Images have power - for good or ill. They may challenge us to see things anew and, in widening our experience, profoundly change who we are. The change can be ugly, as with propaganda, or enriching, as with many works of art. Sight and Sensibility explores the impact of images on what we know, how we see, and the moral assessments we make. Dominic Lopes shows how these are part of, not separate from, the aesthetic appeal of images. His book (...) will be essential reading for anyone working in aesthetics and art theory, and for all those intrigued by the power of images to affect our lives. '...tightly focused and carefully argued... an exceptionally interesting contribution to the philosophy of art: it contains subtle, concise, and convincing discussions of a number of difficult concepts and contentious doctrines... lucid and meticulous'. (shrink)
Images are double agents. They receive information from the world, while also projecting visual imagination onto the world. As a result, mind and world tug our thinking about images, or particular kinds of images, in contrary directions. On one common division, world traces itself mechanically in photographs, whereas mind expresses itself through painting.1 Scholars of photography disavow such crude distinctions: much recent writing attends in detail to the materials and processes of photography, the agency of photographic artists, and the social (...) determinants of the production and reception of photographs. As such writing makes plain, photographs cannot be reduced to mechanical traces.2 Yet background conceptions of photography as trace or index persist almost by default, as no framework of comparable explanatory power has yet emerged to replace them. A conception of photography adequate to developments in recent scholarship is long overdue. Rather than constructing such a conception top-down, as philosophers are wont to do, this paper articulates it by examining selected works by James Welling.3 There are several reasons for this: Welling’s practice persistently explores the resources and possibilities of photography, the effect of these explorations is to express a particular metaphysics of the mind’s relation to its world, and appreciating why this metaphysics is aptly expressed by exploring photography requires a revised conception of what photography is. In as much as it provides a framework for a richer interpretation of Welling, the new conception is also capable of underwriting a wide range of critical and historical approaches to photography. (shrink)
One question that leads us into aesthetics is: why does beauty matter? Or, what do aesthetic goods bring to my life, to make it a life that goes well? Or, how does beauty deserve the place we have evidently made for it in our lives? A theory of aesthetic value states what beauty is so as to equip us to answer this question. According to aesthetic hedonism, aesthetic values are properties of items that stand in constitutive relation to pleasure. Contemporary (...) versions of aesthetic hedonism don’t explain what makes aesthetic values aesthetic, but they do explain what makes them normative, stating what makes it the case that aesthetic value facts lend weight to what an agent should do, for the fact that acting yields pleasure is always a reason to act. This book introduces and defends an alternative to aesthetic hedonism. According to the network theory, aesthetic value facts lend weight to its being an achievement for an agent to act. Since agents achieve by acting in coordination with one another, the theory takes seriously the sociality of aesthetic activity. The main argument for the network theory is that it better explains six facts about aesthetic activity than does aesthetic hedonism. The book also discusses the relationship between aesthetic value and pleasure, the point and distinctive character of aesthetic discourse, and the metaphysics of aesthetic value. Two final chapters use the network theory to shed light on how aesthetic value matters to us as individuals and as members of collectives. (shrink)
For centuries, philosophers have identified beauty with what brings pleasure. Dominic McIver Lopes challenges this interpretation by offering an entirely new theory of beauty - that beauty engages us in action, in concert with others, in the context of social networks - and sheds light on why aesthetic engagement is crucial for quality of life.
An approach to the semantics of fiction that uses the tools of truth relativism provides an alternative to Meinongian and pretence-based approaches. The approach is consistent with the deep motivations of John Wood's Truth in Fiction.
This book offers a bold new approach to the philosophy of art. General theories of art don't work: they can't deal with problem cases. Instead of trying to define art, we should accept that a work of art is nothing but a work in one of the arts. Lopes's buck passing theory works well for the avant garde, illuminating its radical provocations.
