Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

AFB’s Top 5 Posts Of 2020


Thanks to our readers for another great year at Aesthetics for Birds! Here were our most-viewed posts this year. Scroll through to make sure you haven’t missed something big. (You can also check out our Top 5 of 2017 and 2018, or 2019.)

Note: Our actual Top 5 by the numbers included a few from previous years (including a perennial hit about problematic artists and their artworks and a 2018 piece about Kafka, The Trial, and philosophy). So below you’ll see the most popular five posts that first appeared in 2020.


#5: Burying the Dead Monuments

Part of 2020’s renewed Black Lives Matter movement meant the re-examination of racially problematic monuments. Elizabeth Scarborough (Florida International University) looks at different ways we might deal with such monuments. Removal is crucial, she thinks, but there are interesting alternatives to destruction: museum-ization (installation in a museum) and ruination (think: a monument graveyard).

#4: Diversify Your Philosophy of Art Reading List with These 60+ BIPOC Authors

We also gave you a list of BIPOC authors to explore, with one suggested piece by each. If you teach, you can use this list to diversify your syllabi. If you research, you can use this list to expand your approaches and answers to debates. And if you simply like to read, you can use this list to broaden your perspective.

#3: Terms of Art Series

In the early days of the pandemic, Alex King defined, explained, and riffed on 50 key terms in art and aesthetics, ranging from art and aesthetics to structuralism & post-structuralism, semiotics, formalism, and camp & kitsch. Scroll through the master list of all fifty entries here.

#2: Why I Use Dungeons & Dragons to Teach Ethics

“While playing D&D certainly functions as a means of applying ethical theories, I have found that it has a deeper transformational power.” Those who lived through the 80s and 90s remember the frantic pearl-clutching directed at tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. (It is evil and unchristian! It promotes witchcraft and the occult! It warps children’s ability to separate reality from fantasy!) In a delicious reversal, Rebecca Scott (Harper College) uses D&D to teach ethics, exploring it as a way to co-create the classroom, imaginatively enter into different ethical theories with richness and subtlety, and actually have fun while learning.

#1: James Wood on How Criticism Works

The influential writer, professor, and literary critic James Wood (Harvard) was interviewed by Becca Rothfeld (Harvard), herself an essayist, literary critic, and philosophy PhD candidate. This wide-ranging discussion offers pandemic literature recommendations, considers whether there are generalizable aesthetic principles, wrestles with political and moral assessments of literature, and examines the purpose of art criticism.

This is a taste of what we gave you in 2020, but there’s much more to explore in our archives. And thanks again to you, our readers. We wouldn’t be here without you, and we are excited for a new year together.

Image credit: cuatrok77

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