Abstracts

2015

Felicia Kruse Alexander, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“The Intellectualist Fallacy in the Performative/Critical Interpretation Distinction”

Anglo-American philosophers of music have begun to acknowledge that their discipline has been hampered by “narrow parochialism.” “Most philosophers of music (myself included),” Stephen Davies explains, “have concentrated on musical works to the exclusion of performances [and] on the listener’s perspective to the exclusion of the composer’s and performer’s,” and have also neglected popular and non-Western musical forms. Since Davies’ Musical Works and Performances appeared in 2001, a number of other philosophers of music have worked to overcome these deficiencies. The discipline nonetheless continues to suffer from a parochialism Davies does not mention: a cognitivist bias that leads to needlessly constrained perspectives on musical meaning and on interpretation in performance. This bias constitutes an example of what John Dewey identified as “the intellectualist fallacy,” which assumes all kinds of experience to be ultimately a form of cognition. This essay examines one influential example of cognitivist parochialism in philosophy of music: Jerrold Levinson’s development of Richard Wollheim’s distinction between performative and critical interpretation. I argue that Levinson’s formulation, in committing the intellectualist fallacy, results in a distortion of how musicians actually engage in interpretive practices. Drawing upon Charles S. Peirce’s semiotic theory of the interpretant, I argue that it is more accurate and more fruitful to consider performative and critical interpretation not as separate and dichotomous, but as interconnected aspects of an ongoing interpretive process that has as its aim a consummatory aesthetic experience on the part of both listener and performer.

Thomas Alexander, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“The ‘Aesthetics of Virtuality’ and the Problem of the Sublime”

Modernity developed the view that the proper attitude toward artworks was one of practical and cognitive disengagement, the “aesthetic attitude.” Kant formulates this in his paradoxical moments of judgment of the beautiful (disinterested pleasure, purposiveness without purpose, etc.) Schiller claims the “play-drive” creates art objects that have pure “semblance” (Schein). Langer, too, finds semblance or virtuality essential for focusing on the artwork as form of feeling. The result is the “de-realization” of the artwork and the audience. Yet, the idea of the sublime, also famously formulated by Kant, developed contemporaneously with that of the aesthetic attitude. The eighteenth century developed a way of aesthetically responding to “wild nature” that did not fit with the harmonies of “the beautiful.” The sublime is not ontologically neutral—it assails us with a painful “movement” and carries existential presence both for the object and the subject. The sublime not only presents us with vastness but “up-lifts” (sub-limis) the subject. It transcends the artificial, thereby transforming the subject with a sense of a higher (or deeper) self. The sublime opened up a range of other aesthetic approaches to nature that were far less “edgy.” Nature as an aesthetic object is one of Romanticism’s greatest legacies. It involves a reorientation and new connection of the self to the larger world that can include feelings of awe and reverence. The idea of the sublime, I hold, opens up the possibility for an environmental or ecological aesthetics, one stressing reconnection to the world, not separation from it.

Ron Apgar, Clinical Psychologist

“Creativity in Art: a Psychological Perspective”

Tad Bratkowski, Independent Scholar    Independent Scholar

“Fun and Entertainment as Weak Values for Video Game Aesthetics”

In the article “Will Computer Games Ever Be a Legitimate Art Form?” Ernest Adams notes shortcomings of video games that may prevent them from attaining the honorific status of “art.” One of his critiques is that video games are focused on producing the experience of “fun” and if they limit themselves to “light entertainment,” they become nothing more than action flicks and adolescent comedies. Even bona fide video game aestheticians have difficulty escaping the conundrum that Adams posits. In Grant Tavinor’s The Art of Videogames, he gives a necessary/sufficient definition of a video game as “an object of entertainment” and relates his own experiences of playing Grand Theft Auto IV as a slapstick comedy. In this paper, I seek to distinguish between the terms “art” and “entertainment” in relation to video games. I argue that certain video games have aesthetic potential when they move beyond the mere hedonic stipulation of “fun” toward “engagement.” I tap into insights from video game creator Jonathan Blow and video game theorist James Portnow and briefly juxtapose their arguments with the aesthetic theories of Dewey, Bullough, and Gadamer. I conclude that video games need not be only about fun, and instead have the aesthetic potentials for seriousness, suffering, and a higher level of joy than can be found in mere entertainment.

Edward Clift, Woodbury University) and Cookie Fischer, Woodbury University

“Cuban Metamorphosis During the Embargo: Everyday Aesthetics and The Art of Resilience”

A standard assumption is that when a person reads a poem, what they are reading is a semantically interpreted inscription of the poem, where the inscription itself is thought to be a physically located token of the poem. The poem itself, however, may be thought to be an abstract object – a type. The relation between the type which is the poem and the tokens which are inscriptions of the poem is thought to be analogous to the relation between a semantically interpreted word-type, and tokens which are inscriptions or utterances of that word. But in an important paper, David Kaplan argued that it may be better to think of a word not in terms of an abstract type with concrete tokens, but instead as a physically located aggregate or collection of inscriptions or utterances. In this paper, I try to make the case for thinking of poems as just such aggregates of inscriptions (or utterances.) On this view, a poet creates a poem by originating a semantically interpreted inscription or utterance. Further inscriptions or utterances belong to the poem just in case they are created with the intention of their being copies of the original with the same semantic interpretation. I argue that this treatment of poems provides looser criteria for the identity of poems than the type-token approach, criteria which are more in line with real-world editorial practice. I discuss several examples of significant editorial variation in producing copies of one poem.

