers, situations where it is another of the objects own dispositions that leads to the failure of a disposition to manifest. See section 2.5 for an explanation of masking as a problem for a conditional analysis, but not for the sort of dispositional theory I endorse.


177 that which is revealed in immediate perception during an appearing, and such appearing events are physically impossible, then I do not see how he can justifiably say the suns radiation zone is manifest red or has a way of appearing red. A ways of appearing model attempts to define aesthetic properties by reference to their public faces, which are revealed in immediate perception, and the radiation zone can have no public, and hence no public face.35 I conclude, then, that contra Levinson, objects cannot be said to have ways of appearing without also having the disposition to appear the relevant ways to the observers. Not only are the ways of appearing and dispositional models compatible, but ways of appearing and dispositions to appear are quite difficult to separate; this is to be expected if the manifest properties are in fact the roles played by the properties in experience, as I have described them.


Reasons to Prefer a Dispositional Account Having addressed the aforementioned objections to a dispositional account of aesthetic

properties, I would like to draw attention to the merits of such an account. The first of these is the way it allows us to accommodate the anthropocentricity of our aesthetic property concepts. If we grant that aesthetic properties supervene on or (as I hold) emerge from lower-level senseperceptible properties, we are faced with the notoriously difficult fact (discussed in 4.5) that our concepts of sense-perceptible properties are concepts of colors, sounds, textures, etc. as they

If there were in fact a case where an object could be said to have a manifest property without having the disposition to appear the relevant way, it would presumably have to be one where it appeared some other way instead. Johnston offers, for instance, an example where there might have been a ray emitted from the center of green objects, a ray that acted directly on our visual cortices so that green objects always would look red to us in any viewing situations. (See his How to Speak of the Colors, Philosophical Studies 68 (1992), pp. 221-263.) Here it seems we might want to say that the objects are green (perhaps because we can measure the green spectral light reflected by their surfaces with scientific instruments), but the associated conditional (if suitable observers were to look at the objects, then they would appear green) would be false. Here, the antecedent is true because we suppose that suitable observers are present (unlike the case involving the sun), but the consequent is false because objects are not disposed to look green to us due to the rays activity. In such a case I do not see how the manifest appearance model comes out ahead, as no green would be directly perceivable, manifest, or apparent in our experiences of such objects: the public face of the green objects would not be green at all.

178 appear to normal human perceivers. We have seen how our color concepts are anthropomorphically centered: the unifying feature of the yellow surface of a dandelion, the yellow of a color plate of a dandelion in a book, and the yellow of a digital image of the dandelion viewed on a screen is the similar way in which they appear to observers with normal human color vision. In addition, our color concepts are of properties relative to paradigmatic viewing conditions, and unperceivable in the absence of light.36 Even if our unexamined folk concepts of color do not reflect the anthropomorphic center demonstrated in the example of dandelion yellow, I think they do involve reference to human observers and normal conditions, and only a little examination is needed to make that relativity explicit. We know that the world seems to be drained of its color at dusk or in deep shade; as our color experience increases, we become aware of the acuity of our color vision compared to that of other individuals. The recognition that aesthetic properties are dependent on sense-perceptible properties suggests that if concepts of colors thus involve reference to observers and conditions, then concepts of aesthetic propertiesincluding conceptions of aesthetic properties as ways of appearingwill as well.37 On a dispositional account we can allow that our concepts of aesthetic properties make explicit reference to conditions and observers, while maintaining that the properties are instantiated by objects in the external world independently of observers minds and responses. This is because the conditions and observers are necessary for manifestation, but not instantiation: The Lost Pleaid will be dynamic regardless of whether its dynamism is ever recognized or appreciated. A manifest property account of aesthetic properties, on the other hand, focuses on what is revealed in aesthetic experience; in Zangwills case this seems to lead

Levinson recognizes this; see his 2005, p. 218. I addressed this in my discussion of Zangwill in chapter 3, and argued there that the solution is to allow for a conceptual response-dependence but not an ontological one.


