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Preface to the Second Edition

Encyclopedia of Aesthetics

Preface to the Second Edition

The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics is now a tale of two editions, which, though only sixteen years apart, have emerged from two radically different academic and cultural contexts. If context were all determining, the editions would be as distinct as any two books randomly selected from a Borgesian library; instead, they are deeply interconnected by the very contexts that separate them in time. Enacting an expanded conception of aesthetics as critical thinking about art, culture, and nature, the four-volume first edition made a strong case for the contemporary significance of aesthetics and, against the tide, helped to establish a receptive context for the revised and expanded, six-volume second edition. The new Encyclopedia of Aesthetics extends the scope of critical aesthetics further, seeking to create an even more open environment for aesthetics in academia, art, and culture.

I. Renewal and Expansion of Aesthetics

In the 1990s, the rather pervasive anti-aesthetic stance (a view, associated with Marcel Duchamp, that art has little to do with aesthetics) made it difficult to get some scholars to participate in the Encyclopedia as contributors, for fear that it would make them complicitous in an allegedly retrograde return to beauty. Eventually, most of the initial doubters were persuaded to contribute because, as the Encyclopedia documents, aesthetics has always been about much more than beauty, most art has always involved more than beauty, and beauty itself, when relevant to our lives, is not confined to art. At the same time, many intellectuals in the 1990s were rather suspicious of any encyclopedia, for it seemed to perpetuate beliefs in neutral, comprehensive, and universal forms of knowledge, defying the critiques of those beliefs canonical in the academic culture of the time. I used to joke, while holding back tears of frustration, that I encountered only two problems while editing the first edition: the concept of aesthetics and the project of an encyclopedia. Once those problems were confronted—avoiding them was not an option—we managed to assemble a text that embodied the rich history of aesthetics with its various and incompatible viewpoints, all without ever claiming that an encyclopedia could, or even should aspire to, be neutral, comprehensive, or universal. Being of its time is what gives the Encyclopedia its value (which is why an online, timelessly revised iteration of this Encyclopedia is not desirable).

Today, by contrast, aesthetics has been embraced not only by those people who never doubted its importance for art, culture, and nature, but surprisingly even by people working in disciplines that largely rejected or ignored aesthetics over the past few decades. For example, some theorists in art history, cultural studies, and queer theory have come to recognize that aesthetics can be practiced in a number of different forms and used to understand art, culture, and nature in critical ways. Aesthetics is no longer seen primarily as an ideology defending the tastes of a dominant class, country, race, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, or empire, as if aesthetics were to the powerful what Thrasymachus claimed (in Plato’s Republic) justice is to the powerful, merely an expression of their interests or tastes. Now, aesthetics is appreciated widely as a set of transdisciplinary concepts, theories, forms of knowledge, and critical practices that can be utilized against modes of power as well as by them. So, for example, aesthetics can be decolonizing, not just a mask to make contemporary forms of colonialism more insidious; disinterestedness, once the target of many critiques of aesthetics because it seemed to signal exclusion, is now seen by some as opening the space for inclusion; and male-gendered and white-racialized aesthetic concepts (for example, beauty and the sublime), once deconstructed, can be embraced as forms of subaltern self-empowerment (see the related entries in the Encyclopedia, such as “Decolonizing Aesthetics,” “Disability Aesthetics,” “Disinterestedness,” “Feminism,” “Migratory Aesthetics,” “Negritude,” “Trauma,” “and “Visual Culture”). Many of these transformations involve art more than aesthetics, but the fact that aesthetics is now considered a discursive ally, even a way to incorporate the lessons of the critiques of aesthetics into artistic practices, is a major change that marks a new cultural as well as academic context for the second edition of the Encyclopedia.