Suzanne Cope, Manhattan College

“The Effect of the Embargo on Post Colonial Cuban Culinary Aesthetics”?

Wesley Cray, Grand Valley State University

“Unperformable Works and the Ontology of Music”

It is standard procedure to categorize some artworks—works of music, theater, dance, etc.—as works for performance. It is also standard to assume that, in virtue of being works for performance,

such works are performable: capable of being realized and appreciated through various intentional activities. This assumption might be formulated as a necessary condition: w is a work for performance only if w is performable. I argue here that this assumption is false: some works for performance are unperformable. This conclusion, I argue further, has notable consequences for the ontology of works for performance. Some works are unperformable by beings like us; others are unperformable given our laws of nature; still others are unperformable given considerations of basic logic. I offer examples of works for performance (focusing, in particular, on works of music) that would ft into each of these categories, and go on to defend the claim—perhaps counterintuitive to many —that such “works” really are genuine works. I then argue that the very possibility of such works is ontologically signifcant. I conclude that, while the possibility of unperformable works for performance does not tell in favor of any one specifc account of the ontology of works for performance, it does tell against many popular accounts. In particular, the possibility of such works raises serious problems for both type-theoretic accounts of the ontology of works for performance, as well as certain mereological or constitution-based accounts. I conclude by briefy discussing some accounts (or possible accounts) that face no problems with unperformable works.

Eva Dadlez, University of Central Oklahoma        

“The Aesthetics of Ink: Unique Aesthetic Questions Raised by Tattoos”

This essay will address the contention that at least some tattoos are art, and will raise various considerations about their closest analogs as well as their authorship. Although it will be argued that some analogs can be found between tattoos and works recognized as art, it will also be maintained that tattoos pose unique aesthetic problems or questions inapplicable to other works.

Jaime Thomas Denison, University of New Mexico          

“The Importance of Embodied Art: Reconsidering Schelling’s Transcendental Philosophy in the Light of Dance in the Twentieth-Century”

In System of Transcendental Idealism, F.W.J. Schelling sets out to reconcile the organic order of nature with the development of transcendental consciousness, thus giving a developmental account of how conscious human freedom can emerge from unconscious material necessity. At the end of this work, Schelling turns to art as the highest development of the organic Self, which not only reflects on the original harmony of the subjectivity and objectivity, but also embodies this tenuous harmony in a way that abstract philosophical thinking fails to do. However, only a few years later, Schelling abandons this trajectory of thought for other ways of approaching nature and consciousness, thus leaving behind questions about the cause for this change. In this paper, I explore why I think Schelling, mistakenly, stopped seeing art as a promising route for his endeavours, especially when we look at his lectures in The Philosophy of Art. Specifically, “art” in System of Transcendental Idealism is developed as an embodied activity in the liminal space of the conscious and unconscious, while his lectures on art tend to focus on artworks that are studied as traces/artifacts of this activity. Thus, the performing arts are sorely overlooked in Schelling’s lectures, especially dance (which was generally disregarded by German aesthetics). Given the development of modern and contemporary dance of the twentieth century, I argue that these theoretical developments within dance should prompt us to take another look at Schelling’s solution of art as the embodied tension of the conscious and unconscious.

Reuben Ellis, Woodbury University

“Digging Cool Cars: Patrick Nagatani’s Excavations and the Stratigraphy of the Industrial Present”

The dueling poetics of what I call the synchronic scenic and the diachronic historical define in certain ways the genre of landscape photography and how it engages the realities and challenges of understanding environmental and cultural contexts on a global scale. The work of tableaux photographer Patrick Nagatani, specifically his 2000 exhibit Excavations, provides an opportunity to understand this interface. Consisting of photographs of three dimensional, diorama-like models, Excavations comprises a series of thirty images representing archaeological sites from around the globe. A fictional narrative contextualizes the photographs, describing a Japanese archaeologist named Ryoichi who has conducted excavations at Stonehenge, Chichen Itza, and Ayers Rock, and closer to home for us, the ruin of Chetro Ketl Kiva in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon and the rock art site known as the Great Gallery in Utah’s Horseshoe Canyon. At each site, Ryoichi’s fictional excavations have unearthed an automobile—a Bentley at Stonehenge, a Jaguar at Chichen Itza, a BMW at Chetro Ketl, and, alas, only a Cadillac Town Car at the Great Gallery. Ladders, shovels, wheelbarrows and cameras, all the tools of the archaeologist, litter the sites. Nagatani’s images subvert the diachronic historical even as they deny the synchronic scenic. They perhaps ask us to suspend disbelief and to be unsurprised that pre-historic peoples from around the globe had possessed automobile cultures a thousand years before Route 66, or they perhaps merely associate the automobile, and by extension industrial technology more broadly, with declension, abandonment, and eschatology. In either case, they posit a perspective situated in the future capable of understanding and contextualizing challenges that now seem without resolution.