179 to a subjective projectivism. (Levinson, however, claims that his concepts of aesthetic properties as ways of appearing are only implicitly perceiver- and condition- relative.38) I think a dispositional account is also better positioned to explain the conceptual connections between non-aesthetic sense-perceptible properties and aesthetic properties. Levinsons ways of appearing account handles this connection by invoking a constitution relation, though he does not say that it is a relation between the properties themselves: we might suggest instead... that the event which is the manifesting of such an aesthetic property is constituted by, or made up of, the events which are the manifesting of the non-aesthetic perceptible properties on which it depends. On a dispositional account, the type of manifestation event towards which the disposition or power is directed is what gives its identity. So it is not just that the manifestation events or appearings of, say, the muted colors of a painting will constitute the manifestation events or appearings of its aesthetic tranquility; rather, emergence can be elucidated as a relation between the properties themselves. Another weakness of a ways of appearing account that is addressed by allowing for a dispositional element is the ability to explain aesthetic properties that involve dispositions to occasion certain feelings in perceivers.39 This affective element is perhaps not present in all aesthetically-relevant properties; Levinson mentions stylistic properties (which I would call artistic properties), for instance, such as correspond to the labels impressionist, fauvist,

Levinson, 2005, 227. His concept of a higher-order way of appearing is one that depends on lower-order ways of appearing, which will be specific to various sense modalities and thus already involve references to suitable perceivers. Furthermore, the appearings are defined as the upshot of the interactions between the perceiver, the object, and one of its appearance properties. I think the perceivers in question will have to be of a specific type (human, having the necessary capacity for sense-perception, and so on) in order for the appearing events to be properly specified. Insofar as ways of appearing are ways of appearing and not just ways of being, the concept seems to me to involve a more essential reference to types of observers than he allows. 39 Conceptual response-dependence alone, recall, does not entail ontological response-dependence, as argued in chapter 3, so allowing for response-dependence in the concept of a way of appearing would not in and of itself prevent the ways of appearing analysis from explaining aesthetic experiences, normativity in aesthetic judgments, etc. as we would expect a realist account to do.


180 cubist, futurist in painting, and he suggests they are easily understandable as visual looks of a high-order, ones that are often detectable at twenty paces, presumably before any feelings consequent on their perception could announce themselves. In contrast to these stylistic properties, he admits that aesthetic properties such as human beauty and ugliness seem to be relative to human sensibility, and even to a specific ethnic or cultural sensibility.40 This causes problems for his account, because he maintains that aesthetic properties are ways of appearing and concepts of ways of appearing do not involve references to types of observers; he leaves it an open question as to whether even properties like gracefulness and garishness can be straightforwardly understood as higher-order ways of appearing. Admitting that some aesthetic properties may essentially involve reactions of pleasure or displeasure from specific types of observers is not a problem for my view, however, for two reasons. The first is that on my account an objects aesthetic properties manifest reciprocally with the perceivers aesthetic dispositions, and so the conditions for manifestation of many aesthetic properties presume the entire mental makeup of the human audience to a greater or lesser extent, including the affective makeup. Second, because aesthetic properties on my account are defined by the manifestation event types towards which they are directed, I have no difficulty explaining aesthetic properties that essentially involve emotional responses in their manifestations; our aesthetic response dispositions, which are the reciprocal dispositions, will also involve emotional components in these cases. A dispositional account can thus handle aesthetic properties that essentially involve the affective responses of perceivers, including the evocation of responses of disgust, fear, delight, awe, etc. It allows for the genuine powers of objects to occupy a number of dispositional roles, manifesting themselves in aesthetic
Levinson, 2005, 224. Even for the stylistic properties, which he highlights because the perceivers feelings are not essential, it looks as if the percievers qualifications (possessing awareness of distinct genres and styles, for instance) will be essential.

