Southern Illinois University
Environmental Aesthetics and Ecological Art
“Environmental aesthetics” is a recent field. It began by criticizing the focus of most 20th century aesthetics on art objects while neglecting natural beauty. Further environmental aesthetics criticism explores values other than beauty (like the sublime) and refines what “environmental” means. Arnold Berleant is one of the pioneering thinkers in this movement. He proposes an all-inclusive meaning for “environment”—for what is not environment? Everything by this approach is “environment.” I think this broad approach needs some way to be focused and concrete. Therefore I concentrate on the idea of “ecological art”: those human creations whose function is to denote aspects of the natural environment as integral to their aesthetic meaning and purpose. Ecological art objects are interactive with both the natural world and the audience and so are ecological, not merely environmental. They aim to bring the audience into interactive relation to some aspect of the environment and so function as a “portal” to nature. They thus have “open frames,” not only lacking a sharp boundary to exclude the world from the aesthetic space of the object, but emphasizing their open inclusion of nature. They therefore “relate” us to some facet of the environment. I explore some examples: Janet Echelman’s fabric sculptures, Nikola Bašić’s “Sea Organ,” Theo Jansen’s “Strandbeests,” and Ra Paulette’s sculptural caves. I appeal to ideas in Peirce and Dewey for help: Dewey’s interactionist view of the artwork and Peirce’s idea of a sign as a tripartite coordinating set of relations.
Northern Michigan University
“Form and Content in Emily Dickinson’s Poetry”
The goal of this paper is to reconcile two different camps of thinking about Dickinson’s poetry. According to the first camp, the form and content of her poems cannot be torn apart. What she says is tightly bound up with how she says it. Indeed, the two elements are so tightly interwoven that she could not have said what she said in just any other way. According to the second camp, we nevertheless can and do paraphrase Dickinson’s poems. We can say what they say in other words. We can even say it in straightforward prose. Indeed, we do it all the time. I resolve the tension between the camps in two ways. First, I argue that we often ask too much of paraphrases. A more moderate account of what an adequate paraphrase must do reveals substantial agreement between the camps. Second, I argue that Dickinson qua poet is engaged in a different type of speech act than we are qua critics. As a result, she faces restrictions we do not. In particular, she is compelled on pain of contradiction to render the form and content of her works consistent. We face no such constraint when reporting what she says.
University of New Mexico
“A Cheap Holiday in Other People’s Misery: Towards a Compatibilist Theory of Immoral Art”
Recent philosophy of art uniformly presents the question of the relationship between ethical and aesthetic judgments in terms of a struggle between the autonomist, who wishes to keep such concerns separated (thus, autonomous), and the moralist, who is not so quick to claim daylight between them. In this paper, we propose an approach to the debate which attempts to synthesize these positions. First, we present the problem of immoral art in what strikes us as its most extreme form: the problem is not the worry that some good art might be immoral because of features that could be reasonably argued to be aesthetically accidental. Rather, some art is immoral in virtue of instantiating the very same qualities responsible for its aesthetic success. Any satisfactory theory of the connection between ethical and aesthetic properties must squarely face this difficult problem. Second, we make use of Kant’s theory of judgment from the third Critique, arguing that a proper understanding of his distinction between the act and content of judgment arms us with the resources for a compatibilist theory of immoral art. Kant’s distinction allows one to simultaneously assent to the content of an aesthetic judgment of a particular work as aesthetically meritorious while dissenting to performance of the act of judgment. We apply Kant’s disambiguation to the debate with the aim of addressing the extreme version of the aforementioned problem, yet in a way which gives voice to the core intuitions behind both the autonomist and moralist accounts.
Texas A&M University.
“Shakespeare, Sickness, and Anxiety: Kierkegaard’s Allusions to Macbeth for Concepts of Sin, Gender, and Despair”
My interest is in the lack of attention paid to Lady Macbeth in Kierkegaard’s The Sickness unto Death and The Concept of Anxiety. Twice in Kierkegaard’s The Sickness unto Death, lines delivered by Macbeth are described by Anti-Climacus as “psychologically masterful,” inasmuch as they convey what Anti-Climacus identifies as a distinctly masculine expression (or mode) of despair. Vigilius Haufniensis references these same lines in Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Anxiety. Both despair and anxiety appear in two forms, the feminine form and the masculine form. Macbeth’s despair is meaningfully linked as an expression of Adam’s anxiety. It seems peculiar that Lady Macbeth is not discussed as a “psychologically masterful” depiction of feminine despair as well as a meaningful illustration Eve’s anxiety in the way that Macbeth is a figurehead for masculine despair and anxiety. I suspect that Haufniensis and Anti-Climacus neglect the feminine forms of despair and anxiety because of their own psychological sickness and anxiety. My goal, then, is twofold. I wish to first, illuminate the striking neglect of Lady Macbeth in these works and second, discuss the symptomatic resonances of masculine despair and anxiety involved in such a surprising and suspicious neglect for the feminine.
University of Louisville
“Literature, Knowledge, and Skill”.
It is common to claim that literary works, at least on occasion, bear a distinct and aesthetically significant form of cognitive value. It is now equally common, though not uncontroversial, to claim that if literary works proffer a kind of knowledge in particular, it is not of the traditional propositional variety. This paper suggests a novel way of thinking about these sorts of general proposals. The cognitive value of literature, we argue, is to be explicated in terms of the capacity of certain narratives to cultivate important varieties of know-how and skill, applicable to a broad spectrum of extra-fictional situations. The forms of know-how and skill thus cultivated are in effect the product of the kinds of imaginative perspective-taking that literary narratives standardly demand of readers. The result is roughly analogous to empathic understanding: knowing-how to navigate perspectives other than our own and a skill in feeling for another, and as another does. Our defense has the virtue of showing that distinctly narratological—and so, we claim, aesthetic—features of works of fiction are indispensable to literature’s cognitive value. What is surprising, however, is that our account turns out to be compatible in principle with the traditional view’s commitment to the claim that literature—insofar as it has cognitive value of a meaningful sort—yields ‘worldly’ propositional knowledge.
