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Comparative Everyday Aesthetics: East-West Studies in Contemporary Living: Presentation Abstracts and Speakers' Bio

Bios and Photos (In the order of presentations)

Organizer and Introducer:

Eva Kit Wah Man

Professor Eva Man is currently the Director of Film Academy and Chair Professor in Humanities of Hong Kong Baptist University. She publishes widely in comparative aesthetics, comparative philosophy, woman studies, feminist philosophy, cultural studies, art and cultural criticism. She was a Fulbright scholar and was named AMUW Endowed Woman Chair Professor by Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. She was awarded Outstanding Award in Public Services by Home Affairs Bureau of HKSAR.


Introducing Comparative Everyday Aesthetics: East-West Studies in Contemporary Living

The most fundamental doubt about everyday aesthetics is its reality. The overarching doubt breaks down into issues about the possible triviality of everyday aesthetic experience, the coherence of the idea of the aesthetic, and about aesthetic value. What is an aesthetic experience of the everyday? Does an explanation cohere with aesthetic experiences of artworks? What value is attached to aesthetic experiences of the everyday? This symposium invites 12 leading international scholars to present analysis and case studies from different cultural settings in the East and the West. They explore aesthetic interests and experiences in our daily lives at home, in workplaces, in using everyday things, in our built and natural environments, and in our relationships and communities. Their presentations are briefs of the entries to the anthology, Comparative Everyday Aesthetics: East-West Studies in Contemporary Living edited by Eva Kit Wah Man and Jeffrey Petts, to be published by Amsterdam University Press in the summer of 2022.



Keynote speaker:

Yuriko Saito

Born and raised in Japan, Professor Yuriko Saito taught philosophy at Rhode Island School of Design, US from 1981–2018. Her works in aesthetics appear in numerous academic journals and awarded anthologies. She has lectured widely in the US, as well as internationally.  Her book, Aesthetics of the Familiar: Everyday Life and World-Making was awarded the outstanding monograph prize by the American Society for Aesthetics. She serves as editor of Contemporary Aesthetics, the first online, open-access and peer-reviewed journal in aesthetics.


Living with Everyday Objects: Aesthetic and Ethical Practice

Everyday aesthetics, one of the most recent subdisciplines of philosophical aesthetics, is often credited with opening the door to the aesthetic potential of a wide-range of different aspects of our lives. Its main contribution is generally regarded as challenging and expanding the scope of the dominant art-focused Anglo-American aesthetics of the twentieth century. It is more accurate, however, to characterize its contribution as restoring the original meaning of ‘aesthetic,’ focused on the sensory, and hence ubiquitous in our lives. The presumed newness of everyday aesthetics should thus be understood in its proper historical and cultural context. Aesthetic concerns with various aspects of our lives often appear in Western philosophy before everyday aesthetics; furthermore, they are prevalent in other cultural traditions.



John Carvalho

John M. Carvalho, Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University and Associate Editor of Contemporary Aesthetics, is the author of Thinking with Images: An Enactivist Aesthetics and of several dozen essays published in journals or anthologies on the history of ancient Greek philosophy, 20th century French philosophy and aesthetics, especially the aesthetics of music and motion pictures.


Images and Reality

Images cover our world and are viewed by some as a threat to the everyday reality of that world. On closer inspection, it appears that images thicken that everyday reality or, on one interpretation, that they animate events that pair bodies with the media where images are found. On yet another interpretation, those events are viewed as scaffolds traced in media by basic minds animating those bodies or, more generally, as affordances that turn up in media for embodied minds in the course of actions aiming to accomplish aims in an environment composed of media. As affordances, this essay argues, images prove to be resources that, for good or ill, advance the forms of life embodied in minds. It argues, as well, that it is up to those embodiments to form lives which pick up what is good in those affordances and cast aside what is not including the distractions images can so often present. Education can help us form lives that more regularly turn up the good that images afford us, but that education must be enacted in lives also regularly disposed to enhance the reality where we find images.



