Art and the Nature of Belief

October 11, 2013 - October 12, 2013
University of York, UK

Humanities Research Centre
United Kingdom

View the Call For Papers


  • Analysis Trust
  • British Society of Aesthetics
  • Mind Association


Gregory Currie
University of Nottingham
Stacie Friend
Heythrop College
Geert Gooskens
University of Antwerp
Washington University in St. Louis
Anna Ichino
University of Nottingham
Eva-Maria Konrad
Universität Regensburg
Peter Lamarque
University of York, UK
Lucy O
Nottingham University
Daniel Whiting
University of Southampton
Jame Young
University of Victoria

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Gregory Currie & Anna Ichino (York/Nottingham)

Maria Forsberg (Stockholm)
: ‘Explaining Phenomenological Proximity in Painting’

Stacie Friend (Heythrop College)
: ‘Reading and Representation’

Geert Gooskens (Antwerp)
: ‘Photography and Trust’

Allan Hazlett (Edinburgh)
: ‘Alief that Amounts to Knowledge’

Eva-Maria Konrad (Regensburg)

Peter Lamarque (York)
: ‘How Fiction Shapes Beliefs’

Lucy O’Brien (UCL)

Jon Robson (Nottingham)
: ‘Against Aesthetic Exceptionalism’

Daniel Whiting (Southampton)
: ‘Rational Belief and Aesthetic Testimony’

James Young (Victoria)
: ‘Art, Perspectives, and Justified Beliefs’
Registration Fee (including coffees, lunches, and wine reception):

Full registration: £25

Student/Unwaged: £15

Conference dinner: £35

To register, visit:   Registration deadline: Monday 23rd September  

We have a number of Analysis bursaries for graduate students, which will cover 50% of accommodation and registration costs. Applicants should email the organisers by Monday 16th September with a brief statement justifying their receipt of the bursary.

Conference Theme
The 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, 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. 

Any queries should be sent to the conference organisers, Helen Bradley and Ema Sullivan-Bissett, at [email protected] Further information will soon be available on the conference website: 

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September 23, 2013, 10:00am BST

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