What defines a work of art and determines the way in which we respond to it? This classic reflection was written with the belief that the nature of art has to be understood simultaneously from the artist's as well as the spectator's viewpoint.
[Richard Wollheim] Any experiential view of pictorial meaning will assign to each painting an appropriate experience through which its mean can be recovered. When the meaning is representational, what is the nature of the appropriate experience? If there is agreement that the experience is to be described as seeing-in, disagreement breaks out about how seeing-in is to be understood. This paper challenges two recent interpretations: one in terms of perceived resemblance, the other in terms of imagining seeing. Neither view gives (...) a correct account of how the spectator distributes his attention between the marked surface and the represented object. /// [Robert Hopkins] I offer two, complementary, accounts of the visual nature of representational picturing. One, in terms of six features of depiction, sets an explanatory task. The other, in terms of the experience to which depiction gives rise, promises to meet that need. Elsewhere I have offered an account of this experience that allows this promise to be fulfilled. I sketch that view, and defend it against Wollheim's claim that it cannot meet certain demands on a satisfactory account. I then turn to Wollheim's own view, arguing that it suffers from crucial obscurities. These prevent it from meeting the explanatory commitments I describe, and are only exacerbated by the demands Wollheim himself imposes. (shrink)
Obscurity is not the worst failing, and it is philistinism to pretend that it is. In a series of brilliant essays written over the last fifteen years Stanley Cavell has consistently argued that more important than the question whether obscurity could have been avoided is whether it affects our confidence in the author. Confidence raises the issue of intention, and I would have thought that the primary commitment of a psychoanalytic writer was to pass on, and (if he can) to (...) refine while passing on, a particular way of exploring the mind. Indeed this is how Lacan himself proposes that his work should be judged. “The aim of my teaching,” he writes, “has been and still is the training of analysts.” For decades now Lacan has been insisting that the nature of this commitment has been systematically obscured, particularly in North America. Training has become “routinized”, and analysis itself has become distorted into a process of crude social adaptation. There is much here to agree with. Yet two questions must be raised. Has Lacan devised a more effective method of training analysts? And, would one expect this from his writings? Neither question gets a favourable answer. All reports of his training methods, over which he has now brought about three distinct secessions within the French psychoanalytic movement, are horrifying. 13 It is now, I am told, possible to become a Lacanian analyst after a very few months of Lacanian analysis. And what pedagogic contribution could we expect from a form of prose that has two salient characteristics: it exhibits the application of theory to particular cases as quite arbitrary, and it forces the adherents it gains into pastiche. 14 Lacan's ideas and Lacan's style, yoked in an indissoluble union, represent an invasive tyranny. And it is by a hideous irony that this tyranny should find its recruits among groups that have nothing in common except the sense that they lack a theory worthy of their cause or calling: feminists, cinéastes , professors of literature. Lacan himself offers several justifications for his obscurity, about which he has no false modesty. At times he says that he is the voice, the messenger, the porte-parole , of the unconscious itself. Lacan's claim stirs in my mind the retort Freud made to a similar assult upon his credulity and by someone who had learned from Lacan. “It is not the unconscious mind I look out for in your paintings,” Freud said to Salvador Dali, “it is the conscious.”. (shrink)
I offer two, complementary, accounts of the visual nature of representational picturing. One, in terms of six features of depiction, sets an explanatory task. The other, in terms of the experience to which depiction gives rise, promises to meet that need. Elsewhere I have offered an account of this experience that allows this promise to be fulfilled. I sketch that view, and defend it against Wollheim's claim that it cannot meet certain demands on a satisfactory account. I then turn to (...) Wollheim's own view, arguing that it suffers from crucial obscurities. These prevent it from meeting the explanatory commitments I describe, and are only exacerbated by the demands Wollheim himself imposes. (shrink)
When I was invited by Yale University to deliver the Cassirer lectures, I hesitated for a topic. I wanted something new. I proposed the emotions, and at that time my knowledge of the topic was so slight that I didn't know whether it was something that I had already written on or not. I mention this fact because one thing that I have since learnt about the emotions is that such ignorance is in order. For it is one of those (...) topics where grasping the extension of the term is inseparable from having some theory of the matter, however primitive. One way to explain this fact is to invoke the novelty of the term, for, in the sense in which it is used in this lecture, it is only about 300 years old. Another way, probably related, is to point to the fact that, not only are there belief and particular beliefs, desire and particular desires, but, when we refer to particular beliefs and to particular desires, we call them ‘the belief that this’ or ‘the desire that that’. However there is no locution ‘the emotion that this’, or ‘the emotion that that’, which would indicate the presence of an emotion. It seems that ordinary language is an intermittent guide to the circumscription of the emotions. (shrink)
Need and Desire have obvious affinities. In this lecture I shall consider how they are to be distinguished, and how they may be confused: distinguished, that is, within philosophy, and confused in life itself. I shall then consider, very briefly, how this possibility of confusion bears upon morality and moral assessment.