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Discussion on one of the other threads (“Toward a Uniform Vocabulary for Discussing Subjectivity”) has lately turned to neuro-aesthetics where it is only marginally relevant. So I wondered if perhaps the topic might deserve its own thread, especially given that aesthetics in all its forms is such a poor relation in analytic philosophy and generally gets so little attention.

I should explain my own position. I think neuro-aesthetics is bunkum. I won’t go into why for the moment – that will doubtless emerge as time goes on. I’m happy to suggest it as a topic, however, because (a) I’m aware it has many enthusiasts, (b) who knows? I may be wrong, (c) I think it warrants closer scrutiny than it usually seems to get, and (d) as I say, aesthetics in all its form gets very little attention anyway.

To encourage contributions, I should mention that I have an Achilles heel: I have read very little of the work by “leading” neuro-aestheticians. Some intellectual movements, I feel, have folly writte ... (read more)
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I would like to initiate discussion on this issue. Frankly, I will be surprised if anyone joins in because my experience is that philosophers of art have ignored it for so long that today very few even know what it is about!

The issue is simply this: how do we explain the capacity of certain works of art to ‘live on’ (to use the colloquial phrase) centuries or millennia after their creation while large numbers fall into oblivion?

The question is not about this or that work. It’s about a general capacity of (great) art – a capacity to transcend time – to remain vital and alive despite the passage of long periods of time. And it is also about the way works endure – but that’s a question for later on.

This is a vitally important issue for the philosophy of art (aesthetics). Why? Put simply: everything else in human life – from fads, to social customs, to religious beliefs etc – falls prey to the passing of time and ends up in what Malraux aptly calls “the charnel house of dead values”. Only ... (read more)

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Hi everyone!

Well, I've noticed the question of "computer games are art (y or n?)" being raised. I wouldn't get into "what does it mean that X is an object of art" or "what essential properties does X need in order for it to be an object of art". I'd like to address a different question: why do we take for granted that a poem is an object of art, while, say, computer games are not? 
Maybe a Wittgenstein-like approach would insist on valid language games instead of deploying analytical "essential properties" of the object.

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I recently proposed a phenomenological experiment on music perception that is a follow up of a theorical article written with my friend Jerome Palfi, a mathematician. Unfortunately I did not find enough people to participate among acquaintances. Therefore I would be glad if readers of Philpapers that are interessed by aesthetics, or philosophy of music, could give some of their time to take part in this experiment.

One can find the paper at my home page under the title "A phenomenological experiment with Arnold Schoenberg". The idea is to establish wether or not a certain mathematical grouping of dodecaphonic series is settled on perceptual grounds.

I think that not more than one hour of listening should be enough to experiment, plus maybe half an hour for the presentation reading. No special knowledge of any kind is required.

Results, posted as comments here, should be of interest for musicians and philosophers. As the data to discriminate is presented by columns, the general forms of re ... (read more)

I'm interested in hearing peoples' intuitions about the aesthetic value of games. Most people I know who habitually play chess, bridge, computer games or Dungeons and Dragons share the intuition that they value the experience of gameplay for reasons that are at least closely akin to the aesthetic. But is there one particular factor that can be appealed to that distinguishes the aesthetic value of gameplay from other types of intrinsic or instrumental value that it may possess, e.g. as a type of relaxation, a facilitator of certain types of social interaction, a pedagogical tool, and so on?
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Suppose that X is an evolutionary adaptation.  Can one infer, prima facie, that it is good?  The consensus in philosophy is that one cannot.  Reflecting on Denis Dutton’s The Art Instinct made me reconsider. 

Here, in very schematic form, is the argument that cuts against the consensus:

1.     Suppose that X is an adaptation to circumstances C.  (E.g: the heart is an adaptation to the need for oxygenated blood throughout the body.)

2.     From a scientific account that shows why X is an adaptation, we can (usually?) derive a function-attribution of the form: F is a function of X.  (E.g.: oxygenation and pumping of blood are functions of the heart.)

3.     If F is a function of X, and A is an X that does not perform F, then A is a bad X. (E.g.: a heart that doesn’t pump and oxygenate blood properly is a bad heart.)

Suppose that some human practices are adaptations.  Specifically, suppose that art is one.   Then by 2 above we may conclude that art has a function.  Suppose that work of art ... (read more)

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We have many framing devices in the arts, and one thing that is consistent in their use is a metacognitive process which they seem to stimulate. We see the contents of a picture, and while we are occupied with processing these details we might come across another picture inside it, or we might see an artist painting a picture (as we do in Velazquez's Las Meninas); or there might be a mirror in the depicted space, all of these framing devices allow us to step out of our current thought process, and become aware of it, or self aware of our viewing. How fair is it to say that visual experience can be ordered in the form of HOTs as framing devices in the visual field, or that HOTs can be visualised in this way? 
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Perhaps we could begin with Hitchcock and Husserl/Sartre?
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My name is Jared and I am a recent graduate of Bates College with a degree in philosophy (specifically contemporary political philosophy). Toward the end of my education, I studied more M&E and found this area of philosophy to be significantly more interesting. Within the last year I launched a music/ philosophy blog called Playtonic Dialogues (shameless pun) where I aim to report and promote conversations that touch on these two topics.  I write and administrate Playtonic Dialogues as well as write for a number of music websites. I believe there is a lack of substantive discourse in music journalism and I'd like to develop a style and voice to communicate the analytical studies taking place with music. If anyone has suggestions for the blog, interesting research within these topics, or any other questions or comments, I'd really appreciate the input.



Since it appears that "Category Mistake" is the only thread devised for the Aesthetics forum thus far, my hope is that this thread will begin an ongoing critical discussion of the philosophy of art.

There are several issues concerning the philosophy of art that I have found difficult to answer or ignore:

(1) What role does "value" play in assessing works of art? Is there any coherent principle concerning the value of works of art? If so, is it broad enough to accept new and unprecedented standards for works of art? Does a standard of value lock art into a stultifying tradition or policy? I seem to hold that there is one value in art: the value of education in developing an aptitude for engaging in the language of art. This is primarily an aesthetic education, to be taken as more than mere developing good taste, an eye for design, color, and composition, and some knowledge of the canons of art. This aesthetic capacity entails a thoroughgoing philosophical outlook towards works of art.

(2 ... (read more)
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Perhaps the reason there are no other threads on this subject is that the subject is misplaced. Inclusion of aesthetics under value theory is a polite nod to Kant but has little to do with today.
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Cross-posted from

This week we discussed Cian Dorr’s ‘There are no abstract objects’, which isn’t currently available online, but is in ‘Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics’. Here’s the handout instead.

As we had Cian on the spot for this meeting, the discussion mostly took a question-and-answer format. So here are what I recorded of some questions and some answers, with a few that I didn’t get time to ask thrown in at the end. Apologies if my paraphrases of Cian's answers misrepresent him!

Q: What about people who would resist the paraphrase strategy (p.37) because they think that counterpossibles are all vacuously true (Williamson takes this line in The Philosophy of Philosophy).
A: Nominalism/anti-nominalism are both contingent theses. But even if you think that nominalism is necessary if true, there will be certain kinds of truths like ‘there are possibly some things with a number-like structure’ which can be used to ground the relevant counterfactua ... (read more)

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