Honors Students Establish First-Ever Aesthetics Conference at the College

Open, interesting discussion regarding beauty. That’s what’s at the heart of the College’s Aesthetics Work Group (AWG).

This group, established by philosophy and Honors Western Civ professor Jonathan Neufeld several years ago, meets regularly and features both student and faculty participants whose discussions range widely over theoretical topics in and about the arts.

Philosophy professor Jonathan Neufeld, who runs the Aesthetics Work Group.

The group’s work was so popular that it drew the attention of the American Society of Aesthetics, which recently suggested the group orchestrate the first-ever Southeastern Student Aesthetics Conference. The suggestion stuck, and now that event is slated to take place on campus Saturday, March 18.

“Several of the students in our work group produced papers that were presented at conferences,” says Neufeld. “And two of those were published in undergraduate publications. That’s what drew the attention of the American Society for Aesthetics.”

The conference will feature presentations by 10 students from nine other universities. This represents about half of the papers that were submitted.

The program committee for the conference consisted of three students from the College – Honors seniors Anthony Garruzzo, Caroline Requierme and junior Harper Richards. Garruzzo is a philosophy major, but Requierme is majoring in Computing in the Arts and Richards is studying psychology. Garruzzo was just admitted to a PhD program at Columbia University.

“Harper, Caroline and Anthony read, commented on and evaluated every paper submitted,” says Neufeld. “The discussion we had about which papers to accept and why was among the best I’ve had with any program committee, professional or otherwise. They did extraordinarily good work.”

The conference will feature panels of three or four students each, says Garruzzo.

“We’ll also have a plenary roundtable with Professors Sherri Irvin (from the University of Oklahoma) and Julian Dodd (from the University of Manchester),” he says. “The papers we’ve chosen from each of the student presenters are very interesting and very distinctive. The emphasis here isn’t on presenting some finalized piece for the audience to absorb, but instead the goal is to have a collaborative discussion that benefits the speakers as much as the audience.”

Philosophy major Anthony Garruzzo, one of the three students who established the Southeastern Student Aesthetics Conference.

Garruzzo says he has enjoyed his participation in the Aesthetics Work Group, and his expectation regarding the conference is that it could make philosophy more accessible.

“People will pick up a novel or a history book in their spare time, but they hesitate to reach for a philosophy book unless it’s assigned,” he says. “That doesn’t have to be the case, and I feel like an event such as this conference that rewards undergraduates for their independent research is a good start toward changing that.”

The conference will be held in Tate Center, room 202, and begins at 9 a.m. For additional information about the conference or the Aesthetics Work Group, check out the group’s Facebook page.

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