Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

September 9, 2020
by Matt Strohl
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Arguing About Art on the Internet, Part 1: Why We Do It, and Why It Often Goes Badly

What follows is a co-authored post by Brandon Polite and Matthew Strohl. It is the first piece in a two-part series. See part two here. The ascendancy of the internet has generated a wide range of difficult new questions for philosophers of aesthetics. Our concern in this piece is the way the internet has reshaped aesthetic discourse and has made aesthetic disagreement far more immediate and pervasive. Social media allows users to broadcast their evaluations of artworks to hundreds or thousands of followers any time of day and, as a result, has ushered in the Golden Age of Everyone Having an Opinion. We are specifically concerned with the general tendency of the internet to promote hostility in aesthetic discourse. Rampant hostility has emerged in a wide variety of contexts, ranging from large-scale fan movements to remake a poorly received season of a widely loved television series or a controversial entry … Continue reading

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

March 2, 2020
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Sor Juana’s Rough Heroines: Cognitive Immoralism in Primero Sueño

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.

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.

September 17, 2019
by Aesthetics for Birds
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“Trauma-Feeding”: Why It’s Not Okay to Exploit Trauma in Art

What follows is a guest post by Jeremy Bendik-Keymer & Misty Morrison. It also appears cross-posted at the Cleveland Review of Books. We want to draw attention to a practice inside contemporary artistic practices and to suggest a set of considerations that could gradually change it, for we take it to be morally dishonest and aesthetically compromised. We call this practice “trauma-feeding.” The expression is our invention. We think trauma-feeding is enmeshed in corrupt conditions in the economy of contemporary art so that to talk about it is to talk inevitably about the institutional framing of artistic practice in an art economy that cultivates practices, habits, and sensibilities that allow artists to hustle their way to success in a neoliberal economy structured by gross inequality of wealth and of capabilities. With trauma-feeding, their mode of hustle is parasitic (from para – alongside – sitos – food) on everyday people’s moral sensibilities. … Continue reading

August 21, 2019
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Playing Games with History: Philosophers on the Ethics of Historical Board Games

In a recent New York Times article, journalist Kevin Draper brings us up to date on some recent controversies in the world of historical board games. The article centers on the cancellation of Scramble for Africa, a historical board game which was to let players take the role of European powers exploring and exploiting Africa, trying to get the most resources. Joe Chacon, the designer of Scramble for Africa, was accused of not treating this situation with appropriate seriousness. In his game, the savagery that was part and parcel of that exploration seems to be dealt with in minor and trivializing ways. The players must put down rebellions, and can slow their opponents by inciting native revolts. Random events include “penalties for atrocities” and rewards for ending slavery. Butchery is gameified. The article raises a number of fascinating questions. What are the ethics of gaming history? Can we ever gameify our troubled past, and … Continue reading