Stephen Davies presents a fascinating exploration of the idea that art, and our aesthetic sensibilities more generally, should be understood as an element in human evolution. He asks: Do animals have aesthetics? Do our aesthetic preferences have prehistoric roots? Is art universal? What is the biological role of aesthetic and artistic behaviour?
What are musical works? Are they discovered or created? Can recordings substitute faithfully for live performances? This book considers these and other intriguing questions. It first outlines the nature of musical works, their relation to performances, and their notational specification; it then considers authenticity in performance, musical traditions, and recordings. Comprehensive and original, the volume discusses many kinds of music, applying its conclusions to issues as diverse as the authentic performance movement, the cultural integrity of ethnic music, and the implications (...) of the dominance of recorded over live music. (shrink)
Now available in a fully revised and updated second edition, this accessible and insightful introduction outlines the central theories and ongoing debates in the philosophy of art. Covers a wide range of topics, including the definition and interpretation of art, the connections between artistic and ethical judgment, and the expression and elicitation of emotions through art Includes discussion of prehistoric, non-Western, and popular mass arts, extending the philosophical conversation beyond the realm of Fine Art Details concrete applications of complex theoretical (...) concepts Poses thought-provoking questions and offers fully updated annotated reading lists at the end of each chapter to encourage and enable further research. (shrink)
In its narrative, dramatic, and representational genres, art regularly depicts contexts for human emotions and their expressions. It is not surprising, then, that these artforms are often about emotional experiences and displays, and that they are also concerned with the expression of emotion. What is more interesting is that abstract art genres may also include examples that are highly expressive of human emotion. Pure music – that is, stand-alone music played on musical instruments excluding the human voice, and without words, (...) literary titles, or associated texts connected to it by its composer – is often characterized as the expressive art par excellence. Yet how could that be possible, given that such music lacks semantic or representational content? Pure music presents the hardest and most vivid philosophical challenge to any account of expressiveness in the arts, which is why it is crucial to consider the musical case for the light it sheds on the underlying principles and issues. In this chapter I consider two accounts of expressiveness in pure music. Both regard expressiveness as an objective property of such music. I argue for the position I call appearance emotionalism and against the alternative, which I label hypothetical emo- tionalism. But before I get to that, there is a different mode of musical expression to be acknowledged. Even instrumental music comes charged with associations. Some of these are private to the listener, but many are widely shared. The latter may be included in a piece by accident but are, more often, deliberately placed for their effects. For instance, when a song is quoted in an instrumental work, its title or words may be brought to mind. Certain melodies (e.g., “Ode to Joy”), styles (e.g., tarantella), idioms (e.g., fanfares), forms (e.g., minuet), modalities (e.g., church modes), and instruments (e.g., fifes and snare drums) recall particular social events, geocultural regions, historical periods, ideas, and sensibilities, and in this way can hook up with affective life-experiences. Though it is music’s associative ties that are likely to be referred to when most people are asked about music’s significance, philosophers say little about them.. (shrink)
Representing Stephen Davies's best shorter writings, these essays outline developments within the philosophy of music over the last two decades, and summarize the state of play at the beginning of a new century. Including two new and previously unpublished pieces, they address both perennial questions and contemporary controversies, such as that over the 'authentic performance' movement, and the impact of modern technology on the presentation and reception of musical works. Rather than attempting to reduce musical works to a single type, (...) Davies recognizes a great variety of kinds, and a complementary range of possibilities for their rendition. (shrink)
In this extensively revised and updated edition, 168 alphabetically arranged articles provide comprehensive treatment of the main topics and writers in this area of aesthetics. Written by prominent scholars covering a wide-range of key topics in aesthetics and the philosophy of art Features revised and expanded entries from the first edition, as well as new chapters on recent developments in aesthetics and a larger number of essays on non-Western thought about art Unique to this edition are six overview essays on (...) the history of aesthetics in the West from antiquity to modern times. (shrink)
Arthur C. Danto taught that an artwork’s identity and content depend on "an atmosphere of theory the eye cannot de[s]cry" (1964:580). By "theory", he did not mean the ideas developed by philosophers of art. His point was that an artwork can be properly recognized and appreciated only when seen in relation to the heritage of works, writings, practices, genres, and conventions that form the ground on which it stands out as subject. In brief, the work must be seen against the (...) backdrop of what he dubbed (1964) the art world. (shrink)
There was a deep continuity in Wollheim’s thought from his book on F. H. Bradley onward. His notion of the concept of art as deeply interiorized was inextricable from his sense of the psychological unity of the mind and the historical continuity of artistic tradition, seen on analogy with an inherited language. His study of pictorial representation pivoted on the innate psychological capacity of ‘seeing-in’, perceiving the represented subject in a surface from which it was seen as distinct but to (...) which it could be related. The expressiveness of depiction he explained through a psychoanalytic concept of projection in which we come to see a piece of the external world as corresponding to an inward state of mind. He reserved the use of the term ‘imagination’ for the artist’s elaboration of ‘seeing-in’. This he exemplified in accounts of painting by Manet, Friedrich, Titian, and Ingres among others. His critical stance has a close affinity with certain essays by Pater. (shrink)
Berys Gaut has recently defended a cluster account of art. He proposes it as superior to other anti-essentialist positions. I argue that his defence of this claim is unconvincing. Not only is the cluster theory consistent with the current crop of disjunctive definitions, it is at its most plausible when seen in such terms.