A theory of aesthetic value should explain the performance of aesthetic experts, for aesthetic experts are agents who track aesthetic value. Aesthetic empiricism, the theory that an item's aesthetic value is its power to yield aesthetic pleasure, suggests that aesthetic experts are best at locating aesthetic pleasure, especially given aesthetic internalism, the view that aesthetic reasons always have motivating force. Problems with empiricism and internalism open the door to an alternative. Aesthetic experts perform a range of actions not aimed at (...) pleasure. Yet their reasons for acting are aesthetic. Since aesthetic values figure in aesthetic reasons, we can read a nonempiricist theory of aesthetic value off aesthetic experts’ reasons for acting. (shrink)
The question "what is art?" is often said to be venerable and vexing. In fact, the following answer to the question should be obvious: (R) item x is a work of art if and only if x is a work in practice P and P is one of the arts. Yet (R) has appeared so far from obvious that nobody has given it a moment's thought. The trouble is not that anyone might seriously deny the truth of (R), but rather (...) that they will find it uninformative. After all, the vexing question is pressed upon us by radical changes in art of the avant-garde, and (R) offers no resources to address these changes. With that in mind, here is the case for (R). The challenges posed by the avant-garde are real enough and they need to be addressed, but the vexing question is the wrong question to ask to address them. It does not follow that the question has no good answer. On the contrary, (R) is all the answer we need, if we do not need an answer that addresses the challenges posed by the avant-garde. Moreover, (R) points to a question that we do need answered. So, not only is it true but, in addition, (R) is as informative as we need. (shrink)
Aesthetic hedonists agree that an aesthetic value is a property of an item that stands in some constitutive relation to pleasure. Surprisingly, however, aesthetic hedonists need not reduce aesthetic normativity to hedonic normativity. They might demarcate aesthetic value as a species of hedonic value, but deny that the reason we have to appreciate an item is simply that it pleases. Such is the approach taken by an important strand of South Asian rasa theory that is represented with great clarity and (...) ingenuity in the work of K. C. Bhattacharyya. Bhattacharyya is an aesthetic hedonist who grounds aesthetic normativity in freedom. (shrink)
Art works realize many values. According to tradition, not all of these values are characteristic of art: art works characteristically bear aesthetic value. Breaking with tradition, some now say that art works bear artistic value, as distinct from aesthetic value. I argue that there is no characteristic artistic value distinct from aesthetic value. The argument for this thesis suggests a new way to think about aesthetic value as it is characteristically realized by works of art.
When we look at photographs we literally see the objects that they are of. But seeing photographs as photographs engages aesthetic interests that are not engaged by seeing the objects that they are of. These claims appear incompatible. Sceptics about photography as an art form have endorsed the first claim in order to show that there is no photographic aesthetic. Proponents of photography as an art form have insisted that seeing things in photographs is quite unlike seeing things face-to-face. This (...) paper argues that the claims are compatible. While seeing things in photographs is quite unlike seeing things face-to-face, nevertheless seeing things in photographs is one way of seeing things. The differences between seeing things by means of photographs and by means of the naked eye provide the elements of an account of the aesthetic interests photographs engage. (shrink)
Cooperation among arts scholars is thought to be hampered by the division of research on the arts into two cultures, one scientific, one humanistic. This paper proposes an alternative model for research into the arts wherein multiple levels of explanation focussed on well-bounded phenomena integrate research across academic disciplines. Two case studies of research that fits the model are presented.
If good taste is a virtue, then an account of good taste might be modelled on existing accounts of moral or epistemic virtue. One good reason to develop such an account is that it helps solve otherwise intractable problems in aesthetics. This paper proposes an alternative to neo-Aristotelian models of good taste. It then contrasts the neo-Aristotelian models with the proposed model, assessing them for their potential to contend with otherwise intractable problems in aesthetics.
