AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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On The Record: An Audio Professional’s Take on Vinyl

What follows is a guest post by musician and recording engineer Michael Connolly. It is a response to an earlier piece that argues for the superiority of vinyl over digital audio.

As a long-time recording engineer and musician, I read Tony Chackal’s post “Spin Me Round: Why Vinyl is Better than Digital” with great interest. The analog-digital debate in audio is a longstanding one, and while it is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, I thought I might be able to offer some background as a longtime audio professional and musician. Recordings are a beautiful mix of technical and aesthetic concerns, and this post will attempt to tease out how to navigate these two framings of music recording, especially with regard to the often-oversimplified distinction between analog and digital recordings.

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#NOFILTER: PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTIONS ON PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE AGE OF INSTAGRAM

What follows is a guest post by Daniel Star (Boston University). All photographs are the author’s own. (Readers are encouraged to follow the links in captions for full-size, full-resolution images.)

We’ve all seen it. Maybe we’ve done it. Maybe we’ve “liked” it. Someone takes a snapshot of a wonderful sunset with a smartphone and posts it on a social media site with the “#nofilter” hashtag. This is one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram, and it is now also used widely on Facebook and Twitter. The sunset was no doubt beautiful (sunsets tend to be beautiful), but it’s unlikely that the photograph itself was of a high quality – smartphone shots rarely are, and even a setting sun will tend to blow out highlights (bright regions in images, see below), leaving empty space in part of the photo. Perhaps this doesn’t matter, because the point of such a social media post may not be aesthetic, but rather to simply communicate that a person witnessed a beautiful sunset, and to relay to friends a substitute in the form of a snapshot. And it’s true that applying one of the filters supplied by Instagram is unlikely to have improved the snapshot from an aesthetic point of view (the original aim of using “#nofilter” may have simply been to indicate that one of these filters, in particular, has not been used, but its now much broader pattern of usage strongly suggests its meaning has expanded). Continue reading


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Damn the Consequences

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What follows is a guest post by James Harold. James is a Professor of Philosophy at Mount Holyoke College. He works primarily in aesthetics and meta-ethics, and is particularly interested in the intersection of those two fields. He has also written about the role of principles in critical evaluation, philosophical psychopathology, empirical ethics and aesthetics, and ancient Greek and Classical Chinese philosophy. In a universe not terribly distant from this one, however, he’s still working in scene design and carpentry, probably at some small regional theater.

When a contemporary philosopher condemns a work of art for being morally flawed, you can bet good money that she does not mean that the artwork has pernicious effects on its audiences.[i]More likely she means that the work sympathizes with a vicious protagonist, that it endorses a morally odious viewpoint, or something along these lines. In the twenty years or so since the revival of “ethical criticism” in Anglophone philosophy of art, an enormous amount of ink has been spilled over the ethical evaluation of art, but almost nothing has been said about whether or not works of art might have real ethical consequences on audiences.[ii]Instead, champions of ethical criticism take pains to distance themselves from such thinking. To cite a pair of well-known examples: Noël Carroll writes that “a moral defect can count as an aesthetic defect even if it does not undermine appreciation by actual audiences so long as it has the counterfactual capacity to undermine the intended response of morally sensitive audiences”[iii]; Berys Gaut claims that his view “does not entail the causal thesis that good art ethically improves people”[iv].

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Representation Defined

What follows is a guest post by Jim Hamlyn. Jim has previously been described on Aesthetics for the Birds as an “asshole” and a “Brook acolyte”, [**in the comments section here, with a snapshot found here**] at least one of which he freely admits is probably true. Aside from this Jim is a lecturer at both The Glasgow School of Art and Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen, Scotland where he is also an established member of the IDEAS Research Institute. His research on the subject of imagination led him in 2011 to the work of the Australian art theorist Donald Brook whose theories of representation and cultural evolution, Jim believes, have significant but largely unexplored implications for our understanding of art, perception and consciousness.

[**CHRISTY NOTE: In the following guest post, Jim has adopted a fictional Q&A format for rhetorical purposes.**]

Q: What is representation?

A: It’s the substitution of one thing for another. Representations are stand-ins.

Q: So, if I replaced a cat with a dog, would that be a representation?

A: That depends on several things – the respects in which you want the dog to represent the cat, the strategy of representation you use and the skills and especially the perceptual weaknesses of the person or creature you’re offering the representation to.

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