British Journal of Aesthetics 43 (4):386-392 (2003)

The Acquaintance Principle maintains that aesthetic knowledge must be acquired through first-hand experience of the object of knowledge and cannot be transmitted from person to person. This implies that aesthetic knowledge of an object cannot be acquired either from an accurate description of the non- aesthetic features of the object or from reliable testimony of its aesthetic character. The question I address is whether there is any sound argument in support of the Principle. I give scant consideration to the possibility of deriving knowledge from a non- aesthetic description. If this were to be a real possibility, it would certainly disprove the Acquaintance Principle, but its impossibility would not establish it. Furthermore, if the way knowledge were to be derived from a non- aesthetic description were through its enabling a person to imagine the object, a defender of the Acquaintance Principle might simply deem imagining to be a form of first-hand experience. I focus on the possibility of acquiring aesthetic knowledge through reliable testimony because here there is a style of argument that, if correct, would rule out the possibility of knowledge of an item's aesthetic properties being transmitted to someone who lacks the requisite first-hand experience, and the manoeuvre of including imagining under the head of first-hand experience is not available. An argument of this kind is, I believe, the only possible way of establishing the Acquaintance Principle. I try to show that this style of argument fails and that the Acquaintance Principle should be rejected
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DOI 10.1093/bjaesthetics/43.4.386
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