181 experiences involving both the distinctive looks and appearances of the aesthetic property and the attendant affective responses they cause for perceivers. If garishness, for instance, is a property which essentially involves not just a particular look, but also an affective response, then it is unsuited for a ways of appearing account: my feeling of discomfort upon viewing a garish painting is attendant upon and caused by its garishness, but it is not the public face of garishness. On the dispositional account, however, we can understand the garishness to be a power at the center of a hub-and-spoke style model: it causes various kinds of manifestations, including both my experience of the look of the painting and my affective response.41 Finally, I think a dispositional account fairs better overall than a ways of appearing model in the two major explanatory tasks for aesthetic realism: explaining the normativity of aesthetic claims and our aesthetic experiences. As regards the normativity of aesthetic claims, that such claims are more or less correct or apt is explicable by reference to objects having aesthetic properties, and disagreements can be settled by investigation into their objective features.42 The concept of an aesthetic property should include reference to types of observers, for it is of the utmost importance that the objects way of appearing is understood as a way of appearing to a qualified observer, since we recognize cases in which an aesthetic claim is inapt or incorrect for reasons having to do with the observers lack of qualifications. Allowing any and every way of appearing to any type of observer to serve as the grounds for application of an aesthetic predicate would render aesthetic claims correct or apt in only a trivial way. Including relativity to qualified perceivers in the concept of an aesthetic property is thus an important part of explaining

41 42

The hub-and-spoke model for powers and dispositions was mentioned in 2.2.

Levinson, 2005, 214-215. He takes this to be a sort of inference to the best explanation, and thus unproblematic although the existence of correct and incorrect aesthetic attributions is often used as a reason to posit such aesthetic properties; he thinks the parallel between objects having aesthetic properties and correct attributions of those properties to the objects is just what we should expect.

182 the normativity of aesthetic claims, one which is answered for by a dispositional account but not explicit enough in a ways of appearing account. Considering the explanation of aesthetic experience by reference to aesthetic properties, Levinson states: We can explain someone experiencing a dancers movement as graceful by appealing to the fact that the movement really has the way of appearing graceful, the conditions being right for such a way of appearing to manifest itself, and the persons being an apt subject for that way of appearing, that is, the sort of subject to which that way of appearing is implicitly relative. And we can proceed similarly if called upon to explain someones experiencing a passage of music as anguished, or a painting as garish, or a design as balanced. Such explanations at least seem to be ordinary causal explanations.43 If aesthetic properties are dispositional, as I have been arguing, then they are perfectly wellsuited to providing causal explanations of aesthetic experience. Aesthetic experiences occur and have the qualities they do because of the presence of suitable perceivers, the obtaining of the conditions for manifestation, and most of all because the objects of aesthetic experience have properties whose intrinsic natures involve the power to manifest themselves by causing experiences of those sorts. Aesthetic properties are occurrent in that they are possessed by objects even when they are not manifested, but they cannot be reduced to their occurrent aspects because they have functional essences relative to human perceivers and their aesthetic sensibilities. Aesthetic properties also cannot be reduced to the non-aesthetic properties upon which they supervene/from which they emerge; on a functionalist understanding aesthetic powers are higher-order properties of physical states (states which themselves can be viewed as occurrent or dispositional) to cause certain types of responses in observers in certain circumstances of observation.


Levinson, 2005, 220.

183 The explanatory power of aesthetic dispositions as regards aesthetic experience also contributes to their suitability for justifying the normative aspects of aesthetic discourse. Some aesthetic judgments and ascriptions, we can say, are more apt than others because they are ascriptions of properties that are in fact possessed by those objects. There is room for error in aesthetic judgment due to inappropriate conditions for manifestation, including both environmental conditions and the suitability of the viewer. There is also room for disagreement among viewers, especially where differences of cultural background and understanding of arthistoric contexts are concerned, because on the dispositional model we can allow that the aesthetic powers of an object ground an abundance of dispositions with different manifestation conditions. In the case of artworks that must be considered in context to be properly appreciated, we can favor the sensibilities of an ideal audience as best suited to produce an appropriate response. The dispositional account I have offered holds that there is more to the natures of aesthetic properties than what is directly revealed in aesthetic experience. It accommodates our intuitions regarding the subjective elements in aesthetic experience and explains aesthetic difference while still maintaining that aesthetic properties are objective in the following sense: they are clearly located in the objects of our experience in the external world, and do not depend for their existence on our responses. They are there to be experienced rather than being projections of our responses, and they can explain both our aesthetic experiences and the normative elements of our aesthetic discourse.


