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Peter Kivy Remembered
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Kathleen M. Higgins

Peter Kivy's death on May 6, 2017, comes as a great loss to the field. Many of us in the American Society for Aesthetics have known him for years, even decades. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Joan Pearlman, Peter's life companion, who has long been as constant and beloved a presence at our meetings as Peter was himself.

Peter has been an esteemed presence in the ASA and in the field of aesthetics for as long as I have been part of it. He published over twenty-five books and the number of his articles approaches three figures. Drawing on his experience as an oboist as well as a philosopher, Peter's writings are most often focused on philosophy of music, beginning with the ground-breaking The Corded Shell (1980). Peter was awarded the ASA's Outstanding Monograph Prize last year for De Gustibus: Arguing about Taste and Why We Do It (2015), a book that was also the focus of a symposium held at the University of Kent. That Peter's oeuvre culminates with an examination of why we argue about taste is fitting, for Peter loved to argue about art and taste. He enthusiastically defended his positions, even when they were unpopular, and he did so in a style that was distinctively his own.

Peter was President of the Society in 1991-1992, and I greatly admired his style of leadership, which combined directness with thoughtful attention. I was on the Board of Trustees at the time, and I recall his beginning a Trustees meeting with the acknowledgement of the recent death of Guy Sircello. Peter said that a moment of silence did not seem quite in Sircello's spirit, but that he had been one who appreciated a good glass of wine. So Peter proposed a toast in Sircello's honor. I don't think Peter ever just went through the motions or operated on automatic pilot. He was always present, responding to the situation at hand, often with considerable wit.

I will miss Peter's wry sense of humor, which he presented deadpan but with mirth in his eye. In this connection I think of a self-deprecatory story he told me and my late husband Robert Solomon when we had dinner with Peter and Joan a few months after a conference we had all attended in Honolulu, the East-West Philosophers' Conference of 2005. Peter described receiving the invitation to be a keynote speaker at the conference, which arrived in the form of a traditional letter. He said he had looked at the postmark and, figuring that this was some general mailing, felt annoyance at all the junk mail he was getting. He postponed opening the letter and considered just tossing it, but then decided that he might as well open it before he did. A short time later, Joan, who had seen the envelope, asked him what was in it. In his inimitable sardonic tone, Peter said, "I told her it was an invitation for a two-week trip to Hawaii, all expenses paid."

One of my happiest memories of Peter comes from the conference banquet for that conference. Bob and I were sitting with Peter and Joan, having just finished our dessert course. The venue had lively music and a dance floor, and Joan said that people should dance. So the four of us took the initiative. Our style of dancing was pretty shy and constrained, and we kept to the side of the dance floor nearest our table so we could hastily retreat, but in fact we opened the floodgates. Soon the dance floor was overrun, much to our collective satisfaction. This strikes me as indicative of Peter's willingness to respond to the occasion, whether or not the results were in his comfort zone. Peter was a good sport.
He also was tremendously magnanimous. He was supportive of younger colleagues, even ones (like me) with whom he completely disagreed on many matters. His encouraging attitude as a mentor and champion of the younger generation is evident in his presidential address, which coincided with the occasion of the ASA's 50th anniversary. Significantly, that address was entitled "Differences," and at its close he voiced commendation of younger scholars who would direct the future of the society and the field, concluding, "I wish these young scholars well, and I wish the American Society for Aesthetics another fifty years and more of intellectual vigor." May we all approach the future with Peter's grace, if also with sadness at his absence.

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