I offer an analysis of the role played by consideration of an item's functions when it is judged aesthetically. The account applies also to artworks, of which some serve extrinsic functions (such as the glorification of God and the communication of religious lore) and others have the function of being contemplated for their own sake alone. Along the way, I deny that aesthetic judgements fit the model of judgements either of free beauty or of dependent beauty, given how these two (...) came to be described in the early twentieth century. (shrink)
In this paper, we respond to a critique by Erik Thorstensen of the ‘Deepening Ethical Engagement and Participation in Emerging Nanotechnologies’ project concerning its ‘realist’ treatment of narrative, its restricted analytical framework and resources, its apparent confusion in focus and its unjustified contextualisation and overextension of its findings. We show that these criticisms are based on fairly serious misunderstandings of the DEEPEN project, its interdisciplinary approachand its conceptual context. Having responded to Thorstensen’s criticisms, we take the opportunity to clarify and (...) develop our approach to narrative. We articulate the need for novel, theoretically robust approaches to the formation of public attitudes which transcend the limitations of both survey-based approaches—which remain wedded to methodological individualism and which presume that individuals hold distinct and relatively stable attitudes and preferences—and interactionist approaches to public talk, which focus too strongly on individuals-in-interaction as reasoning agents and which ignore the constitutive role of culture and discourse in the formation of public opinion. We suggest that our use of narrative can help to better understand the process through which public attitudes to emerging technology develop out of interactive an engagement with wider cultural arguments and accounts of science and technology. We finish by pointing to parallel developments in social thought—from Charles Taylor’s treatment of social imaginaries to recent developments in post-Bourdieuian cultural sociology—as related projects in understanding the cultural resources and grammars that provide the conceptual infrastructure for modern social life. (shrink)
Philosophical Perspectives on Art presents a series of essays devoted to two of the most fundamental topics in the philosophy of art: the distinctive character of artworks and what is involved in understanding them as art. In Part I, Stephen Davies considers a wide range of questions about the nature and definition of art. Can art be defined, and if so, which definitions are the most plausible? Do we make and consume art because there are evolutionary advantages to doing so? (...) Has art completed the mission that guided its earlier historical development, and if so, what is to become of it now? Should architecture be classified as an art form? -/- Part II turns to the interpretation and appreciation of art. What is the target and purpose of the critic's interpretation? Is interpretation primarily directed at uncovering artists' intended meanings? Can apparently contradictory interpretations of a given piece both be true? Are interpretative evaluations entailed by descriptions of a work's aesthetic and artistic characteristics? In addition to providing fresh answers to these and other central questions in aesthetics, Davies considers the nature and content of metaphor, and the relation between the expressive qualities of a work of art and the emotions of its creator. (shrink)
I discuss three theories regarding the interpretation of fictional literature: actual intentionalism (author's intentions constrain how their works are to be interpreted), hypothetical intentionalism (interpretations are justified as those most likely intended by a postulated author), and the value-maximizing theory (interpretations presenting the work in the most favourable light are to be preferred). I claim that actual intentionalism cannot account for the appropriateness or legitimacy of some interpretations, or alternatively that it must be weakened to the point that the considerations (...) raised by hypothetical intentionalists and value maximizers come into play. And I argue that hypothetical intentionalism either reduces to the value-maximizing theory, which provides a more accurate and clearer expression of the position than does hypothetical intentionalism, or it mistakenly attributes to hypothesized intentions the kind of force that attaches only to actual intentions. (shrink)
Artists' intentions are among the primary data retrieved by art appreciators. However, artistic creation is not always deliberate; artists sometimes fail in their intentions; artists' achievements depend on artworld roles, not only intentions; factors external to the artist contribute to artwork meaning; artworks stand apart from their creators; and interpretation need not be exclusively concerned with recovering intended meaning.