“Fictional Characters and Their Names”
File-change semantics is enlisted to solve problems about names in fictional discourse. Names of fictional characters have two uses: when names appear within fiction; and when they are used in discussions by literary critics and theorists about fiction. In critical and theoretical discussion, fictional names refer to things that actually exist: abstract theoretical objects that serve the purposes of literary criticism and theory. A literary theoretical character Is a kind of semantic informational file which is constructed and then updated by readers as they successively read the sentences of a fiction. Fictional names, used by theorists, are filenames. Within the semantic representations contained in the files, names function like the non-referring, quantificationally bound pronoun “she” in the ordinary English sentence, “[Every woman]1 swore that [she]1 would tell the truth.” In that sentence, even when no particular woman is referred to, “she” has semantic value. Similarly, in the first sentence Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, the name “Igraine” is meta-linguistically connected to quantificational phrases about some person. Subsequent occurrences of the name should be construed pronominally, and as bound to the quantificational phrases. The use of names (instead of bound pronouns) inside fictional character-files is a stenographic device, designed to achieve bookkeeping clarity (clarity with respect to cross-referencing) of a kind that can’t be smoothly achieved by subscripting pronouns. Names in character-files, understood in this way, don’t have mysterious Fregean senses, and don’t refer to individuals, actual or possible. A theory of this kind is metaphysically minimalist, and shows how fictional sentences can be straightforwardly understood.
American University in Cairo
“Acting Invitations in Cinema”
I clarify how we encounter screen performers by examining what movies have historically meant to us. Whereas recent commentators suggest consumer demand, typecasting and marketing leads performers to maintain continuities across films, I suggest cinema has historically made it difficult to subtract performers from roles, leading to relatively constant comportment, and casting, marketing, audience preference are not only causes but effects of this. I do so using thought and empirical experiments, for example, pondering why people unhesitatingly say they see Jesus in paintings of him, but not in photographic stills of actors portraying him. Arguably this relates to what photographs have historically come to mean, and these meanings would make it difficult for audiences to subtract and not see the actor. Based on such thinking, along with what filmmakers have said and done, and adding to classic accounts of Cavell, Santayana and others, I build a case that cinematic media invite performers to play themselves.
University of Central Oklahoma
Valar Morghulis: Arya Stark as Humean Rough Hero
In his well-known essay “Of the Standard of Taste,” eighteenth century philosopher David Hume argues that the “rough heroes” celebrated by the ancient poets cannot properly engage our imagination, since “we cannot prevail on ourselves to enter into…[their] sentiments, or bear an affection to characters, which we plainly discover to be blameable.” This paper will address Hume’s conception of the Rough Hero as it is elaborated in the recent work of Anne Eaton in the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (2012) on “Robust Immoralism” and as it is manifestly exemplified in the Game of Thrones character Arya Stark. Do characters like Martin’s Arya Stark, who combine admirable traits with indisputably murderous impulses, signal a moral flaw in the work itself, as Eaton (and perhaps even Hume) might claim? Let’s begin by imagining a few headlines that actions like Arya’s could inspire in the present day:
Pre-teen defendant to be tried as adult in Harrenhal Slaying (Lannister Herald). A Westerosi prosecutor says that evidence of premeditation warrants charging the young person (referred to only as ‘Nan’ in court documents) implicated in the grisly murder of a guardsman at Harrenhal’s postern gate, to the full extent of the law. The deadly assault was committed in the course of an armed robbery during which three horses and a number of valuables were stolen. Pieter Snow, the unfortunate guardsman slain by the youthful miscreant, is survived only by his heartbroken maternal parent, a senior serving wench at the well-known Bolton Dreadfort facility. Rumored to be a multiple-felony offender, ‘Nan’ is nevertheless held by the public defender not to be irretrievably depraved. ‘Nan’s’ lack of maturity and harsh wartime experiences all contributed to a character prone to recklessness, impulsivity, and heedless risk-taking, the defense avers. It is argued that the young are more vulnerable to negative influences and outside pressures and lack the ability to extricate themselves from crime-producing settings. The defense will maintain on this basis that sociopathic tendencies can sometimes develop as a result of immersion in horrific environments. Roose Bolton’s representatives have strongly repudiated these aspersions on the climate at Harrenhal, amid the furor to which such an unusual defense strategy was bound to give rise. At last report, ‘Nan’s’ Public Defender has taken up residence in a local Sept under armed guard until repudiations diminish.
New College of Florida
“Musical Agency and Artistry in Group Performance”
Philosophical discussion of artistry in performance has focused on the relation of performers to musical works and to their instruments. This sort of “primary craft” artistry is certainly significant. But an important domain of musical artistry is social, relating musician to their fellows in performing groups. This “socio-musical” artistry contributes to the artistic accomplishments of performing groups as a whole. Indeed, there is an exclusively socio-musical kind of performing artistry exemplified by the role of orchestral conductors. Beginning with features of performing artistry present in both solo and group performance, I go on to sketch the domain of socio-musical performing artistry. I identify two distinct kinds of ‘socio-musical’ artistry, and discuss some of the ways in which different forms of group organization articulate different possibilities for their exercise. Finally, I discuss at some length the extreme case of a performing role that is purely socio-musical, that of the orchestral conductor. Here the exercise of socio-musical performing artistry is detached from the direct making and control of musical sound. I discuss both discontinuities and some subtle and extensive continuities between the conductor’s role and the musical roles of instrumentalists and singers, with the aim of situating this purely socio-musical activity in relation to musical performing more generally.
“Cairns: Navigating, Reading, Living”
This narrative-based paper uses the experience of traveling across the open country of Utah’s Cedar Mesa to locate the access to a network of remote canyons. Deep in the canyons are extensive ruins and other remains of pre-contact the pre-contact indigenous peoples who inhabited the area a thousand years ago. The paper connects this experience to that of reading specific texts that undertake to understand that distant time drawing upon a number of exploratory theoretical models, including rhizomatic plant structures and physical erosion.
Kent State University (retired).
