AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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WHY I USE DUNGEONS & DRAGONS TO TEACH ETHICS

What follows is a guest post from Rebecca Scott, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Harper College.

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Photo credit: Rebecca Scott

As a philosopher who thinks a lot about teaching and learning, I have a tendency to experiment wildly in my teaching methods. I’m always searching for ways to make my classes more joyful, meaningful, relevant, and fun. Sometimes, my pedagogical experiments fail miserably, and other times they lead to unexpected and delightful encounters that transform my students and me in unexpected ways. A few semesters ago, I embarked on my favorite teaching experiment yet—I played Dungeons and Dragons with my Ethics classes. And what I discovered is that role-playing games have a lot to teach us about the importance of community and playfulness in the classroom.

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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.

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The neoclassical Lincoln Memorial, designed by Henry Bacon (1922) [source]

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 the proposal (henceforth MFFBA) are the Brutalist and Deconstructivist styles of modernist architecture, which it explicitly equates with the loss of beauty in American federal architecture over the past seventy years or so. In practical terms, this amounts to a federal mandate for classical architecture and a de facto moratorium on modernist architecture for any federal building costing more than $50 million. This includes any renovations or design upgrades to buildings of equal value. And any proposed deviations from classical and traditional designs must be vetted by the “President’s Committee for the Re-Beautification of Federal Architecture,” and must ultimately be submitted to the President for review prior to final approval.

I’ll go ahead and dispense with any pretense to political neutrality here. Because, really, the first step in taking MFBBA seriously is to acknowledge the veritable feast of ironies and absurdities offered up in the space of its mere seven pages. Continue reading


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The Snowman’s Imagination

What follows is a guest post by Amy Kind. Amy is Professor of Philosophy at Claremont McKenna College.  Having received an AB summa cum laude from Amherst College, Professor Kind received her PhD in philosophy from UCLA in 1997. Although she has broad interests in the philosophy of mind, most of her research centers on issues relating to phenomenal consciousness and issues relating to the imagination. Her work has appeared in journals such as Philosophy and Phenomenological ResearchPhilosophical StudiesAustralasian Journal of Philosophy, and The Philosophical Quarterly. She is currently at work on several edited collections, including The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Imagination and Knowledge Through Imagination (co-edited with Peter Kung), which is under contract with Oxford University Press.  

In recent decades, imagination has proved enormously important in philosophical discussions of aesthetics.  Not only does imagination seem to play a crucial role in the creation of works of art and literature, but it also seems to play a crucial role in our engagement with such works. But what is imagination? This question has proved enormously difficult to answer, and there are obviously many aspects to addressing it adequately.  Here I aim to focus on only one such aspect and only in a very preliminary way. When we engage in an imaginative exercise, our imagining has a certain target – perhaps an object, or a proposition, or a state of affairs.  So the question motivating this post can be put as follows: When someone aims to imagine some target T, what makes it the case that she succeeds in doing so?  In what follows, I hope to move us closer to an answer to this question by fleshing out our intuitions on some cases.

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IMAGINATION, TRANSPORTATION, AND MORAL PERSUASION

What follows is a guest post by M. B. Willard, a metaphysician with an aesthetics problem. She is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Weber State University.

Imagine becoming adrift in a novel in the way often described by avid readers: You’ve become lost in the book. Perhaps you’ve become so engrossed that your coffee grows cold, neglected on the table beside you. Perhaps you’ve lost track of time, to be startled when the clock chimes. Perhaps the story is deeply sad, and you spend the rest of the day in a mild malaise. Perhaps the story’s protagonist struggled in abject poverty, and you come away believing that while of course the story is made up, people really do live like that, and you resolve to increase your annual contributions to charity.

(Or perhaps you watched Star Trek; you spend the rest of the day mildly keyed up against injustice, and rebuke the man in front of you at Starbucks when he is rude to the barista. No judgment, Walter Mitty.)

You’ve been transported (cf. Gerrig 1993); through fiction, you’ve visited a new world, and you’ve returned somewhat changed. Continue reading