Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Philosophy

Content Description

1 online resource (v, 122 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

P.D. Magnus

Committee Members

Ron McClamrock, Jon Mandle


Aesthetics, Literary form, Literature and society, Art, Music, Art and society, Art genres

Subject Categories



In this dissertation, I defend a communitarian, practice-based, theory of genre and aesthetic value. I argue that theories of aesthetic value and art ontology within analytic philosophy have been too focused on the intentions of individual artists, the features of individual works, and the aesthetic experience of individual audience members. Accordingly, philosophical accounts of genre also follow this model. However, taking genre seriously means recognizing that they are social categories. If this is right, then philosophy of art ought to pay closer attention to the ways in which genres (as social categories) mediate aesthetic practices, values, and concepts. By thinking about genres in terms of communities of aesthetic practice, we can better understand the ways in which communities create new aesthetic predicates and norms, generate and negotiate the nature of new practical identities, and develop unique ethical norms which govern their artistic practices. The first chapter surveys existing accounts of genre (whether explicit or implied) and defends a more communitarian approach grounded in the aesthetic practices of communities. This chapter raises a handful of novel problems for existing theories and draws on social and political philosophy in developing my own view. Chapter 2 argues that extant communitarian theories of genre, like the genres-as-traditions model, fail to fully capture the role of audience-members and fans play in the development of a genre. This chapter draws heavily on literature in media studies and focuses on the role of online communities in seeding genres through curation (as opposed to the common view in which genres are fixed through artistic production). Chapter 3 then argues that aesthetic predicates are mediated in a way that broader accounts of those predicates should be sensitive to. In the service of this argument, I draw on musicological and psychological literature to differentiate the concept of musical groove along genre lines. Chapter 4 turns to the way in which artists and audiences within a genre can coalesce around a common practical identity, and how they negotiate amongst themselves the nature of that practical identity. Here I pay special attention to the country music community and examine the way in which discourse about authenticity is used to enforce the genre’s practical identity. Finally, in Chapter 6, I apply the communitarian approach that I have advocated for to hip-hop music. By thinking about the genre in terms of community practices, and by drawing on social psychological and media studies literature, I provide an account of the ethical norm which prevents rap artists from covering one another and explain how such a norm would develop.

Included in

Aesthetics Commons