Arthur Danto’s recent book, Andy Warhol, leads the reader through the story of the iconic American’s artistic life highlighted by a philosophical commentary, a commentary that merges Danto’s aesthetic theory with the artist himself. Inspired by Warhol’s Brillo Box installation, art that in Danto’s eyes was indiscernible from the everyday boxes it represented, Danto developed a theory that is able to differentiate art from non-art by employing the body of conceptual art theory manifest in what he termed the ‘artworld’. (...) The strength of Danto’s theory is found in its ability to explain the art of the post-modern era. His body of work weaves philosophy, art history and art criticism together, merging his aesthetic philosophy with his extensive knowledge of the world of art. Danto’s essentialist theory of embodied meaning provides him with a critical tool that succeeds in explaining the currents of contemporary art, a task that many great thinkers of art history were unable to do. If Warhol inspired Danto to create a philosophy of art, it is appropriate that Danto write a tribute to Warhol that traces how Warhol brought philosophy into art. Danto’s account of ‘Warhol as philosopher’ positions him as a pivotal figure in the history of twentieth-century art, effecting a sea change in how art was made and viewed. Warhol achieved this by conceiving of works that embodied the answers to a series of philosophical puzzles surrounding the nature of art. Warhol, as Danto describes him, manifests himself in his art because he had transformed himself, in a way, into an icon of the times. This pragmatist notion that art should undermine the dichotomies that exist between art and life would, by some accounts, position Warhol to be the philosopher that Danto claims him to be, for he dissolved the philosophical questions posted by late modern aesthetic thinkers by creating art that imploded the accepted notions of art at the time. One of Danto’s greatest contributions to aesthetics is his theory’s ability to distinguish art from non-art, recognizing that it is the artist’s intention that levels the sublimity of art into the commonplace, thereby transfiguring the everyday. However, acknowledging this achievement, I argue that Warhol’s philosophical contribution actually manifests itself in a manner different from that proposed by Danto. Danto maintains that the internal drive of art leads to the unfolding of art theoretical concepts that ineluctably shift the terrain of world of art. I would agree with Danto that Warhol, almost as Hegel viewed Napoleon as Geist on a horse, pushed forward the boundaries of art through the actualization of art’s internal drive. But I would disagree that the conceptual nature of art is one that unfolds merely as a relation of concepts that artists trace through a connection to the meaning of history they forge using their unmediated grasp of style. Rather, I would argue that the artist’s style is not bound so narrowly to the meanings they express. Through their aesthetic articulations, artists initiate a process of social interaction. This process employs the philosophical logic which Danto attributes to Warhol indirectly, and through it, it is able to transfigure the vocabulary of art—the concepts of the artworld—by superseding the language of modernism. Warhol’s philosophical contribution is seen in his mastery of both the medium of art and the underlying logic of the medium’s expression and reception. (shrink)
A month ago, I bought an iPhone. The iPhone has already taken over some of the central functions of my brain. It has replaced part of my memory, storing phone numbers and addresses that I once would have taxed my brain with. It harbors my desires: I call up a memo with the names of my favorite dishes when I need to order at a local restaurant. I use it to calculate, when I need to figure out bills and tips. (...) It is a tremendous resource in an argument, with Google ever present to help settle disputes. I make plans with it, using its calendar to help determine what I can and can’t do in the coming months. I even daydream on the iPhone, idly calling up words and images when my concentration slips. Friends joke that I should get the iPhone implanted into my brain. But if Andy Clark is right, all this would do is speed up the processing, and free up my hands. The iPhone is part of my mind already. Clark is a connoisseur of the myriad ways in which the mind relies on the world to get its work done. The first part of this marvelous book explores some of these ways: the extension of our bodies, the extension of our senses, and crucially, the use of language as a tool to extend our thought. The second part of the book defends the thesis that in at least some of these cases, the world is not serving as a mere instrument for the mind. Rather, the relevant parts of the world have become parts of my mind. My iPhone is not my tool, or at least it is not wholly my tool. Parts of it have become parts of me. This is the thesis of the extended mind: when parts of the environment are coupled to the brain in the right way, they become parts of the mind. The thesis has a long history: I am told that there are hints of it in Dewey, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein. But no-one has done as much to give life to the idea as Andy Clark. In a series of important books and articles—Being There, Natural-Born Cyborgs, “Magic words: How language augments human computation”, and many others—he has explored the many ways in which the boundaries between mind and world are far more flexible than one might have thought.. (shrink)
