AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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Polite Conversations: Philosophers Discuss the Arts

What follows is a guest post by Brandon Polite (Knox College).

In my YouTube series, Polite Conversations: Philosophers Discuss the Arts*, I interview philosophers about their work in aesthetics and the philosophy of art. We typically discuss a particular journal article or public philosophy piece (including some pieces from Aesthetics for Birds), diving into their views and exploring their implications for anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes. The aims of this series are twofold. The first is that I want to show off the cool and innovative work that’s happening in the field of aesthetics right now, both to the wider philosophical community and to the general public. There is some really amazing work being done in our field, and more people should know about it!

The second aim is pedagogical. Getting to see philosophers doing philosophy together can be a really eye-opening experience for students. To that end, these videos can be used as a way to deepen your students’ insights into a text you’ve assigned them to read, which is how I use them. Alternatively, one or more could be used in place of readings if, say, they’re too advanced for an introductory-level course. I have painstakingly edited the captions—including sometimes highlighting key terms and phrases—to make them accessible to those who want or need them. As teaching tools, the videos are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

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BEEPLE AND NOTHINGNESS: PHILOSOPHY AND NFTS

artwork detail: Beeple

What follows is one of two pieces we are running on NFTs. See another take on NFTs here.

It was the Beeple heard round the world: on Thursday, March 11th, Christie’s sold a collage of digital art images for 69 million dollars. Beeple, real name Mike Winkelmann, is the artist responsible for the work; this makes him the third-highest selling living artist behind Jeff Koons and David Hockney. Prior to the sale, Beeple had made a modest artistic practice out of posting original 3D images online daily. Most of these “everydays” are technically competent but nondescript abstracts—the sort of thing that you might use as a desktop background. Recently they’ve grown more referential, including images of a breastfeeding Donald Trump, Tiger King dethroned, and the coronavirus as a scifi movie monster.  How, exactly, did Beeple’s work find itself in the rarefied air of a Christie’s auction, outselling the likes of Lucien Freud and Damien Hirst? The answer, I suspect, has a lot to do with his chosen format for sale: an ‘NFT’, or non-fungible token.

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WHAT IS ART? LET COGNITIVE SCIENCE HELP YOU ANSWER THAT QUESTION

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ALFIE and BETTY observe Jeff Koons’ Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988)

What follows is a guest post by Shen-yi Liao, Aaron Meskin, and Joshua Knobe. They offer an overview and summary of the ideas in their new paper, “Dual Character Art Concepts,” just out in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. (Non-paywalled version available here.)

Alfie: This sculpture is not art. I know many people think it is art, but when you think about what art really is, you will realize that it is not art at all.

Betty: Of course this is art. It is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art!

Alfie: I know. But all the same, it’s not a true work of art. It’s impersonal factory-produced rubbish.

Betty: Wait, I agree that this sculpture is completely awful in every way, but still, it’s obviously a piece of art. Continue reading


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UNE AUTRE DAME: WHY NOTRE-DAME DIDN’T REALLY BURN

What follows is a guest post by philosopher Saul Fisher, on the recent tragedy of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.

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Alan Mozes, Seine/sibility #2, 2013, reproduced with permission of the artist

The burning of the roof and spire of the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris on April 15 was a moving and dramatic event, variously interpreted as architectural disaster, economic loss, flashpoint for myriad heritage issues, and moment of French national unity. The cathedral has endured since medieval times: construction began in 1163 CE, the towers were completed in 1250, and figurative elements were added in the mid-14th century. From this endurance alone, it is little wonder that the cathedral captures the imagination of the French, the devout, the appreciators of architectural history, and the every Parisian visitor. Little wonder, too, then, that the fire consuming the cathedral prompted strong emotional response.

While lamenting the event’s tragic dimensions and symbolism, I find consolation, or perhaps refuge, in formalist and abstractist ways that I think about architectural objects. Continue reading


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IS THIS REALLY ART? AESTHETIC DISAGREEMENT AND CONCEPTUAL NEGOTIATION

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What follows is a guest post from Elizabeth Cantalamessa (University of Miami).

Think about the endless debates over what, really, is art. We get it over the latest Star Wars movie, or over Richard Prince’s series of Instagram screenshots titled New Portraits, or the recent Banksy “art-world prank” where a print of Girl With a Balloon “self-shredded” upon its auction. Articles are written, exhibitions are curated, theories are proposed – but, if there’s no fact out there in the world that can settle the debates, why do people waste their time trying to get others to agree with them? It seems that we face a dilemma: either people are wasting their time trying to figure out what “really” makes something art – or there is some deep fact about these objects that would settle the debates if aestheticians and the like just do enough analysis and theory. Continue reading


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MORE THAN SKIN DEEP WITH JACK WOODS

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Jack Woods interviewed by Roy Cook for AFB

Jack Woods is University Academic Fellow in Mathematical Philosophy (боже мой) at the University of Leeds. Prior to this post, he worked at Bilkent University (in Ankara, Turkey). He studied at the University of Minnesota (MA) and took his PhD from Princeton University. He works in philosophy of logic and mathematics, as well as metaethics, the theory of normativity, and philosophy of language. Recent publications include “The Authority of Formality” (Oxford Studies in Metaethics, vol 13), “Logical Partisanhood” (Philosophical Studies), “Intertranslatability, Theoretical Equivalence, and Perversion” (Thought), and “Emptying a Paradox of Ground” (Journal of Philosophical Logic). Prior to studying and working as a philosopher, he played in short-lived punk bands and worked as a bouncer at clubs in Boston, including the Rat, the Middle East, and P.J. Kilroys (Fathers Too), nearly all of which are now closed. Continue reading


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MORE THAN SKIN DEEP WITH EVA DADLEZ

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Eva Dadlez interviewed by Roy Cook

M. Dadlez is a professor of Philosophy at the University of Central Oklahoma. She received her Ph.D. from Syracuse University. She writes on issues at the intersection (often at the collision) of aesthetics, ethics, and epistemology. She has written two books on the preceding: What’s Hecuba to Him? Fictional Events and Actual Emotions (Penn State Press 1997) and Mirrors to One Another: Emotion and Value in Jane Austen and David Hume (Wiley-Blackwell 2009), as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters including “Art, Ink, and Expression: Philosophical Questions About Tattoos”, Philosophy Compass 10(11): 739 – 753. Her edited collection for Oxford University Press, Jane Austen’s Emma: Philosophical Perspectives is presently in production. Dadlez is also a feminist ethics dilettante and an occasional novelist. She has indulged in the composition of a mean-spirited academic satire (The Sleep of Reason) that lampoons higher education in America. She also draws a lot and has many tattoos of owls and foxes. Continue reading


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MORE THAN SKIN DEEP WITH FRANK BOARDMAN

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Frank Boardman interviewed by Roy Cook for AFB

Frank Boardman is is a visiting assistant professor at Worcester State University. Most of his work has been in philosophy, art and rhetoric. He has a completely unwarranted belief that he could also write about parenting, technology or basketball. Continue reading


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PEPE IS DEAD! LONG LIVE PEPE?

What follows is a guest post by Anthony Cross (Texas State University), following new developments in the Pepe meme story: Pepe’s death!

Faithful readers of AFB will be familiar with the saga of the internet meme Pepe the Frog. (For those of you who missed it, my guest post on Pepe and the nature and value of internet memes is here.) The latest update: Pepe’s death! But first, a bit of background: Continue reading