Stand-up specials seem to resemble news reporting and documentary film in that they appear prima facie to be mere documentation of an event designed to give viewers the sense of what happened at a place at a time. Closer examination, however, throws doubt upon this transparency claim and it is argued that filmic realism is not the proper lens through which to understand stand-up specials, that they represent a more artistic medium in which the director of the special needs to (...) be seen as an artist along with the comedian. (shrink)
Stand‐up specials are not identical to the sets they contain. Nor are they of a kind with either fiction films or documentaries. I argue here that the properties of specials that make them ontologically distinct also demand that we treat them as distinct for the purpose of their evaluation. I then offer some evaluative criteria for specials as well as suggestions for becoming better critics of specials.
The stand-up special is growing cultural significance just as it is maturing and becoming more distinct as an art form. Philosophical treatments of the special are therefore neither frivolous nor redundant. I argue here that such inquiry can be aided by a definitional account of “special” and that an essential definition – if one is available- would serve us best. I then offer a candidate definition of this kind and reply to some likely objections to it.
Realism has a significant place in the history of film theory. The claim that film is essentially a realistic art form has been employed to justify the art-status of films as well as the distinctness of film as a form. André Bazin and others once used realist ontologies of film to try to establish realist teleologies and universal critical standards. I briefly sketch this history before considering the prospects for various versions of realism: Bazin’s, as well as Kendall Walton’s and (...) Gregory Currie’s less ambitious but more plausible accounts. I argue that these theories, though they are the best cases we have for realism, are not adequate ontologies of film. However, while prior realist philosophers and critics were wrong to think that realism can provide a critical standard for all films, realism is nonetheless a praiseworthy filmic achievement - one that the opponent of ontological realism should not dismiss. (shrink)
What sort of thing is film? Before we can answer this question, we’ll have to first determine which things count as “films” in the relevant sense and work out what we ought to look for in an acceptable answer. There is little consensus among philosophers of film on any stage of this process. Here I make the case for a particular understanding of “film” to investigate as well as a particular set of criteria to use in that investigation. I then (...) apply those criteria to a number of available candidate theories. In the end, I do not offer an answer to our question so much as an approach to it, along with some strategies for future research. (shrink)
The story in "The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut" and its telling are above all funny, but Twain himself was keenly interested in its philosophical content. Writing about the first reading of “Carnival” Twain referred to the “exasperating metaphysical question which I mean to lay before them in the disguise of a literary extravaganza.” There are at least two candidates for the operative “metaphysical question,” both of them quite “exasperating.” The first concerns the origin and valuation (...) of moral values. On this reading Twain may appear to be making a point similar to the central thesis of a number of Nietzsche’s most important works. Indeed, this Nietzschean reading of Carnival has been suggested before. Another possible interpretation is that Twain’s first concern was not with the nature of moral values so much as moral psychology. On this reading, “Carnival” may seem at first to be making a more or less Humean point about moral motivation. I argue that that Twain is presenting neither a Nietzschean nor a Humean position so much as presenting the questions that these theories purport to answer. Certain details of “Carnival” suggest that Twain had a remarkably nuanced understanding of these questions and the problems they produce. (shrink)
A number of current controversies involve questions about the cognitive value of fiction. In each of these contexts, we find skepticism about what might be called the “strong thesis,” that we can non-trivially gain determinate propositional knowledge from fictions by virtue of their narrative contents. I offer two ways in which fictions can (and often do) provide us with propositional knowledge in just this way. I make the case that these models help answer much of the skepticism mentioned above. I (...) conclude by considering a number of implications of and objections to the entire project. (shrink)
One common way of framing the recent history of definitional theories of art has it that Wittgensteinian challenges to the definitional project were not successful in establishing the impossibility of a successful definition, but they were successful in providing limits on the kinds of theories that can work. A key part of this story concerns Morris Weitz’s argument that “art” is indefinable because art is – as he calls it – an “open concept”. The argument has since been refuted by (...) definitional theories that account for art’s openness. Doing so, in fact, has become something of a motivation for and a requirement of subsequent theories. I argue here, however, first that accepting Weitz’s premise that art is open has led to an unfortunate pessimism about providing thoroughly informative definitional theories, and second that such pessimism is unwarranted. Art is not, in fact, open in the way Weitz suggests. Recognizing this should enable us to once again seek more informative definitional theories. (shrink)
Certain artworks are––whatever else they are––statements about the value of art. A particularly striking form of such a statement is made by a class of artworks we can call “high-cost art.” High-cost artworks are those with greater costs relative to benefits for their artists or displayers. I will argue here that those art forms that are most likely to include high-cost works are particularly effective at communicating artistic value-claims, and suggest that by so championing the value of art, these artworks (...) themselves increase in artistic value. (shrink)
A number of objections to the style matrix that Arthur Danto introduced in “The Artworld” seem to have quelled most discussion of it. So telling have these arguments been that Danto himself later recanted the idea entirely. This situation is somewhat unfortunate. It may be that Danto's own interpretation of the style matrix is not tenable, but I believe we can articulate an alternative reading of it that escapes the aforementioned objections. While the interpretation I suggest cannot provide all that (...) Danto initially imagined for his style matrix, it does maintain much that was theoretically beneficial in it. (shrink)
A number of recently-offered examples demonstrate that it is possible for films to be works of philosophy, but do not speak to just how many films are. Here I suggest one way in which a great number of films could be reasonably interpreted this way. My focus is on what I take to be our most crucial criterion for a film’s being philosophy: that it must present a philosophical argument. I present here a form that is plausibly shared by a (...) good number of arguments made by films, and provide a number of examples of films that present arguments of this form in favor of philosophical conclusions. (shrink)