The encyclopedia as a cultural form has also experienced new life recently, especially in the art world. For example, the 2013 Venice Biennale, called “The Encyclopedic Palace,” was inspired by Marino Auriti, an Italian American immigrant who in the 1950s envisioned (and built a prototype for) a museum that could house all human knowledge. Under the direction of Massimiliano Gioni, however, the Biennale curators and artists had no illusion that such a museum was possible, that knowledge could ever be complete. Rather, they accepted that the encyclopedic drive, though obsessive and unfulfilled since the first encyclopedic endeavors emerged over two thousand years ago, can generate a museum of the imagination embodying open-ended knowledge that is produced, not just illustrated, by art. Such incompleteness is now understood as a welcomed characteristic not only of art but equally of the love of wisdom, also known as philosophy, taking the form of aesthetics in particular when art, culture, and nature are in play. If an encyclopedia once seemed confining, it is now seen as enabling and enriching, as it was in Denis Diderot’s time; and the apparent arbitrariness of its structure (based on the alphabet, which in the Enlightenment was a sign of the rational and critical) is merely the corollary of its incompleteness. So aesthetics and the encyclopedia, obstacles to the first edition of the Encyclopedia, are now confirmed as being creative and critical, in part because of what the first edition achieved.

Aesthetics has not merely thrived in this new, more receptive context. It has also expanded into, or in some cases even generated, new forms of inquiry into art, culture, and nature or into the often marginalized dimensions of other practices or fields, such as geography or neuroscience (see Section IV.B below). As it has expanded, aesthetics has become a coordinating discipline (with the emerging practice of “art research” as its potential ally in the art world) informing or integrating these inquiries, while being careful not to impose a fixed set of concepts or principles, because they must emerge out of the inquiries themselves. For example, users and programmers have increasingly come to uncover and value the aesthetic dimensions of computing, from databases to software to interfaces (see, for example, “Computing, Aesthetic” and “Data Visualization”). At the same time, aesthetics has expanded into new forms of modern or contemporary art that have mostly been considered non-aesthetic or even anti-aesthetic. For example, conceptual art, electronic art, installation art, performance art, sound art, and other new forms in the twentieth century emerged just as art was moving away from “aesthetic” considerations (usually conflated with the perceptual or the beautiful) and so tended to distance themselves from traditional aesthetics. But practitioners and theorists involved in these art forms have come to understand not only that their practices have aesthetic considerations, but also that to think critically about their practices, they have had to reengage actively and openly with aesthetic theory, all while recalibrating it according to their own artistic (and other) purposes. More recently, participatory or socially engaged art has established its identity as art in part by articulating its own aesthetics, and not only on the model of relational aesthetics (see the entries on collectivism, dialogical art, participatory art, and relational aesthetics). In general, the emigration from aesthetics—often aided by appropriations of psychoanalysis, structuralism, poststructuralism, feminism, and other forms of critique—has now come full circle as practitioners and theorists have taken the methodologies and insights (jointly called “theory”) learned on their emigration and created innovative modes of aesthetic inquiry. Of course, it is not clear where the new reception of aesthetics and the revised understanding of the encyclopedic drive will lead us. Yet these changes, as challenging as they are inspiring, are already reinvigorating constructive as well as critical dialogue about aesthetics, helping to secure it as the discursive public sphere, envisioned in the first edition, “in which people representing the disciplines and traditions engaged in aesthetics will be able to articulate their perspectives on the field, thereby fostering dialogue and, where possible, constructing common ground without imposing consensus.” By participating in the Encyclopedia, readers will decide whether this public sphere is attainable and what forms it should take.

II. Art, Aesthetics, and Philosophy

Jose Saramago observed in Death with Interruptions that there is a basic contrast between playing a cello and playing a piano. Whereas a cellist moves her fingers up and down the strings to find the right spot, the right angle for the bow, and the right amount of pressure from her fingers and bow to create each note, a pianist locates the notes in a stable set of black-and-white keys. Of course, there is a certain type of precision in playing a cello, just as playing a piano requires subtle movements and the notes or tones of individual keys can vary depending on the scale being played and the force being exerted. But the basic contrast captures two distinct ways of envisioning aesthetics: as an improvisatory practice that is open-ended because of its subject matter or as a practice that is more tightly composed and hermetic. If the cellist evokes an image of aestheticians as poets who have disavowed the conceptual rigor characteristic of philosophy, the pianist conjures up images of aestheticians working in a well-tempered environment. Remembering that cellists and pianists are both artists, however, a more productive vision for aesthetics is not to choose between these two ways but to accept that the contrast is constitutive of aesthetics because of its underlying relationship to art. An aesthetician is both a cellist and a pianist.