Norman Fischer, Kent State University

“The Aesthetics of Violence and Empathy in Kipling’s Parallel Stories “The Bull that Thought” and “A Madonna of the Trenches.”

I would like to continue my studies of aesthetic issues in the depiction of empathy in the animal and animal human world with an account of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Bull that thought.” Ever since T. S. Eliot wrote about the story it has been treated as an allegory of the artist. Although I do not dispute this interpretation, another interpretation is that it is about the relation between the wild and the tame in the animal and to a certain extent the human world. As such probably reflects the documented influence of the Santa Fe writer, Ernest Thompson Seton, author of Wild Animals I have Known and the subject of an important exhibit in Santa Fee between 2010 and 2011 that brought out his interest in the ambiguity between the wild and tame in animal life. The complexity of “the Bull that thought” is also added to by its place in what Edmund Wilson in his seminal essay on Kipling in The Wound and the Bow considered one of Kipling’s key collections, Debits and Credits of 1926. The wound and the Bow thesis that the wound must be healed by the bow that made the wound illuminates not only “The Bull that though” but also all the stories, poems and dramatic fragments that surround it, including the parallel human story “ A Madonna of the trenches.” . “The Bull that Thought” illustrates once again that the two paths that Kipling takes — documented in my talks at the Rocky Mountain conference on Kipling and Seton and in two published articles — first to a generalized empathy, and second to an empathy applied to the relation between humans and animals — were linked in Kipling’s mind. His entrance into a world of generalized empathy allowed him better entrance into the animal world, and his entrance into the animal world enhanced his entrance into a generalized empathy.

James (Randy) Fromm, New Mexico State University    

“Ekphrastic (re)Turns: Thoughts at the Intersection of Rhetoric and Aesthetics”

Approaches to ekphrasis fall generally into two categories: first, ekphrasis as a textual or other inter-­‐medial re-­‐presentation of art objects, real or imagined, and, second, ekphrasis as a literary device subsumed under and simplified as description. Specific instances of the first approach appear as early as the Eikones of Philostratus the Elder; other examples include Keats’ Ode and Lessing’s Laocoön. The second approach is more recently exemplified by the 1981 Yale French Studies special issue, Towards a Theory of Description, and any of a number of monographs and edited volumes on theories of literary description (e.g., Wolf and Bernhart, 2007). While remaining at least partially connected to the originary rhetorical notion that ekphrasis is a verbal means of ‘bringing-­‐before-­‐the-­‐eyes’ of an audience something that is not physically present, both of these approaches elide the rich rhetorical associations among the idea, the act, and, primarily, the purpose of ekphrasis. This paper seeks to open a dialogue between rhetoric and aesthetics, (re)turning ekphrasis, in terms of its rhetorical capacity, to an active role in both. I suggest that ekphrasis marks a crucial intersection between aesthetics and rhetoric, specifically in terms of purposefully ‘bringing-­‐before-­‐the-­‐eyes’ not only objects of art but also scenes and persons and events in ways that situate the reader, broadly considered, as a participating subject within the ekphrasis. In doing so, I extend ekphrasis from ‘bringing-­‐before-­‐the-­‐eyes’ toward ‘bringing-­‐before-­‐the-­‐senses.’ I provide examples that support this suggested understanding of ekphrasis from both literary works and popular and mainstream media.

Tim Gould, Metropolitan State of University of Denver

“Origins of Action and the Work of Art: An Example from Marx”

Many forms of left liberationist politics share a tendency to reduce the role of human action in making history. In the name of a vague cultural materialism, action is reduced to an isolated element that is defined by its location within a structural whole, sometimes called its material conditions. Such theories have failed to make sense of the perception that Marx puts forward at the beginning of The 18th Brumaire: Human beings make history but they do not make it under circumstances they choose for themselves; rather they make it in present circumstances, given and inherited. Tradition from all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. This relatively short passage contains a model for certain revolutionary moments in history. It does this in part by graphically presenting a moment in which the mismatch of agent and action, present circumstance and past history, becomes manifest. We need not say that all action is improvisation, in order to say that all action contains capacities at least akin to improvisation—husbanding resources against contingencies that are not entirely predictable or manageable. One tendency in Marx that embodies contingency and the overcoming of contingency is represented in the Grundrisse as analogous to a work of art. I suggest a reading of this enigmatic passage in the Grundrisse.