This paper contains an overview of the essays contained in the Mind and morals anthology plus a critical discussion of certain themes raised in many of these essays concerning the bearing of recent work in cognitive science on the traditional project of moral theory. Specifically, I argue for the following claims: (1) authors like Virginia Held, who appear to be antagonistic toward the methodological naturalism of Owen Flanagan, Andy Clark, Paul Churchland, and others, are really in fundamental agreement with (...) the naturalists (at least once the naturalist view is suitably clarified); (2) the prototype theory of moral concepts that is inspired by recent work in cognitive science does not necessarily jeopardize the aim of systematization characteristic of traditional moral theory; (3) nor does it threaten certain widely accepted views about moral rationality that is part of traditional moral theorizing. Moreover, I speculate that (4) recent work in cognitive science can be expected to play a corroborative role in the justification of theories in ethics, but we should probably not expect this work to yield new insights and directions in ethics. Finally, (5) Fodor's recent critique of cognitive science makes clear the perils of methodological ethical naturalism. (shrink)
In this essay I attempt to unpack Andy Kaufman in his many manifestations, ultimately arguing that traditional notions of comedy cannot help us get at the root of what is going on here. Through a discussion and criticism of the theories of comedy presented by Christopher Fry, Susanne Langer, Walter Kerr, and Maurice Charney, I suggest how Andy's comedy employs a rejection of the modernist conceits of a fixed identity, a denotative language, a progressive history, and a separation (...) of temporality from Being. Ultimately focusing on the way in which Freud's theory of comedy gets deconstructed when we read it through the lens of Andy’s work, I take apart specific jokes and comedic “moments” in Andy's work and show how the Freudian framework cannot support such an aesthetic. What is, in fact, most challenging in Andy's work as a comedian is not merely the way in which his own identity is up for grabs but the way in which he forces the audience to have its identity as an audience called into question, the way in which a Baudrillardean simulacrum stands in for a missing punchline while we, his fans, wait for something that is never coming. And yet we, his fans, laugh. Sometimes uncomfortably, but always more authentically. (shrink)
Andy Clark's Supersizing the Mind begins as a manifesto in which the components of an embodied theory of mind are carefully moved into place, proceeds to a defense of these components from recent critical attacks, and ends with words of caution to those who would seek to extract too much from the embodied perspective. Readers unfamiliar with Clark's earlier works are likely to find the result dazzling -- an exciting, novel, and coherent conception of the mind that dares one (...) to abandon nearly every vestige of a comfortably Cartesian view of mind. Of course, philosophers of mind have, for the most part, already jettisoned the idea that minds are an ethereal sort of non-physical substance. We can now assert with no great temerity that Descartes was wrong about that. Even so, one might still agree with Descartes that minds are in some sense distinct from bodies. They are, as it were, in the head. Yet, if Clark's case for embodiment is on track, minds are not in the head. The supervenience base for a mind (and not simply mental content) can include pieces of the extracranial body and, indeed, objects in the world beyond. (shrink)
This paper offers a way to think philosophically about Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests and in particular their ethical implications. I focus on how the faces of the Screen Tests’ participants appear on the screen, making a link to the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. For Levinas, the human face signifies the possibility of transcending day-to-day structures of perception based on understanding, knowledge and visual representation, and can therefore invite an encounter with radical alterity. I make a connection between Levinas’s reading (...) of the face and the observations of a number of film theorists who see the cinematic close-up as a unique image, transcending the status of an ordinary perceptual phenomenon. I examine two Screen Tests, those of Bob Dylan and Ann Buchanan, using them as concrete examples of how film close-ups can open viewers to the face, in a Levinasian sense: the epiphany of radical alterity. This allows me to claim that despite Levinas’s declared hostility towards the visual, his philosophical articulation of the notion of the face helps to show the ethical implications of the appearance of the human face in cinema in general, and in Warhol’s Screen Tests in particular. (shrink)