Art is important for human experience and knowledge, as well as for life in general, because it combines the sensible and logical, the manual and intellectual, the body and mind, the visible and invisible, the subjective and objective, the affective and the cognitive, and other binary oppositions that have confounded philosophers forever (and not just in connection with art). Some philosophers think the binaries must be sharply distinguished ontologically, even if they are inseparable experientially; others struggle to get “beyond” them through various methods (for example, phenomenology); and still others (for example, dialecticians and deconstructionists) embrace the binaries as the generative source of thought. Philosophy’s handling of these binaries has in turn affected its relationship to art: it has silenced art by relegating it to the realm of mere appearance (by banishing it, making it scientific, or ignoring it); it has seen itself transcending art in the pursuit of truth (art is the realm of the nonconceptual that needs philosophy to be conceptualized as such); and it has thought of itself as art and even imagined a notion of artistic truth.

Aesthetics is like art in that it has been shaped, in part, by the same or similar binary oppositions. To begin with, it emerged in the eighteenth century (most notably with Alexander Baumgarten) as a way to characterize knowledge that, on the face of it, was not logical or rational because it was tied to perception and the senses, which in philosophy are traditionally regarded as deceptive (sensation or perception is one of the basic meanings of the Greek word aisthesis). The purpose of the distinction between logical and sensible knowledge was to bring the life of the senses within the purview of philosophy to reconcile the empiricism of modern science with rationalism. So the early stages of aesthetics did not specifically concern art, though art was certainly associated with the sensible realm. Immanuel Kant is often credited with linking aesthetics to art in his Critique of Judgment, particularly through his account of aesthetic judgments of beauty. But, as Kant at least implicitly recognized, his contribution presupposed the recognition (beginning in the Renaissance) of the subjectivity of humans and of art, which altered our thinking about the objectivity of art. No longer considered a property of objects, beauty, as the stand-in for all aesthetic properties, was acknowledged as a relational property connecting subjects and objects and, perhaps even more importantly, connecting subjects with one another (which is one of the reasons why Kant could conceive of beauty as the symbol of morality). Once again, a binary (subjectivity/objectivity) is partially responsible for the emergence of aesthetics as a distinct field of inquiry.

Philosophy has adopted ambivalent attitudes toward aesthetics similar to those it has had toward art, which means the fate of aesthetics in philosophy has been much like that of art when seen in relationship to philosophy: silence, transcendence, emulation. This is not surprising because aesthetics is the principal form that art takes within philosophy. Philosophy’s ambivalence is reflected in its treatment of aesthetics both as an equal member in the philosophical family (along with epistemology, metaphysics, and so on) and as a member that can be openly disenfranchised. For example, if aesthetic judgment is to be objective though its content is inherently subjective, it is expected to meet the epistemic standard set by forms of judgment (say, in logic or the sciences) that are objective at the level of form and content. If aesthetic judgment fails to meet this standard, it is not philosophical; but if it does meet the standard, it is no longer aesthetic. This false dilemma, when imposed on aesthetics by philosophy, tends to divide aestheticians between, roughly, those who think that to be philosophical, aesthetics has to distance itself from the subjectivity characteristic of its content, which is in effect to distance itself from art, and those who think that aesthetics is itself a form of art, a poetic mode of philosophizing. Once again, aesthetics (regardless of where it is practiced) cannot adopt just one of these models (cellist or pianist), at least not without ignoring the binaries (sensible/logical, subjective/objective) that partially account for its identity as aesthetics. The Encyclopedia is a discursive space where these different visions of aesthetics can coexist, where cellists and pianists play side by side, though not necessarily in harmony.

The kinds of binary oppositions that shape art, aesthetics, and philosophy—as well as the relationships among them—have shaped the Encyclopedia’s structure (its multiple-essay entries), content (varied list of conceptual and historical entries), and list of multidisciplinary contributors. For example, though one can safely make the generalization that “autonomy” (self-determination, freedom) is a central concept in aesthetics as well as in modern art, it means something different depending on whether one is talking about the artist, the work of art, or our judgment of art; whether the discussion concerns art, architecture, feminism, or other fields of inquiry; and whether one is defending or rejecting autonomy. Any philosophical, encyclopedic account of autonomy has to include these specific contexts, particular disciplines, and individual stakeholders in the contested notion of autonomy. There are many other similarly complex topics discussed in the Encyclopedia. Arguably, every aesthetic topic comprises such a mixture of the universal and the particular (or the general and the specific, or the conceptual and the historical), which aesthetics must sustain while critiquing art and culture because this mixture is aesthetics. The Encyclopedia has been conceived, written, and edited accordingly.

