AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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WHAT IS ART? LET COGNITIVE SCIENCE HELP YOU ANSWER THAT QUESTION

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ALFIE and BETTY observe Jeff Koons’ Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988)

What follows is a guest post by Shen-yi Liao, Aaron Meskin, and Joshua Knobe. They offer an overview and summary of the ideas in their new paper, “Dual Character Art Concepts,” just out in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. (Non-paywalled version available here.)

Alfie: This sculpture is not art. I know many people think it is art, but when you think about what art really is, you will realize that it is not art at all.

Betty: Of course this is art. It is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art!

Alfie: I know. But all the same, it’s not a true work of art. It’s impersonal factory-produced rubbish.

Betty: Wait, I agree that this sculpture is completely awful in every way, but still, it’s obviously a piece of art. Continue reading


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THROWBACK MOVIE REVIEW: MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING (1997) AND GENRE CONVENTIONS

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During the first week of each month, Francey Russell (Barnard/Columbia) will offer a philosophical reflection on film: a single film, a director, a technique, a genre, an author, etc. Plots will be discussed, hence spoilers. See all of the installments here. Continue reading


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HIP-HOP, GENDER, AND LANGUAGE WITH UNDERGROUND RAPPERS BL SHIRELLE AND BATES

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L to R: Bates, Lissa Skitolsky, and BL Shirelle

I. What Is There To Discuss?

A Prompt for Discussion by Bill Adler

Bill Adler is a music journalist, hip-hop archivist, and legendary Def Jam publicist.

As wonderful as it is, as impactful as it is, hip-hop music has never exactly embodied a model of civil discourse. On the contrary, it has often been—and remains—rough, rude, and heedless. Indeed, those very qualities are at least part of what makes the culture so appealing to so many folks.

Happily, hip-hop has also generated a body of exemplary critical commentary from the very beginning. For over thirty years now, critics and journalists who came of age as hip-hoppers have wrestled with the music’s sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and materialism… and have done so with love, from inside the culture.

Naturally, the music’s sexism has been particularly vexing to women, and doubly vexing to women of color. In a review for the Village Voice in 1990 of Amerikka’s Most Wanted, the first solo album by Ice Cube, the critic Joan Morgan quotes a girlfriend of hers as follows: “Joan, you know this motherfucka must be bad if he can scream ‘bitch’ at me ninety-nine times and make me want to sing it.”

To Chuck D, though, it wasn’t a problem—at least not then. Women had R&B, he argued. White men had rock. Rap was by and for Black men. End of discussion.

Let’s discuss.

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AFB’S TOP 5 POSTS OF 2019

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 Top 5 of 2018.)

Note: Our actual Top 5 by the numbers included a few from previous years (including last year’s #1, 2017’s #5, and one surprise appearance). So below you’ll see the most popular five posts that first appeared in 2019.

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THROWBACK MOVIE REVIEW: VARIETY (1983) BY BETTE GORDON

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Today, we’re starting a new series. During the first week of each month, Francey Russell (Barnard/Columbia) will offer a philosophical reflection on film: a single film, a director, a technique, a genre, an author, etc. Plots will be discussed, hence spoilers.

By way of introduction, Francey works primarily on moral psychology and is writing a book on the topic of self-opacity. She is also working a project on genre and representations of human agency, focusing especially on the erotic thriller. Continue reading


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AFB STAFF LIST THEIR TOP 10 OF THE DECADE

 

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This year marks the end of the second decade of the 2000s. In honor of this, we thought we’d take a look back at our decade with an end-of-year series.

The internet loves lists, especially year-end ones, and we’ve been feeding that love a little bit this December. We have hosted six lists of expert Decade-Best picks, including movies, games, writing, TV, music, and art. Our previous experts have been philosophers and other academics whose work concerns these topics, and people working in/on the relevant media.

Today, we have a slightly different theme. Our experts are our own Aesthetics for Birds staff, and they’ll be giving their Top Ten lists across all media and genres, no restrictions (though with some extra effort to include stuff in categories not already covered). It’s art and aesthetics in the broadest possible sense. So without further delay, let’s see this decade’s top aesthetic offerings.


