AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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ARTHUR DANTO ASA PRIZE – DEADLINE 5/31

The Arthur Danto/American Society for Aesthetics Prize will be awarded to a member of the APA and the ASA for the best paper in the field of aesthetics, broadly understood, in a refereed journal, or an original book chapter or original essay published in a collection with a multiplicity of contributors. This prize is in honor of the late Arthur Danto, a past president of the APA Eastern Division.

Arthur C. Danto, Head, 1957, woodcut,
15”x18.25”. Photo: Liz Murphy Thomas.

The winner receives a $1,000 prize. In addition, a symposium in honor of the recipient of the prize is held at the APA Eastern Division meeting, normally the next such meeting following the selection of the prizewinner.

The nomination deadline is May 31, 2017.

Nominees must be members of both the APA and the ASA in the year of the nomination. For the inaugural award, nominated papers must have been published in 2015 or 2016. Nominations must be from a person who is a member of both the APA and the ASA at the time of nomination. Self-nominations are not permitted. To submit a nomination, fill out the Danto/ASA Prize nomination form.

We look forward to receiving your nominations!

 


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WORKSHOP IN AESTHETICS AND COGNITIVE SCIENCE

The American Society for Aesthetics is providing $4000 to support the Workshop in Aesthetics and Cognitive Science at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, June 28, 2017. The Workshop is being held in conjunction with the 2017 meeting of the Society of Philosophy and Psychology (SPP) June 28-July 1.

Miraculous Landing, or the “112!”, Paul Klee, Watercolor, transferred printing ink, and ink on paper mounted on cardboard, 1920, The Met

Funding for the workshop is also being provided by the Neuroaesthetics Initiative of Johns Hopkins’ Brain Science Institute (BSI) and by the Johns Hopkins Humanities Institute (JHU HI).

The organizers are Steven Gross (Johns Hopkins, Philosophy) and Mohan Matthen (University of Toronto, Philosophy). The workshop will consist of three invited symposia (on art and skill, art and pleasure, and creativity), with four speakers each; a general roundtable discussion; a dance performance and discussion; a closing reception; and a poster session.

Wednesday, June 28 – Saturday, July 1, 2017

Johns Hopkins University

Keynote Speakers:

Brit Brogaard, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Alison Gopnik, and Dan Schacter

Invited Symposia:

Bayesianism in Cognitive Science and Neuroscience

Edouard Machery, Michael Rescorla, Richard Samuels, and Fei Xu

Consciousness and Introspection

Elizabeth Irving, Hakwan Lau, Michael Shadlen, and Wayne Wu

Race, Language, and Social Identity

Luvell Anderson, Anthony Burrow, Ron Mallon, and Marjorie Rhodes

Testimony and Collective Memory

Alin Coman, Bryce Huebner, Jennifer Lackey, and Melissa Koenig

There will also be addresses by SPP President Shaun Nichols and the winner of the 2017 Stanton Prize, which is awarded to a leading young interdisciplinary researcher. The William James Prize will be awarded for the best student submission, and attendees will vote on the best poster for the SPP Poster Prize.

SPP has established a fund devoted to increasing diversity within the society. Eligible student presenters are invited to apply for travel awards when submitting via Easy Chair. Travel awards are to be used to cover conference-related expenses, including transportation, lodging, food, and conference registration. A limited number of additional graduate student travel awards will also be allocated.

A pre-conference workshop, co-sponsored by the American Society for Aesthetics, is scheduled for Wednesday, June 28, on Cognitive Science and Aesthetics. Speakers:

-art and pleasure: Mohan Matthen, Paul Bloom, Ed Connor, and Dmitri Tymoczko

-art and skill (perceptual): Diana Raffman and Dustin Stokes

-art and skill (performance): Emma Gregory, Mike McCloskey, and Barbara Landau; and Barbara Gail Montero

-creativity: Dan Schacter, Peter Carruthers, Anjan Chatterjee, and Elisabeth Camp

There will also be a general discussion, led by Jerry Levinson, and a dance performance by Barbara Gail Montero and Gregory Kolarus of “Echolocation”, with music composed by Dmitri Tymoczko. Note: submissions concerning cognitive science and aesthetics that are accepted for poster presentation will be included in the first poster session, the evening of the workshop.

Inquiries about the meeting should be directed to the Program Committee Chairs: Steven Gross <mailto:sgross11@jhu.edu> and Tamar Kushnir <tk397@cornell.edu>. Inquiries about the local arrangements should be directed to the Local Arrangements Chair Steven Gross.