III. Readers of the Encyclopedia

One reviewer of the first edition wondered critically who the reader or addressee of the Encyclopedia might be, ideally if not actually. He seemed to think that philosophical aestheticians would not typically need the Encyclopedia because they already know, or should know, most of what it includes that is relevant to their research and, moreover, that much of what they do not know is irrelevant, especially if the unknown material involves disciplines other than philosophy. At the same time, this reviewer worried, readers not already familiar with aesthetics would have difficulty finding their way among the variety and contrariety of viewpoints collectively reflected in the entries, because the Encyclopedia did not provide a singularly systematic, conceptual framework to guide novice readers. The second edition cannot assuage these concerns, nor does it try to, because it is not an encyclopedia that could possibly be confined to philosophy, or any other single discipline, or even all disciplines combined. Aesthetics must traverse many disciplines or operate outside all of them (when, for example, it is practiced within art itself) to do justice to its complex subject matter (art, culture, and nature); and there is no single framework that could contain all the viewpoints people have on it. However, being transversal and inclusive does not mean being unphilosophical or unsystematic. It means that the Encyclopedia is like the “open work” of art, a concept introduced by Umberto Eco to make sense of works that can be given a determinate form in a variety of ways. Just as an open work is open because it is a work, which means its openness presumes rather than undermines its status as a work, the Encyclopedia is likewise open because it is an encyclopedia. This open structure still has its conditions, of course, which also set its limits, including the intentions of the individual contributors and editors, the entry list, the immediate context of contemporary aesthetics, and the more general cultural, academic, and historical contexts in which the Encyclopedia has been produced and will be received. By design, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics is addressed to readers (professors, artists, students, curators, collectors, and all others interested in art) willing to participate in its open structure and who understand that by participating (by reading, learning, teaching, critiquing) they are at once enhancing the Encyclopedia’s openness and giving it more determinate forms.

There is some resistance to the new reception and expansion of aesthetics, however, especially within specifically philosophical aesthetics. My hope is that the Encyclopedia will be recognized as providing the conceptual resources, perhaps even the inspiration, that could make it possible, despite real disciplinary and institutional barriers, for philosophical aestheticians to become more collaboratively involved in the revival and expansion of aesthetics. I believe philosophers and aestheticians from all disciplines or practices will benefit if that happens because, despite the impressive new context of contemporary aesthetics, the field is at a vulnerable juncture. Though aesthetics could very well continue to thrive going forward, it could also fracture into disparate, incommensurate disciplines with only the anti-aesthetic as their common ground (which is arguably what developed between, roughly, 1960 and 2000). The greater involvement of more philosophers is key to preventing such fracturing because aesthetics, regardless of where it is practiced, still requires philosophical concepts, insights, and analyses. So I hope philosophical aestheticians take this second edition as another invitation to become more involved in securing and developing a capacious but still philosophical practice of aesthetics.

IV. Editorial Practices

The second edition of the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics comprises roughly 2,900,000 words in 815 revised and new essays, plus headnotes, cross-references, and bibliographies (not including the front and back matter, such as this preface and the index).

A. Revisions

All of the first-edition essays included in the second edition were subject to revision, but revision has many guises: an additional paragraph at the end; a few minor alterations throughout; updates to the bibliography; or extensive (even complete) rewrites, in some cases by a different author. In the end, a significant number of essays were revised in substantial ways. This multitiered revision process (involving 1,700,000 original words expanded to roughly 2,000,000 words) was largely completed before we invited new essays to have a clear picture of what was being preserved or added before making final decisions about which new topics to include.

B. New Topics

Motivating the second edition is the wide range of new topics in aesthetics that have emerged or been newly recognized over the past sixteen years. In response, we have added more than 250 new essays (a little over 900,000 words), either as additions to existing entries (for example, “Aestheticism,” “Heidegger,” “Photography,” “Schopenhauer”) or, in most cases, as entirely new entries.

