Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

April 16, 2020
by Alex King
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AESTHETICS BY DECREE: TRUMP’S PROPOSAL ON “MAKING FEDERAL BUILDINGS BEAUTIFUL AGAIN”

What follows is a guest post by Jay Miller. Recently, a draft proposal of a presidential executive order was obtained and printed by the Chicago Sun-Times. Under the banner of “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again,” the leaked document effectively mandates the classical style of architecture for all federal buildings in the U.S. It seeks to right the wrongs of modernist architecture by officially proclaiming the classical style of architecture “the preferred and default style” for federal buildings. The proposal proceeds by first identifying the culprits: It blames the federal government for “largely abandon[ing] traditional, classical designs” in the 1950s; it accuses the General Services Administration (GSA) of overseeing “aesthetic failures”; even more specifically, it takes aim at the “Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture,” drafted in 1962 by an aide of the Kennedy administration, for having “implicitly discouraged” classical and other designs “known for their beauty.” Yet, the real target of … Continue reading

November 29, 2019
by Aesthetics for Birds
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What’s So Interesting About the Past? an Interview About Ruins, Monuments, and Memorials

Alex King interviews philosophers Jeanette Bicknell, Jennifer Judkins, and Carolyn Korsmeyer. Jeanette Bicknell, Jennifer Judkins, and Carolyn Korsmeyer recently co-edited a collection of new essays, Philosophical Perspectives on Ruins, Monuments, and Memorials. From the book description: This collection of newly published essays examines our relationship to physical objects that invoke, commemorate, and honor the past. The recent destruction of cultural heritage in war and controversies over Civil War monuments in the US have foregrounded the importance of artifacts that embody history. … The authors consider issues of preservation and reconstruction, the nature of ruins, the aesthetic and ethical values of memorials, and the relationship of cultural memory to material artifacts that remain from the past. See the full list of contributing authors here. Below, Alex King interviews them about themes from the volume.

June 26, 2019
by Aesthetics for Birds
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The Philosophical Beauty of Black Mirror

What follows is a guest post from Laura Di Summa, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at William Paterson University. Black Mirror, the TV series created by enfant terrible Charlie Brooker, is often described as the quintessential embodiment of grim poststructuralist criticisms of the ideology. But this, I believe, is just one way of looking at it. One, if I may, that has little to do with how it actually looks.

April 29, 2019
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Une Autre Dame: Why Notre-dame Didn’t Really Burn

What follows is a guest post by philosopher Saul Fisher, on the recent tragedy of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. The burning of the roof and spire of the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris on April 15 was a moving and dramatic event, variously interpreted as architectural disaster, economic loss, flashpoint for myriad heritage issues, and moment of French national unity. The cathedral has endured since medieval times: construction began in 1163 CE, the towers were completed in 1250, and figurative elements were added in the mid-14th century. From this endurance alone, it is little wonder that the cathedral captures the imagination of the French, the devout, the appreciators of architectural history, and the every Parisian visitor. Little wonder, too, then, that the fire consuming the cathedral prompted strong emotional response. While lamenting the event’s tragic dimensions and symbolism, I find consolation, or perhaps refuge, in formalist and abstractist ways that … Continue reading

April 2, 2018
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Hard Decisions of a Book Restorer

What follows is a guest post by Steven Hales (Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania) My parents are antique dealers, and if there is one thing that I have learned from them, it is that people will collect anything: coins, stamps, Tiffany lamps, Victorian salt shakers, gasoline pumps, barbed wire, automobiles, rocks, fossils, Coca-Cola advertising, airline barf bags. I collect rare books. When I was in philosophy grad school at Brown I met Dan Knowlton, the university’s on-staff hand bookbinder, and wound up taking private bookbinding lessons from him for two years. I’ve been a serious hobbyist binder ever since. So I have first-hand knowledge of the kinds of interventions bookbinders do, and what they hope to achieve as a result. Here are a few thoughts about the types of value that collectors are interested in and how restorers (especially bookbinders) maximize or minimize those values.