AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

"Multi-Origin Art" by Joshua Spencer and Chris Tillman

Leave a comment

Joshua Spencer is an assistant professor of philosophy at The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He studies, primarily, metaphysics and philosophy of language. But he likes most philosophical topics. Joshua is also a huge fan of cats. 
 
 
Chris Tillman is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Manitoba. His main interest is in metaphysics, but he considers practically everything to be an issue in metaphysics. He is originally from Missouri, where his first major was in painting and he spent his free time in bands, including a country/rap band (hick-hop, if you will). These days his free time is more likely to be consumed by curing meats, genre fiction, and making Korean farmer hooch (makgeolli).
Some works of art have multiple concrete manifestations. Musical works are concretely manifested at each of their various performances, photographs are concretely manifested in each of their prints, and cast sculptures are concretely manifested in each of their castings. Multi-Work Materialism is the thesis that any work of art that has multiple concrete manifestations is itself a concrete object that is co-located with and constituted by each of its concrete manifestations. So, Tame by The Pixies is located at each of its performances; Rodin’s The Thinkeris located at each of over 20 locations around the world; and Philippe Helmsman’s Dali Atomicus is located wherever its prints are located.[1]Multi-Work Materialism, along with plausible assumptions about which objects are concrete manifestations of particular works of art and which are not, implies the possibility of works of art with certain surprising features. It also implies that two popular metaphysical theses, Single Origin Necessity and The Necessity of Origins, are both false.
Before we present our counterexamples to Single Origin Necessity and the Necessity of Origins, we will first formulate these theses more carefully and show how they are related to one another. First, the Necessity of Origins can be more carefully formulated as follows:
(TNO) Necessarily, for any material object, x, and for any material, M1, if it is possible that x wholly originates from M1 (in accordance with a particular plan P), then it is not possible that there is some material M2, material that does not overlaps with M1, such that x wholly originates from M2 (in accordance with P).
Single Origin Necessity can be more carefully formulated as follows:
(SON) Necessarily, for any objects, x and y, and for any materials, M1 and M2, if x wholly originates from M1 (in accordance with a particular plan P) and y wholly originates from M2 (in accordance with P) and M1 and M2 do not overlap, then x and y are distinct.
In both of these principles, when we say that an object wholly originates from some particular material, we mean that that material is both involved in a proximal cause of that object’s existence and that at the first moment of its existence, the object is (in some sense) made of the material.
            Various philosophers, inspired by Kripke’s famous footnotes 56 and 57, have argued for (TNO) using variants of (SON) and of The Sufficiency of Origins as premises:[2]
(TSO) Necessarily, if it is possible for an object, x, to wholly originate from some matter M1 in accordance with plan P, then necessarily, any object originating from M1 in accordance with P is the very object x and no other.
It is fairly easy to derive (TNO) from (SON) and (TSO). Let x be an arbitrary possible object. Let M1 and M2 be arbitrary and non-overlapping materials. Let P be an arbitrary plan. Suppose, for conditional proof, that x could have originated from M1 in accordance with plan P. If x could have originated from M1, then x could have originated from M1 while a duplicate of x, namely y, originated from M2, both in accordance with P. But, given that M1 and M2 are discrete, it follows from (SON) that x and y would be distinct. By (TSO) it follows that if a particular object could have been formed from some material according to a plan, then any object that could have been formed from that material according to that same plan would have been that very object. It follows that any object that could have been formed from M2 according to P would have been y. Since x and y are possibly distinct and possible distinctness implies necessary distinctness, it follows that x could not have originated from M2 (at least not by way of that particular plan). Hence, (TNO)
            Others have argued for (TNO) using a variant of (SON) and of the following independence principle as premises:[3]
(Independence): Necessarily, given any object, x, and material, M1, if x wholly originates from M1 (according to plan P1) and it’s possible that there is an object, y, and material, M2, such that y wholly originates from M2 (according to plan P1) and M2 is discrete from M1, then it is also possible that x wholly originates from M1 (according to P1) while y wholly originates from M2 (according to P2).
It is fairly easy to derive (TNO) from (SON), and (Independence). Let x be an arbitrary possible object. Let M1 and M2 be some arbitrary and non-overlapping possible materials and let P be an arbitrary plan. Suppose, for reductio, that x could have originated from M1 according to P, and that x also could have originated from M2 according to P. Then, from the independence principle, it follows that x could have originated from M1 according to P while at the same time it also originated from M2 according to P. But, given (SON) and the fact that M1 and M2 are non-overlapping, it follows that x would have been distinct from itself if it had originated from both M1 according to P while also originating from M2 according to P. But, clearly it is impossible for any object to be distinct from itself. So, it is not possible that an object could have originated from some material and also could have originated from some other non-overlapping material. Hence, (TNO).