The new essays can be grouped according to a number of categories, such as the following (see the topical subject index for a complete list of categories and essays):

  1. 1. New fields of aesthetic inquiry—for example, animal aesthetics, decolonizing aesthetics, diaspora criticism, disability aesthetics, geoaesthetics, migratory aesthetics, relational aesthetics, theological aesthetics, and transdisciplinary aesthetics.

  2. 2. Aesthetic research involving the sciences or computers—for example, aesthetic computing, anthropology, augmented reality, cartography, cognitive science, data visualization, digitization, empirical aesthetics, evolution, geography, neuroaesthetics, and robotics.

  3. 3. New developments in art (or older developments newly recognized here)—for example, conceptualism, dialogical art, digital media, documentary photography, graffiti, the graphic novel, participatory art, postdramatic theater, public art, sound art, and street art.

  4. 4. Relatively new concepts important in understanding modern or contemporary art—for example, the abject, anti-aesthetic, collectivism, commodity, depression, destruction, disgust, embodiment, experimentalism, haptics, mass art, noise, performativity, race, spectacle, and synesthesia.

  5. 5. Artists, movements, or schools newly included—for example, Bearden, Beckett, Black Mountain College, Borges, Cunningham, Fluxus, Hogarth, Leonardo, Newman, Shelley, and Smithson.

  6. 6. Genres typically not discussed enough in aesthetics—for example, decorative arts, everyday aesthetics, food, graphic design, ornament, sports, and textiles.

  7. 7. Additional attention to non-Western cultural or geographical areas—for example, Assyro-Babylonian, Buddhist, Islamic, Medieval, and Sanskirt aesthetics; and the critical issues that emerge in these contexts—for example, globalization, postcolonialism, primitivism, and world art.

  8. 8. Historical figures receiving more attention today—for example, Arendt, Bloch, Einstein, Fechner, Lee, Malraux, Marx, McCluhan, and Warburg; and contemporary thinkers added since the first edition—for example, Agamben, Cixous, Damisch, Gell, Levinas, Margolis, Sontag, Steinberg, Walton, Wartofsky, and Wollheim.

In addition, there are a number of essays that, though not as easily grouped with others, make important contributions to aesthetics in its more receptive, contemporary context. The configurations and contrasts generated by these additions, in combination with the original essays, are what give the second edition an identity that, in the end, only readers can create through their critical use and appropriation of the Encyclopedia.

C. Criteria for Selecting New Topics

The criteria for selecting new entries were basically the same as those for selecting the first-edition entries: philosophical or critical significance in the histories of aesthetics, art, or fields related to aesthetics or art; relevance to contemporary aesthetics; historical or contemporary importance in non-Western cultures; and, of course, scholars able to write such entries in a timely manner.

The topics of the composite entries were selected because of their significance in the history of aesthetics or because of ongoing debates among experts in the relevant specialties who represent diverse artistic, disciplinary, philosophical, cultural, historical, scientific, political, or other perspectives. The aim of this structure is to achieve the inclusiveness one expects from encyclopedia entries, to make the rich diversity of ideas about individual aesthetic topics more accessible to one another, and to allow readers with different levels of knowledge of aesthetics to find essays appropriate to their level (see, for example, the Kant entry, which has nine essays).

There are undoubtedly still some missing topics, as there were last time around. We started out with roughly 430 possible new essays, proposed by the members of the Editorial Board and others. But we knew from the start that, per Oxford’s guidelines, we could include at most an additional three hundred essays (assuming an average of three thousand words per essay). I contacted all the potential contributors, knowing from experience that some people would not respond, others would decline, and still others would accept but then not deliver, for a variety of personal and professional reasons. In the end, we ended up with just the right amount of words.

I realize that, even if I were to list all the topics we might have included, critics would undoubtedly point out something that we missed. And that is how it should be. I do not say this to preempt criticism by acknowledging the subjective limits of the selection of essays, as some critics of the first edition claimed. I have made the criteria for selecting new entries as public as possible throughout the whole process of editing the Encyclopedia, believing that publicity is the best indicator of fairness and its limits in a particular case, because it exposes rather than shields one’s limitations. Publicity is a form of ownership of the reasons for one’s editorial choices, with all their attendant failings.

