Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

April 28, 2021
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Polite Conversations: Philosophers Discuss the Arts

A YouTube series features interviews with philosophers about their work in aesthetics and the philosophy of art. Continue reading

September 20, 2019
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You Think Make-believe is for Kids? Sherlock Holmes Will Teach You a Thing or Two

What follows is a guest post by Nils-Hennes Stear. How do fictions work? How do made-up characters and their made-up feelings make us cry or rejoice in sympathy? With what are we even sympathizing? Philosopher Kendall Walton has an answer. His theory of fiction, spelled out in his monograph Mimesis as Make-Believe, is among the most influential and celebrated contributions to the history of aesthetics, if not philosophy. So, when I promised to create an animated explainer film as part of my Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship at the University of Southampton, it seemed a promising subject to tackle.

March 6, 2019
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Is Commander Shepard Female? Determining Canon in Video Games

What follows is a post in our JAAC x AFB collaborative series, where we highlight articles from the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. This post features Marissa D. Willis’ recent paper, “Choose Your Own Adventure: Examining the Fictional Content of Video Games as Interactive Fictions“. “Video games don’t tell stories,” he told me. “They’re just games.” So said a friend of mine when I told him I was writing about video games as works of fiction. And despite his mansplaining my own topic to me, my friend was giving voice to the very problem which I hope to address. Despite the fact that more people are playing video games these days than ever before, and game makers continue to create more inventive and engaging narrative works every day, my friend is not alone in his opinion.

September 19, 2017
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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?

May 23, 2017
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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 11, 2017
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JAAC X AFB Discussion: Holliday on the Puzzle of Factual Praise

Why do we care about certain facts but not others when we evaluate fiction? Why do some things need to be accurate, but others not? Today we’ll be discussing these issues in “The Puzzle of Factual Praise” by John Holliday available in JAAC’s Spring 2017 volume, 75 (2), online here. And big thanks to Christopher Bartel for providing the critical précis (below the fold). John offers a brief response, and they will both be available to discuss your questions and thoughts in the comments.

May 4, 2017
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Upcoming JAAC X AFB Discussion: Holliday on the Puzzle of Factual Praise

Why do we care about certain facts but not others when we evaluate fiction? Why do some things need to be accurate, but others not? If you’re curious, come back in *one week* when we’ll be looking at “The Puzzle of Factual Praise” by John Holliday available in JAAC’s Spring 2017 volume, 75 (2), online here. And big thanks to Christopher Bartel for providing the critical précis. John will provide a response to this, and they will both be available to discuss your questions and thoughts in the comments. Mark it in your calendars, and we look forward to seeing you then!

September 10, 2014
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The Matter of Serial Fictions

What follows is a guest post by Chris Tillman. Chris is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Manitoba. His main interest is in metaphysics, but he considers practically everything to be an issue in metaphysics. He is originally from Missouri, where his first major was in painting and he spent his free time in bands, including a country/rap band (hick-hop, if you will). These days his free time is more likely to be consumed by curing meats, genre fiction, and making Korean farmer hooch (makgeolli). Serial fictions pose special problems for accounts of truth in fiction. What is true according to a fiction at one time can appear to change as a story develops. Sometimes these changes are dramatic. According to A New Hope, and even according to early drafts of The Empire Strikes Back, it seems it was not true in the Star Wars fiction that Darth Vader … Continue reading