Jason Leddington – Savouring the Impossible

Thursday 28th May 5-7pm BST

Jason Leddington (Philosophy, Bucknell; Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at ​The Centre for Philosophical Psychology, University of Antwerp)

Abstract

It is a puzzling feature of human beings that we are attracted to artworks that provoke negative emotional responses. Why are we drawn to what should, intuitively, repulse us? Tragedy and horror are paradigm cases, but similar questions are raised by works that provoke, say, disgust or moral outrage. This talk introduces and explores a new version of this old puzzle. My question is: why are we attracted to magic tricks? Magic is one our most consistently popular forms of mass entertainment. Consider the recent successes of performers such as Derren Brown, Dynamo, and David Blaine, as well as the ubiquity of magicians on talent shows such as America’s Got Talent (thrice won by magicians). But while philosophers speak fondly of the pleasures of knowing, successful magic performances present apparent impossibilities that provoke potent experiences of ignorance. So, why do people seek them out? I argue that recent work in the philosophy and psychology of so-called “knowledge emotions” can help us to resolve this puzzle. At the same time, in a surprising parallel, I show that it can also illuminate the appeal of a distinctive form of puzzlement especially dear to philosophers. Finally, I conclude by proposing an extension of this account to explain our attraction to another “art of the impossible”: the impossible figures created by artists such as Reutersvärd and Escher.

Savouring the Impossible is co-sponsored by the American Society of Aesthetics as part of its Virtual Summer Aesthetics Festival.

Screenshot of Jason Leddington ARC Zoom Event

Murray Smith – Remain in Light: Philosophical Naturalism, Aesthetic Value and, Cultural Crosstalk

Thursday 12th March, 5pm
Daphne Mayo Public Lecture
The University of Queensland, Australia
Enquiries: sca.events@uq.edu.au

Professor Murray Smith was a Visiting Scholar at the University of Queensland in 2020 where he gave the annual Daphne Mayo Public Lecture.

About the talk

Aesthetic experience – the kind of experience afforded paradigmatically by artworks – is central rather than peripheral to human existence. But aesthetic experience and the value it underpins is complex, both in its relations with other kinds of value (epistemic, moral, political, cultural), and in the diverse ways and contexts in which it can be created or apprehended. 

In this lecture, Professor Murray Smith will explore these issues through the case of Remain in Light, the landmark 1980 album by Talking Heads and Brian Eno, encompassing the visual and performative dimensions of the band’s aesthetic (in Stop Making Sense and True Stories, in their music videos, cover designs, and live performance style) as well as the music itself. Remain in Light takes on particular interest as an example of cultural and aesthetic ‘crosstalk,’ between the milieu of New York new wave art rock and the AfroBeat of Nigerian bandlander Fela Kuti, which exerted a powerful influence on Talking Heads during the making of the album.

Drawing on the tools of philosophical naturalism, Murray will outline a framework for understanding the nature of such intercultural interaction, which recognises the specificity of cultural traditions, the dynamics of exchange between them, and the ethical and aesthetic questions such exchanges necessarily prompt.

About the Daphne Mayo Lecture

To honour and commemorate the life of one of Queensland’s most prominent artists and arts educators, the School of Communication and Arts at The University of Queensland, has established the Daphne Mayo Visiting Professorship in Visual Culture.

Daphne Mayo (1895-1982) was for much of her life Queensland’s best known artist and passionate advocate for the arts. Her work includes the Tympanum on the Brisbane City Hall and the Women’s War Memorial in Anzac Square. 

Each year, a major world figure will visit Brisbane to speak about the latest trends, influences, and theories in their area of visual culture. 

James Shelley – What’s the difference between still pictures and motion pictures?