One of the most prominent notions in Heidegger’s thinking about art is that of the earth. This paper probes the phenomenological potential of Heidegger’s concept by turning to the work of contemporary British artist Andy Goldsworthy. Drawing from Heidegger’s theoretical writings as well as his analysis of a poem by C.F. Meyer in “The Origin of the Work of Art” and his 1936–37 seminar on Schiller, I show that Goldsworthy’s sculptural art exemplifies different phenomenal traits of the “earth.” To (...) supplement Heidegger’s discussion, both Husserl’s claim that the earth defines the “spatiality of nature” and the role of the earth in Hegel’s philosophy of nature are taken into account. (shrink)
The title of Andy Clark's book is, among other things, a reference to one of the central terms in Martin Heidegger's early work: "Dasein" (being there) is the word that Heidegger uses to refer to beings like ourselves. Clark is no Heidegger scholar, but the reference is deliberate; among the predecessors to his book he lists not only Heidegger himself, but also the American Heidegger scholar Hubert Dreyfus and the French Heideggerean phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty. This triumvirate has played an (...) increasingly important role in recent years among the "alternative" cognitive science set, owing largely to the influence of Dreyfus's 1979 book What Computers Can't Do (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1979), which enlisted Heideggerian and Merleau-Pontean arguments in the fight against classical symbolic processing approaches to artificial intelligence. Clark's book fits squarely in this "alternative" tradition, and it is an important contribution to the existing literature. It surveys a large array of results in cognitive scientifically oriented fields ranging from robotics to developmental psychology, and it argues convincingly that these results should encourage us to embrace a radical new research paradigm in the cognitive sciences. The central claim is that mainstream cognitive scientists should, like their more revolutionary colleagues, learn to substitute for "the disembodied, atemporal intellectualist vision of mind ... the image of mind as a controller of embodied action" (p. 7). As a clear and brightly written account of this alternative movement in cognitive science, and perhaps even as a kind of mission statement for the new paradigm, Clark's book is one of the finest I have read. It is limited, however, by the fact that the interesting and well-described empirical work that forms the center of his presentation does not always provide sufficient resources for addressing the equally important philosophical problems lurking. (shrink)
Andy Clark is a leading philosophical exponent of a view of mind as an ‘associative engine’, or connectionist pattern-completer, composed of multiple special-purpose modules that communicate in only limited ways and eschew detailed forms of internal representation. The modules, Clark and his allies argue, are both coordinated and integrated by the environment, whilst ‘off-loading’ onto it by calling on external computational resources to reduce cognitive load. Defenders of this position further maintain that even examples of sophisticated and distinctively human (...) cognition, such as long-term planning or running a multi-national company, emerge from connectionist pattern-completing brains in the ‘constraining presence of public language, culture and institutions’ . This constellation of ideas, Clark argues, amounts to a completely new science of mind that radically reforms ‘our whole way of thinking about intelligent behaviour’. Unfortunately, this rhetoric far outstrips the evidence: while a reasonable case can be made that external scaffolds are necessary for many types of cognition, the assertion that pattern-completion plus external scaffolding is a sufficient explanation of all human cognition has not been demonstrated. The insufficiency of the Clarkian view is particularly evident in the case of advanced cognition in the economic sphere. (shrink)
Upshot: The “Extended Mind Thesis‘ claims that cognitive processes are situated, embodied and goal-oriented actions that unfold in real world interactions with the immediate environment, cultural tools and other persons. The body and the “outside‘ world, undoubtedly, have a crucial influence, driving human beings’ cognitive processes. In his book, Andy Clark goes slightly further by claiming that the mind is often extended into the body and the world.