“Balzac under the Lens of Lukacs’ and Hegel’s Aedtetics”
For a number of years in Santa Fe I have been deepening Georg Lukacs’ interpretation of historical novels, partly by bringing out its dependence on Hegelian aesthetics, and patly by adding new Hegelian elements. Each time I have chosen an author discussed by Lukacs, but often have worked with novels by those authors that he did not discuss, particularly those by (1) Walter Scott, and (2) Lion Feuctwannger. In contrast, I followed Lukacs’ emphasis on (3) Heinrich Mann’s Henry of Navarre/Henry King of France, but tried to deepen its Hegelianism. In this account of (4) Balzac’s The Peasantry I am closely following Lukacs’ favored Balzac novel, and placing it in the context of his little known book in which it originally appeared, Balzac und der Franzosissche Realismus, and the article in that book on Balzac’s Lost Illusions. For me Lukacs’ account of Balzac parallels his account of the other three authors in The Historical Novel. In addition, arguably The Peasantry fits in as well, if not better, with Hegelian aesthetics than any of the other novels I have discussed, because of its great emphasis on the integration of the individual into the whole of society.
University of Oklahoma.
“Protecting Works: The Intersection of Ontology and Copyright”
My paper examines the relationship between the ontology of artworks from a variety of categories and the philosophy of copyright law. More specifically, I look at different systems of categorizing works and explain what the implications of that system of categorization are on the legal protections for that work. This will involve both ontological definitions of artworks as well as considerations of certain individual conceptual works. I use both the current justifications given for copyright law in the United States and other possible philosophical justifications for copyright protection in determining the effect of different interpretations of art. I look at how our justifications for the protection of works might be used as a means of evaluating certain ontological theories, if there seems to be something unjust that results from certain views of art. I examine how our copyright justifications inform the arguments for a particular ontology of art. The consequentialist view suggests that there is an inherent value in creativity that should be encouraged through protection. I connect the justification for protection to a similar justification for requiring creativity as a necessary component for an ontological system for art. By examining the legal protections provided to artworks, some of the essential characteristics of what makes an artwork worthy of protection will reveal what the essential characteristics of artworks are.
James R (Randy) Fromm
New Mexico State University, English Department, PhD Student in Rhetoric
“Effing Ineffability: Rhetoric – Aesthetics – Affect”
Far from cursing what cannot be explained, I will instead—in an attempt to provoke some thinking about the unexplainable in affect—continue and build upon my engagement with possible intersections among rhetorics, aesthetics, and ethics, initiated at last year’s Rocky Mountain Division conference. This paper will, after some initial contextualization, start with a brief reconsideration of work started over ten years ago on some affective aspects of narrative literature that, though I had not thought in or used that particular and current terministic screen, had caught my eye. After presenting my updated ideas concerning what, at that time, I theorized as ‘Narrative Depth of Field’, I will connect that earlier work to the ongoing and relatively recent turn in Rhetoric Studies toward sensation and affect. My core critical armature in this effort will be Barbara Warnick’s 1993 text, The Sixth Canon: Belletristic Rhetorical Theory and Its French Antecedents. Warnick argues, principally, that a sixth canon ought to be added to the traditional five canons of rhetoric; that is, in addition to invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery, room should be made to include aesthetics. This is because aspects of aesthetics, such as verisimilitude, vividness, clarity, eloquence, and the Sublime continue to be part of the rhetorical choices made when planning a particular affect to be achieved with a particular audience. I will conclude by extending these ideas toward what will likely become the core of my dissertation project: possible rhetorical aspects of katharsis.
Weber State University
“Aesthetic Consolation in the Face of the Sixth Mass Extinction”
Geologists tell us that Earth has gone through five mass extinctions in its history. In light of the environmental pressures humans are currently placing on the biosphere, there is good reason to believe that Earth is on the cusp of entering its sixth. Assuming for a moment that there is no longer anything we can do to prevent this, there’s still the question of what our philosophical response might be. In this paper, I argue that the response should be twofold. First, we should understand this extinction as an unquestionable moral tragedy, where, following George Harris, a tragedy in this context means an uncompensated for loss of value. Admitting that humans receive considerable benefit from the activities that are bringing about this extinction, it nevertheless is the case that these benefits do not compensate for the loss of value caused by the extinction. But second, I argue that we can gain some consolation from this tragedy by considering the aesthetic value arising both from the operation of the natural systems that can lead to a biological renewal of Earth’s ecosystems and from the beauty of the creatures that will subsequently evolve. In sum, our knowledge of ecology and related sciences teaches us that whatever damage we do to the Earth’s beauty is likely only temporary and will eventually be restored, even if there are no beings like us around to experience it.
Metropolitan State University
“Objects and Fetishes”
How women get treated as sexual objects and the mechanisms of this objectification are entrenched in our conversations. Another line of analysis centers on the fetish. These analyses reinforce each other. I want to elaborate some parallels and some differences. My aim is not to show conflicting answers so much as to suggest a wider scope for the investigation. “Fetishism” implies a kind of immobilizing passivity—for the sake of mastery. The immobilization need not be literal. Objectification tends to stasis and immobilization, while the fetish, I argue, is unthinkable apart from a (limited) movement and animation. This is the idea that Freud and Marx got from anthropology: In the fetish something inanimate becomes animate. Its motion is still not its own—the element of movement is imposed from without, hence objectified or reified. The result is nevertheless not quite static but a kind of animation.
Fetishism can work like this. A man apprehends a woman and converts her aliveness into an image. He expropriates her image as a kind of property. The man then reanimates the image, and gives it the life he wants it to have. It is the life of a fetish, no more alive or independent then the life of a fetishized pair ofhigh heels. He does not lose control of the inanimate as it becomes animate. He gains not just an instrument, but a magic instrument, a regressive means of alienated and alienating fulfillment and control.
Western Michigan University
“Against Terrible Beauties.”
Carolyn Korsmeyer defends the view that art can be beautiful because of, rather than despite, its painful import. She calls such artworks “terrible beauties,” which includes the sublime and those she dubs “sublate.” The sublime being when the fearful is transformed into the thrilling, and the “sublate” being when the aversive is transformed into something appreciable. I take issue with Korsmeyer’s idea that terribleness can make artwork beautiful, arguing it is more accurate to say the beauty and terribleness exist alongside each other. I defend two ways this happens: some elements of the artwork are beautiful while others are terrible, and either what is portrayed or the portrayal can be beautiful while the other is terrible. To make this point I appeal to examples of painting and the theatrical work of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. I argue that failing to recognize these different elements leads to misuse of language that ignores the possibility of using many different words to appraise an artwork. Finally, I argue my view deals more effectively with Korsmeyer’s examples of the aesthetically disgusting. The aesthetic experience when encountering “The Doubting of St. Thomas,” or the episode at the end of the novel A Flag for Sunrise in which a nun is tortured to death are better understood as cases of a beautiful portrayal of something disgusting. I conclude that my view parses out the aspects of an artwork and gives a more clear explanation of how artworks may be called both beautiful and terrible.