Kathleen Higgins

Kathleen Higgins is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, where she specializes in aesthetics, continental philosophy, and philosophy of emotion.  She is a former delegate-at-large in the International Aesthetics Association and a former president of the American Society for Aesthetics.  Her current research is focused on aesthetics in connection with loss and mourning.


Aesthetics in Friendship and Intimacy

Aesthetic matters are important in friendships and intimate relationships. Aesthetic considerations often figure in the selection of friends and romantic partners in the first place. But aesthetic tensions have the potential to strain relationships if they are not managed. A close relationship between members of different societies is just a special case among close relationships generally. Every individual has a unique aesthetic biography, and the person’s tastes and aesthetic repertoire are shaped by many cultural influences, some of them coming from the micro-cultures to which the person belongs, including that of the family. This ensures that complete accord between two individuals’ aesthetic sensibilities is exceedingly unlikely. People who are close frequently disagree on matters of order, decoration, and style, and this is particularly visible in cases of those who share a home. This chapter highlights aesthetic tensions that arise from different conceptions of how a household should be ordered, though these and other aesthetic tensions can create difficulties in other close relationships, too. The strategy of separating spheres of aesthetic control can sometimes mitigate conflict, but managing aesthetic tensions often requires creativity. Fortunately, love for another often leads one to develop affection for his or her quirks, and optimally this extends to the peculiarities of the person’s aesthetic tastes.



Carolyn Korsmeyer

Carolyn Korsmeyer is a philosopher and (more recently) a novelist. She writes in the field of aesthetics, focusing on how emotions, memory, and the senses are engaged by both works of art and ordinary objects. These topics are explored in her books Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy and Savoring Disgust, both of which consider the senses of taste and smell. The role of touch is examined in Things: In Touch with the Past.


Memories Kitchen:  In Search of a Taste

Everyday aesthetics opens philosophical opportunities to pursue sense experience in all its richness, including in the kitchen. Old recipes from previous generations invite us into the past, although getting there is difficult. For years I have been trying to replicate a cake that my grandmother used to make, but I have only fragments of the recipe and so far have not succeeded. Exploring the senses aroused when baking mixes with the mysteries of sense memory, for it is the lost taste of kuchen that I seek to bring alive again. How I will know when the taste of the cake I produce matches the one I loved as a child? Recent brain science has tentatively linked memory centers with smell and taste, although the reliability of bodily sense memories remains under debate. I’m convinced that I will recognize the taste of kuchen immediately, but can I be sure?



Janet McCracken

Janet McCracken is the Chair of Classical Studies and Professor of Philosophy at Lake Forest College. She specializes in aesthetics and gender and philosophy. Her recent articles include reflections on grief and on the aesthetics of recycling.  She would like to promote animals studies as an integral part of college education.


Why We Love Our Phones: A Case Study in the Aesthetics of Gadgets

Here, I will offer some reflections on the experience of using a cell phone, in the hope of evoking some broader claims about our relationship to gadgets in general, arguing that despite (or rather in addition to) people’s ubiquitous claims about their psychological dependence on their cellphones for practical life, we love our phones for the same reason we love most things: for their beauty … and for our possession of them.  “For,” states Aristotle, “there are two things that most cause men to care … and to love … the sense of ownership and the sense of preciousness.”



Robin Wang

Robin R. Wang is Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles and The Berggruen fellow (2016-17) at The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS), Stanford University. Her teaching and research center on Chinese and Comparative Philosophy, particularly on Daoist Philosophy, Women and Gender in Chinese thought and culture.  


Dao Aesthetics: Ways of Opening to Sublime Experiences and Transforming Beautifully

This essay presents three specific Daoist approaches to aesthetics tidao 體道 (embodiment of Dao), hedao 合道 (alignment with Dao), and dedao 得道 (obtaining Dao) to illustrate that beauty is not a judgment on life but actually life itself, where living is aesthetification for its own sake. The central concerns and practices for Dao aesthetics are about generating and designing the very conditions for making life and livelihood delightful, meaningful, and significant. Taking these features as a whole, they manifest the quality of human existence and the meaning of aesthetic life and also offer a conceptual framework through which Dao aesthetics can be apprehended and appreciated. When human life flows with Dao as the paramount way to become beautiful and sublime at all levels, a 造化 zaohua (creative transformation) of an aesthetic existence will take place.



