AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


1 Comment

AFB’S TERMS OF ART #10: IMAGINATION

Now that increasing numbers of people are stuck at home and sheltering in place, I figured I’d do a little series. Every weekday for the duration of this intense period, I’ll post a short definition of some term in/related to aesthetics and philosophy of art. Let’s see how this goes! See them all here.

Terms of Art #10:
imagination

Continue reading


Leave a comment

CHEF INTERVIEW: JUAN ESCALONA MELÉNDEZ, ON HISTORY AND SCIENCE IN CONTEMPORARY MEXICAN CUISINE

juan-em1.jpg

Juan Escalona Meléndez, photography by Ana Lorenzana [Instagram: @analorenzana]

Chef Juan Escalona Meléndez interviewed by philosopher Aaron Meskin for AFB.
This interview took place during
January and February, 2020.

Juan Escalona Meléndez is a Mexican-born chef currently working in Mexico City. He studied Genomic Sciences as an undergraduate at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and did an MA in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Leeds. He has collaborated with various philosophers on food projects and presented at the recent American Society for Aesthetics-sponsored Conference on Food, Art and Philosophy at UNAM. (He also created the conference meal.)  He has worked at Noma (Copenhagen), Pujol (Mexico City) and Máximo Bistrot (Mexico City).

Aaron Meskin is head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Georgia. He works on aesthetics, philosophical psychology and, recently, the philosophy of food. He is co-editing a special issue of the online philosophy journal Crítica devoted to food, art and philosophy. Before Georgia, he worked at the University of Leeds for 14 years, and that is where his conversations with Juan about food and art began.  Continue reading


Leave a comment

GETTING PAST FORM: ON THE VALUE OF LITERARY IDEAS

 

form.jpg

What follows is a guest post by Patrick Fessenbecker.

In a recent column in The New York Times, Ross Douthat contends that English professors aren’t having the right kind of arguments. Reflecting on the analysis of the decline of the humanities in a series of essays in the Chronicle of Higher Education over the last year, Douthat makes a familiar diagnosis: the problem is that we literature professors no longer believe in the real value of the objects we study. Engaging Simon During’s account of the decline of the humanities as a “second secularization” in particular, Douthat argues that secular attempts to defend the humanities will fail just as surely as secular attempts to defend religious ethics and norms did: it doesn’t work unless you really believe in the thing. Correspondingly, the debates literary scholars are having about how to expand the range of texts and subjects we teach are premised on a basic mistake about what such an expansion involves. As he puts it:

This should, by rights, be a moment of exciting curricular debates, over which global and rediscovered and post-colonial works belong on the syllabus with Shakespeare, over whether it’s possible to teach an American canon and a global canon all at once. Instead, humanists have often trapped themselves in a false choice between “dead white males” and “we don’t transmit value.”

In other words, we ought to be in the business of considering how our conceptions of value and their application should change as scholars recognize the incredible cultural wealth inherent in the diversity of the world. But instead we’re caught between reactionary conservatism and nihilistic critique. Continue reading


1 Comment

SOR JUANA’S ROUGH HEROINES: COGNITIVE IMMORALISM IN PRIMERO SUEÑO

Sor_Juana_by_Miguel_Cabrera (1)

Portrait of Sor Juana by Miguel Cabrera

What follows is a guest post by Adriana Clavel-Vázquez and Sergio A. Gallegos.

Against all odds, Novohispanic nun Juana Inés de la Cruz gained widespread recognition as a writer in her lifetime. Today, she is also recognized as a distinguished Early Modern philosopher who advanced one of the earliest defenses of the right of women to be educated, and who emphasized how human knowledge is constituted by doubts and struggles. She was particularly preoccupied with the lack of recognition of women as intellectual peers, and its consequences for how women are treated. Continue reading


Leave a comment

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

koons-mj-1convo.png

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


Leave a comment

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

mbfw.png

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


1 Comment

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

bls-skitolsky-bates

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.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

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.

flamingos.jpg

Continue reading


Leave a comment

THROWBACK MOVIE REVIEW: VARIETY (1983) BY BETTE GORDON

variety.jpg

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