Thursday 20th February 2020, 5pm-7pm in Keynes Seminar Room 17 (KS17), University of Kent

According to the standard view, still pictures differ from motion pictures in two respects: (a) whereas motion pictures can move (or can at least seem to), still pictures can’t, and (b) whereas motion pictures can show things moving, still pictures can’t. I argue that the standard view fails on both accounts, since (a) motion pictures don’t even seem to move, and (b) still pictures can show things moving. Then I argue for an alternative view, according to which the difference between still and motion pictures has nothing to do with stasis or motion. If the alternative view is true, most every theory of what a motion picture is (including those of Danto, Carroll, Currie, and Gaut) is false, and most every term we use to refer to motion pictures (including movie, moving image, and cinema) is misleading.

Nathan Wildman – A Moral Argument for Video Games

Nathan Wildman, Tilburg University

Wednesday 22nd January 2020, 5pm in Darwin Lecture Theatre 2 (DLT2), University of Kent

Abstract
Many have offered various moral objections to video games, with various critics contending that they depict and promote morally dubious attitudes and behaviour. However, few have offered moral arguments in favour of video games In this paper, I develop one such positive moral argument. Specifically, I argue that, when it comes to some ethical knowledge, video games offer the only morally acceptable method for acquiring such knowledge. Consequently, we have (defeasible) moral reasons for creating, distributing, and playing certain, morally educating video games.

 

Elisa Caldarola – Exhibitions and Museums: When are They Art?

Wednesday 3rd April 2019, 5pm – 7pm

Exhibitions and Museums: When are They Art?

 

Marcel Broodthaer’s Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles (1968) confronted the public with an exhibition that criticized traditional museum practices by means of appropriating them. This work was explicitly intended to qualify as both an exhibition and a work of conceptual art. In this talk, I explore the hypothesis that the artwork status of some exhibitions might instead have remained, so far, unnoticed, even by their makers. To illustrate my view, I analyze the exhibition of pre-and proto-historic artifacts at Berlin’s Neues Museum and argue that such exhibition is a work of site-specific installation art.

Nils-Hennes Stear – Is Aesthetic Immoralism Obviously True?

Wednesday 13th March 2019,  5pm – 7pm

Three dominant theories explain how ethical properties determine aesthetic ones in artworks. Autonomism denies any determining relation. Moralism affirms one according to the valence constraint: ethical merits only ground aesthetic merits, ethical flaws only ground aesthetic flaws. Immoralism affirms one too, but denies the valence constraint. The question these theories answer, I argue, can be (and knowingly or not has been) read in one of two ways: the ‘counterfactual’ and the ‘as-such’ way. Each reading requires a different kind of answer: a counterfactual or an as-such theory, respectively. I argue that if one accepts the so-called qua problem, as-such theories run into a dilemma: they either rely upon dialectically unhelpful (if not question-begging) considerations, or else collapse into counterfactual theories. This leaves the counterfactual reading, to which I show immoralism is the obvious answer. The discussion has various significant consequences for the aesthetic moralism debate as a whole that I lay out at the end.

 

Reading group “Black Reconstruction in Aesthetics” – Paul C Taylor

Everyone welcome

The Aesthetics Research Centre at the University of Kent (Canterbury, UK) is organising a reading group on "Black Reconstruction in Aesthetics". A new article by Professor Paul C. Taylor written for debates in Aesthetics. The aim of the reading group is to facilitate discussion and critical reflection on the paper. The session will be convened by ARC director Dr. Michael Newall and PhD candidate Alice Helliwell.

Debates in Aesthetics is inviting short papers in response to “Black Reconstruction in Aesthetics”, please see the CFP on their website.