There are, however, deeper reasons for the limitations of the Encyclopedias collective vision. Some of the included essays pressured or stretched this vision from within. If you read the entries on Islamic aesthetics, for example, you will find a debate internal to Islamic studies about whether it makes sense to speak about aesthetics in that cultural and historical context. A similar debate appears in the entries on Buddhist aesthetics, Latin American aesthetics, and Sanskrit aesthetics. In effect, the question—whether it is an act of discursive colonialism to include non-Western traditions in the Encyclopedia or an act of un-self-critical ethnocentrism to exclude them—is part of the discussion within these entries. A similar phenomenon is evident in the entries on black aesthetics, feminist aesthetics, and other topics once excluded from aesthetics, then used to critique it, and now partly responsible for its expansion. At the same time, potential contributors in some fields were reluctant to be included because it would mean their cultures would be understood only through Western eyes (as some critics charged in response to the first edition). That is, if a culture does not have an aesthetic tradition, then to discuss it in connection with aesthetics is to see it through Western eyes; if the culture does have an aesthetic tradition, we and its members see it through Western eyes. This means that Western eyes dominate whether those cultures are included or not, as if there were something called a “Western perspective” on aesthetics from which one can readily identify non-Western perspectives.

I am not sure how this quandary can be avoided or “resolved” in an encyclopedia, nor do I think it should be. If one looks at postcolonial theory over the past twenty years, one of the principal concepts is “hybridity,” which implies not only that colonized countries are characterized by a hybrid of precolonial and colonial cultures but also that colonizing cultures are themselves hybrids and thus not pure. By analogy, there is no purely Western aesthetics from which to look at “other,” non-Western art and culture. This does not mean that colonization did not take place, or that cultural, political, and economic forms of power (and the capabilities that come with them) are not still differentially distributed, or that a one-dimensional (“flat”) aesthetic is the new norm. It does mean that the “West” is no longer the “center” in aesthetics (and in general), because it is recognized as convention, not nature; and the entire center/periphery structure for understanding the aesthetics of cultures around the world is no longer seen as reflecting a “natural order.” To be sure, the quandary I described still exists, just as asymmetrical power structures exist alongside cultural hybridity. All these issues are internal to the history of aesthetics, which overlaps with the history of modern colonialism, and thus they are internal to (the structure and content of) the Encyclopedia in the numerous essays that discuss them.

A similar quandary arises on a disciplinary rather than cultural level. Aesthetics emerged in the eighteenth century as a part of philosophy and, fittingly, there is a field called philosophical aesthetics, self-described to distinguish itself from the more historical or culturally inflected modes of aesthetics. You can see this distinction in the contrast between, say, the entries on meta-aesthetics and transdisciplinary aesthetics or within the multiple-essay entries on improvisation or historicism. Aesthetics cannot be confined to philosophy any more than culture can be confined to the West because it is similarly a hybrid construct. However, even if most people were to agree that aesthetics needs to be practiced as a hybrid mode of inquiry operating among a variety of disciplines as well as outside them (in art, for example), they might still have divergent ideas about who should be involved in the inquiry. Thinking of hybridity in terms of collaboration, aestheticians are likely to have different senses of who their appropriate collaborators are. Some are willing to work closely with art historians, artists, or cognitive scientists and a few with some combination of these. The Encyclopedia contains many examples of existing forms of collaboration and many opportunities for new ones. Look, for example, at the entries on empirical aesthetics or law and art. I can only hope that readers will be open to considering collaborations with which they are not familiar as well as ones in which they may already be engaged. As I wrote in the preface to the first edition, readers are asked to remember that the Encyclopedia “is intended as the beginning rather than the end of critical discussion about the genealogy and contemporary practice of aesthetics within philosophy and all the other art-related disciplines.”

D. Images and Bibliographies

There are a number of new images, which, as before, serve several functions: to illustrate a particular point in an essay; to clarify the historical context of the essay; to provide representation of various art movements and individuals; and to give readers a selective sense of contemporary art, which in turn helps to situate the Encyclopedia. We were limited in the number of images we could include by our budget or by conditions placed on reproduction rights that we could not meet (for example, providing advance PDFs of the layout). Hopefully, the images we did manage to acquire serve these functions well.