“What is a Restored Artwork?”
In a suggestive discussion of art restoration, Mark Sagoff develops an Aristotelian account of an artwork according to which restoration is unmotivated and philosophically problematic. He argues that an artwork, infused with the spirit of its creator, is an unchanging individual substance—a particular thing created by a particular person at a particular time in response to a particular problem. Focusing on the property of authenticity, Sagoff argues that integral restoration, the addition of non-original material in the interest of reestablishing original appearance, is metaphysically misbegotten. Integral restoration sullies. It extinguishes value. And he urges that it is sometimes better to countenance damage than to restore integrally. Against Sagoff, I urge that artworks are essentially changing—they are in time and space and affected by the same—and that while conservators should indeed honor the artist’s intentions as they are manifest in the artwork, I urge that, post-studio, the artist effectively relinquishes ownership. I develop the idea that an artwork is a gift. And I urge that a conservator, in effect a co-artist, introduces a new property which compensates for the loss of authenticity. I call this (non-exhibited) property ‘CILK’—a complex interweaving of Creativity, Independence, Love, and Knowledge—and I show that these four properties characterize a conservator’s work. I urge that Sagoff misunderstands the aim of restoration, which is not (necessarily) the reestablishment of original appearance but rather the perpetuation of value. Thus, against Sagoff, I argue that integral restoration is motivated. It resuscitates, maybe even enhances, value.
Coastal Carolina University Honors Lecturer
“How Does the Story Make me Feel? Carrol’s Hermeneutic of Emotion and Feeling Theory”
In “Art, Narrative, and Emotion,” (Hjort and Laver, Emotion and the Arts, 1997), Noel Carroll outlines a hermeneutic approach to the analysis of narrative art that is centered on parsing out the emotional address that a narrative elicits. Adopting the insights produced by cognitivist theorists
of emotions, Carroll asserts that it is possible not only to analyze the meaning of a text, but also to surmise with a “fine-grained” approach how that text is intended to make the reader feel. This is an exciting possibility for philosophers of literature and critical theorists, however given shiftsin philosophical understanding of the nature of emotions, is Carroll’s approach plausible? In this essay, I examine the challenge the resurgence of “feeling” theories of emotion pose for Carroll’s hermeneutic. I briefly outline where cognitivist theories seem to fall to feeling theory,
particularly the theory proposed by Jesse Prinz in Gut Reactions (2004). Assuming that feeling theory is a better depiction than cognitivist ideas of emotional life, I then examine Carroll’s hermeneutic method. In short, if emotions are not cognitive in nature, can Carroll’s framework survive? I present three possibilities a feeling theorist might adopt in order to justify the use of Carroll’s framework while maintaining a non-cognitivist view of emotions. Though Carroll may be mistaken about the cognitive nature of emotions, his hermeneutical method can survive and offer fruitful avenues for the analysis of narrative art.
Edyta J. Kuzian
New York University
“Modernism in Dance: What kind of bodily art performance manifests aesthetic expressivity?
Dance has a very broad spectrum of styles and uses. In this paper, I consider dance as a kind of art performance, which uses the body as its distinctive medium. My focus is on determining what kind of dance can be modernist, that is, which dance genre best realizes the ambition of treating the body as its central medium. My central claim is that contemporary dance radically breaks away from ritual, classical, and modern forms of dance and makes ordinary movements visible in an aesthetic way. Admittedly, the use the body in contemporary performances draws on the embodied nature of the dancer in a modernist sense. If the artistic medium of dance – the body in movement—has inherent aesthetic qualities, then the job of embodied aesthetics is to provide a framework for clarifying the medium-specific elements and limits of dance. My overall argument has two steps. I first clarify the notion of modernism, and how dance differs from other performance arts. Second, I justify the claim that the body is the distinctive medium of dance. I offer a reading of the history of dance, which shows that its developments and revolutions successively refine the appreciation of bodily movement alone as the focus of its practice to conclude that only contemporary dance is fully and self-consciously modernist, using the body as central to its aesthetic reflection.
Southern Illinois University
“Feeling Nature: Neville’s Theory of Interpretation”
The main purpose of this paper is to investigate how we interpret nature, with special regard to the theory of interpretation of Robert C. Neville. Based on Charles Peirce’s thought, Neville founded his theory of interpretation upon “philosophy of nature,” which has been lost mainly because of the Cartesian distinction of mind and body and Kant’s “dogmatic certainty” of metaphysics. Neville suggests the cure for the symptom by mentioning that “feeling” functions in the selective participation of interpreter. The real source of knowledge is feeling which modern scientific culture labeled as subjective. Neville sees that reality is embodied values in four loci of axiological participations, by which interpretation operates as “the cognitive activity of determining what is truth, or enjoying, acting, and responding in ways shaped by assertions intended as true.” Neville’s theory of interpretation would remedy the modern mistake that separates thinking from other processes of nature, which is still incurably pervasive.
University of New Mexico
“Reading Oneself in the Text: Gadamer and Cavell’s Romantic Theory of Reading”
I will reconstruct a theory of reading that seeks to establish reading as having cognitive content – that is, reading literary texts can produce knowledge. Hans-Georg Gadamer and Stanley Cavell independently developed this theory according to which (1) I can recognize who or how I am as expressed in the literary text such that (2) I can improve and clarify my self-understanding in relation to the text and (3) I can imagine future possibilities for myself on the basis of the text. These three claims culminate in reading’s ability to (4) produce genuine self-knowledge. I will delineate Gadamer and Cavell’s strikingly similar arguments for these claims, and show how their theory is rooted in Romanticism insofar as it attempts to give cognitive content to reading. Gadamer and Cavell have never been compared before, but I will show their conclusions on this issue are practically identical due to their shared Romantic heritage. Finally, I will present an objection to their theory according to which it is possible to gain more than self-knowledge in reading in the form of knowledge of other human beings and of the world. However, I will argue Gadamer and Cavell mean to suggest the self-knowledge reading produces is a necessary condition for gaining these other sorts of knowledge too. Thus, though their claim for the self-knowledge produced by reading may seem modest, it is in fact a robust Romantic claim for art’s broad cognitive capacities.
