“In 2016, the Dutch Association of Aesthetics celebrates the 20th anniversary of the decision to found it, which was made in Antwerp. On this special occasion, the annual conference will take place in Antwerp again, drawing attention to the founding question ‘What is Aesthetics?’.
Today, any inquiry into the nature of the discipline of aesthetics is inevitably confronted with two key problems. On the one hand, it must address those voices that defend, with renewed vigour, an empirical take on aesthetics. These empirical currents explicitly reiterate Baumgarten’s definition of aesthetics as the science of perception. As such, they seem to defy other views that emphasize the transcendental, historical and/or normative conditions of aesthetics. Ensuing questions concern, amongst others, the role of such notions as the beautiful and the sublime, the proper place of history and tradition in aesthetics, as well as the epistemological status of aesthetics.
On the other hand, the question ‘What is Aesthetics?’ invites reflection upon the relation between aesthetics and philosophy of art. Traditionally, these two are closely connected, even though the philosophical nature of their relationship has never been generally agreed upon. Given the gaining importance of empiricism in contemporary aesthetics, however, it seems that the very existence of the relation itself is no longer evident and that aesthetics and philosophy of art are increasingly being separated. With regard to this relationship, the following questions can be addressed: What does this separation imply for the concept of aesthetics? What role can aesthetics still play in the philosophy of art?” (Announcement from the conference’s program)