Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

December 3, 2019
by Aesthetics for Birds
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9 Movie Experts on Their Top 5 Films of the Decade

This year marks the end of the second decade of the 2000s. In honor of this, we thought we’d take a look back at our decade with an end-of-year series. The internet loves lists, especially year-end ones, and we’ll feed that love a little bit this December. We’ll be hosting seven lists of expert Decade-Best picks. Expect movies, games, writing, television, music, traditional visual arts, and one surprise list at the end. Each will include philosophers working in these and related areas, but also other academics whose work concerns these topics and people working in the relevant media. Of course, all lists are imperfect, and it’s probably a little bit silly to try to rank all of these things. But what would the internet be without a little silliness? We hope you’ll find them useful for adding things to your own lists: to-watch, to-read, to-listen, and all sorts of other … Continue reading

January 17, 2019
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Seductive Artworks

What follows is a guest post by Nils-Hennes Stear. Note: This post is more or less a précis of part of the author’s ‘Meriting a Response: The Paradox of Seductive Artworks’, forthcoming in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy. During a recent flight, I watched Ridley Scott’s The Martian. It’s a Robinsonade tale about Mark Watney (Matt Damon), an astronaut stranded on Mars and engineering his own survival. The film was watchable enough—well produced, acted, and visually arresting. Yet it suffered an irritating flaw: Watney is too damn buoyant. Stuck, literally millions of miles from home, with too little food, no company, and bleak prospects for safe return, he tackles each new existential challenge with a can-do optimism totally out of keeping with his existential emergency. So, when Watney tells his video diary that… ‘In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m left with only one option: I’m gonna have to science the … Continue reading

July 26, 2018
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Philosophy and Politics in “Sorry to Bother You”

The following post appears as part of a partnership with the APA Blog. The original appears here. Steven Manicastri is a political theorist and labor organizer.  Having recently viewed Sorry to Bother You and seeing its clear relevance to his own research he posed the following questions to Lewis Gordon because of his theoretical work on race, class, and politics in film.

May 15, 2018
by Aesthetics for Birds
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JAAC X AFB: Why Do We Resist Rough Heroines?

What follows is a post in our ongoing collaborative series with the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. This is based on a new article by Adriana Clavel-Vazquez, “Sugar and spice, and everything nice: What rough heroines tell us about imaginative resistance.” After five seasons of House of Cards, it was finally Claire Underwood’s turn to be a proper rough heroine. In seasons one to four we find an interesting contrast between the moral transgressions that make Claire and Frank Underwood rough heroes: she is a ruthless, selfish, and drunk-with-power woman who is uninterested in motherhood; he is a ruthless, selfish, drunk-with-power man who has murdered several people. But in season five, Claire (finally!) murders Tom Yates, her journalist lover who had been given full access to the Underwood’s in previous seasons, and who was ready to publish an incriminating tell-all book. After poisoning him, Claire gives herself a couple … Continue reading

May 8, 2018
by Aesthetics for Birds
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JAAC X AFB: Is Monday Night Football a Documentary?

What follows is a post in our ongoing collaborative series with the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. This is based on a new article by Henry Pratt, “Are You Ready for Some Football? A Monday Night Documentary?” When I lived in Wisconsin, I had a large, hairy housemate named Brian who watched a lot of hockey and football on TV. Sometimes he’d even do so shirtless to avoid stains from marinara sauce. It turns out that, unbeknownst to me at the time, he’d seen thousands of documentaries and was something of an expert on them. Wait—what? Quoth Gregory Currie, in his prominent article on the category: “game shows turn out to be documentaries about their participants, chat shows documentaries about the interviewer and interviewees, and sports programs documentaries about the activities of the athletes” (294).

March 22, 2018
by Matt Strohl
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Netflix and Will

[Editor’s note: This piece was updated in September 2021.] 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 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 because I love Twilight too much, that sounds like weakness of will. … Continue reading

February 20, 2018
by Aesthetics for Birds
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Bottom Rail on Top This Time: Politics, Myth, Culture and Afro-fantacism in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panter

What follows is a guest post by Charles Peterson (Oberlin College) I. As Walter Mosley observes in his essay “Black to the Future,” the genre(s) of science fiction/fantasy neé Afro-futurism speak clearly to the dissatisfied through their power to imagine the first step in changing the world: Black people have been cut off from their African ancestry by the scythe of slavery and from an American heritage by being excluded from history. For us, science fiction offers an alternative where that which deviates from the norm is the norm. As such, African-descended people have long understood and utilized the power of narrative to generate the images and ideas that will spark the liberatory imaginings of the sufferers. Particularly in the realms of the fantastic have characters, scenarios, and worlds been constructed to expose the truths of the world as it is and reveal the possibilities of worlds that could be. … Continue reading

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.