What is "art"? What purposes can/should it serve? What "value" does great art have?
Can art / beauty be dangerous? If so, then how can "we" best guard against this — or should we even try? Are there any sorts of art that should ever be censored? If so, on what justifications and how so?
What is "beautiful" and how/can this come to be known or "properly"/ideally appreciated?
Can different art forms be beautiful, disgusting, or boring in the similar ways? How do art's various forms affect the meaning, purposes, or values of works of art?
What ethical considerations might apply when it comes to aesthetic judgments — especially over time and across cultures?
How do perceptions and representations of gender and race relate to aesthetics?
How are some aesthetics informed or influenced by or dedicated toward religions? What aesthetic and ethical effects might this have?
What does math have to do with aesthetic philosophy? In what ways can certain aesthetics be measured, quantified, or otherwise described by mathematical means? And might this make aesthetics more "objective" in any way?
Are there differences between "taste" and subjective preferences? Who decides? Are there "good" and "bad" tastes? On what bases can "we" make such judgments?
What roles do emotions and other psychological factors play in aesthetics?
MORE ISSUES / WORKS WE MIGHT CONSIDER to inform our symposium:
The philosopher Denis Dutton has identified six universal signatures in human aesthetics:
1. Expertise or virtuosity. Humans cultivate, recognize, and admire technical artistic skills.
2. Nonutilitarian pleasure. People enjoy art for art's sake, and don't demand that it keep them warm or put food on the table.
3. Style. Artistic objects and performances satisfy rules of composition that place them in a recognizable style or create a new one that endures.
4. Criticism. People make a point of judging, appreciating, and interpreting works of art.
5. Imitation. With a few important exceptions like abstract painting, works of art simulate experiences of the world.
6. Special focus. Art is set aside from ordinary life and made a dramatic focus of experience.
I have always found insight in some aspects of my own aesthetic philosophy from The Birth of Tragedy (1872), by Friedrich Nietzsche (specifically: the interesting aesthetic intellectual dichotomy between the "Dionysian" and the "Apollonian" — very loosely: reality as disordered and undifferentiated by forms versus reality as ordered and differentiated by forms), e.g...
Schopenhauer has depicted for us the tremendous terror which seizes man when he is suddenly dumbfounded by the cognitive form of phenomena because the principle of sufficient reason, in some one of its manifestations, seems to suffer an exception. If we add to this terror the blissful ecstasy that wells from the innermost depths of man, indeed of nature, at this collapse of the principium individuationis, we steal a glimpse into the nature of the Dionysian, which is brought home to us most intimately by the analogy of intoxication...
Even under the influence of the narcotic draught, of which songs of all primitive men and peoples speak, or with the potent coming of spring that penetrates all nature with joy, these Dionysian emotions awake, and as they grow in intensity everything subjective vanishes into complete self-forgetfulness. In the German Middle Ages, too, singing and dancing crowds, ever increasing in number, whirled themselves from place to place under this same Dionysian impulse... There are some who, from obtuseness or lack of experience, turn away from such phenomena as from "folk-diseases," with contempt or pity born of consciousness of their own "healthy-mindedness." But of course such poor wretches have no idea how corpselike and ghostly their so-called "healthy-mindedness" looks when the glowing life of the Dionysian revelers roars past them. (trans. Walter Kaufmann)
Or consider this...
versus the APOLLONIAN:
The joyous necessity of the dream experience has been embodied by the Greeks in their Apollo: Apollo, the god of all plastic energies, is at the same time the soothsaying god, He, who (as the etymology of the name indicates) is the "shining one," the deity of light, is also ruler over the beautiful illusion of the inner world of fantasy... But we must also include in our image of Apollo that delicate boundary which the dream image must not overstep lest it have a pathological effect... We must keep in mind the measured restraint, the freedom from the wilder emotions, that calm of the sculptor god. His eye must be "sunlike," as befits his origin; even when it is angry and distempered it is still hallowed by beautiful illusion... (trans. Walter Kaufmann)
Also interesting to consider might be the aesthetic philosophies of Plato's Phaedrus, Hippias Major, and Symposium... and even some of the following if we feel like it:
Cratylus 439c; Euthydemus 301a; Laws 655c; Phaedo 65d, 75d, & 100b; Phaedrus 254b; Parmenides 130b; Philebus 15a; and Republic 476b, 493e, 507b.
So, what say you, fellow philosophers? Shall we take on aesthetics for our next topic? And what other considerations, philosophers, or works might help inform our discussion? Essentially, I think aesthetics is a worthy topic that we haven't (to my knowledge) addressed in depth and with specific focus before...