Thomas Leddy

Thomas Leddy is Professor of Philosophy at San Jose State University.   His book The Extraordinary in the Ordinary:  The Aesthetics of Everyday Life was published by Broadview Press.  He has published articles in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, in Contemporary Aesthetics, and elsewhere


Everyday Aesthetics of Taking a Walk  -- with Zhuangzi

Everyday aesthetics is a relatively new sub-discipline within philosophical aesthetics which evolved out of the aesthetics of the environment first developed in the 1980s.  One can say today that aesthetics includes both philosophy of art and philosophy of environment of which the latter includes both natural aesthetics and the aesthetics of non-natural environments, or “everyday aesthetics.”  Everyday aesthetics includes not only environments but also the objects and events within such environments.  This paper is on the aesthetics of a walk in one’s neighborhood, such a walk including both natural and non-natural environments with no clear boundaries between the two.  Distinctive of the everyday walk are micro-aesthetic properties such as the (mildly) interesting, and the (mildly) funny.  Also distinctive is the relatively non-verbal nature of much aesthetic appreciation.  Contrary to some critics of everyday aesthetics (for example Downing), everyday aesthetics does not require discourse or argument to be legitimate as a domain of aesthetics.  I draw first from Gumbrecht’s Heideggerian concept of “presence” and then, at greater length, from Zhuangzi’s idea of spontaneity to develop this idea of non-verbal or minimally verbal aesthetic experience of the everyday.  In the end I suggest that the Taoist concept of oneness can be experienced in a non-religious way by contemporary atheists.



Tanehisa Otabe

Tanehisa Otabe (born in 1958) is professor of aesthetics at the University of Tokyo. His areas of interest cover eighteenth century German aesthetics as well as intercultural aesthetics. He was president of the Japanese Society for Aesthetics from 2013–2016.


Dô (Dao) in the Practice of Art: Everyday Aesthetic Life in Japan Through the Japanese Tea Ceremony

In general, art practice in Japan is closely intertwined with everyday life. The “tea ceremony” (in modern Japanese: cha-dô, literally the “way of tea”) might serve as a typical example. This paper will focus mainly on the theory of the Japanese tea ceremony by Kakuzô Okakura (1862–1913) and Yoshinori Ônishi (1888–1959)—two representatives of Japanese academic aesthetics in the first half of the twentieth century—, and explore how and why everyday life became the main topic of modern Japanese aesthetics. First, the tea ceremony is an aestheticization of the ordinary action of drinking tea, which testifies that beauty consists in treating the smallest incidents of life aesthetically. Second, the tea ceremony is held among a certain number of persons (namely a host and guests) in a teahouse specially designed for the ceremony and is thus interactive among participants and focuses on creating a space of conviviality. Third, the focus of the tea ceremony is not the work of art as a result, but rather the process of performance, and also steady training in both mental and physical sense. In this paper, I argue that these characteristics of the art practice in Japan are based on the Japanese understanding of the “dô” (in Chinese: dào) and that the creativity is not attributed to “original” individuals, as in the West, but rather to the dô.­



Peng Feng

PENG Feng is currently the Dean and Professor of School of Arts at Peking University. He got his PhD in Peking University. His research interests include history of Chinese philosophy, contemporary aesthetics and art criticism. He is also an art curator and playwright.


Filming the Everyday: Between Aesthetics and Politics

Photography and aesthetics of the everyday are close related because both seem to go beyond the scope of the arts. “Everyday aesthetics,” according to Crispin Sartwell’s definition, “refers to the possibility of aesthetic experience of non-art objects and events, as well as to a current movement within the field of philosophy of art which rejects or puts into question distinctions such as those between fine and popular art, art and craft, and aesthetic and non-aesthetic experiences.” Photography is an art particularly suited to this everyday aesthetics, not only because photography takes everyday life as its subject, but also because it challenges the distinction between the arts and popular culture. However, since the technology of photography has made great progress over the past hundred years, and accordingly, our conception of photography as art has changed dramatically. In this essay, I select three Chinese artists from different periods to illustrate the changes in our conception of photography as art. I will argue that, strictly speaking, the aesthetics of everyday life is only possible when surveillance camera technology is widely used. Of cause, the questions raised by the surveillance footage are not only aesthetic, but also political.



