Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

A photograph of a cake. The cake is placed on the middle of a wooden table. It is covered with light pink frosting and adorned with a circle of quartered strawberries. Imperfections make it clear that the cake is homemade.

February 29, 2024
by Aesthetics for Birds
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The Hidden Privilege of “The Great British Bake Off”

A photograph of a cake. The cake is placed on the middle of a wooden table. It is covered with light pink frosting and adorned with a circle of quartered strawberries. Imperfections make it clear that the cake is homemade.
All photos by the author

An essay by Christopher Bartel (Appalachian State University)

The Great British Bake Off  (GBBO) is a show that I deeply love. But it is also one that unsettles me for its inherent classism.

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December 30, 2023
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Aesthetics for Birds Staff Give One Rec from 2023

‘Tis the season for year-end recommendations! So some of our staff are bringing you one thing that we experienced this year* that’s worth telling others about.

From all of us, thanks for another great year. Hope you enjoy these, and we’ll see you in 2024!

*Although not necessarily from this year!

  • Roy T. Cook (he/him), CLA Scholar of the College and Professor of Philosophy, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
  • Anthony Cross (he/him), Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Texas State University
  • Alex King (she/her), Associate Professor of Philosophy, Simon Fraser University
  • Matthew Strohl (he/him), Professor of Philosophy, University of Montana
  • Mary Beth Willard (she/her), Professor of Philosophy, Weber State University
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November 17, 2023
by Aesthetics for Birds
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The Real Problem with AI Art

“We,” Emma Smith, Sculpture in the City, 2022. Copyright the artist.
Photo: © Nick Turpin

When Jason Allen’s Théâtre D’opéra Spatial (2022) won the blue ribbon in the Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition in the category for digital art or digitally manipulated photography, there was a very strong outcry in the media that this signified the ‘end of art’. Allen himself was quoted in the New York Times saying “This isn’t going to stop. Art is dead, dude. It’s over. A.I. won. Humans lost.”

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November 2, 2023
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Eight Scholars on Art and Artificial Intelligence

a 15-image grid of faces rendered in different styles, some very abstract and others somewhat realistic
“can AI create art” by Stable Diffusion 2.1

In the past year, debates about artificial intelligence have taken over public discourse.

The use of AI in art and content creation raises moral issues. Because many AI are trained on human-created samples (including Aesthetics for Birds!), artists and other creators find it exploitative, some demanding compensation. But there are others who argue that AI will help artists, especially those with accessibility needs.

It raises aesthetic and artistic questions, too. Is AI art actually even art? If it is, could it ever be good art? AI rattles our existing concepts of artistry and creativity. It forces us to rethink the fundamental purpose of art. Perhaps it spells the end of art practices as we know them.

We asked eight scholars working in these areas to comment on the current state of art and AI. Their wide-ranging reflections, from Roland Barthes and Arthur Danto to Taylor Swift and LEGO pieces spilled on the floor, try to uncover what’s most human in art, and why we should care about that at all.

Our contributors are:

  • Melissa Avdeeff (she/her), Lecturer of Digital Media, University of Stirling
  • Claire Benn (she/her), Assistant Professor, Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge
  • Lindsay Brainard (she/her), Assistant Professor of Philosophy, The University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Alice Helliwell (she/her), Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Northeastern University London
  • Adam Linson (he/him), Assistant Professor of Computing & Communications, Open University (UK) and Co-Director of the Innogen Institute (Open University & University of Edinburgh)
  • Elliot Samuel Paul (he/him), Associate Professor of Philosophy, Queen’s University, and
    Dustin Stokes (he/him), Professor of Philosophy, University of Utah
  • Steffen Steinert (he/him), Assistant Professor at the Ethics and Philosophy of Technology Section, Delft University of Technology
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Taylor Swift singing at a concert, wearing a sparkly black jumpsuit adorned with a red snake

October 26, 2023
by Alex King
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How Swiftomania Turns Fans Into Professors

Taylor Swift singing at a concert, wearing a sparkly black jumpsuit adorned with a red snake

The nineteenth century pianist Franz Liszt inspired an abject frenzy in his fans so intense that people of the time had to make up a special term for it. When reflecting on (and coining) “Lisztomania,” the German poet Heinrich Heine wondered why people were going so wild for Liszt. After discussing some outlandish suggestions, he mused, “Perhaps the solution […] floats on a very prosaic surface. It seems to me at times that all this sorcery may be explained by the fact that no one on earth knows so well how to organize his successes, or rather their mise en scene, as our Franz Liszt.”

Truer words could not have been spoken about the current age of Swiftomania. No one on Earth knows so well how to organize their mise en scene—public image, social media, interviews, music, fashion, concerts—as our Taylor Swift.

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October 19, 2023
by Aesthetics for Birds
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What’s Wrong with Setlist.fm?

The Setlist.fm banner image, containing the website's wordmark, set against a close-up photograph of a band's printed setlist lying directly on a wooden stage

What follows is a guest essay by Jeremy Davis (University of Georgia).

A few months back, I went to a New Found Glory concert (I have a soft spot for early-aughts pop punk; sue me). Midway through their set, I noticed that a woman a few rows in front of me kept looking at her phone. In my experience, when people are on their phones at shows, it is usually to send a text or post a selfie to their social media. But this woman was doing something I hadn’t seen before: she was looking up the band’s setlist on Setlist.fm.

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Painting of a nude, male presenting subject standing with their torso bathed in a rectangle of sunlight. The shadow of their right hand seems to be pinching their right nipple, referencing the painting Gabrielle d'Estrées et une de ses soeurs.

October 13, 2023
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Ray Briggs on Self-Love and Sin

Painting of a nude, male subject standing with his torso bathed in a rectangle of sunlight. The shadow of his right hand seems to be pinching his right nipple, referencing the painting Gabrielle d'Estrées et une de ses soeurs.
Self-Love and Sin, Gabriel and Her Twin, by Aaron Feltman [source]
Painting of two nude women behind drawn-back curtains. Both are sitting straight up beside each other, and one is fondling the other's nipple. There is a fully clothed woman by a fireplace far in the background.
Gabrielle d’Estrées and one of her sisters, unknown artist (c. 1594) [source]

This is entry #90 in our ongoing 100 Philosophers, 100 Artworks, 100 Words series.

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Action shot of a school-aged boy dribbling a basket ball.

October 5, 2023
by Aesthetics for Birds
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On Being Inspired by Movies: The Wonderful Silliness of My Childhood Hoop Dreams

Action shot of a school-aged boy dribbling a basketball

An essay by Antony Aumann (Northern Michigan University)

I was twelve when I saw The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend, a biopic about the basketball star Pete Maravich. It wasn’t a good movie—think Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, but a lot cheesier and focused on shooting hoops—so I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that it had a significant impact on my life. Watching it inspired me to spend my teenage summers dribbling a basketball in the driveway, hoping to become a star myself.”

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