Varieties of Understanding: Are Historical and Aesthetic Understanding Distinctly Individualizing?

The Practice of History, November 7, 2014 (Sheffield)

Aesthetic Understanding, February 27, 2015 (NYU)

The Historical Imagination, April 23, 2015 (Sheffield)

Conference, June 4-5, 2015 (NYU)



A distinguished tradition in philosophy holds that historical and aesthetic understanding are distinctive in being individualizing. While science seeks to grasp phenomena by bringing them under general concepts and laws, the historian and the appreciative spectator seek to make sense of their objects of study in all their individuality. This project will investigate the idea of individualizing understanding, and how far it characterizes aesthetic and historical practice. It will attempt to articulate various options for what individualizing understanding might be. It will do so by considering the aesthetic case, and then ask how far the historical case fits those options. Although it is not likely that historical understanding, in particular, can be understood solely in these terms, this project’s working hypothesis is that some important strands in historical inquiry, and perhaps the central aspects of aesthetic interrogation, are usefully conceived in these ways. Click here for a more detailed description.

The project will feature three workshops and a final conference hosted at New York University and the University of Sheffield. Participants will include philosophers of art and history, archaeologists, and historians, including historians of both philosophy and of history itself. For more information about individual events, please use the links to the left.







Made possible with generous support from the: