Diarmuid Costello: “Standard Philosophy of Photography: Tracing the Roots of the Orthodox Paradigm”

Oct 6, 6-8pm, KLT2


My research draws on both analytic and continental approaches to aesthetics and the philosophy of art, and is informed by recent debates in art history and theory. Recently, it has focused on two main goals:

1. To defuse antipathy to aesthetics in art theory by showing that kinds of art typically thought challenging to aesthetics can be accommodated by a sufficiently rich aesthetic theory. To this end I have drawn on the neglected semantic potential of Kant’s supposedly formalist theory of art, and endeavoured to show that a variety of supposedly anti-aesthetic artforms can be accommodated by the resulting aesthetic theory.

2. To contest widespread assumptions in the philosophy of photography regarding the nature of photography, particularly as an artistic medium, in part by showing that it is predicated on a narrow diet of examples that distorts philosophers’ understanding of the field, and in part by developing an alternative conception of photographic agency. The former draws on resources in art history, the latter on the philosophy of action.

I am currently working on two books, each associated with one of these goals: ‘Art after Aesthetics? A Critique of Theories of Art after Modernism’ and ‘On Photography’. Both involve substantive engagement with recent art. Artists whose work has been important for these projects and also figures in the publications below include: Brian Barry, Lawrence Weiner, Art & Language, Sol LeWitt, Adrian Piper, Richard Long; James Welling, Jeff Wall, James Coleman, Thomas Ruff, Rineke Dijkstra, Lee Friedlander, Ed Ruscha; Gerhard Richter, Chuck Close, William Kentridge, and Phillip Guston.