Do fictions depend upon imagination? Derek Matravers argues against the mainstream view that they do, and offers an original account of what it is to read, listen to, or watch a narrative. He downgrades the divide between fiction and non-fiction, largely dispenses with the imagination, and in doing so illuminates a succession of related issues.
This paper argues that the role of the negative emotions in the appreciation of art is misunderstood. Usually taken to generate the 'paradox of tragedy', in fact the negative emotions play an essential role in creativity, and hence in art appreciation.
Matravers examines how emotions form the bridge between our experience of art and of life. We often find that a particular poem, painting, or piece of music carries an emotional charge; and we may experience emotions toward, or on behalf of, a particular fictional character. Matravers shows that what these experiences have in common, and what links them to the expression of emotion in non-artistic cases, is the role played by feeling. He carries out a critical survey of various accounts (...) of the nature of fiction, attacks contemporary cognitivist accounts of expression, and offers an uncompromising defense of a controversial view about musical expression: that music works by expressing the emotions it causes its listeners to feel. (shrink)
The primary use of such terms as "sadness" and "joy" is to refer to the mental states of people. In such cases, the claim that someone is sad is equivalent to the claim that they feel sad. However, our use of emotion terms is broader than this; a funeral is a sad occasion, a wedding is a happy event. In such cases, a justification can be given for the use of the word. For example, it is part of what is (...) meant by "sadness" that events such as funerals are an appropriate object for such emotions and the epithet is transferred. Sometimes in criticism a similar justification can be given; it explains, for example, why the death of Little Nell is sad. On other occasions such a justification is not available. A poem can express sadness without representing a sad state of affairs. More obviously, to take a medium that is not representational, a piece of music can be sad. What we need is some way of making sense of these uses of the emotion terms. (shrink)
This article criticises existing solutions to the 'puzzle of imaginative resistance', reconstrues it, and offers a solution of its own. About the Book : Imagination, Philosophy and the Arts is the first comprehensive collection of papers by philosophers examining the nature of imagination and its role in understanding and making art. Imagination is a central concept in aesthetics with close ties to issues in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language, yet it has not received the kind of (...) sustained, critical attention it deserves. This collection of seventeen brand new essays critically examines just how and in what form the notion of imagination illuminates fundamental problems in the philosophy of art. (shrink)
Derek Matravers introduces students to the philosophy of art through a close examination of eight famous works of twentieth-century art. Each work has been selected in order to best illustrate and illuminate a particular problem in aesthetics. Each artwork forms a basis for a single chapter and readers are introduced to such issues as artistic value, intention, interpretation, and expression through a careful analysis of the artwork. Questions considered include what does art mean in contemporary art practice? Is the artistic (...) value of a painting the same as how much you like it? If a painting isn't of anything, then how do we understand it? Can art be immoral? By grounding abstract and theoretical discussion in real examples the book provides an excellent way into the subject for readers new to the philosophical dimension of art appreciation. (shrink)
This paper joins recent attempts to defend a notion of aesthetic experience. It argues that phenomenological facts and facts about aesthetic value support the Kantian notion that aesthetic experience lies between, but differs from, pleasures of the agreeable and pleasures stemming from cognitions. It then shows that accounts by Beardsley, Levinson, and Savile fail to resolve clear tensions that surface in attempting to characterize such an experience. An account of aesthetic experience—as involving experienced cognitions that are the bearers of value—is (...) presented. The paper ends on a sceptical note as to whether aesthetic experience can be clearly delimited. (shrink)
In his book _The Nature of Fiction_ Greg Currie makes the following proposal concerning the contents of works of fiction: 'Fs' is an abbreviation of 'P is true in fiction S', where P is some proposition and S is some work of fiction. 'Fs' is true iff it is reasonable for the informed reader to infer that the fictional author of S believes that P. In reading a fiction we engage in a make-believe, and the fictional author is that fictional (...) character constructed within our make-believe whom we take to be telling us the story as known fact. Currie's view applies a general account of communication to understanding fiction. This is an advantage for a number of reasons, not least that the capacities I use to understand a novel do seem to be those I use in understanding written factual information. From what the fictional author 'says', we infer what he believes; reading a book is 'an exploration of the fictional author's belief structure'. From this simple and plausible basis, Currie gives a convincing philosophical account of the nature of fiction. Convincing though the account is, it cannot be quite right. (shrink)
In this paper I want to return to some well-worn ideas; specifically, the attempt to show that there is a distinctive subject-matter of the aesthetic via consideration of the difference between aesthetic and non-aesthetic concepts. The classic exposition of this distinction is Frank Sibley's 'Aesthetic Concepts'. Sibley claimed that, given a set of relevant terms, there will be widespread non-collusive agreement as to which are aesthetic and which non-aesthetic. Non-aesthetic terms include _'red, noisy, brackish, clammy, square, docile, curved, evanescent, intelligent, (...) faithful, derelict, tardy, freakish'_. Aesthetic terms include _'unified, lifeless, serene, sombre, dynamic, powerful, vivid, delicate, moving, trite, sentimental, tragic'_. Further examples have been given by other philosophers working in the field. Given the widespread agreement, I shall assume there is a distinction of some sort whose nature is open to be discussed. (shrink)
Many of the judgements we make of particular works of art employ the vocabulary of feelings or emotions. Typically, the critic uses terms such as 'sad', 'joyful', 'optimistic', 'gloomy', 'angry', 'lusty', 'exuberant' and so forth to describe aspects of works of art. Such descriptions generate one of the most intractable problems in aesthetics: that of specifying the relation between art and the feelings and emotions thus ascribed to them.