In the foregoing chapters I have argued for a realism about aesthetic properties, that they are objective features of the world external to human minds. Although their natures are determined in part by reference to human aesthetic experience, their sheer existence is independent of our experiences of them. That aesthetic properties exist independently of our experiences means they are well-suited to serve in an explanatory role for our aesthetic experiences: they belong to objects in the external world, existing even when unobserved. This realism stands in contrast to views that would allow aesthetic properties to be explained away as responses or mental states that are erroneously (even if systematically) attributed to objects to the external world. Their independent existence leaves room for error in aesthetic judgment: we can err in our aesthetic claims by judging objects to possess aesthetic properties they do not, not merely by going against whatever intersubjective agreement there may be about how to express our responses to aesthetic experience. Preserving room for error in this way allows us to justify aesthetic discourse in the face of disagreements in judgment, and the dispositional account identifies some of the ways in which judgments exhibit error, such as when the conditions for observation are inadequate, and when the perceiver lacks the appropriate background conditions. In providing a dispositional analysis of aesthetic properties, my goal has been to give an account that is in keeping with such a realism and that illuminates the structure of the many factors that contribute to aesthetic experience and judgment. Some of those factors are internal to the person who experiences and judges an artwork or other aesthetic object, some of them are internal to the object itself, and some are found in the background conditions in


which the aesthetic encounter occurs. Since I hold that the resulting aesthetic experience and judgment centers on the recognition and appreciation of some aesthetic quality of the object, my account aims to both 1) maintain the primacy of aesthetic properties in explaining aesthetic experience and, 2) explicate their natures in terms of the characteristic experiences they cause. The three key elements of the dispositional model I have given are the dispositions or powers themselves, the manifestation events they cause, and the conditions under which those events occur. I have argued that aesthetic properties are best understood as objects aesthetic dispositions, genuine properties in virtue of which objects can and do cause aesthetic experiences in observers. Those aesthetic experiences are the manifestations of the aesthetic properties; while the aesthetic properties themselves exist regardless of whether they are actually manifested (as do dispositions generally), the manifestations depend for their existence/occurrence on the presence of certain conditions. The foremost of these conditions for manifestation is the presence of a suitable aesthetic perceiver, one who possesses the disposition(s) to recognize and appreciate the aesthetic properties in question and so is able to undergo the resulting aesthetic experience. The aesthetic perceiver and aesthetic object thus each possess dispositions whose manifestations are enabled by the presence of the other, and are what are known as reciprocal dispositions. Each satisfies a necessary condition for the others manifestation, and the paired dispositions manifest jointly in aesthetic experience. The dispositional framework I have used allows me to maintain that aesthetic properties belong to objects independently of whether anyone experiences them, and therefore that they need not ever be manifested to exist. Their natures, however, are


determined by the types of manifestations towards which they are directed; in this respect, what it is to be graceful, delicate, garish, or vibrant has everything to do with the sort of characteristic manifestations these aesthetic properties give rise to, and how they appear to us in aesthetic experience. Aesthetic properties are experienced as higher-level emergent or holistic qualities that are dependent upon lower-level sense-perceptible properties, but are not experienced as the product of simple rule-following combinations thereof. I have applied this model first and primarily to what I have labeled aesthetic properties simpliciter, those properties which are found in non-artifacts as well as artworks or other artifacts. My reasons for distinguishing these from artistic properties are as follows: first, I am interested in giving a dispositional account of aesthetic properties that extends beyond the realm of the artworld into the everyday aesthetic experiences which go so easily unnoticed. Second, I believe that although the world of art and art history raise important issues about interpretation and the objectivity of aesthetic properties, the most fundamental challenges for a realist account are found even in cases where there are no artists intentions or cultural references involved. These have to do with accurately distinguishing between aesthetic dispositions, manifestations, and conditions for manifestation, and are intimately connected with how we understand our experience of the sense-perceptible properties that underlie aesthetic properties. As I explained in chapter 3, the conflation of dispositions or powers and their manifestations leads to the sort of anti-realism or projectivism seen in Nick Zangwills treatment of sense-perceptible and aesthetic properties. The dispositional account answers his argument from the possibility of divergence in perceptual mechanisms because a careful specification of the conditions of manifestation involved allow us to pinpoint the different


