ABSTRACT Disagreements about art are considered here for their potential to pose questions about reality beyond the artwork. The project of assessing artistic value is useful for bringing complex questions to light. The ambitiousness of the cognitive stock, in Richard Wollheim's term, that can be relevant to understanding an artwork may mean that confident evaluation will elude us. Thinking about artistic value judgment in this way shifts its centrality as the point of artistic interpretation and evaluation; the goal of judging (...) a work's meaning and value is a useful tool for prompting us to understand a work. But if we fail to reach that goal, that does not mean we have failed to engage with the work appropriately. The artistic value judgment, and achieving consensus on that value, can be secondary in importance to grasping the problems a work poses that are not immediately resolvable. Examples drawn from literary and philosophical imagining, in the work of Grace Paley and Mary Mothersill, and from Toni Morrison's literary criticism are used to illustrate and support the fruitfulness of this approach. (shrink)
This paper takes meals, rather than food itself, as its focus. Meals incorporate the project of nutrition into human life, but it is a contingent matter that we nourish ourselves in this way. This paper defends the importance of meals as meaning-makers and contrasts them with art in that regard. Meals and art represent interestingly different extremes with respect to how needs for meaning are met. Artworks ask for coordination of experience, understanding and appreciation: the meaning of art is to (...) be experienced. The meaning of meals is enacted and accumulates collectively, but need not be experienced. (shrink)
Do poems provide “scripts” for reader’s thoughts? Kendall Walton’s account of poets as thoughtwriters, in which poems can serve to express readers’ thoughts without positing an expressive thinker in the poem, is considered from various angles. While it seems a minimal expressive thinker needs to be posited, this leaves open other questions about poems as the stuff of thought. Can poems be fully thought, and do readers take ownership of the thinking that poetry prompts? Elizabeth Bishop’s “At the Fishhouses” is (...) discussed as a poem that allows the reader a chance to separate aspects of content and control of thought. (shrink)
The notion of a meal is explored in relation to questions of art status and artistic value. Meals are argued not to be works of art, but to have the capacity for artistic value. These claims are used to respond to Dominic Lopes’s arguments in Beyond Art that demote artistic value in favour of the values that emerge from specific kinds of art. A conception of artistic value that involves ‘taking reflective charge’ of the possibilities for goodness available in an (...) activity is sketched. (shrink)
The question of how well we need to be known, to be loved, is considered. A ‘second-person’ model is argued for, on which love requires that the beloved’s demands to be known be respected. This puts pressure on the idea that lovers need to make a beloved’s interests their own, taking that to require comprehension of the beloved’s interests: a lover would have to appreciate the normative intelligibility and motivating force of an interest. The possibility of love with failure of (...) comprehension is defended, using illustrations from Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead. (shrink)
Philosophical aesthetics is to some extent beholden to what I will call personal aesthetics. By personal aesthetics, I mean the phenomena of individual aesthetic sensitivity: how each of us discerns and responds to elements of experience. I take that sensitivity to be finely woven into feeling to some degree at home in the world. There is something extremely local, and in a certain sense unreflective, about personal aesthetics – it is hard to notice one's own, historically specific aesthetic formation. Philosophical (...) aesthetics, meanwhile, aspires to understand aesthetic life in a more reflective and general way. Aesthetic theories in the Western tradition, like most philosophical theories, try to articulate universally relevant and illuminating theoretical concepts and values. But can a theory of this kind acknowledge what is important at the level of personal aesthetics? Can aesthetic theories find fruitful application while also respecting the locality and variability of aesthetic sensitivity? What kinds of theoretical ambition and humility are called for in philosophical aesthetics? (shrink)
Appeals to imagination to distinguish fiction from nonfiction have been persuasively challenged by philosophers such as Derek Matravers and Stacie Friend. This essay aims to uphold the importance of the fiction/nonfiction distinction by other means. Instead of relying on contrasting roles for imagination and belief, can we isolate kinds of experience that are paradigmatically sustained by fiction? Can status as fiction encourage, and help to explain, certain tendencies and qualities of experience? Several common aspects of experience, of what it is (...) like to experience something as fiction, are proposed: the experience of individuals as representative; a linked epistemic and aesthetic interest in detail; and openness to evaluative judgement. Nonfictional works can support these experiences, but they make most sense ethically and epistemically in the context of fiction. (shrink)
This chapter considers how and why real people can care about fictional characters.. Caring rests on having interests at stake, and in literary contexts those interests concern the accuracy and content of a representation; we as people, as part of our natural history, are beings for whom representation and being represented are centrally important. This chapter argues for a better integration of the “internal” and “external” perspectives on fictional characters, that is, a better integration of what are too often taken (...) as divergent and incompatible points of view: (1) the characters as witnessed from the outside, and (2) the reader’s vicarious identification with, and thus imaginative entry into the life of, the character from the inside. (shrink)