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PSYCH STUDY PROVES KANT RIGHT (AND WRONG) ABOUT BEAUTY

There’s a discussion over at Daily Nous about a psychology study in which the authors:

confirm Kant’s claim that only the pleasure associated with feeling beauty requires thought and disprove his claim that sensuous pleasures cannot be beautiful.

So, they try to prove Kant right about beauty involving cognitive functions, but prove him wrong about sensuous pleasures. They also found in general that beautiful things yielded higher pleasure than purely sensual stimuli.

Pleasure amplitude increases linearly with the feeling of beauty.

(Well, it still reads better than Kant.)

So here’s the basic methodology.

Neither wishing to encumber our participants with philosophical baggage nor wishing to spoil the test by revealing our hypothesis, we left “beauty” undefined and simply asked the participant at the end of each trial: “During this trial, did you get the feeling of beauty from the object?” We used various stimuli: seeing a plain or beautiful image, sucking a candy, or a touching a teddy bear.

Some of the interesting results:

Roughly one-third of participants “definitely” experienced beauty from non-visual stimuli in trials without added task [designed to deplete executive functions], i.e., from sucking a candy or touching a teddy bear.

Turns out, sucking on a Jolly Rancher can be beautiful. They discuss these results in the section “The Beauty of Sucking Candy: Kant Disproved”. (I just wanted to call attention to that delightful section header.)

Reports of beauty for IKEA furniture were very rare.

😥

The final words of the study:

We thus demonstrate that psychological experiments can test philosophical theories and that mathematical models can describe aesthetic experiences.

If only Kant had been the type to enjoy a good hard candy now and then, or squeeze a teddy bear.

In all seriousness, though, what do you think? For most people working in art and aesthetics, it isn’t surprising that sensuous experiences can be beautiful. Lots of people work on this stuff now and lots of artists are exploring non-standard media and sense modalities.

But should we believe it to be true on the basis of this sort of research? What should we think about empirical aesthetics and neuroaesthetics? Does it trivialize the richness of aesthetic experience? Does it poorly operationalize our concepts? Or does it liberate us from our ivory tower? (If you’re curious about others’ thoughts, pop over to the discussion at Daily Nous.)


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AARON MESKIN REMEMBERS PETER KIVY


Peter Kivy, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University and an incredibly influential contemporary philosopher of art, passed away last week. See other announcements here, along with a statement from the Rutgers Philosophy Department. What follows is a guest post by Aaron Meskin, a former student of Peter Kivy’s.

Please feel free to share any stories, comments, or reflections below.

Differences: Remembering Peter Kivy

I met Peter in the early 1990s when I started my PhD at Rutgers. I didn’t really know about philosophical aesthetics before I moved to New Brunswick, and I certainly didn’t see it as a live career option. Peter’s seminars, and those wonderful aesthetics reading groups in the basement of Davidson Hall, introduced me to a field that would come to be the focus of my intellectual life. (Peter’s tutorial-style method of teaching, which required us to regularly read out short writing assignments, was incredibly helpful. He told us that when we were in the profession we would occasionally find that we had to produce a decent piece of writing at very short notice and that his class would be good practice. He was right, and it was.)  If it hadn’t been for Peter’s generosity, and the example he provided, I would have likely left the profession after an ill-fated attempt to work in another area. He was always supportive.

There were some limitations to our academic relationship, of course. I remember sometime during my time at Rutgers seeing an advertisement for a conference focused on faculty/student collaboration. Jokingly, I asked Peter whether we might collaborate. He was not keen. “I’ve never collaborated with anyone on anything up until this point, and I’m not going to start now.” Strictly speaking that wasn’t true. His first published article, “Stimulus Context and Satiation,” in the Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, was co-authored with two others. But that was published while Peter was still an undergraduate at Michigan. And as far as I know he never again co-authored a paper in 60 years. I suppose the world is not really worse for lacking a paper on absolute music and wordless comics.

“Peter was loyal to his students,
and he inspired loyalty in us.”

In any case, our relationship continued after I defended my PhD. Peter was loyal to his students, and he inspired loyalty in us. We met pretty regularly—he’d come and give another great talk in Lubbock or Leeds, or we’d see each other at an ASA meeting where he regularly arranged dinners with his former students. Or we’d get together, with his wife Joan of course, in New York or Santa Fe or London. He always had new work and a bit of advice.