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
“Violet Light Meets a Saffron Sky: Poiesis for Beginning Designer”s
Two hundred-fifty beginning architectural and architectural engineering designers are given sixty sites on and around a four storey brutalist architectural campus landmark from the 1970’s that has become their day-to-day home. The five week challenge is to unconceal the extraordinary beneath the mundane by the addition of their work. Their additions, extensions and new structures joined in proximity to the existing have no official ‘functional’ program other than to make manifest and demonstrate new spatial, material and conceptual design awareness and harvest a sense of place. The process is a stealth initiative mirroring the somewhat circular argument contained in Heidegger’s Origin of a Work of Art. The pedagogy is also informed by Graham Harman’s reading of Speculative Realism, and a flattening of ontological categories. The aim is to work beyond phronesis, normative typologies, or semiotics, into engaging poiesis in a direct, but inductive manner. A phenomenological reading of what constitutes an active given location of the human and non-human across scales of space, diurnal time, and site materiality leads to constructs where techne emerges, as conceptual, constructive, geometric and material transformational investigations intertwine. The thing itself, and the visual, aural, tactile visceral world it gathers, combine for vivid, sometimes adaptive and kinetic
constructions. The title is inspired by a 2016 work, a two story installation edging a west facing exterior stair, made of steel cables, student manufactured hardware, and saffron fabric, ingeniously anchored at diverse points on the building, illuminated by the horizontal late afternoon winter sun. The presentation will consist of examples from over 250 site iterations over a six year period.
The University of Houston
“Allegory & The Mind”
Much of art, especially in its narrative forms, conveys content beyond what we can account for directly in the form of one-to-one representation. In some cases little work is required on the part of the spectator in order to gain access to these additional higher order meanings. For instance, few among us recognize George Orwell’s Animal Farm as just a story about a farm, and beyond a simple understanding of the work as political allegory, we can easily determine the specific actors and context motivating its writing without explicit mention from the author or much independent investigation on our part. We feel comfortable saying Snowball represents Stalin. How does this work, and why is it so easy for us to converge on aboutness in the case of Animal Farm, while the analogical meanings of other works remain hotly debated? How do we come to recognize and represent this kind of implicit content conveyed in narrative art? I argue that the model put forward by Paul Thagard works as a normative aesthetic criterion by providing an empirically compelling account of content overdetermination as it succeeds in eliciting ‘occurrent’ analogical representations. Further, this view can be reconciled with a functionalist reading of the conceptual framework provided by Deleuze and Guattari. This article attempts to argue for this reconciled model, and demonstrate some of the implications this view would have for existing and future Continental literature.
Jon M. Mikkelsen, Ph.D.
Missouri Western State University
“What should a museum exhibition catalog do? American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood”
James Elkins, the E. C. Chadbourne chair of art history, theory, and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, describes “current art criticism” in his little book, What Happened to Art Criticism? (Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003) as a seven-headed hydra, with each head a different type or style of art criticism, including: (1) The Catalog Essay; (2) The Academic Treatise; (3) Cultural Criticism; (4) The Conservative Harangue; (5) The Philosopher’s Essay; (6) Descriptive Art Criticism; and (7) Poetic Art Criticism. The first of these Elkins describes as assuredly “the least-read of the seven” (p. 18) and as perhaps not even worthy of the name “criticism,” because such essays “are expected to be laudatory” (p. 16). He admits nevertheless that, in contrast “to average catalogue essays, written for the tens of thousands of commercial galleries worldwide,” “the essays commissioned by major museums and galleries to accompany thematic shows and retrospectives . . . can be indistinguishable from art historical monographs” (p. 22)—even though they are usually purchased by the public more as “coffee-table ornaments” rather than to be read (p. 23). To explore these claims, I focus (with accompanying visuals) on what I consider to be an exemplary case of this kind of art criticism, American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood (Munich/London/New York: Delmonico Books – Priestel, 2015), which was published (with significant support from both the NEH and the NEA) in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name organized by the Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, MA) in collaboration with The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City, MO) and The Amon Carter Museum of American Art (Fort Worth, TX). Elkins claims that the “kind of writing” typically found in volumes such as this is “so conservative that it risks going unread not only by . . . museum visitors . . . , but even by the community of art historians” (pp. 22–23). This volume, however, like the exhibition, as described in the Member Magazine of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Winter 2016), features not “the familiar Benton of Heartland and haystack fame,” but instead—building on the facts (1) that “[e]arly in his career, Benton painted movie sets for the silent film studios of Fort Lee, New Jersey” and (2) that LIFE magazine sent Benton on assignment to Hollywood to depict the motion-picture industry—explores “the intriguing connections between Benton, the movies, and visual storytelling” (p. 3). I conclude that while this volume does indeed prove to be an exemplary counter to Elkins’s disparaging portrayal of “The Catalog Essay,” it is only partially successful in its effort to restore Benton’s reputation as a pre-eminent 20th century American artist (which he had achieved in the 1930s and 40s prior to the rise in status of his former student, Jackson Pollock), because none of the essays included address seriously enough an issue central to his decline in popularity in the post-WW2 period, namely, rejection—for whatever reasons (e.g., philosophic/aesthetical or ideological, as some have argued, e.g., Erika Doss, Benton, Pollock, and the Politics of Modernism: From Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism [University of Chicago Press, 1991])—of the “representational imagery” of historically-situated human figures in painting and a preference for non-figural abstraction.
“Art, Conversation, and Dancing Penguins”
We often talk about works of art, but is it possible to have a conversation with a work of art? What advantages does conversation offer over criticism? I make an argument in favor of what I call conversational engagement with art from two angles. First, I show that conversation with art is possible (if we grant a little sense of play with the term). Second, I show that conversation better characterizes our experience with art than criticism. The first angle involves explicating three conditions for conversation: (1) there must be (at least) two participants, (2) the participants must share a language, and (3) there must be responsive, verbal exchange between participants. The second angle involves looking at exemplary cases of works of art that invite and partake in conversation (sufficient to meet the three criteria), as well as discourses that join that conversation. This includes Stanley Cavell with The Philadelphia Story (Cukor 1940), Wendell Berry with A River Runs Through It (Maclean 1976), and, my own contribution to the discussion, Mary Poppins (Stevenson 1964). While conversation with non-verbal works, such as paintings, seems plausible, my primary focus is on works that possess a substantive verbal character (e.g., film, literature, theater).