Some reviewers of the first edition commented on the varying lengths of the essays or bibliographies relative to their comparative topics. In this edition as well, some essays on comparative topics are short and others long, despite the fact that all contributors were given the same guidelines and we made a concerted effort to enforce them. But there are good reasons for the length variance, which are personal and disciplinary in nature. Some authors are verbose while others are laconic, just as some disciplines favor long articles or books (for example, in art history or law) and others typically foster shorter works (for example, philosophy). Similarly, because some fields involve as many empirical or historical studies as conceptual arguments, their bibliographies tend to be longer. We needed to respect these personal and disciplinary differences to attract a diverse set of contributors, as we have done. I believe that, whether long or short, the essays are insightful and the bibliographies are reliable guides for further research.

V. Acknowledgments

The contributors have once again made the Encyclopedia possible, whether they revised their first-edition essays, wrote new essays, or did both. I thank them for their patience, dedication, and scholarly essays. As was the case with the first edition, each contributor of a new essay (over three thousand words) has received a free set of the six-volume encyclopedia, while contributors of shorter essays have received financial compensation (cash or double the cash value in Oxford books or online products).

The Editorial Board members were very generous with their time and expertise throughout many rounds of creating the entry list (choosing topics and recommending contributors) and reviewing new essays in a multitiered editing process. I feel honored to have worked closely (if mostly via electronic means of communication) with such distinguished editors, who have also received free sets of the Encyclopedia.

I particularly want to thank a group of six senior editors who had a number of additional substantial duties:

  • Malcolm Budd

  • Whitney Davis

  • Edward Dimendberg

  • Daniel Herwitz

  • Gregg Horowitz

  • Catherine Soussloff

The senior editors were selected because of their respective expertise in aesthetics or a related field, their experience as editors, their exceptional support of the Encyclopedia in all its stages, and, more concretely, their availability for this particular project. They collectively reviewed all the new essays, mostly after other editors or reviewers had commented on them, to determine whether they fit well with other essays in substance and tone. They especially helped me to adjudicate conflicts within the editorial board about certain essays, which was not uncommon (and not unwelcomed), given the transdisciplinary structure and content of the Encyclopedia. Also, they helped me to see the full picture of the Encyclopedia as it slowly began to emerge.

Several other Editorial Board members made exceptional contributions. In addition to editing all the essays related to law, Daniel Shapiro generously provided critical legal advice about the second edition, as he did about the first. Lydia Goehr rallied support for the project among the editors, and between them and Oxford University Press, during an early stage when the second edition seemed in doubt.

The American Society for Aesthetics generously awarded the Encyclopedia a grant in 2012 to help cover the costs of the editorial work required to complete this nearly three-million-word project. I cannot imagine how the second edition would have been possible without this grant. So I especially want to thank the trustees and members of the ASA for their financial support.

I would also like to thank the people at Oxford University Press—Damon Zucca (publisher), Alixandra Gould (executive editor, development), Jennifer Keegan, Louisa Mandarino (development editors), and Brad Rosenkrantz (production editor)—who always exhibited professionalism and maintained calm throughout this project. Annabel Manning, my wife, was my editorial assistant and enabled me to keep the project on schedule, despite dozens of daily emails for several years.

For inspiration and support extending back well before the first edition, I also want to thank Marx Wartofsky, who introduced me to aesthetics and persuaded me of its central place in philosophy, especially in combination with politics—and who had an unparalleled sense of humor; and Arthur C. Danto, who recommended me for the Encyclopedia twenty years ago and who always rightfully insisted that the philosophy of art be calibrated to contemporary art, however else it is practiced. Marx died just as the first edition of the Encyclopedia went into production, and Arthur died as the second edition reached a similar stage. But their exemplary legacies will live on in the Encyclopedia.

Let me end with what goes without saying. As editor in chief, I often felt like an artist who initiated the conceptual form of a participatory art project and then distributed agency among many people, but who could not be self-effacing without seeming to shirk responsibility. I could not have produced this encyclopedia without the advice, expertise, patience, and good humor of almost a thousand people (editors, contributors, reviewers, image providers, copy editors, publisher, supporters, and others). So let me give credit to all these people for their individual efforts but accept responsibility for any collective limitations of the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics.

Michael Kelly

March 2014