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1. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Cynthia Freeland Aesthetics and the Senses: Introduction
2. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Jennifer A. McMahon The Aesthetics of Perception: Form as a Sign of Intention
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Aesthetic judgment has often been characterized as a sensuous cognitively unmediated engagement in sensory items whether visual, auditory, haptic, olfactory or gustatory. However, new art forms challenge this assumption. At the very least, new art forms provide evidence of intention which triggers a search for meaning in the perceiver. Perceived order excites the ascription of intention. The ascription of intention employs background knowledge and experience, or in other words, implicates the perceiver’s conceptual framework. In our response to art of every description we witness the incorrigible tendency in humans to construct meaningful narratives to account for events. Such meaningful narratives always implicitly involve the ascription of intention, even when the agent of the intention is not explicitly acknowledged or even clearly conceived. This principle of intention-in-order may seem incompatible with another truism which is that art is a source of novel ideas and essentially a critique of prevailing values and norms including conceptual schemes. I argue on the contrary that the human impulse to read intention in order is a precondition of art’s critical edge. Creativity is possible even though there is no raw perceptual data to which we have conscious access. That is, there are no sensory items, unmediated by the concepts we have internalized through our interaction with our communities, to which we have conscious access.
3. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Justin L. Harmon The Sensuous as Source of Demand: A Response to Jennifer McMahon’s “Aesthetics of Perception”
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In this response paper I defend an alternative position to both Jennifer McMahon’s neo-Kantian view on the aesthetics of perceptual experience, and the sense-data theory that she rightly repudiates. McMahon argues that sense perception is informed by concepts “all the way out,” and that the empiricist notion of unmediated sensuous access to entities in the world is untenable. She further claims that art is demanding inasmuch as it compels one to engage in an open-ended, cognitive interpretive process with sensuous phenomena, and that it is this very process that opens up a space for critique of the entrenched representational concepts by which we navigate the world. In contrast, I argue that the sensuous itself is a source of demand. Perceptual objects, in virtue of their material constitution, are inexhaustible plexuses of meaning that demand a kind of sensuous, interpretive response on the part of our bodily posture and orientation. Works of art offer opportunities for critique insofar as they reveal dimensions of sensuous reality hitherto covered over by status quo conceptual distributions. McMahon is right that sensuous objects are never simply given. But, I claim, she is wrong to suggest that it is only by way of conceptual mediation that we make contact with the world. On the contrary, the sensuous self-presentation of things is always at the same time a demand on our sensory apparatus that resists encapsulation by concepts.
4. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Cameron Buckner Ordering Our Attributions-of-Order: Commentary on McMahon
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In her target article, Jennifer McMahon argues that we understand art not by explicitly interpreting “raw percepts,” but rather by engaging with our implicit tendencies to interpret complex stimuli in terms of culturally-engrained preconceptions and narratives. These attributions of order require a shared conceptual and cultural background, and thus one might worry that in denying access to raw percepts, the view dulls art’s critical edge. Against this worry, McMahon argues that art can continue to create and innovate by inviting us to critically reflect upon the very preconceptions on which our engagement with it necessarily depends. In this commentary, I place these attributions of order in historical and empirical context. In addition, I discuss a lingering, related mystery — the possibility of the occasionally punctuated character of artistic evolution, in which prevailing aesthetic conventions are replaced with almost entirely new ones. I suggest that such radical breaks with the past are possible even given the concept-ladeness of perception, but are only likely to succeed when they tap into a culturally-invariant bedrock of more basic attributions of order.
5. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Owen Ewald, Ursula Krentz Beauty and Beholders: Are Past Intuitions Correct?