Our contributors are:

    • Roy T Cook, AFB staff writer, professor in Philosophy at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
    • Anthony Cross, AFB staff writer, lecturer in Philosophy at Texas State University
    • Matt Strohl, AFB staff writer, professor in Philosophy at the University of Montana
    • Mary Beth Willard, AFB staff writer, associate professor in Philosophy at Weber State University
    • Thi Nguyen, AFB assistant editor, associate professor in Philosophy at Utah Valley University
    • Alex King, AFB editor-in-chief, assistant professor in Philosophy at SUNY Buffalo

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EXPERTS RANK THE TOP 5 IN THIS DECADE’S ART

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Zanele Muholi, Ntozakhe II, Parktown (2016)

This year marks the end of the second decade of the 2000s. In honor of this, we thought we’d take a look back at our decade with an end-of-year series.

The internet loves lists, especially year-end ones, and we’ll feed that love a little bit this December. We’ll be hosting seven lists of expert Decade-Best picks. We’ve done movies, games, writing, TV, and music, and you can look forward to one more surprise list at the end. Our experts include philosophers and other academics whose work concerns these topics, and people working in the relevant media. Up today: art!

Okay so obviously movies and music are art, but what we mean by “art” today is arty art, that special kind of artworld art that’s in galleries and art fairs and museums, and attended to by art magazines and news outlets. We’re looking at photography, painting, video art, performance art, and more.

Let’s see what this decade’s highlights were in art!


Our contributors are:

    • Margo Handwerker, curator and gallery director at Texas State Galleries
    • Sarah Hegenbart, lecturer in Art History at the Technical University of Munich
    • Alex King, assistant professor in Philosophy at SUNY Buffalo
    • Daniel Star, associate professor in Philosophy at Boston University

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7 EXPERTS RANK THE DECADE’S TOP 5 IN MUSIC

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Childish Gambino, “This Is America”

This year marks the end of the second decade of the 2000s. In honor of this, we thought we’d take a look back at our decade with an end-of-year series.

The internet loves lists, especially year-end ones, and we’ll feed that love a little bit this December. We’ll be hosting seven lists of expert Decade-Best picks. We’ve done movies, games, and writing, and TV so far, and you can look forward to two more: traditional visual arts and one surprise list at the end. Our experts include philosophers and other academics whose work concerns these topics, and people working in the relevant media. Up today: music!

Perusing the below lists, you may find yourself wondering: Where’s the Kendrick Lamar? The Lana Del Rey? The Arcade Fire? If you want that kind of list, go hit up Rolling Stone or Pitchfork. We’re here to give you something a little different. The world of music is huge, and contains a lot beyond the contemporary mainstream. Instead, what we have today is a glimmer of that variety in music, including everything from opera and rap to metal and Christmas music.


Our contributors are:

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8 EXPERTS REVEAL THEIR TOP 5 TV SHOWS OF THE DECADE

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Twin Peaks: The Return (Showtime, 2017)

This year marks the end of the second decade of the 2000s. In honor of this, we thought we’d take a look back at our decade with an end-of-year series.

The internet loves lists, especially year-end ones, and we’ll feed that love a little bit this December. We’ll be hosting seven lists of expert Decade-Best picks. We’ve done movies, games, and writing so far, and you can look forward to music, traditional visual arts, and one surprise list at the end. Our experts include philosophers and other academics whose work concerns these topics, and people working in the relevant media. Up today: TV shows!

This decade, as everybody is well aware, has seen an immense boom in quality television. Niche programming and subscription streaming services, and the corresponding influx of money into TV production that has meant, have brought us into a new Golden Age of television. But it can be hard to know what to prioritize, and sinking fifty or more hours into a show is a commitment more serious than some relationships. To help you organize your own to-watch lists, we’ve got eight TV experts lined up to send their recs your way.

(And for the curious: Contributors were allowed to recommend shows that started last decade as long as the stuff that was released this decade is a key part of what makes the show great.)


Our contributors are:

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ASA ELECTIONS: CAST YOUR VOTES BY DECEMBER 31!

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The American Society for Aesthetics (ASA) is currently holding elections for three trustee positions. The three elected trustees will serve three-year terms (February 1, 2020 – January 31, 2023).

Brief bios for the nominees appear below the fold.

The deadline to vote is December 31, 2019. Results will be announced in early January. Everyone who is currently holds a 2019 ASA membership is eligible to vote.

Notably, the ASA allows cumulative voting: Each member gets three votes, and can cast all anywhere between one and three votes for the each person. For example, members can vote once for three different people, or spend all three votes on one person.

To vote, click here. Continue reading