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Philosophy and the Arts, Lecture 23:. Aesthetic Concepts. Was this man intelligent?. Is this painting unified and balanced??. When we talk about art….

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when we talk about art
When we talk about art…
  • We say a lot of different things. We can say a painting is rectangular, and that it is 3ft.X5ft. Anyone with normal vision can see these, and we know how, with measurements, to verify them. Call these “N” ascriptions.
  • But we also say the work is balanced and unified, or that a lady’s dress is gaudy or garish….Call these “A” (for aesthetic) ascriptions.
frank sibley
Frank Sibley
  • The assigned reading for today was Frank Sibley’s essay, “Aesthetic Concepts.” In that essay, Sibley argued that ascriptions of the first sort noted above are “Condition-governed,” while those of the latter sort are not.
  • That means there are no conditions, for example, that “add up” to a painting’s being unified, or a dress’ being garish.
a sense of beauty
Sibley says we need some sort of special taste, or sensibility, to apprehend aesthetic concepts. This notion goes back at least as far as F. Hutcheson’s work, from 1725, and has few adherents today.A Sense of Beauty??
the logic of aesthetic concepts
Read what Marcia Eaton has to say about “ Frank Sibley and his critics.”

She notes that Peter Kivy, who has an advanced degree in Musicology, has argued that, in the art world, words like ‘unified’ are condition-governed.

And what about ‘intelligent?’

The logic of aesthetic concepts….
and hungerland too
And Hungerland, too…
  • Wouldn’t it be odd to say Einstein was the best physicist of his day, author of the Theory of Relativity, but we’re not sure he was intelligent?
  • Hungerland also notes that the “looks…but not really” distinction doesn’t work with aesthetic concepts.
  • That is, you could say “He looks healthy, but really isn’t,” but you could not say, “That dress looks gaudy, but really isn’t”, because gaudy is a way of looking.
consider an example hungerland s
I order a painting from a dealer, and get this Rothko. If I had asked that the painting be a certain size, done mostly in blues and greens, and it isn‘t, I could send it back. But suppose I fail to find the “dynamic visual tensions” others have found?? Consider an example…(Hungerland’s)
so another rothko
Not sure we need this, but she also suggests that ‘As’ may be, at least sometimes, negatively condition-governed. It would be strange to call your plain black dress “garish.”

And, for further thought, M. Eaton suggests that the distinction between an A an N is not always that easy to make.

So……….another Rothko??
it may all go back to hume
It may all go back to Hume…
  • In the Treatise of Human Nature, Hume wrote:
  • “In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remark'd, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surpriz'd to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it shou'd be observ'd and explain'd; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it.”
  • Hume meant to say you cannot logically derive an “ought” from an “is.” That is, you cannot derive values from any list of facts. Note that most of the so-called aesthetic concepts are, so to speak “value-laden.”
  • But does this damage the objectivity that Sibley also claims to find in such concepts?
  • Much could be said about that.