This paper considers the view, recently put forward by David Davies in Art and Performance , that works of art should be identified with the generative performances that result in the object, rather than with the object. It attempts to disarm two of Davies arguments by, first, providing a criterion by which the contextualist can accommodate all and only the relevant generative properties as properties of the work, and, second, providing an alternative explanation for his modal intuitions. Finally, it draws (...) attention to Davies’ difficulties in providing a clear criterion for the identity of the work of art. (shrink)
Richard Wollheim was born in 1923 in London. His father was Eric Wollheim who was at the time the London manager for Diaghilev. His mother had been a Gaiety girl; she left the stage when she married. Wollheim was educated at Westminster School and then, after active service in the Second World War, he went to Oxford to complete degrees in history and PPE. Despite relatively little study of the subject he was recruited by A. J. Ayer for the Philosophy (...) Department at University College London. He remained there for thirty-three years, becoming Grote Professor in 1963. In 1983 he moved to America where he taught at various universities before returning to England shortly before his death in 2003. (shrink)
This article is a commentary on Alana Jelinek's book, This Is Not Art. It broadly agrees with Jelinek in her diagnosis of the current ills of the artworld, who is to blame for this, and the need for an endogenous value of art. Furthermore, it agrees with her that the value of art lies in its status as a ‘knowledge-forming discipline’. However, it takes issue with the very notion of an ‘avant-garde’ art, with Jelinek's claims concerning truth, and raises questions (...) as to what it is for the discipline of art to be ‘knowledge-forming’. It ends with a sceptical doubt as to whether it is the nature of art to favour politically progressive messages. (shrink)
Jerrold Levinson maintains that he is a realist about aesthetic properties. This paper considers his positive arguments for such a view. An argument from Roger Scruton, that aesthetic realism would entail the absurd claim that many aesthetic predicates were ambiguous, is also considered and it is argued that Levinson is in no worse position with respect to this argument than anyone else. However, Levinson cannot account for the phenomenon of aesthetic autonomy: namely, that we cannot be put in a position (...) to make an aesthetic judgement by testimony alone. Finally, Levinson's views on the ontology of aesthetic properties are considered and found wanting. (shrink)
This paper is a response to that of Christopher New. It argues that New has no alternative to an earlier solution I proposed to the problem of specifying the content of a fiction fails, as his solution is in terms of facts external to the game of make-believe being played, while mine was internal. It argues that understanding fiction is only a special case of understanding representation, which can be given a Gricean analysis. It proposes that the inferences crucial to (...) our understanding should be those we think reasonable of the world of the fiction. (shrink)
Jerrold Levinson maintains that he is a realist about aesthetic properties. This paper considers his positive arguments for such a view. An argument from Roger Scruton, that aesthetic realism would entail the absurd claim that many aesthetic predicates were ambiguous, is also considered and it is argued that Levinson is in no worse position with respect to this argument than anyone else. However, Levinson cannot account for the phenomenon of aesthetic autonomy: namely, that we cannot be put in a position (...) to make an aesthetic judgement by testimony alone. Finally, Levinson's views on the ontology of aesthetic properties are considered and found wanting. /// [Jerrold Levinson] Being an aesthetic realist is hard work. Derek Matravers has raised a number of concerns for the brand of aesthetic realism that I have defended in the past, and that I continue to defend, albeit with modification. Much turns on the nature of aesthetic properties, and on the reasons for acknowledging their existence. I here try to provide further illumination on both scores, suggesting in particular that many aesthetic properties can be viewed as manifest higher-order ways of appearing. Toward the end of my discussion the question of whether or not aesthetic properties are response-dependent is addressed, and I offer the tentative conclusion that some are, and some are not. (shrink)
This paper draws on Philosophy and Art History to consider the relation of Conceptual Art to Modernism. It is sceptical of the justification that Conceptual Art arose out of some necessary poverty of the Modernist project.