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This essay discusses four definitions of beauty from Western philosophy in light of recent experimental work from the more modern fields of psychology and biology. The first idea, derived from Plato, that beauty consists of relationships between parts, is partially confirmed by recent psychological experiments on infants and adults. The second idea, that beauty consists of one salient feature amid a mass of details, is more recent, perhaps from Hume, and is confirmed by some experiments on adults, but this finding has not been replicated in non-Western cultures. The third idea, that beauty is based on utility, occurs in Plato but is more difficult to support through experiments; biology suggests that a longing for beauty, not merely for survival, is an evolutionary target. Finally, the fourth idea, that beauty is a type of cognitive pleasure, is a constant thread from Plato through the work of Aquinas and Kant and seems to confirm a preference for an optimum level of complexity by adults, but cannot explain a parallel preference for complexity in human infants.
6. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Kathleen Coessens Sensory Fluidity: Dialogues of Imagination in Art
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How do artists share, translate, reveal their imagination by using different semiotic systems; how can the audience partake in this imagination receiving only images, words, notation, sounds? Starting from artwork of the novelist Italo Calvino and the composers Helmut Lachenmann and Gyorgy Kurtag, this article addresses the relation among imagination, perception, remembrance and expression. The ‘images’ used, be they visual, verbal, auditory or haptic, are much more than images. They concentrate in themselves layers of subjective and intersubjective perceptual, cognitive and emotive experiences. I will argue that imagination relies upon sensory fluidity. This allows us (1) to integrate sensorial experiences from different perceptual origins — synaesthesia, (2) to link past, present and future by way of sensorial and embodied patterns of remembrance — embodied sedimentation, and (3) to share intersubjective patterns of affect and effect, bridging idiosyncratic and universal human experiences.
7. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Mark Paterson Movement for Movement’s Sake?: On the Relationship Between Kinaesthesia and Aesthetics
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Movement and, more particularly, kinesthesia as a modality and as a metaphor has become of interest at the intersection of phenomenology and cognitive science. In this paper I wish to combine three historically related strands, aisthêsis, kinesthesis and aesthetics, to advance an argument concerning the aesthetic value of certain somatic sensations. Firstly, by capitalizing on a recent regard for somatic or inner bodily senses, including kinesthesia, proprioception and the vestibular system by drawing lines of historical continuity from earlier philosophical investigations on bodily background experience, initially from aisthêsis, Aristotle’s concept of the sensory faculty. Secondly, concepts of the sensate body are advanced through discoveries in the nervous system and related discussions of the ‘inner’ senses such as Charles Bell’s ‘muscle sense’ (1826), and what Charles Sherrington later termed ‘proprio-ception’ (1906). Thirdly, we consider the possibility of aesthetic status for those inner senses, where recently aesthetic arguments by Montero (2006) and Cole and Montero (2007) seek to determine aesthetic criteria for proprioception, and similarly in dance theory the aesthetic status of kinesthesia has been questioned (e.g. Foster 2011). Finally we consider whether previous exposure to a ‘grammar’ of movement is a factor in determining the relative aesthetic value.
8. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
W.P. Seeley Hearing How Smooth It Looks: Selective Attention and Crossmodal Perception in the Arts
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A broad range of behavior is associated with crossmodal perception in the arts. Philosophical explanations of crossmodal perception often make reference to neuroscientific discussions of multisensory integration in selective attention. This research demonstrates that superior colliculus plays a regulative role in attention, integrating unique modality specific visual, auditory, and somatosensory spatial maps into a common spatial framework for action, and that motor skill, emotional salience, and semantic salience contribute to the integration of auditory, visual, and somatosensory information in ordinary perceptual contexts. I present a model for multisensory integration in our engagement with artworks derived from a diagnostic recognition framework for object recognition and a biased competition model for selective attention. The proposed model attributes a role to superior colliculus in a broader fronto-parietal attentional network that integrates sensory information, primes perceptual systems to the expectation of stimulus features salient to particular sensorimotor or cognitive tasks at particular locations, and inhibits the perception of task irrelevant distracters. I argue that this model demonstrates that crossmodal effects are the rule not the exception in perception and discuss ways in which it explains a range of crossmodal effects in our engagement with pictures, dance, and musical performances.
9. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Cynthia Freeland On Being Stereoblind in an Era of 3D Movies
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I happen to have a visual impairment known as strabismus, which means that the information from my eyes is not successfully fused in my brain, so I lack stereoscopic vision. Hence I was surprised to find I could see some depth effects of recent 3D films such as Wim Wenders’s Pina. This experience has prompted me to explore both further information about binocular vision and various disputes about the aesthetic merits of 3D films. My paper takes up the following topics: (1) a review of information about binocular vision and the problem of strabismus; (2) a summary of 3D film history and techniques; (3) a discussion of the aesthetic merits and deficits of some “best cases” of contemporary 3D films, concluding with (4) assessments of the meaning of claims about 3D cinema’s alleged superior “realism.” I consider three proposals about the superior realism of 3D movies with the aim of summarizing what the latest ventures in this mode mean to those of us who lack normal binocular vision.
10. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Christy Mag Uidhir Getting Emotional Over Contours: A Response to Seeley
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In the previous paper, Bill Seeley suggests that what follows from research into crossmodal perception for expression and emotion in the arts is that there is an emotional contour (i.e., a contour constitutive of the content of an emotion and potentially realizable across a range of media). As a response of sorts, I speculate as to what this might hold for philosophical and empirical enquiry into expression and emotion across the arts as well as into the nature of the emotions themselves.
11. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Luis Rocha Antunes The Vestibular in Film: Orientation and Balance in Gus Van Sant’s Cinema of Walking
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For decades, the audiovisual nature of the film medium has limited film scholarship to the strict consideration of sound and sight as the senses at play. Aware of the limitations of this sense-to-sense correspondence, Laura U. Marks has been the first to consistently give expression to a new and emergent line of enquiry that seeks to understand the multisensory nature of film.Adding to the emergent awareness of the cinema of the senses, neuroscience, specifically multisensory studies, has identified autonomous sensory systems beyond the classic five senses: the vestibular (orientation and balance), proprioception (posture and body position), pain, and temperature perception. This essay investigates the principles of the multisensory film experience when applied to our sense of orientation and balance in film – the vestibular in film. Here I seek to outline the neural and physiological evidence supporting the idea that we can have access to the multisensory exclusively through sound and image, based on the nature of our perception and cognition.I then apply this frame of reference to a new understanding of Gus Van Sant’s cinema of walking composed by the so-called death trilogy of Gerry (2002), Elephant (2003) and Last Days (2005) plus Paranoid Park (2007). With this analysis I show how the vestibular sense can be a powerful aesthetic and cinematic mode of filmmaking, as well revealing of the sensuous nature of film.
12. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Jim Blackmon Review of Re-Emergence: Locating Conscious Properties in a Material World, by Gerald Vision
13. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Peter H. Denton Review of The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves, by W. Brian Arthur
14. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Alex Sager Orcid-ID Review of Eyes of the People: Democracy in an Age of Spectatorship, by Jeffery Edward Green
15. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Eric Rovie Review of Rethinking The Good: Moral Ideals and the Nature of Practical Reasoning, by Larry Temkin
16. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Eric Dietrich Review of The Death of Philosophy: Reference and Self-Reference in Contemporary Thought, by Isabelle Thomas-Fogiel, trans. Richard A. Lynch
17. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Qin Zhu Review of A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology, by Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen, Stig Andur Pendersen, & Vincent F. Hendricks
18. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Jonathan Fuqua Review of Natural Signs and Knowledge of God: A New Look at Theistic Arguments, by C. Stephen Evans
19. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Greg L. Lowhorn Review of Intentionality and Semiotics: A Story of Mutual Fecundation, by John Deely
20. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 13 > Issue: 2
Matthew McKeon Review of The Tarskian Turn: Deflationism and Axiomatic Truth, by Leon Horsten