I argue that we are subject to ‘aesthetic luck’ in four senses: constitutive, upbringing, sociogeographic, and circumstantial. I review evidence from our practices, philosophy, and science. I then consider what challenges aesthetic luck raises to the communicability of aesthetic judgments, the formation of one’s aesthetic character, and the goal of a life well lived, as well as possible answers to those challenges.
Both macaque monkeys and humans have been shown to have what are called ‘mirror neurons’, a class of neurons that respond to goal-related motor-actions, both when these actions are performed by the subject and when they are performed by another individual observed by the subject. Gallese and Goldman (1998) contend that mirror neurons may be seen as ‘a part of, or a precursor to, a more general mind- reading ability’, and that of the two competing theories of mind-reading, mirror neurons (...) lend support to simulation theory. I here offer four reasons why I think mirror neurons do not provide support for simulation theory over its contender, theory theory. (shrink)
I argue that Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight are best seen as an example of memento mori art. Memento mori, the admonition to remember death, can take many forms, but the idea remains the same, namely that an awareness of our inevitable end should bear on how we live. I show how Richard Linklater’s warning works in each of the movies and argue that with the Before trilogy he makes a Frankfurt-style case that romantic love is life’s summum (...) bonum--i.e. "the ultimate ground of practical rationality.". (shrink)
The Bloomsbury Companion to Aesthetics presents a practical study guide to emerging topics and art forms in aesthetics and the philosophy of art. Placing contemporary discussion in its historical context, this companion begins with an introduction to the history of aesthetics. Surveying the central topics, terms and figures and noting the changes in the roles the arts played over the centuries, it also tackles methodological issues asking what the proper object of study in aesthetics is, and how we should go (...) about studying it. Written by leading analytic philosophers in the field, chapters on Core Issues and Art Forms cover four major topics; - the definition of art and the ontology of art work - aesthetic experience, aesthetic properties, and aesthetic and artistic value - specific art forms including music, dance, theatre, the visual arts as a whole, and the various forms of popular art - new areas in aesthetics and the philosophy of art, such as environmental aesthetics and global standpoint aesthetics, as well as other new directions the field is taking towards everyday aesthetics Featuring a list of research resources and an extensive chronology of works in aesthetics and the philosophy of art dating from the fifth century BC to the 21st century, The Bloomsbury Companion to Aesthetics provides an engaging introduction to contemporary aesthetics. (shrink)
One of the most ancient art forms, poetry, like other art forms, finds its roots embedded in activities that are not necessarily associated with art today, most notably religious rituals. Still, even while poetry is now commonly enjoyed for its own sake, many poems continue to be made for specific life events: weddings, funerals, presidential swearing-in ceremonies, anniversaries, and so on. Their connection to such events may call into question the art status of some poems; indeed, definitions of poetry (as (...) is the case with definitions of art in general) must provide an account that establishes the art status of poems while still acknowledging that some poems may be parasitic upon human activities and events that have no intrinsically artistic goals. Questions of this sort already presuppose a notion of art that divorces art works from those activities and events and establishes art-making as an endeavor in its own right, one that by definition is independent from any other goals and one that, were it to be mixed with other activities or goals, would have its art status threatened. However, just as a notion of art that denied art status to (say) the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC in virtue of its serving a function beyond the purely artistic would be seriously defective, so a definition of poetry that denied poetry status to W. H. Auden’s ‘Funeral Blues’ would be anemic at best. The intention to write a poem, therefore, is the intention to fit one’s work into a tradition, one in which, as happens to be the case, poems are written for various occasions. Likewise, the poetic tradition is one in which various formal means have been employed (alliteration, meter, rhyme schemes, etc.); a ‘transparent’ poetic intention (i.e. one in which the poet is aware of the character of her intention) would therefore involve responding to the formal dimension of the tradition in various ways (see Ribeiro 2007). (shrink)
Why should poets choose to repeat concrete sounds or abstract structures when conveying their poetic messages? After all, it would seem that repetition tends to slow down comprehension and require greater cognitive effort. The key to understanding the rationale behind these poetic devices is the communicative principle of relevance proposed by Sperber and Wilson: interlocutors communicate on the assumption that what is being said is relevant in the communicative context. But how things are said is also relevant: poets create patterns (...) for pragmatic, communicative reasons. Poetic devices also promote affective states, which cannot be reduced to cognitive ones. (shrink)
The cinematic technique of point-of-view shots is meant to give spectators a film character’s point-ofview. In ‘Imagining from the Inside’, Murray Smith claims that point-of-view shots allow viewers to ‘imagine seeing as the character does’ and this imagining in turn promotes imagining the character ‘from the inside’, thereby fostering empathy with the character. I argue, against Smith, that the cinematic technique of point-of-view shots does not prompt viewers to ‘imagine seeing as the character does’ for two reasons: first, such shots (...) do not give us a character’s perspective in any literal sense, but what I call a ‘symbolic perspective’; second, the very concept of ‘imagining seeing’ is problematic in that it places us on the same ontological level as that of fictional characters. I agree with Smith that point-of-view shots promote a qualitatively different emotional engagement in spectators and that they are powerful prompts to ‘imagining from the inside’, while I show that he conflates this Waltonian notion with Currie’s ‘personal imagining’ and with the idea of empathizing with a character. (shrink)