I am going to assume, in what follows, that when we engage with a fiction we are participating in a game of make-believe; that is, that we are engaging in an imaginative effort. In this paper I shall attempt to identify the kind of game we are playing. I begin with two words of caution. First, identifying the kind of game will be a matter of finding a game whose structure best reflects the facts about our engagement with fiction. The (...) fit, however, will not be exact. In a game of mud pies, the fact that the cardboard box holds a maximum of six globs of mud may make it true in the game that the oven holds a maximum of six pies, but the fact that the box has "Fyffes bananas" written on the side of it will probably not make it true in the game that the oven has the same. Second the variety of works of fiction makes it unwise to assume that one kind of game will cover all cases. These two provisos might be thought to vitiate my project before it begins. In the face of an objection to my first proviso, namely, that the kind of make-believe I maintain we play with fiction does not mirror the facts of our relations with fiction, I can reply that the structure is not isomorphic in that particular respect. In reply to the claim that in some particular instance we do not play the game of make-believe that I suggest we do, I can simply agree and count it as one of the many exceptions to the rule. (shrink)
About the book: Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art features pairs of newly commissioned essays by some of the leading theorists working in the field today. Brings together fresh debates on eleven of the most controversial issues in aesthetics and the philosophy of art Topics addressed include the nature of beauty, aesthetic experience, artistic value, and the nature of our emotional responses to art. Each question is treated by a pair of opposing essays written by eminent scholars, (...) and especially commissioned for the volume. Lively debate format sharply defines the issues, and paves the way for further discussion. Will serve as an accessible introduction to the major topics in aesthetics, while also capturing the imagination of professional philosophers. (shrink)
Recent articles in this journal by Frances Colpitt and Richard Lind have attempted to defend some works of minimal and conceptual art against the charge of being boring. I am skeptical about both of these attempts.
In this paper I argue against the current consensus that there is such a thing as 'the philosophy of fiction'. I argue instead that what are taken to be problems with fiction, are in fact problems with narrative more generally.
The paper examines certain aspects of institutionalist definitions of art, in particular whether they are committed to ‘indexing’, whereby calling something art makes it art. It is argued that there is no such commitment and that institutionalist definitions need not abandon the idea that works of art become art for specific, and substantial, reasons. The question is how reasons can be accommodated. A proposal from defenders of ‘cluster theories’ is considered and rejected. Another proposal is advanced according to which the (...) reasons, which might change over time, are those acceptable within the artworld at any given time. The idea is explored and its merits identified. (shrink)
It is hard not to sympathise with Professor Honderich's starting point. It is easy to feel pessimistic about philosophy's ability to throw light on the nature of consciousness. What, then, to do? One option is to persist with the various current approaches. It is clear that Honderich thinks this would be akin to putting more effort into trying to work out the temporal priority of the chicken and the egg. The thought of the orthodox is that an account of consciousness (...) is going to be either fundamentally materialist or fundamentally dualist. The first of these is untenable as consciousness has other or more than neural properties. The second is untenable for various reasons, Honderich's favoured one being that it renders consciousness as out of space and of a mysterious nature. A second option would be to follow Colin McGinn's lead, and think that the problem is of such a nature that it is necessarily unsolvable (McGinn, 1989). Alternatively, we should be more radical and think creatively, not necessarily respecting our current conceptual boundaries between the mental and the physical, the inside and the outside. The solution, Honderich says, lies in the thought that `my consciousness now consists in the existence of a world' (Honderich, 2004, p. 130). I shall say a little about what I understand by this claim, by raising what I take to be three obvious questions, looking at Honderich's answers them, and inviting some further clarification. Throughout I will address only the question of perceptual consciousness. (shrink)