Participation is open to all
Date: 27 February 5-7pm, location tbc 

Abstract

This essay uses the concept of reconstruction to make an argument and an intervention in relation to the practice and study of Black aesthetics. The argument will have to do with the parochialism of John Dewey, the institu- tional inertia of professional philosophy, the aesthetic dimensions of the US politics of reconstruction, the centrality of reconstructionist politics to the Black aesthetic tradition, and the staging of a reconstructionist argument in the film, “Black Panther” (Coogler 2018). The intervention aims to address the fact that arguments like these tend not to register properly because of certain reflexive and customary limits on some common forms of philosophical inquiry. The sort of professional philosophy I was raised to practise and value tends not to be particularly inclusive and open-minded, especially when it comes to subjects that bear directly on the thoughts, lives, and practices of people racialized as black. Black aesthetics, by contrast, is an inherently ecumenical enterprise, reaching across disciplinary and demographic bound- aries to build communities of practice and exchange. Hence the need for an intervention: to create the space for arguments and the people who work with them to function across disciplinary and demographic contexts.

The session will be live-streamed on Youtube Live to allow for remote participation via chat.

Julian Hanich – Why Film Studies Needs More Fine-Grained Emotion Terms 

Why Film Studies Needs More Fine-Grained Emotion Terms …and Why Phenomenology Might Help

Dr Julian Hanich (University of Groningen)

Monday 15th October 2018, at 5pm in the Lupino Screening Room, Grimond Building, University of Kent

In this talk I will make a threefold proposal: I claim that (a) film studies, due to an overly strong focus on a few standard emotions, lacks a fine-grained lexicon of emotions spectators experience when watching films, that (b) it would be beneficial for research conducted in the field to introduce more granular and well-defined emotion terms and that (c) the specific subfield of ‘phenomenology of emotions’ might help. Drawing on my previous studies on different forms of fear, disgust and being moved, I will try to elucidate why the phenomenology of emotions has specific resources to contribute.​

Dr Julian Hanich is an Assistant Professor of Film Studies in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands.

Catharine Abell – The Norms of Realism and the Case of Non-Traditional Casting

The Norms of Realism and the Case of Non-Traditional Casting

Dr Catharine Abell (University of Manchester)

Wednesday 3rd October 2018, at 5pm in Grimond Lecture Theatre 3, University of Kent

 Realism is a property that representational artworks can exhibit. This paper is concerned with realism in perceptual narratives: narrative representations that convey their contents at least partly perceptually. It addresses the conditions under which realism constitutes an artistic merit in a perceptual narrative by identifying the artistic norms of realism that govern them. By providing accounts of these norms, it enables the identification of errors in our evaluations of realism. To demonstrate the evaluative errors to which we are prone, it focuses on the practice of non-traditional casting, cases of which are often claimed to violate norms of realism. It identifies a variety of errors in judgements of instances of non-traditional casting’s conformity to the norms of realism. It explains the source of these errors, some of which are relatively systematic and widespread. It then provides a general specification of the resources and skills required correctly to evaluate perceptual narratives according to their realism.​

Dan Cavedon-Taylor – The Causal Theory of Photography and Anti-Empiricist Evaluations

Tuesday 13th February 2018, at 6pm in Keynes Seminar Room 11, University of Kent

According to the causal theory of photography (CTP), photographs acquire their depictive content from the world, whereas paintings and drawings acquire their depictive content from their maker. CTP is widely affirmed, by philosophers, film-theorists and early pioneers of the photographic medium. A persistent worry about CTP is that it leaves no interesting role for the photographer in the production of their pictures and, as a corollary, is incompatible with an aesthetics of photography. In this talk, I do three things. First, I amend CTP with Fred Dretske’s distinction between triggering and structuring causes. Second, I argue that CTP so amended is far from incompatible with an aesthetics of photography, but illuminates two aesthetic interests we may take in such pictures, focussing on photographic portraiture and street photography. Third, I show how reflection on the aesthetics of photography serves to support aesthetic anti-empiricism: the view that the aesthetic value of artworks consists, either wholly or partially, in achievement rather than sensory pleasure.

Dan Cavedon-Taylor is currently a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Southampton. His research focuses on philosophy of mind and aesthetics. Some of his most recent publications include: ‘Reasoned and Unreasoned Judgment’ (British Journal of Aesthetics 2017) and ‘Photographic Phenomenology as Cognitive Phenomenology’ (British Journal of Aesthetics 2015).