Things: In Touch with the Past explores the value of artifacts that have survived from the past and that can be said to "embody" their histories. Such genuine or "real" things afford a particular kind of aesthetic experience-an encounter with the past-despite the fact that genuineness is not a perceptually detectable property. Although it often goes unnoticed, the sense of touch underlies such encounters, even though one is often not permitted literal touch.
Carolyn Korsmeyer begins her account with the claim that wonder or marvel at old things fits within an "experiential" account of the aesthetic. She then presents her main argument regarding the role of touch-both when literal contact is made and when proximity suffices, for touch is a fundamental sense that registers bodily position and location. Correct understanding of the identity of objects is presumed when one values things just because of what they are, and with discovery that a mistake has been made, admiration is often withdrawn. Far from undermining the importance of the genuine, these errors of identification confirm it. Korsmeyer elaborates this position with a comparison between valuing artifacts and valuing persons. She also considers the ethical issues of genuineness, for artifacts can be harmed in various ways ranging from vandalism to botched restoration. She examines the differences between a real thing and a replica in detail, making it clear that genuineness comes in degrees. Her final chapter reviews the ontology that best suits an account of persistence over time of things that are valued for being the real thing.