I know that it’s tempting to focus on Peter’s contribution to the philosophy of music. His research shaped the field. (I found Music Alone especially memorable, but I know that Peter was particularly proud of his book on opera, Osmin’s Rage.)  His scholarly work on the history of aesthetics was also groundbreaking. Where would our understanding of the development of aesthetics be without The Seventh Sense and the rest of Peter’s work on Hutcheson, Hume, Reid and others? Not very far along, I venture. And his recent publications in the philosophy of literature have reinvigorated debates about literature’s cognitive value, reading, and form/content unity. I love teaching that work—and the responses to it—in my philosophy of literature courses. If you haven’t taught Peter’s work, I strongly recommend doing so. The clarity of his arguments and his lucid style make it ideal for introductory classes in aesthetics.

But it was Peter’s emphasis on the importance of paying philosophical attention to the differences between various art forms, as he discussed in his 50th Anniversary Presidential Address to the American Society of Aesthetics, and his 1997 CUP monograph, Philosophies of Arts, that made the biggest impact on me. As he put it in his address:

But I do urge, and indeed predict that progress in the philosophy of art in the immediate future is to be made not by theorizing in the grand manner, but by careful and imaginative philosophical scrutiny of the individual arts and their individual problems, seen as somewhat unique, individual problems and not necessarily as instances of common problems of some monolithic thing called “ART.”

Of course this sort of approach was just how Peter had worked throughout his career. He did do some work that might be characterized as ‘theorizing in the grand manner’, especially early on in his career. His first monograph was about aesthetic concepts, and there are two great articles on aesthetic emotivism. There is the award-winning 2015 monograph, De Gustibus: Arguing about Taste and Why We Do It? But most of his non-historical work involved careful and imaginative scrutiny of the individual arts of music and literature and the distinctive problems they raise. And he made a hell of a lot of progress over the course of a couple dozen books and many dozen articles. The work was original and, for many of us, exemplary.

“The work was original
and, for many of us, exemplary.”

I think Peter’s prediction has largely been proven to be correct. Significant progress in the philosophy of art has in recent years been made by careful scrutiny of the individual problems raised by film, poetry, dance, music, street art, comics, and videogames (among other things). Yes, even comics and videogames. Peter didn’t entirely approve, but he didn’t entirely disapprove either.

In fact, I’d go a bit further than Peter.  The differences between the arts are not the only differences to which philosophical aesthetics should attend. Thankfully, we are beginning to attend to those differences. But, of course, Peter did not think that philosophers of art should only pursue differences. He warns, in the epilogue to Philosophies of Arts, that it would be a serious mistake if the pursuit of differences ‘should become the monolith that the pursuit of sameness has been since the Enlightenment’. He’s right, and thankfully it hasn’t.  Work on sameness—most notably the definition of art—has been reinvigorated over the last few years.

We were very different. The oboe is not really my thing, and I don’t care so much for Manhattans. I prefer rap music to the western classical tradition. (Thankfully, he never heard me say that.)  I’ll probably never be able to tell a joke like him, and I’m certain that I’ll never write that many great books. Who will? But despite our differences, there were important areas of sameness. We shared a love of the philosophy of art, of the community of philosophical aesthetics and of the arts. I’ll miss being able to talk about those things with him. I’ll miss finding out about his new work.  I’ll miss his advice and his sense of humor. I’ll miss him.

Note on the contributor:

Aaron Meskin is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Leeds. He works on many issues in aesthetics, including experimental aesthetics, food, comics, as well as on the psychology and epistemology of aesthetics.


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PEPE IS DEAD! LONG LIVE PEPE? (BY ANTHONY CROSS)

What follows is a guest post by Anthony Cross, following new developments in the Pepe meme story: Pepe’s death!

Faithful readers of AFB will be familiar with the saga of the internet meme Pepe the Frog. (For those of you who missed it, my guest post on Pepe and the nature and value of internet memes is here.) The latest update: Pepe’s death! But first, a bit of background:

The meme started with a character created in a comic strip by the artist Matt Furie; the cartoon frog was then appropriated by users in online communities, where it developed over time into an enormously rich internet meme. In the last year or two, the meme has come to be associated with the alt-right and white supremacy; last fall, the Anti-Defamation League added it to their catalog of hate speech.

Until pretty recently, Furie had largely stayed out of making public pronouncements about Pepe’s racist associations. In a September 2016 interview, he told The Atlantic:

My feelings are pretty neutral, this isn’t the first time that Pepe has been used in a negative, weird context. I think it’s just a reflection of the world at large. The internet is basically encompassing some kind of mass consciousness, and Pepe, with his face, he’s got these large, expressive eyes with puffy eyelids and big rounded lips, I just think that people reinvent him in all these different ways, it’s kind of a blank slate. It’s just out of my control, what people are doing with it, and my thoughts on it, are more of amusement.