Kathryn Hagen, Woodbury University

“Epaulettes and Fishnets: Cuban Fashion Under the Embargo”

Allan Hazlett, University of New Mexico               

“Testimony, Understanding, and Art Criticism

Philosophers of art have traditionally maintained that there is something wrong with aesthetic deference – for example, believing on the basis of the testimony of an art critic that Turner’s Sea View (1826) is an elegant and masterly expression of loneliness. But it is not obvious why this would be the case. We therefore face a challenge: explain the wrongness of aesthetic deference, or else give up the view that aesthetic deference is wrong. In this paper I’ll criticize an initially attractive account of the wrongness of aesthetic deference, which appeals to the impossibility of testimonial understanding). I’ll explain how testimonial understanding, including testimonial aesthetic understanding, is possible. My account appeals to Frank Sibley’s (1959) description of how critics justify their aesthetic judgments – by pointing out the significant non-aesthetic features of artworks. Testimony is not limited to propositional tellings, but includes explanations, including the explanations of art critics. I’ll then articulate an alternative account of the wrongness of aesthetic deference, which posits an institutional norm prohibiting aesthetic deference on the part of professional art critics. Such a norm has been suggested before (e.g. Hopkins 2011), but no defense of its correctness has been offered. I defend this norm by appeal to the value of collective reliability and the intrinsic value of diversity in the artworld.

Bethany Nicole Henning, Southern Illinois University Carbondale             

“Art, Dread, and the Unconscious: The Value of Uncomfortable Art”

Since Plato, Philosophy has tended to identify aesthetics with beauty. However, in the Twentieth century some thinkers began to find theoretical room for art that resonates in the register of anxiety, shame, guilt, and fear. A productive correlation can be drawn between art that reflects trauma or brokenness and the emergence of various theories of the unconscious, subconscious, or embodied dimensions of lived experience. Although we find a transcontinental interest in the unconscious or in art that reflects painful experiences, both of these lines of inquiry pose a significant threat to philosophies that hold knowledge as its highest contribution. Even Freud, in his aesthetically based exploration of the uncanny, embarks on an ameliorative project in which fear is caused by insufficient knowledge. In this paper, I will ask if moves to mitigate affects such as fear and anxiety by rational inquiry might do more harm than good. John Dewey tells us that the aesthetic is that mode in which human experience, otherwise precarious and fleeting, is stabilized such that its intricate relationships can be preserved and shared as meaningful. Given Dewey’s insight, I suggest that painful or anxious art is essential for growth. We must acknowledge, however, that the experience of fear and shame are inherently unfriendly to rational, conceptual thinking, and therefore resist philosophical inquiry. Aesthetic experiences may be unique in that they offer us the opportunity to dwell with complexity where we have previously enjoyed false simplicity.

Jo Ellen Jacobs, Millikin University

“Philosophy a Deux”

Megan Jacobs, University of New Mexico                           

“Political Performance Actions”

Nicole Keating, Woodbury University

La Colmenita and Dr. Suess: Cuban-American Reconciliation and Theatre for Young Audiences

Kathleen Kelly, New School for Research, Pratt Institute                              

“Between Scylla and Charybdis: Towards a Viable Medium Specificity”

Is it possible to be committed, today, to a robust medium specific modernism of the type embraced and exemplified in mid-20th century painting and its criticism? The prospects on the ground are not good: either one remains committed to the monolithic and ahistorical idea of mediums working out what had always been their true aim—ruling out most instances of art as false efforts and at a loss to deal with the proliferation of forms today—or one rejects this narrow determinism in favor of a historicized idea of medium, thereby giving up the idea of latent possibility and collapsing into a mere history of conventions. In this paper I use Stanley Cavell’s concept of automatism to offer a path between determinism and convention, suggesting that we can think of conventions as themselves offering a kind of sedimented possibility or historicized medium. I offer an example of this in our expectations of film sound, and discuss how these expectations are drawn upon and transformed in Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry. I conclude with a few comments on what may be lost in this solution, and whether it would be satisfying for a dyed-in-the-wool modernist devotee.

Tim Cheongho Lee, Southern Illinois University Carbondale        

“Aesthetic Contemplation and Determination in Peirce’s Thought”

In the “Neglected Argument” (1908), Charles S. Peirce mentions “aesthetic contemplation” as one of the forms of “musement.” My main attempt in this paper is to scrutinize aesthetic contemplation in terms of his theory of “determination.” Aesthetic contemplation, for Peirce, works in at least two ways in the process of determination, because the determination involves a reciprocal process between thought and conduct through the mediation of sign and relation. In semiotic aspect, object proceeds to symbol until it succeeds determination. Epistemologically speaking, the idea grows into the mind by the process of determination. A notable point here is that the determination is paralleled, on one hand, with the objectification of aesthetic contemplation that enables the reality of the particular in the realm of becoming. Aesthetic contemplation, on the other hand, rehabilitates the most primitive real into this world. Peirce explains this as a “pure play” that sports here and there without any regulation and, as a result of the play, the reality without existence emerges as firstness. The instinctive work of aesthetic contemplation is the essential operation of the mind that leads to the fixation of belief in a concrete reality and the growth of habit.

