John Dyck: “Beauty as the Consent of the Heart”

The Higher Seminar in Aesthetics

(NB, time.)

John Dyck, Auburn University: “Beauty as the Consent of the Heart: A Voluntarist Account of Aesthetic Value”

There is a longstanding view that aesthetic value is rooted at least partly in our response. I will assume this view. But it is often accompanied by another longstanding view, that aesthetic responses are severed from the will. I will reject this view. I argue for aesthetic voluntarism: Aesthetic response is marked by an endorsement of the will. To find something beautiful means that one’s will is inclined towards it. I draw on recent strains of voluntarist theory to articulate the view. I argue that aesthetic voluntarism provides a better explanation of aesthetic agency than other theories of aesthetic value. I show, too, that it has some precedent in disparate figures: In Nietzsche, and (less familiarly) in the early American idealist Jonathan Edwards, who defined beauty as ‘the consent of the heart.’