Everybody assumes (1) that musical performances are sonic events and (2) that their expressive properties are sonic properties. This paper discusses recent findings in the psychology of music perception that show that visual information combines with auditory information in the perception of musical expression. The findings show at the very least that arguments are needed for (1) and (2). If music expresses what we think it does, then its expressive properties may be visual as well as sonic; and if its (...) expressive properties are purely sonic, then music expresses less than we think it does. And if the expressive properties of music are visual as well as sonic, then music is not what we think it is—it is not purely sonic. (shrink)
Empirical research on aesthetic response poses two challenges to philosophy. The more familiar challenge is that scientific explanations of aesthetic responses debunk what we take to be our reasons for those responses. One reaction to this challenge is an accommodation strategy that seeks to reconcile the scientific findings with an improved understanding of our normative reasons. This paper presents a more fundamental challenge: a well-established body of research in social psychology indicates that we routinely confabulate the reasons we give for (...) our aesthetic response. This challenges the accommodation strategy and suggests that philosophy should adopt a more radical naturalism about aesthetic response. (shrink)
Pictures are principally descriptive. Advertising images highlight features of potential purchases; cartoons open portals to scenes in fictional worlds; snapshots in the family photo album remind us of our past selves and landmark events in our personal histories; works of pictorial art express thoughts or feelings about depicted scenes. In addition, pictures serve a directive or action-guiding function that, though not taken into account by theorists, deserves no less attention than their descriptive one. Theories of depiction and the appreciation of (...) pictures stand to benefit by taking "directive pictures" into account, as do theories of representation in general and mental representation in particular. (shrink)
Several recent books indicate that the philosophy of art has embarked upon a new alliance with cognitive science. One impetus for this is the move, beginning in the 70s and 80s, away from general aesthetics to a greater concern with the philosophies of the individual arts. Questions about the nature of art, expression, aesthetic experience and aesthetic properties as generic phenomena are still with us but many philosophers now approach them by means of specialized studies of music, literature, film, the (...) visual arts or the performing arts. Some claim that these questions can only be answered, or can best be answered, by studying the individual art forms. This has brought aesthetics into alignment with empirical research, which has always been concerned with individual art forms, for reasons having to do both with experimental design and with views of the mind as functionally differentiated. There is no psychological work on the perception of beauty, for example, but only on the perception of visual beauty, beauty in music and the like. Now that aesthetics is equally specialized, empirical research on the individual arts can be brought to bear upon familiar problems in aesthetics. (shrink)
Scientific images represent types or particulars. According to a standard history and epistemology of scientific images, drawings are fit to represent types and machine-made images are fit to represent particulars. The fact that archaeologists use drawings of particulars challenges this standard history and epistemology. It also suggests an account of the epistemic quality of archaeological drawings. This account stresses how images integrate non-conceptual and interepretive content.
Hypotheses in aesthetics should explain appreciative failure as well as appreciative success. They should state the general conditions under which people fail to understand and value works as works of art. This stricture is all the more important when the typical response to conceptual art is one of resistance. Some philosophers explain this by claiming that conceptual art violates traditional theories of art. Others say that it violates folk ontologies of art. In fact, the appreciative failure to which conceptual art (...) is prone is a consequence of the fact that it is not visual art, as it appears to be; rather it is an entirely new art form. Works in new art forms pose special challenges to appreciation. Identifying these challenges enriches theorizing about art. (shrink)
