Abstract In this talk I will examine the phenomenon which philosophers are beginning to call ‘aesthetic injustice’ – a wrongful harm done to someone specifically in their capacity as an aesthetic being. I will first distinguish those wrongs caused by aesthetic practices, and those wrongs which are inherently aesthetic where a person’s aesthetic capacities are undermined; it is this latter phenomenon I wish to analyse. The concept of aesthetic injustice proposed will initially be modelled on epistemic injustice, and throughout I consider how epistemic harms and aesthetic harms can align and diverge. The aim is to arrive at an account which reveals and accommodates at least four forms of aesthetic injustice, while treating these as distinctive in that they do not reduce to non-aesthetic wrongs, such as epistemic harm. Throughout I consider the value and role that aesthetic experience and expression play in our lives.
SYMPOSIUM PART I (14:00-15:45 BST) Chair: Hans Maes
Romance, Narrative, and the Sense of a Happy Ending in the Before Series James MacDowell
Epic Intimacy Murray Smith
Love, Death and Life’s Summum Bonum: The Before Trilogy as Memento Mori Anna Christina Ribeiro
RESPONDENT: Laura di Summa
SYMPOSIUM PART II (16:00-17:45 BST): Chair: Katrien Schaubroeck
The Poetry of Day-to-Day Life Michael Smith
‘Romantic or Cynic’: Romantic Attraction as Justification Diane Jeske
Time and Transcendence in the Before Trilogy Marya Schechtman
RESPONDENT: Pilar Lopez-Cantero
About the book This new book, published by Routledge in their Philosophers on Film series, focuses on Richard Linklater’s celebrated Before trilogy. The trilogy chronicles the love of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) who first meet up in Before Sunrise, later reconnect in Before Sunset and finally experience a fall-out in Before Midnight. Not only do these films present storylines and dilemmas that invite philosophical discussion, but philosophical discussion itself is at the very heart of the trilogy. The book explores the many philosophical themes that feature so vividly in the interactions between Céline and Jesse, including: the nature of love, romanticism and marriage, sex and gender, the passage and experience of time, the meaning of life and death, the art of conversation, the narrative self.
Book Symposium on Satire, Comedy and Mental Health by Dieter Declercq. With: Heike Bartel (Associate Professor in German, Nottingham), Daniel Flavin-Hall (Consultant & Professor of Psychiatry, Mayo Clinic, Rochester Minnesota), Sheila Lintott (Professor of Philosophy, Bucknell) Orla Vigsö (Professor of Media Studies, Gothenburg)
Please find the recording of each invited speaker and Dieter Declercq’s response below.
About the book – A sample chapter can be read here.
Satire, Comedy and Mental Health examines how satire helps to sustain good mental health in a troubled socio-political world. Through an interdisciplinary dialogue that combines approaches from the analytic philosophy of art, medical and health humanities, media studies, and psychology, the book demonstrates how satire enables us to negotiate a healthy balance between care for others and care of self. Building on a thorough philosophical explication and close analysis of satire in various forms – including novels, music, TV, film, cartoons, memes, stand-up comedy and protest artefacts – Declercq investigates how we can harness satirical entertainment to ease the limits of critique. In so doing, the book presents a compelling case that, while satire cannot hope to cure our sick world, it can certainly help us to cope with it.
Wednesday 3rd March 15:00 GMT Dr. Kathrine Cuccuru (Associate Research Fellow, Department of Philosophy, University of Sussex)
Abstract ‘Culture wars’ are not new. One of the most heated is played out in early eighteen-century England amongst the politically partisan satirical poets, and their prime target, the newly fashionable professional critic. According to these satirists, the critic dangerously peddles the false sublime. Philosophers are now most familiar with the sublime as the aesthetic concept that captures our ‘terrible delight’; that transporting affect of grand and threatening physical nature. However, from its origins in the ancient rhetorical text Peri Hypsous, the earliest modern English accounts focus on the sublime in poetry. Philosophical debate initially centred on the sublime genius, who is understood to have the capacity to irresistibly transport the audience, i.e., create(through poetry) the true sublime effect that properly moves the character to the height of virtue. Significantly, the true genius must know the genuine sublime in order to rightly produce its effect. Problematically, though, the false sublime (i.e., melancholic enthusiasm, a kind of madness) has the same transporting effect. Raising the hotly contested worry: if not by its effect, how does the sublime genius know (and correctly judge) the true sublime, and how does an undeveloped character be virtuously moved by it? This serious philosophical problem is, perhaps, unexpectedly, best illuminated by the satirical accounts. Particularly, by leading Scriblerian, Alexander Pope (1688-1744), in Peri Bathous: Or Maritinus Scriblerus his Treatise of the Art of Sinking Poetry (1727, 1728), where the bathous (‘profound’ depth) is an inversion of the hypsous (‘sublime’ height); thus, turning the sublime into the ridiculous. Although Pope clearly identifies the dangers of the false sublime, I argue that his account succumbs to the same problems as one of his main target’s, the literary critic John Dennis (1658-1734). Equally, that the Third Earl of Shaftesbury’s (1671-1713) appeal to raillery does not form a philosophical solution. Instead, that the (for them undesirable) Pyrrhonian reply exposes that these accounts largely amount to opposing intellectual elites defending their claim on moral and political opinion. A lesson for all culture wars, past and present.
Murray Smith (Professor of Film, University of Kent; ARC Director)
Abstract The coronavirus pandemic starkly dramatizes a striking and paradoxical feature of sport in general, and football in particular, at the centre of Steffen Borge’s penetrating study of the so-called beautiful game, The Philosophy of Football (Routledge, 2019): the fact that for all those with a stake in the game, it means everything; and yet at the same time it doesn’t really matter at all. Call this the paradox of football: how can we come to care so much about something that doesn’t really matter? Borge argues that our passionate engagement with football has a fictional character, involving the pretence that the outcome of matches and the fortunes of teams and players matter. In this he follows – in spirit and outline if not in all details – Kendall Walton’s influential theory of fiction as make-belief. On Walton’s account, fictions prompt powerful affective states which, though keenly felt, are but ‘quasi-emotions’: affects borne of games of pretence. I explore Borge’s view, point to some problems, and advance an alternative solution to the paradox inspired by psychologist Abraham Maslow’s once influential, but nowadays largely neglected, ‘hierarchy of needs’ model. It is no pretence that (such things as) football matter to us. We genuinely value football, but to see how this is true, we need a more fine-grained and multi-dimensional account of what we value than a stark divide between the world of ordinary action, and the ‘extra-ordinary’ world of play and pretence, allows.
A full draft of the paper is available as a pre-read for this event. Those with interest are encouraged to contact Prof. Smith ahead of the event; firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Thursday 12th March, 5pm Daphne Mayo Public Lecture The University of Queensland, Australia Enquiries:email@example.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
Monday 13th May 2019, 5pm-7pm in Keynes Seminar Room 4, University of Kent
In 1744 James Harris, echoing the Earl of Shaftesbury and prefiguring Lessing’s Loacoon, wrote of pictures that they are ‘of necessity a punctum temporis’, which is to say, they are incapable of representing an interval of time. It has been argued by Gombrich and others that this view is simply contradicted by the evidence of paintings that represent movement, change or events unfolding over time. This paper considers Gombrich’s argument against the punctum temporis view of pictures, Robin Le Poidevin’s reconstruction of it, and the examples that both assume are inconsistent with the punctum temporis view. It is argued that neither argument achieves what its author claims of it, and that, properly understood, the punctum temporis view of pictures is perfectly consistent with the representation of movement and temporally extended events.