Keith Lehrer, University of Arizona                         

“Feminism, Dance, and the Mind-Body Problem”

David Francis Liakos, University of New Mexico Philosophy         

“Gadamer’s Critique of Kant’s Subjectivized Aesthetics”

In Truth and Method, Hans-Georg Gadamer presents a forceful critique of Kant’s

aesthetics. In this paper, I will systematically reconstruct Gadamer’s engagement with

Kant’s aesthetics, and defend Kant from Gadamer’s criticisms. Gadamer charges Kant

with inaugurating the modern “subjectivization of aesthetics.” In sharply distinguishing

pure judgments of taste from cognitive judgments, Kant separates judgments of the

beautiful from truth and knowledge, which belong exclusively to cognitive judgments.

Since for Kant, pure judgments of taste lack an interest in the object’s existence, they are

unconcerned with any truth about the object apart from how I represent it to myself. If

judgments of the beautiful are thus divorced from truth, pure judgments of taste must also

therefore be divorced from knowledge. Gadamer suggests that Kant therefore leaves

aesthetic judgments too subjective to be connected to truth or knowledge. Natural

science, which is paradigmatic for cognitive judgments, becomes the sole provenance of

truth, while aesthetics settles for something less than truth. For Gadamer, Kant thus

abandons a pre-modern conception of the connection between art and knowledge.

Against Gadamer’s critique that Kant divorces aesthetics from truth and

knowledge as compared with natural science, I argue that an extension of Gadamer’s

hermeneutics requires that all culture, not just aesthetics or the human sciences, involve

the free play, disinterestedness, and interpretation that Kant reserves for aesthetic

judgments. The free play Kant confers on aesthetic judgments guarantees the modern

judging subject’s freedom in a way that comes at the expense of the union between

aesthetics and cognition.

Lance Marsh, Oklahoma City University

“The Aesthetics of Alteration: Adapting the Text of Greek Tragedies for 21st Century Theatres”

This paper will investigate several major challenges encountered by 21st century dramaturges, playwrights, and directors in approaching the translation and adaptation of Greek tragedies for contemporary theatrical production. These challenges include problems associated with the interpretation of language, questions concerning the use and underlying purpose of the performance spaces used by the Classical Greeks, and issues surrounding the exhibition of the traditional Greek chorus to modern audiences. This paper will also discuss methods employed by the author to address these challenges, including 1) the creation of a chorus of individuals, as opposed to the monolithic interpretation of the chorus often employed in the past, 2) the development of a scenic space for the production that mirrors the performance spaces of Ancient Greece, and 3) the adaptation of dialogue that retains the scope and grandeur of early translations while being more accessible to a contemporary audience. These methods will be explored through a discussion of their employment in the production of five new adaptations of important plays in the Greek cannon written by the author: Iphegenia at Aulis, Agamemnon, Electra, Orestes and Medea. The first four titles compose a Tetralogy called The House of Atreus. This paper will conclude with a discussion of how the methods mentioned above were employed to create these new scripts and how the scripts functioned in production.

Madeline C. Martin-Seaver, University of Oklahoma      

“The Virtues of Good Taste in Aristotle”

This paper draws attention to Aristotle’s use of good and bad taste in his account of the virtue of magnificence in the Nicomachean Ethics. Prior to my paper, little philosophical attention has been paid to Aristotle’s use of the aesthetic in the context of this virtue. I outline Aristotle’s use of taste in the virtue of magnificence, and the role of bad taste in the associated vices of vulgarity and shabbiness. I emphasize the social contexts of magnificence, as well as the artistic and political contexts, and the importance of (self) display in magnificent actions. I then sketch out what Aristotle means when he talks about taste, through comparison to other philosophical accounts of taste, as well as through comparison to Aristotle’s use of quasi-ethical traits, such as shame and continence. I argue that, with this approach in mind, magnificence is best understood as an ethico-aesthetic virtue. On this account, magnificence is importantly informed by aesthetic judgment and experiences. I finish by suggesting some resonances with other virtue ethical perspectives, such as Confucianism, and ways good taste might be important to other virtues.

Jon Mark Mikkelsen, Missouri Western State University               

“Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education (Erziehung) of Humankind: A Contemporary Reappraisal”