However, as the meme began drawing greater public attention, Furie decided to get involved. He began a “Save Pepe” campaign, the goal of which was to create and share “nice” images of Pepe. I suggested that Furie’s move implicitly recognized his lack of control over the meme. The only way to save Pepe, I argued, was not through authorial pronouncement, but rather practically; users would have to roll up their sleeves and get involved in the business of making and sharing Pepes.  By creating and propagating nice Pepes, they could gradually shift the standards of what counts as a Pepe, and move the meme’s meaning away from its current association with the alt-right.

So how successful was this campaign? Not very. Pepe remains the symbol of the alt-right, and the effort to save Pepe never really caught on. It’s hard to know exactly why. Perhaps it wasn’t well-publicized. Alternatively, the top-down nature of the campaign might have rubbed users the wrong way.

Regardless of its cause, this failure frustrated Furie. As a result, the artist recently “killed” Pepe; he released a comic strip featuring Pepe, dead in a casket, surrounded by his friends:

What should we make of this? Furie’s killing of Pepe doesn’t mean much for the future of the meme itself. As I argued previously, Furie doesn’t own the meme or have authorial control over it — even if he is responsible for the cartoon character who initiated it. The meme itself is a set of norms implicit in community practice, and the meme is therefore the property of the community responsible for its instances.

I think that, instead, we should view Furie’s act as expressive of his giving up on the meme; he is symbolically removing himself from the community of individuals creating and propagating instances of the meme. Pepe isn’t truly dead as a meme — but the meme is, for now, dead to Furie.

Furie’s action raises larger questions about the value of participation in particular internet memes: When is it worth it to stick with a meme and to try to save it from trolls who’ve taken it over? With most memes, the natural response would be to give up and shift one’s attention to new memes; generally, memes are evanescent things, with a half-life of weeks if not days. Pepe strikes me as different: given Pepe’s rich history and broad impact, it might seem worth fighting to reclaim the meme as part of our internet culture. (I suspect that similar questions arise in determining which artworks and cultural objects to preserve or restore against the ravages of time.)

Furie seems to recognize this, and even goes so far as to claim that the fight for Pepe may not be over for him. In a recent interview with the CBC, Furie pleaded for Pepe’s future and held out the possibility of his returning to the meme:

If you’re listening to this and you’re interested in the story — and especially if you have some kind of political sway or anything like that — like, step in and, you now, just tell your friends, neighbours, teachers, whoever else that Pepe is a chill, loving frog. Every moment is an opportunity to change people’s opinion, so I’m not gonna give up yet, but I’m gonna take a break, because it is some heavy stuff.

Notes on the contributor:

Anthony Cross is a Lecturer in Philosophy at Texas State University. His research in the philosophy of art focuses on the ethical significance of our relationships with artworks and other cultural objects. He has further research interests in ethics and the history of philosophy, and he also spends way too much time on the internet.


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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #64

Philosopher: Kọ́lá Abímbọ́lá, (Howard University)

Artwork(s): Ostrich Ethics (i) painting by OrisaWorld Foundation (May 5th, 2017), (II) Odù Ifá poem by the Yorùbá of West Africa (date unknown), (iii) Òrìṣà Music recording by Kọ́lá Abímbọ́lá (May 5th, 2017).


Painting by OrisaWorld Foundation (May 5th, 2017)


Odù Ifá poem


Kọ́lá Abímbọ́lá performs Ifá Kíkí:


 

Words: “Artistic expression” is often erroneously taken to mean individualist visual forms that are created by the skill and imagination of nameable and identifiable persons. Ostrich Ethics, however, is multifaceted, it is: individualistic and communal; holistic and piecemeal; intellectual and emotional; oral and written; art for art sake as well as heuristics for living; and it is still very much an art form. Or rather, since there are various facets to the work, they are still very much art forms.


Details/Further Information Regarding Ostrich Ethics:

  1. The painting Ostrich Ethics is a rendition of an elegant big bird. It is pleasing to the eye.
  2. Ostrich Ethics is also a poem from Odù Ifá, which is the sacred scriptures of Òriṣà Religion. The denominations of Òrìṣà Religion include: Ìṣẹ̀ṣe, Candomblé, Santería, Lukumi, Ṣàngó Baptists, and many others. There about 500 million practitioners of Òrìṣà Religion all over the world.
  3. Ifá poems are used in Ifá divination as exemplars of ìwà (positive virtues to emulate and negative character traits to avoid).
  4. Odù Ifá has 256 Odù (“Books”) and each Odù has 800 poems, making a grand total of 204,800 poems. Each poem has eight parts: four parts are compulsory in the sense that they must always be rendered exactly in Yorùbá word for word; the optional parts need not be included and, when rendered, they can be performed in various ways.
  5. I have captured the beauty of the compulsory parts of this poem in written form above; and both compulsory and optional parts as Òrìṣà Music, which is a mixture of indigenous Yorùbá music with jazz, hip-hop, and funk—accompanied by percussion and vocal styles.
  6. Each poem is, therefore, an art form that can be appreciated primarily for its beauty or emotional power.