This is a plausible reading of what Clark and Chalmers had in mind at the time, but it is not the radical claim at stake in the extended cognition debate. It is a familiar functionalist view of cognition and the mind that it can be realized in a wide range of distinct material bases. Thus, for many species of functionalism about cognition and the mind, it follows that they can be realized in extracranial substrates. And, in truth, even some non-functionalist (...) views of cognition apparently allow for the possibility that cognition extends into the external world. So, the (logical, conceptual, or nomological) possibility of extended cognition seems to us not the kind of radical view the advocates of this view have often implied. This is not, of course, to assess or pass judgment on the truth of these possibilities; it is only to note that they are not what most agitates people about the hypothesis of extended cognition. Framing the radical extended cognition hypothesis is a more delicate matter than framing the modal extended cognition hypothesis, but something like the following is in the ballpark. The radical extended cognition hypothesis maintains that, in many mundane cases of tool use, human cognitive processes extend into the tools. The principal reason this hypothesis is so delicate is that there remains much room for dispute about what constitutes a “mundane” case of tool use, such as keeping a notebook at hand at all times, versus an exotic case of tool use, such as having a computer memory chip implanted in one’s brain. Clark never in so many words defends the idea that there are actual cases of extended cognition. Rather, his tacit commitment must be inferred from such things as his proposal that the brain is made to use tools, so we should view tools as part of the mind (Cf., Clark, 2005, p. 8ff.). (shrink)
This is a plausible reading of what Clark and Chalmers had in mind at the time, but it is not the radical claim at stake in the extended cognition debate. It is a familiar functionalist view of cognition and the mind that it can be realized in a wide range of distinct material bases. Thus, for many species of functionalism about cognition and the mind, it follows that they can be realized in extracranial substrates. And, in truth, even some non-functionalist (...) views of cognition apparently allow for the possibility that cognition extends into the external world. So, the (logical, conceptual, or nomological) possibility of extended cognition seems to us not the kind of radical view the advocates of this view have often implied. This is not, of course, to assess or pass judgment on the truth of these possibilities; it is only to note that they are not what most agitates people about the hypothesis of extended cognition. Framing the radical extended cognition hypothesis is a more delicate matter than framing the modal extended cognition hypothesis, but something like the following is in the ballpark. The radical extended cognition hypothesis maintains that, in many mundane cases of tool use, human cognitive processes extend into the tools. The principal reason this hypothesis is so delicate is that there remains much room for dispute about what constitutes a. (shrink)
A slow revolution in cognitive science is banishing this century's technological conception of mind as disembodied pure thought, namely a material symbol manipulation, and replacing it with next century's conception: mind as the organisation of bodily interaction, intelligent robotics.
Aesthetics and Music is a rich and interesting study. Hamilton's approach is innovative. He interleaves chapters on the history of philosophical thought about music with more theoretical discussions of music, sound, rhythm and improvisation, but does not cover the work–performance relation, depiction or expression. He draws on an atypically broad range of examples, including avant-garde, medieval, non-Western and jazz. The assumptions are humanist: ‘I wish to argue for an aesthetic conception of music as an art … according to which music (...) is a human activity grounded in the body and bodily movement and interfused with human life’ .The historical chapters are valuable and not without analysis and criticism. Hamilton shows how the ancient Greek theorists were more interested in music's mathematical properties as reflecting the underlying harmony of relations between cosmic bodies than in the practice of musicians. While they equated the value of art with its contribution to an education for citizenship and while their concept of the arts differed …. (shrink)