            Discussions of the first argument above have traditionally focused on the sufficiency principle (TSO) and discussions of the second argument have traditionally focused on the independence principle (Independence).[4]But we believe that the common premise, (SON), can be shown to be mistaken given Multi-Work Materialism. To see that this is so, we will present three possible cases.
            First, suppose that Robert Zemeckis decides to turn away from film and start a new career as a cast sculptor. His first work is inspired by his notable film franchise Back to the Future. He forms a mold for a cast sculpture of Marty McFly with his iconic vest and skateboard. On October 25th, 2015, Zemeckis finishes the mold and decides to pour an initial casting the next day. But, as he walks home, Zemeckis comes up with an outlandish plan. He decides that, two weeks from that very date, he will send his mold back in time two weeks and stow it away in his workshop. That way, when he arrives in his workshop on October 26th, he will find his mold sitting beside itself. Sure enough, when he arrives early the next morning, Zemeckis finds his mold and its future self sitting side by side; the mold is multi-located. At exactly 1:15 AM, Zemeckis simultaneously fills the mold and its time traveling duplicate with bronze to create two initial castings of his sculpture. After waiting five days, he opens the mold(s) and removes the initial castings of his first work, which he then dubs This is Heavy. If Multi-Work Materialism is true, then This is Heavy is co-located with and constituted by each of the bronze concrete manifestations. Moreover, if there are no previous concrete manifestations of the work (as seems plausible) then This is Heavysimultaneously originated from two distinct portions of bronze. Hence, Single Origin Necessity is false.
            The example above requires the possibility of time travel. However, we believe that time travel is inessential to our case against (SON). Suppose that Fowlerio is a sculptor who decides to create a cast sculpture that involves the negative space within a particular hunk of iron. He forms a mold that will produce a hollow casting, the interior of which is shaped like one of the ghosts from Pac-Man. He then pours two iron castings of the hollow sculpture and dubs it Shadow. If Multi-Work Materialism is true, then Shadow is a cast sculpture that is co-located with and constituted by two distinct hunks of iron. Shadow is a multi-located work of art. Now suppose that rival sculptor, Nicholi, decided to make a new work using Fowlerio’s Shadow as a mold. Nicholi borrows the two castings of Shadow and simultaneously pours copper into the holes formed by the two castings of Shadow. After the copper sets, he opens the iron castings of Shadow up to reveal two copper castings of a new work, which he dubs Clyde.[5] If Shadow is a multi-located work of art (as Multi-Work Materialism implies), then it seems that Clyde is also a multi-located work of art formed by using Shadow as a mold. Moreover, if there are no previous concrete manifestations of Clyde, then it seems that Clyde simultaneously originated from two distinct portions of copper. Hence Single Origin Necessity is false.
            Finally, suppose a photographer puts two pieces of photosensitive paper on the baseboard of an enlargement machine. Then she places a developed negative that has never been printed before into the film carrier and, instead of placing a single lens below the negative, decides to put two lenses side-by-side and angled slightly away from each other. Then the photographer turns the light on, projecting from the negative and through both lenses so that two images of the negative appear, one on each piece of photosensitive paper. Two prints of the photograph will be produced simultaneously. If Multi-Work Materialism is true, then the photograph is co-located with and constituted by each of the photographic prints. Moreover, if these prints are the first concrete manifestations of the photograph, as seems plausible, then it seems that the photograph simultaneously originates from two distinct pieces of photosensitive paper. Hence, Single Origin Necessity is false.
            Each of the cases above supports a compelling argument against Single Origin Necessity. However, each has its own weaknesses. The first, of course, requires the possibility of time travel and the assumption that the initial castings of This is Heavy are the first concrete manifestations of the work. One might reject the possibility of time travel or one might claim that there is a concrete manifestation of This is Heavy that predates the initial casting. In support of the second objection, one might point out that many molds for castings are made with an initial model, sometimes carved from stone or made of plaster, and that that model might be the first concrete manifestation of the work.
