Posts at Aesthetics for Birds (AFB) make excellent teaching resources, both for instructors themselves and as primary or supplementary readings for students. Faculty across many disciplines, universities, and countries already use Aesthetics for Birds posts in their teaching.
On this page:
Why Use AFB?
Accessible: AFB posts are generally written by academics but accessible to a wide audience.
Current: Posts often engage with current events
Concise: Posts are relatively short, ranging from roughly 500 to 5000 words.
Diverse: Many posts are by philosophers from marginalized groups. These posts are not tagged in a special way, but should be readily enough available that you won’t have to search far.
Existing Syllabus Resources on AFB
A list of books and articles by women
A list of books and articles by BIPOC authors
A collection of the “Top 50” key terms in aesthetic theory and philosophy of art, ranging from aesthetics and art to rasa and rhizome, each explained in a few hundred words in ways accessible to those with no previous familiarity
How to use Dungeons and Dragons (and role-playing games generally) to teach ethics courses
How to Find What You Want
Below are some suggestions for pieces from the archive. It is organized according to topics one might find on a syllabus: ontology of art, art and ethics, and so on.
Because it’s a less useful list if we include everything, there’s a lot of good stuff left out. And it’s not as helpful if you’re looking for something on a specific topic (say, cultural appropriation).
To find things on specific topics, explore our tags or use the search function. All of our posts are tagged with keywords, which helps if you’re looking for, say, Black aesthetics or feminism or something related to architecture or music.
Selected Posts Organized by Topic
Definitions and Ontology of Art
- What Is Art? Let Cognitive Science Answer That for You (Shen-yi Liao, Aaron Meskin, and Joshua Knobe)
- Is This Really Art? Aesthetic Disagreement and Conceptual Negotiation (Elisabeth Cantelamessa)
Maybe asking if something is art is really asking if something should be art
- Owning What Isn’t: Copyrights and Conceptual Art (Darren Hudson Hick)
What do you copyright if you copyright a piece of conceptual art?
Art Criticism and the Art World
- An interview with James Wood (conducted by Becca Rothfeld)
An influential author and critic discusses the aims and methods of literary criticism
- What A Great Critic Does (Antonia Peacocke)
On art critic Peter Schjeldahl, and on what makes a good art critic
- Zombie Formalism: Or, How Financial Values Pervade the Arts (Sarah Hegenbart)
On the ways in which economic and financial pressures shape art trends and art history, exemplified in “zombie formalism”
- What Is “Camp”? Five Scholars Discuss Sontag, the Met Gala, and Camp’s Queer Origins (various authors)
Five interdisciplinary scholars talk about the concept and history of camp
Art and Ethics
- Can We Separate the Art from the Artist? (various authors)
A roundtable discussion on the art of morally suspect artists
- Is Cultural Appropriation Ever Okay? (various authors)
A roundtable discussion about cultural appropriation, with special focus on rap
- Playing Games With History: Philosophers on the Ethics of Historical Board Games (various authors)
A roundtable examining historical board games that often have immoral implications (e.g., a board game where you play colonists)
- Burying the Dead Monuments (Elizabeth Scarbrough)
What to do about racist monuments; why simply removing them may not be the best answer
- Sor Juana’s Rough Heroines: Cognitive Immoralism in Primero Sueño (Adriana Clavel-Vázquez and Sergio A. Gallegos)
Cognitive immoralism examined through a feminist lens
- Five Philosophers Discuss “Joker” (various authors)
A roundtable discussion about the controversial 2019 movie Joker
- Can Nicki Minaj’s “Chun-Li” Be Cultural Appropriation? (Erich Hatala Matthes)
An examination of the complexities involved in Nicki Minaj’s “Chun-Li” music video
- An interview with Sterling HolyWhiteMountain (conducted by Matt Strohl)
A Blackfeet author discusses blood quantum, “native art”, and cultural appropriation
- Holding Our Breath: Making Socially Distanced Music Together (John Dyck)
The phenomenology and sociology of Sacred Heart collective singing practices during COVID
- Interview with BL Shirelle and Bates
Two queer Black female underground hip-hop artists discuss gender and language in hip-hop music
- How to Partake in the Fuckery: A Roundtable Discussion on Hip-Hop, Gender, and Language (various authors)
A roundtable discussion based on the interviews with BL Shirelle and Bates
- You Think Make-Believe is for Kids? Let Sherlock Holmes Teach You a Thing or Two (Nils-Hennes Stear)
A video introducing Kendall Walton’s theory of fiction
- What Makes Kafka Philosophical? (Espen Hammer)
- The Ethics of Artisanship: Or, No, You May Not Put Milk in Your Coffee (Matt Strohl)
Artistic integrity examined through the lens of third wave coffee
- Interview with Juan Escalona Melendez (conducted by Aaron Meskin)
A Mexican-born chef currently working in Mexico City discusses history and science in contemporary Mexican cuisine
- The Metaphysics and Linguistics of Emoji (Alex King)
- The Curious Case of Pepe the Frog (Anthony Cross)
An examination of memes and meme culture
Other Media: Video and Podcast Series
- Polite Conversations: Philosophers Discuss the Arts (Brandon Polite), YouTube interviews
Philosopher interviews other philosophers about their work on accessible and fun topics; contains keywords and suggested readings to pair, ADA-compliant
- Art Against the World (Vid Simoniti), podcast series
Philosopher interviews artists and curators about the social relevance of contemporary art; contains overview of episode topics, guests, and brief summary of the philosophical issues.
The following suggestions are taken from people who use our articles in their courses.
- Use it as a reading.
- Have students pick a roundtable contribution (usually these are relatively short, under 1000 words) and elaborate on the author’s perspective.
- Pick an interview and have students extract and elaborate on the philosophical implications of something the artist says.
- Using this piece on punk rock or this one on heavy metal, have students describe central values or ideals of some genre they care about.
- Using this piece on satire, have students find cases of satire and explain how they confirm or conflict with the author’s view.