The prominence given to the German poet, dramatist, philosopher and historian Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805) in nineteenth century American arts and letters is well-indicated by the fact that Josiah Royce wrote favorably of him in an 1878 article published in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy (“Schiller’s Ethical Studies”) and that his influence on the development of the pragmatism of C. S. Peirce has been well documented in an 1988 article by Jeffrey Barnouw published in Journal of the History of Ideas (“‘Aesthetic’ for Schiller and Peirce: A Neglected Origin of Pragmatism”). Schiller’s importance for late nineteenth century British philosophers such as Bernard Bosanquet is similarly indicated by the fact that Bosanquet devoted an entire chapter of his classic 1892 A History of Æsthetic to Schiller and Goethe (“XI. The First Steps of a Concrete Synthesis”). Further, generally favorable attention was given to Schiller in the significant histories or anthologies of aesthetics and literary criticism published in the last century by figures ranging from Katherine Everett Gilbert and Helmut Kuhn (A History of Aesthetics, 1939, 1953, 1972) to Monroe Beardsley (Aesthetics from Classical Greece to the Present: A Short History, 1966), Hazard Adams (Critical Theory Since Plato, 1971), and Melvin Rader (A Modern Book of Esthetics 4e, 1972). Paul Guyer is thus possibly correct when he writes in his contribution to the 2005 Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics edited by Jerrold Levinson that “Apart from a narrow school of analytical aesthetics in the 1950s and 1960s, it has probably been the tradition of Schiller and Dewey rather than that of Schopenhauer and Bell that has been the dominant influence throughout nineteenth- and twentieth-century aesthetics, even academic aesthetics” (p. 31). That interest in Schiller has nevertheless seriously waned in the past half century or so is well-indicated by the fact that not only are no selections from Schiller’s writings to be found in the philosophy of art and aesthetics textbooks from this period where one wouldn’t expect to find them, e.g., John Hospers, ed., Introductory Readings in Aesthetics (1969), Dickie, Sclafani and Roblin, eds., Aesthetics: A Critical Anthology 2e (1989), and Lamarque and and Olsen, eds., Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art: The Analytic Tradition (2003), but they are also not available in those where their inclusion would seem appropriate, e.g., Stephen David Ross, ed., Art and Its Significance 3e (1994), Gordon Graham, Philosophy of the Arts: An Introduction to Aesthetics (2005), and Meskin and Cahn, eds., Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology (2008)

After briefly establishing then in this way a context for a contemporary reappraisal of Schiller’s views, my paper will focus, first, on an analytical reconstruction of what might be described as the “philosophy of mind (Gemüt)” presupposed by Schiller’s well-known “theory of the three drives,” viz Formtrieb, Stofftrieb, and Spieltrieb, and the way in which this theory was supposed to lead to an objective, socially life-affirming principle of art that could overcome what Schiller arguably viewed as Kant’s dualistic, other-worldly-oriented (Idea of immortality-focused) “subjectivism,” and, second—but briefly, some of the likely reasons why interest in Schiller has waned in recent years after interest in his work experienced something of a “boom” in the decades following the second world war, including not only (1) the emergence of a “beyond aesthetics” orientation in the work of prominent American philosophy of art theorists such as Noël Carroll but (2)—and perhaps even more devastating for late twentieth century partisans of the post-Enlightenment classicism and romanticism of the “German aesthetic tradition” in American aesthetics and philosophy of art circles—the postmodernist critique of postwar western European and American Marxist aesthetics, which had drawn heavily upon Schiller’s investigations of “beauty (das Schöne)” and “art (die Kunst)” as a means, in the words of Kai Hammermeister, to “bring about the transition from the alienating system of capitalism to harmonizing socialism as the cure to man’s fragmentation” (The German Aesthetic Tradition [Cambridge, 2002], p. 59). I do not, then, expect that I will in the third and final section of the paper be able to defend fully Schiller’s views, but I do believe—drawing on the once definitive 1989 work of Josef Chytry (The Aesthetic State: A Quest in Modern German Thought), the historical perspective provided by Lesley Sharpe’s comprehensive 1995 literature review (Schiller’s Aesthetic Essays: Two Centuries of Criticism), and the more recent work of Frederick Beiser (Schiller as Philosopher: A Re-Examination [Oxford, 2005])—that the way in which Schiller describes “the aesthetic condition” and the difficult issues he was addressing can be re-conceptualized and re-described in ways that may be of contemporary significance.

James Mock, University of Central Oklahoma    

“E.H. Gombrich’s Problematic Theories on Art as Linguistic”

Ernst Gombrich’s Art and Illusion; A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation extended the scope of art historical inquiry into the disciplines of learning theory, perceptual psychology, and philosophy. It is generally regarded as a classic in these fields, and a staple of art history and aesthetics courses. That said, Gombrich’s work can be seen to lead aesthetic theorizing onto very problematic paths. These problematic paths are directly attributable to the manner in which he uses the philosophy of his close friend Sir Karl Popper. Gombrich is a powerful advocate for a variety of semiological theory of representation which will have sign systems, words as well as depictions, operating in accord with acquired systems of notation which pre-exist the entry of an individual into his or her cultural matrix. In this, he attempts to combine old theories of classical rhetoric with stimulus-response theory, a combination which seems vital to his theory of synonomy of expression. This leaves Gombrich and all who follow him open to the powerful objection that they are all going to be evaluating paintings in terms of information and not in terms of aesthetic impact.

Ester Ofearghail, Ester,

“The Purpose of Art and the Aestheticized Landscape”

The idea that art has a function and is useful is one that characterizes the study of Aesthetics. We will look at a place in nature in northern New Mexico often painted by artist Georgia O’Keeffe to examine the purposefulness of art. The appreciation of landscape painting will lead to a discussion of appreciation of environment, which will draw heavily from the anthropology of art. Can landscape painting be used to justify conserving a natural environment? The experience of the artist, the artwork and our appreciation of her subject will be discussed in relation to the possibility that landscape art has potential to inspire our appreciation of ‘the real thing.’ The discussion was will relate to Plato’s philosophy as well as to anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake’s relatively recent theory for art’s usefulness. Paintings by O’Keeffe will be examined in relation to the idea that art makes otherwise ordinary experience or materials ‘special.’ In this case, the Aestheticized Landscape is a place in nature made special by its representation in art. Can the Aestheticized Landscape help save the environment? This paper will suggest that it might—one landscape artwork at a time.