We believe that both of these worries are sidestepped in the second example. The second example does not involve time travel. Moreover, even if a model was used in the formation of Shadow, that model certainly wasn’t a concrete manifestation of Clyde. After all, Clyde is the work of Nicholi and not Fowlerio whereas the model for Shadow is a work of Fowlerio and not Nicholi. One might think that the hole in Shadow is a concrete manifestation of Clyde. But, again, the hole in Shadow was created by Fowlerio and it is an essential aspect of Shadowwhereas Clyde was not created by Fowlerio and is not an essential aspect of Shadow.We believe that there are two serious objections to this example. According to the first objection, the initial idea of Clyde in the mind of Nicholi is a concrete manifestation of Clyde that predates the initial castings. If that is the case, then Clyde does not, contrary to our argument, originate from two distinct portions of copper.[6]According to the second objection, the multi-located Shadow is not a mold for any work of art created by Nicholi, though the hunks of iron that constitute Shadow are. If that’s the case, then the two hunks of copper that seem to constitute a single work, Clyde, in fact constitute two works that are nearly indiscernible from one another.[7]
            Whatever one thinks of these two objections, both are sidestepped by our third example. A photographer might have nothing in particular in mind as she takes various pictures. The photographer might even allow a certain amount of randomness to be involved in the exposure of some portion of film. The ideas that lay behind these randomly exposed bits of film seem too inchoate to be concrete manifestations of the photograph. Moreover, whereas it may be unclear whether the castings made by Nicholi were cast from a single mold (the multi-located Shadow) or two molds (the hunks of iron that constitute Shadow), the prints are clearly made from a single negative in the photography case. So it seems that the photography case sidesteps the strongest objections to either of the cast sculpture cases. Admittedly, one might worry that the exposed and developed negative is a concrete manifestation of a photograph.[8]But we do not agree. The concrete manifestation of a photograph might essentially involve sharp contrasts that are created by a skilled photographer using light blocking methods during the printing process. These sharp contrasts will not appear in the negative. So, the negative cannot be a concrete manifestation of the photograph.
Each of the cases above can easily be extended to show that The Necessity of Origins itself is false. Consider our first case and suppose that This is Heavy is a multi-located work of art that simultaneously originated from two distinct portions of bronze. Although This is Heavy was simultaneously cast in two portions of bronze, it could have been cast in only one portion of bronze. Let B1 be the portion of bronze that Zemeckis in fact poured into the younger instance of the time traveling mold and let B2 be the portion of bronze that he in fact poured into the older instance of the time traveling mold. Although Zemeckis in fact poured B1 into the younger instance of the time traveling mold while simultaneously pouring B2 into the older instance of the mold, he could have just poured B1 into the younger instance of the mold while leaving B2 unpoured and the older instance of the mold empty. Moreover, he could have poured B2 into the older instance of the mold while leaving B2 unpoured and the younger instance of the mold empty. If Zemeckis had done the former, then he would have produced a casting of This is Heavy that originated from B1 and not B2. Moreover, if Zemeckis had done the latter, then he would have produced a casting of This is Heavy that originated from B2 and not B1. It follows that This is Heavy could have originated from B1 and not B2 and it could have originated from B2 and not B1. But, if it could have originated from B1 and not B2 and it could have originated from B2 and not B1, then it could have been that it originated from B1 and not B2, but also could have originated from B2 and not B1.[9]Since B1 and B2 are non-overlapping, it follows that The Necessity of Origins is false.
            Although (TNO) is false, there may be a replacement principle. Works of art are very different from natural objects like people and trees. Whether or not a natural object is concretely manifested has nothing to do with the mental states of any people. However, whether or not a multi-work is concretely manifested does have to do with the mental states of the artist or the members of the artist’s community. So, maybe we can replace (TNO) with The Natural Necessity of Origins:
(NNO) Necessarily, for any natural object, x, and for any material, M1, if it is possible that x wholly originates from M1 (in accordance with a particular plan P), then it is not possible that there is some material M2, material that does not overlap with M1, such that x wholly originates from M2 (in accordance with P).
Bibliography
Ballarin, Roberta (2013) ‘The Necessity of Origin: A Long and Winding Route’. Erkenntnis 78: 353-370.
Cameron, Ross P. (2005) ‘A Note on Kripke’s Footnote 56 Argument for the Essentiality of Origin’. Ratio 18: 262-275.
Cameron, Ross P. and S. Roca (2006) ‘Rohrbaugh and deRosset on the Necessity of Origin’. Mind, 115: 361–366.
Caplan, Ben and Carl Matheson (2006) ‘Defending musical perdurantism’. British Journal of Aesthetics 46: 59–69.
—– (2008) ‘Defending ‘Defending Musical Perdurantism’’. British Journal of Aesthetics 48: 80-85.
Damnjanovic, Nic (2010) ‘No Route to Material Origin Essentialism?’ Erkenntnis, 72: 93-110.
Forbes, Graeme (1981) ‘On the philosophical basis of essentialist theories’. Journal of Philosophical Logic 10: 73-99.
