Conference Theme

This conference aims to bring together recent work on belief and its connection to truth, with issues concerning belief that arise in aesthetics. The question of whether we can arrive at truth, and indeed gain knowledge, from engaging with artworks has received much attention in aesthetics. However, much less has been said about the nature of the beliefs formed as a result of engaging with art. It seems clear that at least some of our experiences of artworks produce beliefs either about the world more generally or beliefs about significant human concerns, for example, moral, cultural, psychological, or political beliefs. In the case of literature, this might be achieved through what has been called ‘transportation’, which is ‘a mechanism whereby narratives can affect beliefs’ (Green and Brock 2000: ‘The Role of Transportation in the Persuasiveness of Public Narratives’. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 79, No. 5, pp. 701-721, p. 701). If a reader is sufficiently engaged in a story, ‘they may show effects of the story on their real-world beliefs’ (Ibid). However, it is often the case that the nature of the attitudes which arise out of transportative experiences casts doubt on their belief status. They are for example, unstable, that is, they are not retained by subjects. Nor do they look like they are justified or reliable. On the basis of these features, philosophers of mind working on the connection between belief and truth may be inclined to take a non-doxastic approach to these attitudes. Consequently, work done on this area may pose a considerable threat to the idea that justified or reliable beliefs can be formed on the basis of engaging with art.

Thus far belief theorists have had little to say about the sorts of issues that arise out of beliefs formed on the basis of engaging with art. But given that such beliefs do not always behave in the same way as garden-variety beliefs, which are generally agreed to be necessarily connected to truth, we feel that they present an interesting case to belief theorists, and as such they demand attention. In light of all of this, there is an opportunity for a significant philosophical interaction between aestheticians and belief theorists that not only addresses these issues but also illuminates the nature of belief for both parties.

This interaction presents the belief theorist with pertinent questions regarding the status of beliefs formed as a result of engaging with art and, in turn, demands philosophers of art to further consider the relation between art and truth. This conference aims to address these issues through a collaboration of philosophers working on belief and aesthetics in the hope that this can illuminate the aesthetic cases and, potentially, impact on our understanding of the nature of belief itself.

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