Should we aspire to aesthetic consistency? Two kinds of aesthetic consistency are considered, following Ted Cohen’s discussion of consistency in personal aesthetics: consistency of aesthetic reasons and coherence of aesthetic personality. Neither of these kinds of consistency seems like something to aspire to, possibly because we cannot do so – if we are not typically reasoning at the level of aesthetic response that is envisaged – or because consistent, coherent responsiveness does not seem like a worthwhile aesthetic goal. A third (...) kind of consistency is defended, at the level of reflection on the desirable functions of art. We can try to be consistent about broadly ethical principles, showing our commitments as to the goods that art should provide in a life or to a society. These very broad principles do not make direct or clear aesthetic contact with individual artworks, so we cannot straightforwardly apply them as evaluative principles. But we can be consistent in trying to link the very specific achievements of works with these reflective values. (shrink)
This paper addresses the question of how literary and philosophical thinking can converge in experience of a literary work. Peter Lamarque and Stein Haugom Olsen, in Truth, Fiction, and Literature, dispute this possibility. I respond to their view with particular attention to their account of thematic interpretation. Thematic interpretation is presented here as involving thought about the reasons behind a work’s use of its content and other features. Those reasons have an implicit generality that allows us to move from literary (...) specificity to general, philosophically significant understanding. Philosophy’s need for the kind of thinking supported by literature, exploring patterns, priorities and less than universal claims, is defended. George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch and Lydia Davis’s story ‘Ethics’ provide illustrations of the issues. (shrink)
To understand rational response to ethical disagreement, we need to consider how epistemic and ethical factors interact. The notion of an ethical peer is developed, and the roles that epistemic and ethical peers play in disagreement are compared. In the light of some literary examples, the view that conciliation in response to an ethical peer can be called for, even if that peer is an epistemic inferior, is defended.
Pack includes 2 titles from the popular Blackwell Philosophy Anthologies Series: _ _ Philosophy of Literature_: Contemporary and Classic Readings_ _Edited by Eileen John and Dominic McIver Lopes ISBN: 9781405112086 _ Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures_: An Anthology _Edited by No ë l Carroll and Jinhee Choi ISBN: 9781405120272.
Essential readings in the philosophy of literature are brought together for the first time in this anthology. Contains forty-five substantial and carefully chosen essays and extracts Provides a balanced and coherent overview of developments in the field during the past thirty years, including influential work on fiction, interpretation, metaphor, literary value, and the definition and ontology of literature Includes an additional historical section featuring generous selections of the writings of early pioneers such as Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Hume Serves as (...) an ideal introduction to the philosophy of literature or the philosophy of art, as well as a handy compilation of contributions to the field by its leading figures. (shrink)
How can stories contribute to ethical education, when they reach people who have already been shaped by many stories, including ethically problematic ones? This question is pursued here by considering Plato’s allegory of the cave, focusing on a reading of it offered by Jonathan Lear. Lear claims that the cave allegory aims to undermine its audience’s inheritance of stories. I question the possibility and desirability of that project, especially in relation to ethical education. Some works of contemporary fiction by Jenny (...) Erpenbeck and J. M. Coetzee are discussed as stories that use more complex strategies for ethically constructive engagement with story-saturated audiences. (shrink)
This chapter explores what Emma and Austen might have to say about human agency and autonomy. Considered and challenged are Christine Korsgaard’s use of Austen’s characters (Emma Woodhouse and Harriet Smith) to exemplify a species of defective autonomous action. Austen's novel persistently addresses and clarifies the nature and sources of defective action. Harriet Smith’s happy subordination to Emma’s will, as Korsgaard maintains, is obviously problematic. But it is most often Emma Woodhouse herself, and not Harriet, whose conduct Austen presents as (...) compromised, and Emma’s behavior is not defective in such a way as to suggest an abdication of will. Moreover, it is evident that considering what another thinks one should do and allowing that to inform one’s conduct is not a course of action that is invariably deplored in Emma. The chapter investigates the light Austen’s novel can shed on defects in action and the inevitability (or not) of their connection with autonomy. (shrink)
The role of reading in educating a future writer is discussed through study of memoirs by writers including Janet Frame, James Baldwin, and Eudora Welty. The memoirs show reading books to have been a transformative way of melding forms of experience. The following features of childhood reading are examined: (1) the role of the physical book, (2) the cognitive-aesthetic-affective impact of letters, words and ‘voices’, (3) the partially unplanned and challenging path of children’s exposure to texts, and (4) absorption of (...) models that can be imitated and outgrown. The discussion links sympathetically to views in philosophy of education about the importance of content and beauty and of influences whose impact cannot be planned, measured or captured as generic skills. The autobiographical evidence considered here suggests that these influences can nonetheless be crucial to expanding learners’ horizons and stimulating their educational and artistic progress. (shrink)