University of Central Oklahoma
“E.H. Gombrich’s Psychology and His Theory of the Art Object”
In Ernst Hans Gombrich’s still highly influential Art and Illusion, he bases his psychology upon a general learning theory and an undifferentiated brain. This produces his famous equations of language and vision, hearing and seeing, writing and depicting. Given his psychology, this is an inevitable outcome. Indeed, for Gombrich, all perception is actually a variety of illusion, and an art object becomes what is best called a means-object which triggers a seeing-through process. I believe that there is in all of this an uncomfortable blend of strict behaviorism and cognitive psychology. His sources are fundamentally contradictory, and thus his psychological foundations are unsound, yet there is something about the way Gombrich builds upon these contradictory and incompatible sources that produces an interesting theory of mind and development that is not easily seen and disposed of. However, when closely investigated, the theory is seen to be fundamentally wrong, and it leads to an impoverished theory of art that has little or no room for aesthetic responses and that, in its internal incompatibilities, actually destroys his own arguments which are based on information extraction from artworks.
“Works as a Kind”
An interesting point that has heretofore eluded analytic philosophers of music is that, despite the various forms the work appears to take in different genres, we have little difficulty understanding or comparing works across traditions. I think that to understand this fact we must adjust our usual perspective to see musical works as the conceptual tool we employ to mentally organize our musical activity. In particular, I argue we employ works to allocate creative credit and categorize performances, recordings, and playings. My aim here is to elucidate the underlying motivation for having a work-concept at all, namely the need to make sense of our musical experiences. I argue here that works are unified not only in their underlying motivation, but also in that they are a social kind. That is, works, broadly construed, share a cluster of properties and are socially-constituted. Moreover, I argue that philosophers of music generally endorse the social nature of works implicitly. Most of this paper will be occupied with clarifying my expanded notion of work, briefly explaining social kinds, and arguing that works are unified as a social kind. Lastly, I will locate my view with respect to Sally Haslanger (2012) and Jonathan Neufeld (2014), which inform a framework with which to think of works as social kinds.
University at Buffalo (SUNY)
Places matter to us. We live in, form relationships with, and derive meaning from them. Global Climate Change (GCC) poses an existential threat to the places that matter to us. In this paper, I analyze the significance of place from the lens of everyday aesthetics. I focus specifically on the loss of place due to GCC, and in doing so, distinguish between “obvious” and “tragic” losses. Roughly, the obvious loss refers to the material loss of a particular place (e.g. the bulldozing of a community garden), whereas the tragic loss refers to the loss of meanings associated with a particular place (e.g. the bulldozing of the community garden I first fell in love in). Places have important affective and aesthetic dimensions that directly impact mental health and subjective well-being. A tendency to focus on obvious losses, however, obscures the significance of this fact, making it even more difficult to cope with, and adapt to, a changing world. I suggest that (everyday) aesthetics can play a unique role in making these challenges more manageable.
Texas Tech University
“The Aesthetics of Darkness and Oblivion: Melville’s Ocean in Moby-Dick”
Near the end of his life Herman Melville bought, read, and enthusiastically marked four volumes of translations of the works of Arthur Schopenhauer. Clearly, Melville found much to admire in them, much to confirm what he had been thinking throughout his career. In this paper I will examine Melville’s markings, particularly those concerning art and aesthetics, as a key to understanding two of the most significant and beautiful chapters in Moby-Dick, “The Lee Shore” (ch. 23) and “The Try-Works” (ch. 96). The former, placed at the outset of the Pequod’s voyage, presents the ocean as a place of oblivion and, paradoxically, spirituality—a place where one might lose oneself in the infinite. In the latter Melville discusses the aesthetics of the ocean’s darkness in similar terms, but he ends on a more positive note, as Ishmael can now recognize art as a means of transcending the darkness and oblivion of what Melville sees as the ultimate thrust of Schopenhauer’s concepts.
Architectural And Environmental Aesthetics, New York, NY
“Japanese Festivals: Aesthetic Appreciation”
The best definition of a festival comes from a philosopher friend, Murungi, who teaches at Towson University in Maryland: A festival is an expression of communal experience whereby individuals freely divest themselves of individuality and reconnect with a rare sense of what they are. These non-commercial festivals occur in a variety of communities throughout the world including Native American communities. Japan has a long history of festivals. Hardly a day goes by without a festival somewhere between Hokkaido, the northern most island, to Okinawa Prefecture, a collection of small islands in the south. They occur in large and small cities and in farm communities such as the one proposed by the mayor of a small city near Fukushima where an earthquake and tsunami occurred on11 March 2011. These public celebrations combine music, songs, dancing, beautiful costumes, colorful masks, floats, indoor and/or outdoor stage presentations, plus local food, beer and sake. Themes include seasonal appreciation – such as rice planting and harvesting; nature appreciation, such as greenery day, cherry blossom viewing and other flower festivals; family and ancestral family celebrations such as children’s day and grandparents’ day and the Bon festival, to name a few. The various communities rally together to create an atmosphere that celebrates the extraordinary commitment of the community and the beauty of the environment that touches everyone. There exists a certain joyfulness that is based on anticipation, affection, appreciation and participation. I will focus on these ideas while exploring their aesthetic impact.
University of Washington
Cognitivist philosophers of film (including Carroll, Smith, and even Gaut) have rejected a strong notion of spectator identification, understood as positing a numerical identity between the spectator and character. My goal in this paper is to show that this near-universal trend is mistaken: numerical identification does occur, and I develop a partial account of how it happens. I argue, first, that standard arguments against numerical identification in film would equally apply to identification in video games, but empirical work shows that identification does occur in video games. Second, I show that the notion of a fragmented mental state explains why those standard arguments fail and how identification can occur both in interactive cinema (video games) and traditional cinema (film). Finally, I consider the objection that I am being unfair to traditional arguments against identification by referencing video games, since they were directed against just film. I counter this objection in two ways: (i) the arguments themselves appeal to principles that would apply to video games; and (ii) the identification that occurs in video games can occur in film too (a contention I support by examining the film Russian Ark).