—– (1985) The Metaphysics of Modality. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Hawthorne, John and Tamar Szabo Gendler (2000) ‘Origin essentialism: The arguments reconsidered’. Mind, 109: 285-98.
Johnston, Patricia (1977) ‘Origin and necessity’. Philosophical Studies, 32: 412-18.
Kripke, Saul (1980) Naming and Necessity. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
MacKay, Thomas (1986) ‘Against constitutional sufficiency principles’. In Peter French, Theodore Uehling, Jr., and Howard Wettstein, eds, Midwest Studies in Philosophy: Studies in Essentialism, XI: 295-304. University of Minnesota Press.
Mackie, J. L. (1974) ‘De what re is de re modality?’ Journal of Philosophy, 80: 551-61.
Mackie, Penelope (1987) ‘Essence, Origin, and Bare Identity’. Mind 96: 173-201
—– (1998) ‘Identity, time, and necessity’.Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 98: 59-78.
McGinn, Colin (1976) ‘On the necessity of origin’. Journal of Philosophy, 71: 127-35.
Noonan, Harold (1983) ‘The necessity of origin’. Mind, 92: 1-20.
Robertson, Teresa (1998) ‘Possibilities and the arguments for origin essentialism’. Mind, 107: 716-25.
—– (2000) ‘Essentialism: Origin and Order’. Mind109: 299-307.
Robertson, Teresa and Graeme Forbes (2006) ‘Does the New Route Reach its Destination?’ Mind, 115: 367–373.
Rohrbaugh, Guy and Louis deRosset (2004) ‘A New Route to the Necessity of Origin’. Mind, 113: 705–25.
—– (2006) ‘Prevention, Independence, and Origin’. Mind 115: 375-386.
Salmon, Nathan (1979) ‘How not to derive essentialism from the theory of reference’. Journal of Philosophy 76: 703-25.
Tillman, Chris (2011) ‘Musical Materialism’. British Journal of Aesthetics 51: 13–29.
Tillman, Chris and Joshua Spencer (2012) ‘Musical materialism and the inheritance problem’. Analysis, 72: 252-9.
Yablo, Stephan (1988) ‘Review of The Metaphysics of Modality by Graeme Forbes’. The Journal of Philosophy, 85: 329-337.



[1]Multi-Work Materialism is a generalization of Musical Materialism. A version of Musical Materialism is formulated and defended by Ben Caplan and Carl Matheson (2006 and 2008). However, we prefer the version formulated and defended by Chris Tillman (2011) and further developed by Chris Tillman and Joshua Spencer (2012).
[2]See Colin McGinn (1976), Patricia Johnston (1977), Nathan Salmon (1979), Saul Kripke (1981), Harold Noonan (1983), and Graeme Forbes (1981 and 1985), and John Hawthorne and Tamar Szabo Gendler (2000).
[3]A version of this argument is primarily advanced and defended by Rohrbaugh and deRosset (2004 and 2006), though Ross Cameron (2005) also constructs and criticizes a variant of this argument.
[4]Critiques of sufficiency style arguments are advanced by Tom McKay (1986), Stephan Yablo (1988), Penelope Mackie (1987), and Teresa Robertson (1998 and 2000). Critiques of independence style argument are advanced by Ross Cameron (2005), Teresa Robertson and Graeme Forbes (2006), and Ross P. Cameron and Sonia Roca (2006). Critiques of both arguments have been advanced by Roberta Ballarin (2013) and Nic Damnjanovic (2010).
[5]It is important that Clyde is cast in a metal that has a lower melting temperature than the metal in which Shadow is cast.
[6]We disagrees with the claim that some idea in Nicholi’s mind is a concrete manifestation of Clyde. One cannot create a cast sculpture by simply having an idea, one must do something. Nicholi has not yet done anything when he gets the idea to create a work using Shadow as a mold. Hence, Clyde has not yet been created when Nicholi gets his idea and so cannot yet have any concrete manifestations.
[7]We do not actually find this objection persuasive since whether or not two hunks of copper are concrete manifestations of a particular work of art is grounded in the mental and social activities of the artist and the community from which the artists originates. We see no reason why Nicholi couldn’t insist, and his community appropriately accept that he used the multi-located Shadow as a mold to create a single, multi-located work of art.  
[8]Thanks to Damian Melamedoff for this objection.
[9]The formula (◊φ & ◊ψ) → ◊(φ & ◊ψ) is provable in any system that includes the characteristic axiom (5): ◊φ→□◊φ. However, we put forward the proposition in the text as an independently plausible premise and not as a logical truth.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s