Samantha Matherne: "Between Aesthetic Diversity and Universality"

The Higher Seminar in Aesthetics

Samantha Matherne, Harvard University: "Between Aesthetic Diversity and Universality: The Shape of an Aesthetic Life"

Typically, a commitment to aesthetic diversity is presented as something that is in tension with a commitment to aesthetic universality: either we acknowledge that aesthetic engagement and value varies from person to person, community to community, culture to culture, or we regard it as universal. Though there are certainly some versions of aesthetic universality that are inconsistent with diversity, in this paper I defend a normative theory of aesthetic universality, according to which it is not only consistent with, but complementary to aesthetic diversity.  Within the normative framework I offer, aesthetic universality represents a commitment to pursuing the wider world of aesthetic value, and aesthetic diversity represents a commitment to pursuing what has aesthetic value for each of us on an individual, communal, or cultural level.  I claim that it is not only possible to be guided by both commitments, but that this enhances our pursuit of aesthetic value, leading to aesthetic lives that are at once broad and deep.