What you see can shape how you feel, and the route from seeing to feeling sometimes involves empathy – as you might empathize with a woman you see grieving the death of her child. But empathy also comes from what you see in pictures. Bellini's Pieta? is one among many paintings, drawings, prints, and photographs that evoke empathy – and are designed to do so. Going further, it seems that episodes of empathy triggered by pictures can help build up a (...) person's capacity for empathic response. Indeed, they do so by fortifying the link between seeing and empathy in a distinctive way. To establish this thesis, we need a broad conception of empathic response and also the right conception of what we see in pictures. (shrink)
The representation of color by pictures raises worthwhile questions for philosophers and psychologists. Moreover, philosophers and psychologists interested in answering these questions will benefit by paying attention to each other's work. Failure to recognize the potential for interdisciplinary cooperation can be attributed to tacit acceptance of the resemblance theory of pictorial color. I argue that this theory is inadequate, so philosophers of art have work to do devising an alternative. At the same time, if the resemblance theory is false, then (...) color depiction has interesting implications for color science. Empirical researchers must rethink the widespread assumption that color recognition requires color constancy. I suggest that a neuropsychological account of color recognition will be instrumental to completing the philosophical task, but by the same token scientists might do well not to proceed without casting an eye to the work of philosophers of art. (shrink)
Philosophers have championed contextualist and relativist semantics for aesthetic discourse that attempt to explain faultless disagreement. However, both types of semantics do a good job explaining faultless disagreement. As a rule, more explananda assist in theory choice. This chapter proposes that three more facts need explaining. Aesthetic disputes revolve around objects, even as they express attitudes. They also extend into lengthy exchanges wherein reasons are offered and withdrawn. Finally, they play a role in the formation and regulation of aesthetic practices. (...) Different views about the point of aesthetic disputes interpret these three facts differently. One option has it that we use aesthetic disputes to align with peers who share the same preferences. This option is friendly to relativist semantics. The alternative states that we use aesthetic disputes to coordinate language and concepts to fit aesthetic genres. This option mandates contextualist semantics. The weight of evidence tilts towards contextualism. (shrink)
Dominic McIver Lopes’ Four Arts of Photography and Diarmuid Costello’s On Photography: A Philosophical Inquiry examine the state of the art in analytic philosophy of photography and present a new approach to the study of the medium. As opposed to the orthodox and prevalent view, which emphasizes its epistemic capacities, the new theory reconsiders the nature of photography, and redirects focus towards the aesthetic potential of the medium. This symposium comprises two papers that critically examine central questions addressed in the (...) two books, with responses by the two authors in defence of their respective positions. (shrink)
Some argue that there is no art in some non-Western cultures because members of those cultures have no concept of art. Others argue that members of some non-Western cultures have concepts of art because they have art. Both arguments assume that if there is art in a given culture, then some members of the culture have a concept of art. There are reasons to think that this assumption is false; and if it is false, there are lessons to learn for (...) cross-cultural studies of art both in anthropology and philosophy. (shrink)
According to a core tenet of contemporary philosophy, aesthetic properties are primarily represented in experiences. Obviously, however, the tenet does not apply in any straightforward manner to many items that nevertheless seem to have aesthetic properties. Examples include literary works, mathematical objects, scientific ideas, and works of conceptual art. Aesthetic properties need not be represented in perceptual experiences, but what is an experience if not a perceptual state? This paper adapts Fred Dretske’s distinction between analogue and digital representation to develop (...) a broad conception of a kind of state that is an experience but need not be perceptual. Aesthetic properties are primarily represented in states so conceived. (shrink)
Aesthetic appreciation involves background belief. While some appreciations are adequate when these beliefs are false, there is an important class of beliefs -- beliefs about the nature art work kinds -- whose truth is required for adequate appreciation. Photography is an interesting case, since many of our beliefs about it are false.
