Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone



What follows is a guest post by Marilynn Johnson.

A Compulsive Con Man

On January 4, 2016, a man who identified himself as Jeremiah Asimov-Beckingham walked into a New York City police station wearing a Harvard sweatshirt, a Wounded Warrior baseball hat, and military dog tags. He had come to inquire about an impounded BMW but was instead quickly arrested and charged with a crime. Why had this wealthy military veteran and Harvard grad been arrested? It turns out his name is Jeremy Wilson, not Jeremiah Asimov-Beckingham, and he had been arrested on charges of fraud. For years he had been traveling the country, adopting different personas. In New York, he had been living as Jeremiah Asimov-Beckingham, but this character was a fabrication. Continue reading

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What follows is a guest post by Espen Hammer on his recent edited volume Kafka’s The Trial: Philosophical Perspectives.

When reading works of literature, philosophers often look for very general assertions of a quasi-theoretical nature. Thus, Camus’s The Stranger – to pick an obvious example  ̶  is supposed to demonstrate the absurdity of human existence. Or, if that doesn’t satisfy them, they typically start discussing entirely abstract questions of meaning, representation, and reference – of interest to academics steeped in Frege, Russell, and Davidson yet devoid of any concrete relation to actual texts of literary significance.

Kafka, however, on which a recent edited volume of mine entitled Kafka’s The Trial: Philosophical Perspectives (OUP, 2018) focuses, is peculiar in that his texts so vigorously seem to resist such general accounts. To be sure, many philosophers have tried to see in Kafka a kind of visionary thinker either of human existence as such or under specific circumstances, in particular those of modernity. Classical accounts of The Trial have focused on theology (“this is what the human condition looks like without God”), psychoanalysis (“this is what guilt and paranoia looks like”), and sociology (“this is the fate of the individual in a society integrated through anonymous, bureaucratic measures”). The list, of course, could be made very long. Note, though, that all the suggested interpretive keys stand in danger of violating our sense of Kafka’s mystery and ineffability. They all do what philosophers too often do: they reduce the text to a unified set of graspable, general meanings. Continue reading




screenshot from the comic “Want A New Emoji?” by Andy Warner

[Note: An updated, more detailed version of this post was published as “A Plea for Emoji” in the American Society for Aesthetics newsletter.]

Some Philosophical Questions about Emoji

First, let’s be clear about what we’re talking about. “Emoji(s)” are things like this: [😀🤔], not emoticons like : ) or (T_T) or ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ or ㅇㅅㅇ. (Note: in this post, emoji will be flagged by square brackets so that if you can’t see them, you’ll at least know roughly what you’re missing.) Continue reading