Morgan Rempel, University of Southern Mississippi       

“Runaway Train and Existential Freedom”

Director Andrei Konchalovsky’s Runaway Train (1985) is a curious film. Produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus for Cannon Films — known for low budget, 80’s action movies — it does indeed contain elements of a typical b-movie. Its pulsing synthesizer soundtrack and testosterone-fuelled action sequences — such as the diabolical prison warden descending on a rope ladder from a racing helicopter into the runaway train — could have been taken from any one of the ten films Chuck Norris made for Cannon. But Konchalovsky and Runaway Train part company with their Cannon stable-mates in a number of interesting ways. The director cut his teeth in Russia with award-winning film adaptations of classic works by Chekov and Turgenev, and collaborated with Tarkovsky on the 1966 epic Andrei Rublev (recently proclaimed “the best art-house film of all time”). Runaway Train was based on an original screenplay by Akira Kurasawa, and counted Billy Wilder and Elia Kazan among its admirers. The film begins with a Nietzsche quote and ends with a quotation from Shakespeare’s Richard III. In interviews, Konchalovsky draws parallels between the film and philosophical themes in Dostoyevsky, and identifies the “problem of freedom” as one of its primary concerns. Indeed, from its first act, in a super-maximum security prison, to its final scene on a runaway train hurtling toward certain destruction, the film explores the matter of freedom in a number of cinematically and philosophically interesting ways. Drawing upon the philosophy of Viktor Frankl, my paper uses Runaway Train to shed light on Existentialism’s recurring vision of the inviolate character of human freedom. For Frankl, it is our “inner freedom”, available in even the most restrictive, dehumanizing of circumstances, that gives our lives purpose. My paper contends that this inner, purpose-giving freedom is on display throughout Konchalovsky’s Runaway Train, and that the film’s unique exploration of this Existential motif helps to elevate it well above a typical action movie.

John Samson, Texas Tech University      

“Vladimir Nabokov’s Transparent Things: The Art of Transparency”

Vladimir Nabokov’s late novel Transparent Things (1972) contains perhaps his clearest and most significant expressions of and statements on his aesthetic. In this paper I will examine his passages dealing explicitly with his definition of art and consider how the various language games he plays in the novel further illustrate his idea of art as a transparent surface over which the reader must skim. This aesthetic also relates to the idea of transcendence and spiritual existence that he develops in the novel. Finally, I will relate these aesthetic theories to statements in other works, such as Lolita, Ada or Ardor, and Speak, Memory.

Barbara Sandrisser, Independent Scholar

“Ryukyuan Memories”

In 2015, we mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WW II in Japan and Europe. The Ryukyu Islands, now called Okinawa, snake their way south from Kyushu, Japan to Taiwan.   The largest island, also called Okinawa, was he scene of total destruction near the end of WWII. It is a good example of what happens when war collides with aesthetics and the arts. In every war, we destroy then plunder or, conversely, we plunder then destroy. By destroying museums and libraries, for example, we are destroying a community’s past and its future. By destroying pottery kilns, tools, looms for weaving and other essential creative items, we do the same thing. Islands are frequently victims of war and destruction. The complexity, diversity, and resilience of Okinawa’s people were, and continue to be, severely underestimated by Japanese and Americans alike. I suggest that, in addition to retaining their resourcefulness, Okinawans also retained their aesthetic sensibility under extreme duress. Today Okinawa is a place that accepts its past with dignity, a place that longs to reclaim its future. This paper, accompanied by visual images, seeks to explore how a landscape (in the largest sense of the word) steeped in tragedy revitalizes itself.

Raphael Sassower, University of Colorado Colorado Springs        

“Images of Political Economy”

Jeff Scholes, University of Colorado Colorado Springs    

“Political Theology in Contemporary Culture”

Arthur Stewart, Lamar University.

Further (A)esthetic Insights in Religious Dimensions of Peirce’s Thought

Following on my 2013 ASA/RMD paper that continued this line of inquiry begun in 2009, here I further pursue certain (a)esthetical notions presented amongst the 18 essays from scholars worldwide comprising the book Religious Dimensions of Peirce’s Thought (forthcoming, Center for Philosophical Studies, Lamar Philosophical Studies, No. 5). In my 2013 paper, we took a close look, in these regards, at the essay by Professor Stanley Harrison of Marquette University titled “Peirce and the Ultimacy of Religious Meaning.” A review of Professor Harrison’s insights will be followed by a similar examination of the essay by Professor Robert Neville, former Dean of the School of Theology at Boston University, titled “The Religious Importance of Peirce’s Speculative Philosophy.” Here we will be particularly interested in what Professor Neville refers to as “ . . .the learning of the heart.”This “learning of the heart” will be found both a necessary and a sufficient condition for the understanding of what Charles Peirce referred to as “Thirdness,” and to what he considered to be of “(A)esthetic” value, to begin with.