In 2005 UNESCO proclaimed the Ifá Divination System of West Africa as one the sixteen Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity.


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JAAC x AFB DISCUSSION: HOLLIDAY ON THE PUZZLE OF FACTUAL PRAISE

life_is_beautiful_detail.jpg

Why do we care about certain facts but not others when we evaluate fiction? Why do some things need to be accurate, but others not? Today we’ll be discussing these issues in “The Puzzle of Factual Praise” by John Holliday available in JAAC’s Spring 2017 volume, 75 (2), online here.

And big thanks to Christopher Bartel for providing the critical précis (below the fold). John offers a brief response, and they will both be available to discuss your questions and thoughts in the comments.

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WORKSHOP: THE ARTS AND IMAGINATION

JULY 3rd – 6th, 2017  •  ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

@ the University of Adelaide & the Art Gallery of South Australia

http://artsense.edu.au/workshop-2017/

“Emma Van Name”, Joshua Johnson, oil on canvas, 1805, The Met

The American Society for Aesthetics is pleased to co-sponsor “Workshop: The Arts and Imagination: the role of metaphors, tropes and images in shaping experience and guiding action.”

The initial segment of this project was conducted in San Francisco at the meetings of the American Philosophical Association-Pacific Division in April 2016.

Principal funding for the conference has been provided by the Australian Research Council, with an additional $7,000 provided by the ASA.

The 2017 portion of the project will occur at the University of Adelaide and Art Gallery of SA July 4-6, 2017. The ASA is supporting the costs of videostreaming of the events so they can be viewed worldwide. ASA funding also will support a travel grant of up to $2000 for the best paper submitted by a graduate student or untenured faculty who does not otherwise have access to travel funds for this meeting. This travel grant is only available to an ASA member.

CONGRATULATIONS to Eleen Deprez, University of Kent, for winning the ASA travel grant to present her work at the Workshop on The Arts and Imagination.


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INTRODUCING NEW WING COMMANDER: C. THI NGUYEN!

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We’d like to welcome to the AFB team our newest Wing Commander (“Assistant Editor” in AFB lingo): C. Thi Nguyen!

Here are some fun facts about Thi, so you can get to know him:

Current position: Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Utah Valley University

Background: Once I was a food writer and a restaurant critic for the LA Times. This nearly derailed my graduate school career. Then I had to choose between that and academia. Still unsure if I chose properly.

Philosophical interests: Trained as an epistemologist. Currently writing about game aesthetics and food aesthetics and even weirder aesthetics. Also, the epistemology stuff is still alive in a project on understanding how echo chambers work. Also: I swear all these interests are related.

Most recent publication: “The Uses of Aesthetic Testimony”, about all the weird kinds of trust relationships our aesthetic lives involve, towards our reviewers, teachers, curators.

Other hats: Chair of the ASA Diversity committee. A founding editor at the very-soon-to-be-actually-emerge Journal of the Philosophy of Games. Occasional interviewer [ed.: a power we are sure to harness Thi for here!]. New parent.

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Thi playing Thorny Games’ Sign RPG

Aesthetic passions: Completely boring and bog-standard literary, musical, and museum-type canon. But also: Tea. Rap. Weird perfumes that smell like rain drops on cold twigs in march.

Aesthetic passions that other people might deny are aesthetic: Rock climbing. Indie role playing games, like one where you have invent a sign language in total silence.

Biggest aesthetic failure: Trying for six years to become a jazz guitarist and failing utterly.

Welcome aboard, Thi!


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UPCOMING JAAC x AFB DISCUSSION: HOLLIDAY ON THE PUZZLE OF FACTUAL PRAISE

life_is_beautiful_detail.jpg

Why do we care about certain facts but not others when we evaluate fiction? Why do some things need to be accurate, but others not? If you’re curious, come back in *one week* when we’ll be looking at “The Puzzle of Factual Praise” by John Holliday available in JAAC’s Spring 2017 volume, 75 (2), online here.

And big thanks to Christopher Bartel for providing the critical précis. John will provide a response to this, and they will both be available to discuss your questions and thoughts in the comments.

Mark it in your calendars, and we look forward to seeing you then!

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