“Art, Nature, Meaning”
One of the most engaging questions within contemporary aesthetics of nature is the extent to which natural science informs, or ought to inform, aesthetic judgments of nature. The most influential position in this debate is Allen Carlson’s cognitive, natural-science model of aesthetic appreciation. Carlson argues that aesthetic appreciation grounded in knowledge from natural science offers the best (and perhaps only) framework for aesthetically appreciating nature for what is in itself. While Carlson argues for this view by drawing analogy to Kendall Walton’s arguments about art history in “Categories of Art,” his model assumes a very incomplete view about how art history actually informs artistic experience. As developed by Carlson, Parsons, and Mathews, the model assumes that the primary role of art history is establishing criteria to ‘calibrate’ one’s sensory experience (e.g., one needs to know about Cubism to judge the aesthetic success of a Cubist painting). While no doubt correct, this formulation omits the more important function of art history, which is to provide the context needed for interpretations of meaning. Can natural science provide the context needed for attributions of meaning in nature? If so, then the case for Carlson’s analogy is strengthened; if not, then the significance of this dis-analogy must be acknowledged and examined. I argue that if one focuses on our aesthetic experience of non-human animals (rather than landscapes), then the science of animal ethology provides sufficient context for legitimately attributing (non-mimetic) meaning to certain animal behaviors and animal artifacts (e.g., mating rituals; nests/hives; bowers).
“Capital and Horror: The Double Possibility of Aesthetic Differentiation in Ayad Akhtar’s The Invisible Hand”
In Pulitzer Prize-winner Ayad Akhtar’s new play The Invisible Hand, capitalism is both thematic and structural. The play’s content dramatizes and lays bear the complex relationship between the global market and Islamist terrorism; simultaneously the play’s form, I will argue in this paper, is
determined by the very capitalistic structures that it displays. I will take up Akhtar’s work as the site of a certain tension present within capitalism itself, drawing upon the economic writings of Adam Smith as well as the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, showing capitalism to be a self-differentiating structure which functions at the core of both aesthetic productivity and tremendous acts of violence. By elucidating Akhtar’s play, I will argue that violence and repeated self-annihilation constitute the very essence of the work of art. Bearing in mind the philosophies of Heidegger and Gadamer, this paper will treat The Invisible Hand as an essentially singular aesthetic event inseparable from its actual taking place, and thus it will
regard particular production elements from the London Tricycle Theatre’s May 2016 premiere as important aspects of the “text.”
Center for Philosophical Studies at Lamar University
“Further (A)esthetic Insights in Religious Dimensions of Peirce’s Thought: Professor Fairbanks on “Peirce on Religious Sensibility”, and Peirce’s “Art-Creations.”
Following on my 2015 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). After reviewing pertinent ideas from papers examined in previous years by Professor Harrison of Marquette University, Professor Neville of Boston University, and Professor Corrington of Penn State, we shall investigate a paper titled “Peirce on Religious Sensibility” by Professor Matthew Fairbanks of the University of Scranton. Of particular interest here will be an investigation of the meanings and implications of the following observation made by Peirce, himself, in his “A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God”: What is man’s proper function if it be not to embody general ideas in art-creations, in utilities and above all in theoretical cognition? (Hibbert Journal 7: 90-112/1908; preserved at Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce 6.476.)
In the course of these investigations we will of course have occasion to examine what Peirce’s conceptions of “Thirdness”, as a category of reality, and “Abduction”, as a category of reasoning, have to do with embodying such “art-creations.”
Sheryl Tuttle Ross,
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
“Some Art Propaganda for Feminist Propaganda—A Response to Lucy Lippard”
I will take as my starting place Lucy Lippard’s essay “Some Propaganda for Propaganda” first published in the publication Heresies a self- described “idea-oriented journal devoted to the examination of art and politics from a feminist perspectives.” And while Jason Stanley is to be credited with raising the philosophical profile of propaganda—foregrounding its long neglect by philosophers, I will be taking a different approach to providing a philosophical analysis of propaganda—one that I have previously called “The Epistemic Merit Model of propaganda.” The aim of this paper is to situate a discussion of propaganda in the context of art propaganda, and Lippard’s suggestions that feminist artists would be well-served to make art propaganda by offering a critical rejection of the dictates of modernist art theories and their narrow proscriptions about political art. Lippard’s call for a positive feminist art propaganda can be philosophically grounded in the Epistemic Merit Model which offers some justification for its practice.
Cornelia A. Tsakiridou
La Salle University
“Eschatology and the Harmonizing Icon”
Byzantine icons are supposed to present the world in a state of harmony and thus elevate it to a transcendent level. How do Byzantine icons negotiate eschatological content, especially relating to the Last Judgment and Christianity’s perpetual enemies? We examine an iconographic cycle on this subject from the eleventh century church of the Panagia Mavriotissa (the catholicon of a monastery by the same name), Kastoria, Greece, where tensions in the icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos, and instances of grotesques in other scenes challenge this aesthetic and theological principle. We also look for harmonization in New Mexican santos with eschatologically laden themes.
DePaul University, Philosophy Department
“Karl Krauss Meets Charlie Brooker at the End of the World”
Guided, in Walter Benjamin’s famous articulation, by a messianic destructiveness, the early Twentieth Century satirist, Karl Kraus, set himself the goal of exposing all journalistic language and advertising for what they are: essential links in the realization of late capitalism as fascism. Few, if any, contemporary critics rise to Kraus’ level of concern for the desecration of language and experience as does Charlie Brooker, creator of the television program, “Black Mirror,” and the documentary series, “How TV Ruined your Life.” The task of this essay is to illustrate the almost uncanny similarity between the form and content of Kraus’ and Brooker’s social criticism and art. In showing, for example, how they connect the administrated phraseology of the twenty-four hour “news” stream to the false promise of participation in the bourgeois public sphere, this essay attempts to rethink the role of the critic in late capitalism. It, furthermore, attempts to understand the unfulfillable desires of the modern subject, who, in the age of technical reproduction, has become more “cyborg” than “human.” Insofar as late capitalism necessarily blurs the line between reality and advertisement, news and fiction, all social interaction, including all political representation, ultimately shows itself to be the horrifying expression of Debord’s “spectacle” and Adorno’s “culture industry.” TV, now itself understood as the active subject, reveals the scopophilic consumption of leisure-time to be, in truth, the time of mythical punishment, where the damned and the spectator reverse roles, and memory is finally obliterated before the apocalyptic “last days of mankind.”