Dabney Townsend,

“Aesthetic Theory without Aesthetics”

This paper defends both a positive and negative thesis. The negative thesis is that the term ‘aesthetic’, in either its nominative or adjectival form, is empty. Nominatively, there is no such thing as the aesthetic, and adjectively, ‘aesthetic X,’ as in aesthetic experience, an aesthetic attitude, aesthetic concepts, aesthetic properties, or aesthetic appreciation does not single out any distinct feature of its predicate. The positive thesis is that once confusion about “the aesthetic” is removed, theory of art and theory of criticism remain important in spite of the attacks on “theory” that arose out of the work of Wittgenstein and the seminal essay “The Role of Theory in Aesthetics” by Morris Weitz.

While the negative thesis is obviously deflationary, the positive thesis looks back to the eighteenth century, particularly Hume, for a form of theory that is projectivist. Beauty is indeed, as Hume argued, “no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind that contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty” (OST, 230). “[L]ike wit,[beauty] cannot be defin’d, but is discern’d only by a taste or sensation.” That does not preclude a theory of art or criticism, however. A theory of taste and of critical utterance that means what it says when it claims that Milton is better than Ogilby or that good taste can be justified becomes possible on quasi-realist or projectivist grounds. We can do aesthetic theory (in the generic sense) better without ‘the aesthetic’.

Cornelia Tsakiridou, La Salle University   Philosophy         

“Photographic Interventions in Iconic Space”

Photographic intervention in the space of the icon brings out details invisible to the venerating eye. By reconstituting the icon in this manner photography partakes of modalities of holiness that belong properly to painting and to which it imparts a vivid existence of its own. The expansion of iconic space and the emergence of the icon as a dynamic field of visual exploration in a different medium has potentially significant ontological, aesthetic and theological implications.

Sheryl Tuttle Ross, University of Wisconsin LaCrosse      

“A Rhetorical Role for Reconciled Laughter in Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment”

The standard reading of Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno’s influential work The Dialectic of Enlightenment involves viewing the text as inherently pessimistic. Western civilization is depicted as an iron system where oppression and false consciousness are ubiquitous. The central claim is that Western society has developed with an over-dependence on logos or instrumental reason at the expense of reason’s counterpart, mythos. A direct result of modernity’s blind faith in reason is in their words “disaster triumphant.” However, if we examine their critique of logos from an argumentative standpoint, and once the distinction between terrible laughter and reconciled laughter is understood, then the text itself takes on different meaning as it can be read as an instance of reconciled humor, and so Horkheimer and Adorno’s condemnation of the culture industry is perhaps less totaling than it would first appear.

Peg Brand Weiser, Indiana University Purdue University              

“Women Collaborators in the History of the ASA”

Spencer Wertz, Texas Christian University

“Leibniz and Culinary Cognitions: An Aesthetic Journey”

An argument is made for Leibniz as our first modern food philosopher. This is based on his theory of cognition or perception and culinary examples he used in the New Essays on Human Understanding. This view is contrasted with Locke and Hume’s accounts of perception. Their atomistic approach proves to be woefully inadequate for food products like sauces whereas Leibniz’s view gives us an account of them.   All agree that food products like sauces are complex ideas, but Locke and Hume try to argue that they are made up of simple ideas or impressions that are clear and distinct. “Simple” for Leibniz is an abstraction and perceptions cannot be separated out from ideas, so complexity is more easily achieved in his scheme of things. In the end he has a more adequate view of food products.

Diana A. Yarzagaray, Texas A&M University  

“Of Beauty and Ugliness: The Aesthetics of W.E.B. Du Bois”

This paper examines two seminal essays by W.E.B. Du Bois, “Of Beauty and Death” from Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil and “Criteria of Negro Art” for their work in aesthetic theory that together forms an aesthetic-ethical relation between beauty, ugliness, and truth. Aesthetics, traditionally conceived, has largely confined inquiry to the beautiful as revelatory of human nature and subjectivity. However, Du Bois’s conception of aesthetics is one that creates a space for ugliness and extends aesthetics into the realm of the socio-ethical. He attends instructively to ugliness, which allows him to pivot toward issues of socio-political import, such as racism, which deserves an aesthetic treatment because our attention to its ugliness allows us to revisit—and perhaps also to reshape—the social and/or political realm. I will provide a brief history of key pieces within aesthetics that have attempted to explore the possibility of ugliness as an aesthetic category. I will demonstrate that Du Bois’s two essays are an important contribution to the discourse in aesthetics in that: 1) he expands the categories of aesthetic experience; 2) his positing of the tri-partite relation between beauty, ugliness, and truth connects the aesthetic with the socio-ethical; and 3) he uses the juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness to reveal an intersubjective reality. Ultimately, this paper will show that Du Bois carves out an aesthetic space for ugliness and an ethical space for aesthetics, which offers us an integrative theory with which to progress and expand aesthetic discourse.

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