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.
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)
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)
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.
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)
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.
_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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Even as art theory and analytic philosophy have failed to connect in their studies of photography, the two disciplines have joined in tying conceptions of the specific character of photography to ideas about automaticity and agency.1 In rough caricature, the philosopher reasons: “An item is a work of art only insofar as it is the product of agency, so a photograph is not an art work insofar it is not the product of artistic agency. After all, in Lady Eastlake's colorful (...) words, the ‘obedience of the machine’ in photography is no ‘picturesque agent.’”2 This much is accepted both by philosophers who go on to conclude that photography is not an art and also by those who defend the contrary.3 The reasoning on the side of theory and criticism often goes, again in caricature, as follows: “Art works sometimes result from a suppression of agency, and the distinctive ‘obedience of the machine’ in photography is no ‘picturesque agent,’ so the automatism of the photographic machine shapes the distinctive profile of photographic art.” The triadic assemblage of the medium, automatism, and agency is clearly more than a trope in writing on photography; it regulates and structures reasoning about photography, even as it sends that reasoning off in remarkably divergent directions in different disciplines. In the spirit of the nudge towards convergence that this special issue represents, this afterword develops some thoughts that are sparked by and that offer a friendly challenge to the preceding papers. In brief, the triad that controls thinking about photography across disciplines depends on some rather demanding conceptions of agency and automatism. As it turns out, less demanding conceptions of agency and automatism pave the way to a new and more modest conception of the specificity of photography as an art medium. If our common ground is what keeps us apart, perhaps we should find some new common ground? (shrink)
This book proposes a new methodology for aesthetics, where problems in philosophy are addressed by examining how aesthetic phenomena are understood in the human sciences. Lopes then puts the methodology to work, illuminating the perceptual and social-pragmatic capacities involved in responding to works of visual art, literature, and music.
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)