dispositions leading to divergent responses; a subjectivist, mind-dependent account can be avoided if the properties are sufficiently individuated. I thus agreed that aesthetic dispositions are relative in that the manifestations that define a disposition are relative to certain conditions, but maintained that aesthetic dispositions are intrinsic properties of objects in the external world, not relations between those objects and perceivers. The latter position would also involve a conflation of the dispositions and their manifestations. I applied the dispositional model to sense-perceptible properties in chapter 4, treating colors and then by extension the properties accessed through our other sense modalities. I argued that our concepts of sense-perceptible properties are anthropocentric, insofar as we identify them by the phenomenal chromatic properties of our perceptual experiences. I allowed that colors are multiply-realizable, with very different microphysical explanations being unified by their similar manifestations. I also allowed that our color concepts are relativized to standard conditions for observation, including normal human color vision. Though we can imagine other species having experiences involving different phenomenal sensory properties from ours, the unifying nature of the underlying powers that ground both the dispositions that manifest for us and the dispositions that would manifest for them place constraints on what can be legitimately ascribed to the objects, preventing the dispositional account from falling into an unnecessary subjectivism. I adopted Joseph Tollivers distinction between the colors (which I take to be dispositions belonging to the objects), and the phenomenal chromatic properties they produce (roles that are fully revealed to us in experience), I argued that phenomenal sensory properties do not exhaust the natures of the sense-perceptible properties; they do, however, give us grounds for attributing sense-


perceptible properties to objects when we are qualified observers and the requisite conditions for manifestation obtain. I likewise argued that in the case of the aesthetic, the ways in which aesthetic properties appear to us do not exhaust their natures; I thus disputed the criterion of Revelation. If anything is entirely revealed in aesthetic experience, then it is something analogous to the manifest properties (differentiative roles) that Tolliver identified for the colors. I suggested that the ways of appearing account that Jerrold Levinson advocates should be understood as a treatment of the manifest aesthetic properties if it is to preserve Revelation, but that as such it would still amount to only an incomplete account of aesthetic properties, and I responded to Levinsons objections to a dispositional account. I developed my own account with a case study, demonstrating the ways in which the dispositional model illuminates various kinds of disagreement in aesthetic judgment. One of the implications of the dispositional model as I explained it was that objects may have an abundance of aesthetic dispositions unified by the more basic powers that ground them, and so there might be cases of disagreement where both responses are justified. I explained that this feature does not lead to subjectivism because although there may be a wider range of properties belonging to objects than appear at first glance, such properties are still objective features of the external world. In this project I have dealt mostly with aesthetic properties simpliciter, found in nonartifacts as well as artworks and other artifacts, and with the lower tier of human responses involved, which come prior to the operation of our cognitive ability to appreciate the ways in which sense-perceptible and basic aesthetic properties are manipulated and presented as works of art. I recognize that issues of artists intentions, interpretation, and cultural context


(which I have not dealt with here) mean that the dispositional account I have given is unlikely to be straightforwardly transferable to a wider range of aesthetically relevant properties of works. I believe, however, that dealing with the metaphysical challenges arising from the connections between the aesthetic and the sense-perceptible covers important groundwork and leaves one in a much surer position from which to answer questions about realism and objectivity in a more complete account. I also believe that developing the dispositional model at the more basic level provides useful insights into how we might expect the more complex conditions surrounding our responses to and judgments of artworks to operate.


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