Ouyang Xiao

Ouyang Xiao (欧阳霄) is Assistant Professor at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Peking University, China. He works on comparative philosophy and is interested in various topics in aesthetics, ethics, and political philosophy. He publishes on international journals and also works on translation. Besides academic work, he devotes himself to Chinese classical arts such as poetry, calligraphy, painting and literati music.


Divergence and Rejoining: Reflecting on Chinese-Western Comparative Everyday Aesthetics

There is a bifurcation between shenghuo meixue and everyday aesthetics – the two discourses often seen as forming the same trend in contemporary aesthetics concurrently happening in the East and the West. The disparity can be observed from the critical reflection on everydayness, the recognition of negative aesthetic qualities and experience, and the expectation of defamiliarisation. I suggest that in the Neo-Confucian practice of gewu or investigating things, one may find another Chinese inspiration for dealing with the familiar, ordinary, and routine aesthetically. Gewu offers another possibility of “experiencing the ordinary as ordinary”. It can lead to an aesthetical immersive experience, characterised by a sensuous and intuitive recognition of the appropriateness of everyday things dwelling in their contexts, as well as a cosmic understanding of generative power of the universe that is both profound and poetic. By contemplating aesthetic experience facilitated by gewu, I argue that aesthetic experience is typically not individual per se, but collective in the sense that many prima facie private and personal aesthetic experiences are possible only because of the collective underneath.



Jeffrey Petts

Jeffrey Petts is an independent scholar and guest professor at the Faculty of Arts, Northeastern University, China. He has published work in the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, the Journal of Aesthetic Education, Historical Materialism, and the British Journal of Aesthetics. He also has papers translated and published in Chinese journals, China Book Review and Tianjin Social Science. His book ‘Aesthetics and Design: Value in Everyday Life’ is forthcoming from Bloomsbury Academic.


Conclusive Observations and Arguments:  Everyday Aesthetics in Contemporary Living

As an editor of the coming anthology, Comparative Everyday Aesthetics: East-West Studies in Contemporary Living, Jeffrey Petts concludes his observations of the writings and the revelations of the contributions of the authors. Most of the authors speak at this symposium.




Mateja Kovacic

Mateja Kovacic is assistant professor in the Animation and Media Arts programme at the Academy of Film, Hong Kong Baptist University. She researches and teaches intersections of science, technology, and popular culture. Her focus is the intellectual and cultural history as well as transnational studies of science, technology and popular culture, Japanese studies, animation, robotics and artificial intelligence.



Jason Coe

Dr. Jason G. Coe is Assistant Professor in the Academy of Film, Hong Kong Baptist University. His research interests include: Asian/American and Transpacific Film and Media, Gender and New Media, and Storytelling, Stardom and Performance. He serves on the board of the Women's Studies Research Centre (WSRC) at HKU. His publications appear in Journal of Canadian Literature, Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Asian Cinema, and Journal of Chinese Cinemas. His non-fiction writings appear in the Engendering a Buzz: WSRC Newsletter, CHA: A Literary Journal, Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) Blog, and Hyphen.



Tang Ling

Dr TANG Ling is an artist academic who considers sociology as art and vice versa. She is now an RGC postdoc in the academy of film at Hong Kong Baptist University. Her research interests include Internet studies, Chinese studies, gender studies and innovative methods. Besides academic writing, she takes creative writing, music, photography and film as her art media. She is a member of the Slip band and a solo singer-songwriter under the stage name Lyn Dawn.

(Dr Tang Ling, RGC post-doctorate, Academy of Film, Hong Kong Baptist University)



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