S. K. Wertz
Texas Christian University
“Artists as Persons: Collingwood’s Account”
The analogy, artists as persons, is an important thesis for Collingwood because he thought that art was threatened by the mechanization of art, amusement art, art as magic, and (something he did not consider) animal art (although he does entertain in a footnote (PA, 126n) the thought (experiment in probabilites) that if a monkey played with a typewriter for long enough, it would produce a complete text of Shakespeare). These movements diminish the role of the person in art. The artist is first and foremost a speaker and speaks the language she was initially taught in addition to the language of her art—the conventions and skills she has inherited from other artists and the artworld. Collingwood believed that these were seriously compromised by those developments which minimalized the qualities of a person. Those properties that make up personhood are not only present, but active, in the artist. He speaks of art as “concreative” between artists and audiences; it is a “collaborative activity,” or effort and what makes it so is that we are first and foremost persons. This viewpoint adds a dimension to his two-fold characterization of art as Art Proper: as Expression (of emotion) and as Imagination.
Kent State University
“A Gift More Sublime: The Place of Thought in Symbolist Aesthetics”
Schopenhauer and Plotinus are frequently cited as significant philosophical influences on Symbolist aesthetic theory. Indeed, critic Albert Aurier and artist and author Maurice Denis, among others, explicitly invoke Plotinus’ mysticism and Schopenhauer’s conception of the aesthetic experience in their formative texts on Symbolism. As apt as this assessment is, there is also an essential tension between these two philosophers’ theories, which manifests itself in the works of the Symbolist critics and artists, despite not being explicitly addressed by them. For Schopenhauer, aesthetic experience consists in a subject’s freeing herself from her individual will and perceiving what Schopenhauer refers to as the “Platonic Ideas,” or the essential, unchanging nature of particular things. Such an experience is obtained through an intense and concentrated perception that banishes abstract thought from the mind. Plotinus, while also maintaining that corporeal drives must be controlled before we can know Beauty (as opposed to individual beautiful things), sees perception as only the first step toward attaining this knowledge, which ultimately comes about through the very forms of abstract thought that Schopenhauer seeks to avoid. In this essay, I argue that an ambiguity concerning the role of thought in the aesthetic experience is present in the theoretical writing of Aurier, Denis, and others, and that it represents a tension between Plotinian and Schopenhauerian influences. By considering representative Symbolist paintings, I ultimately conclude that, rather than pointing to a weakness in Symbolist aesthetic theory, this ambiguity – perhaps inadvertently – reflects a tension that is also present in Symbolist art.
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”
Participant in the “Visualizing Change” panel
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”
Participant in the ”Embargo Aesthetics in the Republic Of Cuba” panel
David Conter, Huron University College
“Could a Poem Be a Physical Thing?”
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”?
Participant in the ”Embargo Aesthetics in the Republic Of Cuba” panel
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.
Shannon L. Griffin, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
“Bergson and Modernism in Art: Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, and Henry Miller”
In “Henri Bergson and Modernism in Art: Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, and Henry Miller” I argue that Bergson’s thought heavily influenced Modern Art, particularly the literary art of Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, and Henry Miller. Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, and Henry Miller personify the Bergsonian artist. In their literary works each takes on the role of the artist as Bergson sees it. In addition each reveals a hidden world to their readers. They reveal a Bergsonian world of flux and creativity. Woolf reveals to her readers a world of inner and outer flux. Stein with her use of language and by and breaking down its conventional use and constructs pushes us out of the world of intellect and the past into intuition and the present. Miller shows Bergson’s world of change and creativity through his stream of consciousness passages. No artist, however, can create from nothing. There is no nothing for Bergson, thus the artists take what is already in use and redefines its use to show us the world beyond utility and survival. Each writer gives readers a glimpse of what they usually ignore in the name of utility.
Kathryn Hagen, Woodbury University
“Epaulettes and Fishnets: Cuban Fashion Under the Embargo”
Participant in the ”Embargo Aesthetics in the Republic Of Cuba” panel
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.
Luis Inclan, Georgia State University
“Controversial Jokes, and their Moral Implication”
In this paper, I address the question of whether the endorsement of prejudiced attitudes and beliefs is a necessary condition for laughter to ensue in response to controversial jokes. My inquiry will focus entirely on jokes generally thought to be racist or sexist. Historically, at least since Plato, there has been a pervasive moral suspicion in the literature against certain instances of laughter, based primarily on the notion that one may rightfully infer something questionable about the moral character of those who laugh from the mere occurrence of their laughter, and the context within which it arises. Recently, this objection has been formulated into an argument against those who laugh at controversial jokes. Broadly construed this argument, which I shall oppose, states the following: to laugh at controversial joke X, one must have prejudiced attitudes, or beliefs against gender or ethnicity X. This is a troublesome proposition. A good conscience demands that the assessment of an individual’s moral character take place on the basis of clear and substantial evidence, something I claim laughter, alone, cannot give us. It will also be the aim of this paper to suggest that the intolerant moral outrage over trivialities so prevalent in our current social climate stems, at least in part, from the type of misunderstanding this essay seeks to clarify.
Jo Ellen Jacobs, Millikin University
“Philosophy a Deux”
Participant in the “The Concept of Collaboration” panel
Megan Jacobs, University of New Mexico
“Political Performance Actions”
Participant in the “The Concept of Collaboration” panel
Nicole Keating, Woodbury University
La Colmenita and Dr. Suess: Cuban-American Reconciliation and Theatre for Young Audiences
Participant in the ”Embargo Aesthetics in the Republic Of Cuba” panel
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”
Participant in the “The Concept of Collaboration” panel
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
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”
Participant in the Visualizing Change” panel
Jeff Scholes, University of Colorado Colorado Springs
“Political Theology in Contemporary Culture”
Participant in the Visualizing Change” panel
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.
“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”
Participant in the “The Concept of Collaboration” panel
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.