Neo-picturesque landscapes are former industrial sites redeveloped as parks in a way that preserves, maintains, and shapes memory of the materials, mechanics, and scale of the industrial age. This paper presents case studies of Duisburg Nord, the High Line, and Evergreen Brick Works. It distinguishes neo-picturesque ruins from archaeological ruins on the one hand and mere redevelopment projects on the other hand; traces a continuity between the eighteenth-century picturesque and the neo-picturesque; pinpoints the distinctive form of memory that the neo-picturesque (...) engages; and defends the importance of the neo-picturesque in contemporary life. (shrink)
This chapter begins with a historical overview of aesthetics and the philosophy of art before turning to a discussion of how the philosophy of art bears upon human culture. It then considers the methods used in attacking problems in aesthetics and the philosophy of art by highlighting the distinctions between pure and applied philosophy, between internal and external perspectives on aesthetic and artistic phenomena, and between first-order and second-order methods. It also examines how aesthetics and the philosophy of art are (...) affected as the arts evolve and as empirical studies of aesthetic and artistic phenomena become well established in the social and behavioural sciences as well as the humanities. (shrink)
Japan's Ise Jingu shrine has been taken down and rebuilt every twenty years for more than a millenium - a practice called "shikinen sengu." A standard ontology of architecture, according to which buildings are material particulars, implies that Ise Jingu is no more than twenty years old. However, a correct ontology of architecture is implicit in practices of architecture appreciation. The Japanese appreciation of Ise Jingu and other buildings in its architectural tradition implies both that it is no more than (...) twenty years old and that it is more than a thousand years old. Two ontologies are considered that reconcile this paradox. A general lesson is also drawn, that ontology of art can profit from cross-cultural studies. (shrink)
Aesthetic values give agents reasons to perform not only acts of contemplation, but also acts like editing, collecting, and conserving. Moreover, aesthetic agents rarely operate solo: they conduct their business as integral members of networks of other aesthetic agents. The consensus theory of aesthetic value, namely that an item’s aesthetic value is its power to evoke a finally valuable experience in a suitable spectator, can explain neither the range of acts performed by aesthetic agents nor the social contexts in which (...) they operate. This paper proposes a new theory of aesthetic value specifically to explain facts about the sociality of aesthetic agents. (shrink)
Settling down after the big meal at the family reunion brings on a little nostalgia. Out come the photo albums. As the pages turn, you see familiar faces as they looked long ago. One photo shows a surprisingly sexy young woman, and you exclaim, "That's Aunt Jane!" What you say is true. The explanation is this: what you say is true in part because the picture puts you in the same kind of position with respect to Aunt Jane as the (...) position you are in when you see her face to face. In general, (DR) Pictures perceptually ground demonstrative reference to depicted objects. This chapter makes a case for DR. (shrink)
True to his plan to take photographs to find out what things look like photographed, Garry Winogrand liked to delay processing his exposed rolls in order to scrub the memory of what he had in mind when he tripped the shutter. In a rich and astute essay, Walter Benn Michaels puts Winogrand in company with G. E. M. Anscombe. One through photography, the other through philosophy, each explores, articulates, even plays up, the “difficulties” of making sense of what it is (...) for an act to be structured by intentions. Thus Benn Michaels enlists Anscombe and Winogrand in a protest against a recent maneuver of mine that would dflate the difficulties that seem to come with the exercise of photographic agency.2 The reply is that Benn Michaels’s insights are spot on, but they do not block the deflationary maneuver. What happens in Benn Michaels’s reasoning is that new and interesting difficulties get raised about photographic meaning; I propose to deflate them too. (shrink)
What are pictures good for? “Nothing” recurs as the apparently irrepress- ible reply of a motley collection iconophobes from Plato to the mediaeval iconoclasts, to parents concerned about comic books, to postmoderns in a lather over “scopic regimes”. In the aftermath of Nelson Goodman’s Languages of Art (1976), philosophers doubled down on theories of depiction and pictorial experience, but they have not rushed to work on the value of pictures. Those few who have written about pictorial value have taken for (...) granted an approach aptly dubbed “psychologism” (Wol- lheim 1987; Hopkins 1997; Lopes 2005). According to psychologism, we can understand pictorial value by appealing only to cognitive traits and capacities. Yet psychologism is enough out of step with studies of pic- tures outside philosophy that it dampens philosophy’s impact on the very scholars who could most use a defense of pictorial value. Here is a thesis: psychologism is false. Here is its payoff: an alternative to psychologism better suits the work of scholars outside philosophy. (shrink)