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.

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. 

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.

Sonia Sedivy – Aesthetic Properties, History and Perception

Professor Sonia Sedivy (Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto)

Aesthetic Properties, History and Perception

Monday 12th November 2018, at 5pm in Darwin Lecture Theatre 2, University of Kent

ABSTRACT:
If artworks and their aesthetic properties stand in constitutive relationships to historical context and circumstances, so that some understanding of relevant facts is involved in responding to a work, what becomes of the intuitive view that we see artworks and at least some of their aesthetic properties? This question is raised by arguments in both aesthetics and art history for the historical nature of works of art. The paper argues that the answer needs to take philosophy of perception into account. The principal development that has shaped philosophy of perception in the last thirty years—explaining perceptual experience in terms of contents that represent that such-and-such is the case—is directly relevant to key arguments for the historical nature of art because contents can represent complex kinds and properties. Conceptual realism is especially well-suited for explaining perception of artworks and aesthetic properties because it emphasizes that forms of understanding— in the sense of capacities, abilities and techniques—are involved in perceptual engagement with individual objects and instances of properties. To make this case, the paper examines influential arguments for the historical nature of art and aesthetic properties by Arthur C. Danto and Kendall L. Walton; and examines art-historical discussions by Michael Baxandall, Linda Nochlin and T. J. Clark. The paper argues that the aesthetic properties of an artwork depend on human intentional uses of properties, colours and contours among them, and such uses may themselves be aesthetic. The Wittgensteinian notion of use is contextual and historical, and uses are perceptible.

 

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).

Maks del Mar: The Role and Value of the Imagination in Legal Thought

The Aesthetics Research Centre (ARC) invite you to a Research Seminar with:

 

Dr Maks del Mar, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London

The Role and Value of the Imagination in Legal Thought

Wednesday 18th October, 5pm – 7pm, GLT3, University of Kent

This talk will offer an overview of four key abilities that demonstrate the role and value of the imagination in legal thought. The four abilities are: 1) supposing; 2) relating; 3) image-making; and 4) perspective-taking. The talk will first examine these abilities in general, and then apply them to four devices of legal thought. The four devices are: 1) fictions; 2) metaphors; 3) hypothetical narratives; and 4) perspectival tests. For a sneak preview with some examples, see: https://aeon.co/essays/why-judges-and-lawyers-need-imagination-as-much-as-rationality.

Maks Del Mar is Reader in Legal Theory at the School of Law, Queen Mary University of London, where he is also founding co-director of the Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context. He is presently working on a monograph on Imagination and the Legal Mind (Hart / Bloomsbury) and co-editing the Oxford Handbook of Law and Humanities. One of his primary research interests is the aesthetics of legal thought.​

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