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Rob van Gerwen

May 15, 2017

Introducing my Philosophical Directions


Philosophical directions is where my arguments develop into coherent wholes--only minutes before they turn into the draft version of an article to be published, and are removed from these pages.

Some of the arguments had a prior life on my weblog, Dimlit Philosophy.

Below, you find abstracts of these issues: art as a practice; immoral art; ban on depiction; Plato's cave; art as an agency; propaganda; supervenience (aesthetic properties); music; philosophical grammar (of expression); Facial expression; perception and memory; meta-philosophical issues; an overview of issues in the debates.

Defining Art Practice


Abstract of the argument on this page

Debates on the definition of art concentrate on the attribution of art status to singular works of art. In this paper, I approach the issue from the perspective of the art practice as a whole and the attitudes it requires of the audience.
A layered definition ensues: art practice is morally autonomous, and whether or not a culture sustains it, is the first question to be asked. (The why of this is a subsidiary matter).
Within this practice certain art forms enable artists to produce works of high artistic value; the question of the definition of art resides at the level of these art forms. It is they that are allowed into the practice or banned from them and the arguments used for such allowance (or denial) should find a place in the definition of art (the practice).
On the level of singular works the issue is rather simple: if a work conforms to an established art form, it is art, if it doesn't, then, maybe, it contributes to the initiation of some new art form, but whether or not this form gains art status depends on whether it allows artists to deliver instances of high artistic merit, i.e. works that allow for relevant types of experience, to be conceived of historically (in ways such as suggested in Levinson's Historical definition).

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Art's Moral Aspects


Abstract of the argument on this page

Underway

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Lanzmann's Ban on Depiction


Abstract of the argument on this page

Claude Lanzmann criticised Steven Spielberg for trivialising the shoah in Schindler's List. But how does he argue his point? What are its consequences?

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Plato's Cave


Abstract of the argument on this page

Plato's myth of the cave is standardly interpreted as metaphorically presenting the reality of the world of Forms, as well as a scepticism regarding the world of appearance and opinion.

One day I would like, instead, to analyse it as a curious description of how real people perceive the world, and of how doing that polymodally (i.e., with all the senses one is equipped with) proves the reality of the perceived.

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The Agency of Representation


Abstract of the argument on this page

We standardly assume that getting our representations right is a value in itself, next to being the politically and morally right thing to do. In Cultural Studies, we think that not only representations' truth is important but also the way they present these truths: in this, one assumes that representations act on themselves.
How should we conceive of such agency of insentient entities?

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Propaganda and Pornography in and out of Art


Abstract of the argument on this page

How do we distinguish art from propaganda and pornography?
Can propaganda and pornography ever be art?
I address these issues in terms of the attitudes required for the relevant audiences.

Examples: Riefenstahl's Triumf des Willens, Jeff Koons' pornographic pictures.

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Aesthetic supervenience


Abstract of the argument on this page

Underway

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Music


Abstract of the argument on this page

Underway

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Philosophical Grammar of the Language Game of Expression


Abstract of the argument on this page

Facial expressions or emotions are no clear-cut entities---treating them as if they are is probably done for theoretical/philosophical reasons.
Let us sort out these reasons by way of a philosophical grammar of the ways in which we talk about expressions and empathies.

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Facing the Gaze


Abstract of the argument on this page

I Narrativizing the tender
In narratives we structure the world of experience. This is why narrative art can be held to be helpful in court, or moral reasoning. I argue that narratives are unnecessarily reductive. (Examples come from Hollywood cinema and major crime writers, such as James Ellroy and Jim Thompson.)

II The gaze
Where are the limits of a face that should not be transgressed by our gaze? What type of intrusion is at stake? What happens, in contrast, when we let another person stare onto us; what, if we won't?
What do cell phone conversations do to these limits?

III Changing facial expression at will
The program behind luxurious, cosmetic surgery assumes that we can treat our faces as artefacts. What role is played by the metaphor of artistic expression? Which type of beauty is at stake?

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Memory, and its Base in Farmed out Perception, i.e. in the things perceived


Abstract of the argument on this page.

Intuition has it that memory is an event in one's stream of consciousness. Contrary to this, I argue that, in large part, we farm out our memories to the surroundings that we find our bodies in.
This appears to be important, because perception grounds in association, association grounds in memory, memory grounds in our moving around, in the world. First comes an account of perception. The traditional model takes perception as reception of sense-data which are then processed in the brain. This conception of perception cannot do justice to the real, or its perception.

It is of the utmost importance for people's psychological well-being that a culture be careful when it interferes in people's surroundings as they retain their perceptions for them.

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Meta-Philosophical issues


Abstract

Underway

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Issues and Theses



This page provides a survey of the relevant issues in the philosophy of art, and their interrelationships. The survey concentrates on articles read and videos shown in my classes. Four questions are addressed:
1. which philosophical issue is at stake?
2. With which strategy is it addessed in this particular contribution?
3. Which thesis concludes the argument? and
4. Discussion: What is good about the position defended, which problems are left?

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