CFP: Existential Aesthetics: An International Conference

Submission deadline: February 1, 2024

Conference date(s):
July 26, 2024 - July 27, 2024

Go to the conference's page

Conference Venue:

Department of Philosophy, Northern Michigan University
Marquette, United States

Topic areas


Conference Goals

The aim of this conference is to investigate how works of art, and certain kinds of aesthetic practices or aesthetic experiences, can be of existential importance to people.

Consider the following examples. A poem can offer consolation and support in difficult times. A film can trigger an epiphany and turn one’s values upside down. Falling in love with a painting can change the direction of someone’s life. Writing poetry can give meaning to one’s existence and have a profoundly therapeutic effect. Witnessing a stunning sunset can become one of the most cherished moments of one’s life. Finally, being a foodie, a fashionista, or a jazz lover can be so important to a person as to be constitutive of their identity.

Until recently, few authors within the field of contemporary aesthetics have directly addressed the existential importance of art and aesthetics. But this is changing. A growing number of philosophers are now seeking to explore issues like the ones listed above. This has led some to posit the emergence of a new subfield, entitled “existential aesthetics.” The goal of the proposed conference is to improve our understanding of the work being done in this area, explore its significance, and facilitate further and more focused philosophical activity in this direction.

Confirmed Speakers

Antony Aumann (Northern Michigan University)

Kathleen Higgins (University of Texas, Austin)

Alex King (Simon Fraser University)

Hans Maes (University of Kent)

Sandra Shapshay (Hunter College, CUNY)

Yuriko Saito (Rhode Island School of Design)

Call for Papers

We invite submissions on any topic that relates to existential aesthetics. Papers should not exceed 5000 words and should be accompanied by a 100-word abstract and a page with your contact details. Please prepare your submission for anonymous review. You can email your papers as a PDF to Antony Aumann ([email protected]). The submission deadline is February 1, 2024. Communication of acceptance or rejection will be made by March 15, 2024.

A selection of the papers presented at the conference will be collected in a book, edited by the conference organizers.

Possible Topics

Relevant research questions include (but are not limited to):

  • What does it mean for an aesthetic experience or a work of art to have existential importance?
  • How does the existential importance of an artwork relate to its artistic value?
  • Are there existential truths or insights that can only be expressed by art?
  • In addressing existential questions, how does art differ from philosophy?
  • Can art or aesthetic practices help us cope with global existential threats, such as COVID-19 or climate change? If so, how?
  • How do gender or racial conditions affect the existential conditions of despair, meaninglessness, and absurdity? How might this be reflected in artistic practices and aesthetic experiences?
  • Are there significant differences between art forms when it comes to their potential to gain existential importance?
  • To what extent is the existential import of an experience the result of the appreciator’s own activity?
  • How does the existential importance of art and aesthetics compare to other endeavors and experiences that acquire such importance?
  • How can existing philosophical work on the meaning of life be brought to bear on the study of art and aesthetics?
  • If an aesthetic pursuit can acquire existential importance, it can also lose that importance. What is involved in such a loss, and how does it come about?
  • Are epiphanies intrinsically aesthetic? What may the role of art be in bringing about epiphanies?

Graduate Student Travel Grants

We encourage graduate students to submit a paper. The two best graduate submissions by ASA student members will be awarded a graduate student travel grant of up to $650 to help cover travel expenses.

Registration, Travel, and Accommodations

Generous grants from the American Society for Aesthetics and Northern Michigan University have enabled us to cover food and lodging expenses for the duration of the conference. Registration will also be free for all participants. Unfortunately, we cannot cover other travel expenses (with the exception of the two graduate student awards mentioned above). Marquette is served by the Sawyer International Airport, which is a twenty-minute drive from the university. For additional details, contact Antony Aumann ([email protected]).

Planning Committee

Conference submissions will be reviewed by the members of the planning committee:

Megan Altman (Cornell College)

Aderemi Artis (University of Michigan, Flint)

Antony Aumann (Northern Michigan University)

Ryan Kemp (Wheaton College)

Hans Maes (University of Kent).

Sheryl Tuttle Ross (University of Wisconsin, La Crosse)

Robert Stecker (Central Michigan University)

Additional details

The organizers fully support the goals of the Gendered Conference Campaign (GCC) and will seek to ensure the recruitment and participation of women and members of other historically-underrepresented and excluded groups.

We gratefully acknowledge financial support from The American Society for Aesthetics and Northern Michigan University. 

Supporting material

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