Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

May 4, 2020
by Alex King
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AFB’S TERMS OF ART #26: BEAUTY

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 #26: beauty

April 7, 2020
by Alex King
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AFB’S TERMS OF ART #12: PHENOMENOLOGY

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 #12: phenomenology

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

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

October 8, 2013
by Aesthetics for Birds
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For Evolution, Beauty is as Beauty Does

What follows is a guest post by Mohan Matthen. Mohan is Professor of Philosophy and Senior Canada Research Chair at University of Toronto. He has published numerous articles on issues in philosophy of biology and sense perception and is the author of Seeing, Doing, and Knowing: A Philosophical Theory of Sense Perception (Oxford: Claredon Press, 2005). This post also appears at New APPS (here). What is it to find something beautiful? To take pleasure in looking at it, or in listening to it, or in otherwise contemplating it. One might find the proof of the Pythagorean theorem beautiful. If this is literally true, it is because intellectually contemplating it gives one pleasure. But let’s stick to the senses, and pleasure in gazing or listening. Why have we evolved to have a sense of beauty? That is, why do we take pleasure in contemplating certain things? (I’ll just assume that the … Continue reading