AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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JUST DESSERTS? CAKES, COURT CASES, AND CREATIVITY

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What follows is a co-authored post by AFB staff writers Matthew Strohl and Mary Beth Willard.

John Corvino writes, of the narrowly decided Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, that the Supreme Court punted on many of the substantive issues:

What counts as protected speech, and why? Does it matter if the cake is custom? If it has words on it? How do we distinguish messages that are integral to one’s identity as a member of a protected class and those that are incidental to it?

We suspect it does matter if the cake is custom, but that the focus on messaging is a red velvet herring. To our minds, this isn’t primarily an issue of protected speech, at least in the sense being widely discussed in connection with the recent SCOTUS decision. Sherif Girgis and Robert P. George argue that custom wedding cakes bear expressive content, in particular, the recognition that the event the cake figures in is a wedding. We are skeptical about the prospects for this argument. As Chief Justice Roberts observed during oral argument, it’s hard to see why whether a cake is custom or not would make an expressive difference with respect to acknowledging the wedding as such. But the notion that a cake carries such expressive content strikes us as highly dubious in the first place. Setting aside any text or wedding imagery (which we assume would be a little too déclassé to be on offer in the first place from a cakeshop with ‘Masterpiece’ in its name), a wedding cake is just a really awesome cake. There is no systematic way to distinguish wedding cakes from other cakes on the basis of their intrinsic features. Wedding cakes are typically multi-tiered, but many high-end wedding cakes are one-tiered and there are plenty of other show-stopping alternatives to the multi-tiered cake. And, of course, multi-tiered cakes are often used to celebrate other occasions (including mermaid parties!). Continue reading


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ON THE AESTHETICS OF PLAYING PIANO

In the penultimate measure of the first movement Clementi’s Sonatina No. 36, there is a short cascade of notes:

This sonatina is often used as a teaching piece, because it’s a great introduction for the early intermediate pianist to the techniques required in more complicated piano pieces. This little cascade is a good example of why. It’s short, only eight notes long. In the numbering system every beginner learns, your thumbs are ones; your pinkies, fives. The G and A keys are right next to each other on the keyboard, and one might expect that the prescribed fingering of two adjacent notes would require two adjacent fingers. Perhaps, because the sequence continues down the keys, the four and five fingers, so that other fingers are properly positioned to reach the next notes.

But that’s not what happens. The G is struck with the thumb, and the A with the fourth finger. To do this, one must curl the edges of the palm toward each other like a taco. Then, the second finger crosses over to reach the D, the third follows to strike the E, and then the sequence repeats. 1, 4, 2, 3. Continue reading


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MORE THAN SKIN DEEP WITH JACK WOODS

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Jack Woods interviewed by Roy Cook for AFB

Jack Woods is University Academic Fellow in Mathematical Philosophy (боже мой) at the University of Leeds. Prior to this post, he worked at Bilkent University (in Ankara, Turkey). He studied at the University of Minnesota (MA) and took his PhD from Princeton University. He works in philosophy of logic and mathematics, as well as metaethics, the theory of normativity, and philosophy of language. Recent publications include “The Authority of Formality” (Oxford Studies in Metaethics, vol 13), “Logical Partisanhood” (Philosophical Studies), “Intertranslatability, Theoretical Equivalence, and Perversion” (Thought), and “Emptying a Paradox of Ground” (Journal of Philosophical Logic). Prior to studying and working as a philosopher, he played in short-lived punk bands and worked as a bouncer at clubs in Boston, including the Rat, the Middle East, and P.J. Kilroys (Fathers Too), nearly all of which are now closed. Continue reading


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FEARLESS GIRL ON THE MOVE?

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Latest development in the Fearless Girl case, brought to you only three weeks late courtesy of yrs truly and the end of the semester: the city wants the girl moved, citing traffic and safety concerns.

I can’t imagine that any one was surprised by this decision, given the statue’s story as an advertisement playing opposite an iconic piece of guerilla art. It was unlikely that it would stay forever. And at 250 pounds, it hardly presents the obstacle to removal that Charging Bull did; it’s a much easier call. Continue reading


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MORE THAN SKIN DEEP WITH EVA DADLEZ

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Eva Dadlez interviewed by Roy Cook for AFB

M. Dadlez is a professor of Philosophy at the University of Central Oklahoma. She received her Ph.D. from Syracuse University. She writes on issues at the intersection (often at the collision) of aesthetics, ethics, and epistemology. She has written two books on the preceding: What’s Hecuba to Him? Fictional Events and Actual Emotions (Penn State Press 1997) and Mirrors to One Another: Emotion and Value in Jane Austen and David Hume (Wiley-Blackwell 2009), as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters including “Art, Ink, and Expression: Philosophical Questions About Tattoos”, Philosophy Compass 10(11): 739 – 753. Her edited collection for Oxford University Press, Jane Austen’s Emma: Philosophical Perspectives is presently in production. Dadlez is also a feminist ethics dilettante and an occasional novelist. She has indulged in the composition of a mean-spirited academic satire (The Sleep of Reason) that lampoons higher education in America. She also draws a lot and has many tattoos of owls and foxes. Continue reading


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MORE THAN SKIN DEEP WITH FRANK BOARDMAN

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Frank Boardman interviewed by Roy Cook for AFB

Frank Boardman is is a visiting assistant professor at Worcester State University. Most of his work has been in philosophy, art and rhetoric. He has a completely unwarranted belief that he could also write about parenting, technology or basketball. Continue reading


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NETFLIX AND WILL

Aesthetic weakness of will is usually thought of as an incongruity between one’s judgment about the quality of an artwork and one’s liking for it. If I think the Twilight movies are really bad but I can’t help but like them, that’s supposed to be aesthetic weakness of will. But is liking really a matter of the will? I might be able to take actions meant to diminish my liking for Twilight: carry around a picture of Bella and Edward and look at it every time I feel nauseous, tell everyone I meet that I like Twilight to give them the opportunity to shame me, or deliberately watch the movies more often than I want to so that I become sick of them. If I judge that I should take these actions but then fail to follow through on them, that sounds like weakness of the will. But the liking itself? I don’t think so. In any case, what if my all-things-considered judgment is that I should just go ahead and like whatever artworks I find myself liking, quality be damned? Surely subsequent incongruity between my judgments about a work’s quality and my liking for it would not constitute weakness of the will.

I want to suggest an alternative way of thinking about aesthetic weakness of the will: it’s basically the current business model of Netflix. Continue reading


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WHAT’S MISSING FROM COOKBOOK REVIEWS

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What follows is Part 1 of 3 in a series on the aesthetics of food.

Read enough cookbook reviews, and you’ll start to notice a curious gap. Cookbook reviews mostly focus on how the recipes turn out — how tasty the dishes are, or how authentic they are. Sometimes they’ll also talk about the quality of writing, or how much you learn about some region’s culinary history  or food science or the author’s childhood or whatever. But usually they leave out what it feels like to actually cook the goddamn things. Continue reading


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BLACK PANTHER AND CROSSPLAY: WHY COSPLAY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU THINK

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In a post for the Oxford University Press Blog titled “Cosplay is Meaningless”, G.R.F. Ferrari, a professor of Classics at Berkeley, argues that cosplay is just about perfecting the art of dress-up. He writes:

Cosplayers … are not out to intimate something about themselves, or, for that matter, about anything else.

As an occasional cosplayer myself, I have to say that I couldn’t disagree more with what Ferrari says. Cosplay is much more aesthetically, socially, and personally important than he gives it credit for. Continue reading