In this paper I suggest that music and dance of an artful kind could pre-date the emergence of our species by several hundred thousand years. Our progenitor, H. heidelbergensis, had the necessary physiological resources and social capacities. And she inherited older modes of moving and vocalizing that could have laid the foundations for dance and music. Admittedly, for her, these artistic activities would have been more about sharing and expressing emotions than about symbolizing abstract ideas or conveying complex thoughts. But (...) that is something for which song and dance are ideally suited. Accordingly, the common assumption made by many paleoarchaeologists in discussions of the origins of art and of psychological modernity — that art is a distinctively sapiens attribute presupposing the kind of complex mentality that may be unique to our species — is mistaken. As well, there are some philosophical morals about the nature of art to be teased from the facts of its ancient origin. (shrink)
Most art is made by people with a well-developed concept of art and who are familiar with its forms and genres as well as with the informal institutions of its presentation and reception. This is reflected in philosophers’ proposed definitions. The earliest artworks were made by people who lacked the concept and in a context that does not resemble the art traditions of established societies, however. An adequate definition must accommodate their efforts. The result is a complex, hybrid definition: something (...) is art (a) if it shows excellence of skill and achievement in realizing significant aesthetic goals, and either doing so is its primary, identifying function or doing so makes a vital contribution to the realization of its primary, identifying function, or (b) if it falls under an art genre or art form established and publicly recognized within an art tradition, or (c) if it is intended by its maker/presenter to be art and its maker/presenter does what is necessary and appropriate to realizing that intention. Meanwhile, artworlds—historically developed traditions of works, genres, theories, criticism, conventions for presentation, and so on—play a crucial but implicit role in (b) and (c). They are to be characterized in terms of their origins. (shrink)
A kind of musical authenticity Julian Dodd thinks has been neglected, interpretive authenticity, as he calls it, is intended to provide both an insightful and faithful understanding of the work. This kind of authenticity is distinguished from score compliance authenticity (a view I have defended) on grounds that an authentic musical interpretation can sometimes deliberately depart from the score. I argue that none of the four examples Dodd offers in favour of this hypothesis is uncontroversial. I have less faith than (...) Dodd in the ability of wholesale departures from the composer’s work specification to demonstrate performance insight or to be seen as unproblematically instancing all aspects of the work. (shrink)
If one views humans’ creation and appreciation of art as grounded in our biological nature, it might be tempting to see art as a spandrel, as an adventitious by-product of some adaptation without adaptive significance in itself. Such a position connects art to our evolved human nature yet apparently avoids the demands of demonstrating how art behaviours enhanced the fitness of our ancestors in the Upper Paleolithic. In this paper I explore two arguments that count against the view that art (...) is a spandrel. The first rejects the idea that the spandrel option is somehow less demanding or controversial than the alternative view according to which art is an adaptation. The second argues that if art behaviours came to us as spandrels, they would not remain so; their occurrence in the usual manner would become normative because they would come to provide honest signals of fitness. (shrink)
According to Peter Kivy, to be profound, music would have to be about a profound subject that is treated in an exemplary way. Instrumental music does not satisfy this definition; usually it is not about anything humanly important, and when it is, it can convey no more than banalities. Like others, I argue against the propositional character of Kivy's ‘aboutness’ criterion; profundity can be revealed or displayed other than via statements and descriptions. I am less inclined than some of Kivy's (...) critics to argue that music conveys profound insights into the emotions or abstract metaphysical ideas, such as unity and identity. Instead, I draw a parallel with great chess, which illustrates the fecundity, flexibility, insight, vitality, subtlety, complexity, and analytical far-reachingness of which the human mind is capable. That demonstration is of deep significance, given the wider importance of an appreciation of our intellectual and imaginative powers, even if chess says nothing about the skills to which it draws attention. My thesis is that some instrumental music is profound in a similar way; namely, for what it exemplifies and thereby reveals about the capacities of the human mind. (shrink)
known as timbral sonicism, accepts that a musical work's orchestral colour is a factor in its identity, but denies that the use of the specified instruments is required for an authentic rendition of the work provided that sounds as of those instruments are achieved. This position has been defended by Julian Dodd. In arguing against his view, I appeal to empirical work showing that composers, musicians, and listeners typically hear through music to the actions that go into its production. In (...) this respect, musical listening reflects the standard account of ‘ecological hearing’; we appreciate sounds as providing information about their sources rather than for their intrinsic qualities. On this basis, I suggest that musical instruments are not merely means to the production of the sounds of performances. Their use is mandated if such performances are to be properly formed. More specifically, when composers are able to make the instrumentation of their compositions central to the identity of those compositions, accurate performances must involve the appropriate use of the specified instruments. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Dissanayake argues that art behaviors – which she characterizes first as patterns or syndromes of creation and response and later as rhythms and modes of mutuality – are universal, innate, old, and a source of intrinsic pleasure, these being hallmarks of biological adaptation. Art behaviors proved to enhance survival by reinforcing cooperation, interdependence, and community, and, hence, became selected for at the genetic level. Indeed, she claims that art is essential to the fullest realization of our human nature. I make (...) three criticisms: Dissanayake’s theory cannot account adequately for differences in the aesthetic value of artworks; the connections drawn between art and reproductive success are too stretched to account for art's production, nature, and reception; indeed, art enters the picture only because it is so thinly characterized that it remains in doubt that her topic is art as we understand it. (shrink)
In Functional Beauty, Glenn Parsons and Allen Carlson defend the importance of Functional Beauty—that is, the view that an item's fitness (or otherwise) for its proper function is a source of positive (or negative) aesthetic value—within a unified comprehensive aesthetic theory that encompasses art, the everyday, animals and organic nature, natural environments and inorganic nature, and artifacts. In the following section, I outline the main lines of argument presented in the book. I then criticize some of these arguments. I do (...) so, however, from the perspective of someone who shares the authors' commitment to the importance of Functional Beauty and their dismay at its neglect in contemporary aesthetic theory. .. (shrink)