Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

October 9, 2017
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Blade Runner: Catnip for Philosophers

Descartes and Deckard. “I think, therefore I am.” Sophisticated artificial intelligence. Real memories and implanted memories. Humanity and personhood (and androidhood?). Philosophers can’t resist the bait Blade Runner lays out for them.

October 6, 2017
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Adrian Piper at Moma

A philosopher and artist is getting lots of recognition lately, culminating in an upcoming solo show at MoMA. Adrian Piper, who received the Golden Lion from the Venice Biennale in 2015, has enjoyed several shows in the past couple of years, and will now have a major exhibition at MoMA, “Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions, 1965–2016” (March 31 to July 22, 2018), which will then travel to the Hammer Museum in LA (dates being finalized) before going abroad. From the MoMA press release: [T]he exhibition, which will be seen in its entirety only at The Museum of Modern Art, will occupy the Museum’s entire sixth floor—the first time that entire level has been devoted to the work of a living artist. Exciting! And the MoMA title isn’t just about her art. She has written about Kant’s notion of intuition. And indeed, this isn’t a case where “philosopher” is just … Continue reading

September 27, 2017
by Aesthetics for Birds
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The Aesthetics Of Rock Climbing

The pleasures of rock climbing and the pleasures of philosophy turn out to be strangely similar. So starts an essay by AFB’s Thi Nguyen for The Philosophers’ Mag. The aesthetics of climbing is an aesthetics of the climber’s own motion, and an aesthetics of how that motion functions as a solution to a problem. There is, for the climber, a very special experience of harmony available – a harmony between one’s abilities and the challenges they meet. His wide-ranging essay is ultimately about rock climbing, but touches on dance and proprioception, as well as games, sports, and problem solving. Check out the whole thing here. Image credit: Mark Doliner via Flickr

September 21, 2017
by Matt Strohl
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Against Rotten Tomatoes

For Matt’s updated thoughts about this topic, see his book, Why It’s OK to Love Bad Movies. Rotten Tomatoes was in the news this summer, as reports were made that the teams behind the Baywatch reboot and most recent Pirates of the Caribbean installment blame the critical aggregator for the films’ poor performance at the box office.  Both films had tested well, and the studios believe that audiences skipping the films in light of their poor Rotten Tomatoes scores otherwise would have attended and enjoyed them.  There is some evidence that the impact of Rotten Tomeatoes on box office earnings has in fact been minimal, but it’s hard to deny that the website has seen an increase in influence in recent years.  There’s no longer any need to actively search for RT scores.  If one simply Googles the title of the movie one is hoping to see, the RT score has … Continue reading

September 19, 2017
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Philosophical Fiction

Frances Howard-Snyder (Western Washington University) answers a few short questions about her philosophical fiction posed by Skye Cleary (City College New York) for the APA Blog. She recounts her experiences at a recent workshop on fiction writing for philosophers. I particularly liked the idea that fiction writers often deal with quasi-philosophical topics and when they do their treatment could benefit from the skills of philosophers. And, regarding how professional philosophers’ fiction writing should be treated by universities: If you [write fiction] well and your work has philosophical content, your department and university ought to treat it as part of your scholarship. See the whole interview here. This raises lots of interesting questions. Are there some philosophical topics that are better, or even best, approached through fiction? Can philosophical fiction advance philosophical research? And if so, are philosophers sometimes better positioned to do that than non-philosophers? What do you think?

September 12, 2017
by Alex King
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We All Have Our Reasons

Comic artist Zach Weinersmith of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal talks about art: And the aftercomic, for those of you interested in questions about representation and depiction: And the referenced work, for your viewing pleasure, which has hilariously become Cesena’s profile pic on his Wikipedia page: According to Wikipedia: “It was widely said that when Cesena complained to the Pope, the pontiff joked that his jurisdiction did not extend to hell and the portrait would have to remain.”

July 10, 2017
by Aesthetics for Birds
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A Brief History Of Beauty

“Beauty has become a taboo topic among many practitioners of art and design,” writes Michael Spicher (Boston University) in an article for Architecture Boston. “Yet it’s clear we still need beauty in our lives. … People may disagree about which objects are beautiful (or their degree of beauty), but no one seems to disagree that beautiful, pleasurable things exist. We should strive for beauty, so that we may create or experience it.” Spicher traces the history of thinking about beauty in the West, from its more objective beginnings in Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas, to its current status as subjective (at best). Pop on over for a primer! Image credit: Met Museum, detail from “Maria Louisa of Parma” by Laurent Pécheux (1765)

May 23, 2017
by Aesthetics for Birds
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INDIAN AESTHETICS: RASA THEORY

There is a familiar puzzle in philosophy of art: How do fictions provoke real feelings in us? This raises other questions: Are those real feelings? Do we feel real fear, or some fear-like thing when we watch a scary movie? How do actors or written words get us to feel those things, whatever they are? Over at the podcast The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, Peter Adamson (LMU Munich, King’s College London) talks about the rasa tradition that starts with Bharata’s Nāṭya-Śāstra (Treatise on Drama) and its distinctive approach to answering these questions. The text dates back to 200 BCE – 200 CE, so it’s roughly as old as Aristotle’s Poetics. What is rasa? An aesthetic response elicited by the drama. It’s not the emotion itself, but it derives from the emotion. There are eight kinds of rasa, corresponding to eight basic emotional dispositions: the erotic the comic the pathetic the furious the heroic the … Continue reading

May 16, 2017
by Aesthetics for Birds
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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, … Continue reading

May 13, 2017
by Anthony C.
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PEPE IS DEAD! LONG LIVE PEPE?

This is an update to an earlier story that follows new developments in the Pepe meme story: Pepe’s death! Faithful readers of this site will be familiar with the saga of the internet meme Pepe the Frog. (For those of you who missed it, my earlier 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: