“What is the scope of aesthetic experience?” by Nico Silins (13 Feb)

In the first half of the talk, I examine

Blindspot: you only experience a part of a work of art if you attend to it.

I critically examine support for Blindspot one might draw from discussions in the philosophy of mind of “inattentional blindness”. I also discuss whether some artistic practice presupposes that Blindspot is false.

In the second half of the talk, I examine

Surface: if you can’t tell two works of art or experiences of art apart, then they have the same value for you.

Surface applies to experiences as well as works of art and other entities. I review how one might support Surface, and then reject Surface in light of discussions in the philosophy of mind of “change blindness”.

Philosophy Seminar Series.
Date: Thursday, 13 Feb 2014
Time: 2.30 pm – 4.30 pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Nico Silins, Cornell University / Yale-NUS College
Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

About the Speaker:

nicholas-silinsNicholas Silins is Associate Professor at Yale-NUS College and at Cornell University. He has also been a Research Fellow at the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University, and a Bersoff Fellow at New York University. His research has been primarily in epistemology and the philosophy of mind, with a focus on understanding perception and how we learn from perception.

Aesthetics Workshop (28 Jan)

Robert Stecker, “Film Narration, Imagined Seeing, and Seeing-In” (1pm – 2pm)

This talk initially addresses the debate about whether we imagine seeing characters and their actions in films. There are several different imagined seeing theses that have been advanced. What I shall call the general thesis is simply that we imagine, in some manner or other, seeing characters in films. I bypass the standard objections that have already advanced against this thesis, to argue that the concept of seeing-in can be used to develop an alternative account of our experience of fictional films that has all of the advantages of the general imagined seeing thesis, but none of the purported problems.
I then turn to another, more controversial imagined seeing thesis which asserts that in engaging with mainstream narrative films, we do not imagine seeing characters directly, but through a motion-picture-like medium. Call this the mediated version. This version is important because it is a crucial step in arguing that mainstream films typically have narrators. I offer three objections to this thesis and show that an argument for the thesis offered by George Wilson can be undercut if we adopt the seeing-in account.
Finally, I ask about the actual contribution of the imagination in the reception of narrative films. It is plausible that our emotional involvement with a film-fiction requires at least propositional imagining The seeing-in view is compatible with the idea that there are many aspect of a fiction that we propositionally imagine. I distinguish three kinds or degrees of imaginative involvement in a fiction world, and, based on this distinction, try to resolve a debate about the nature of emotional responses to fiction.

Ben Blumson, “Simile and Metaphor” (2pm – 3pm)

Not every metaphor can be literally paraphrased by a corresponding simile – the metaphorical meaning of ‘Juliet is the sun’, for example, is not the literal meaning of ‘Juliet is like the sun’. But every metaphor can be literally paraphrased, since if ‘metaphorically’ is prefixed to a metaphor, the result says literally what the metaphor says figuratively – the metaphorical meaning of ‘Juliet is the sun’, for example, is the literal meaning of ‘metaphorically, Juliet is the sun’.

John Holbo, “Pictoriality as Pandemonium” (3pm – 4pm)

In “Pictorial Diversity”, John Kulvicki argues that the lack of a certain sort of interpretive diversity, in practice, needs explanation, and some theories are better situated, others worse, to provide it. This paper argues that the shoe is on the other foot. The diversity Kulvicki finds peculiarly absent is exceedingly common. We habitually apply competing schemes, of the sort he says we do not, without noticing we are doing so, or how. A puzzle: why can’t we say what shape Charlie Brown’s head is? How long is the long-necked Madonna’s neck? And a hypothesis: recognitional pandemonium? Even if the hypothesis is too speculative, the diversity it seeks to explain is real.

Date: Tuesday, 28 Jan 2014
Time: 1pm – 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)

The Philosophy of Pictures Workshop (5 Jun – 6 Jun)

Click here to enlarge poster.

The NUS Department of Philosophy will be hosting a 2-day workshop on the Philosophy of Pictures.

Title of Workshop: Easing Off The Easel: Pictoriality and Paradigms of Pictures.

Abstract: In contemporary Anglo-American philosophy, the study of pictures—pictoriality, depiction—is typically treated, presumptively, as a branch of aesthetics. This is like making philosophy of language a branch of aesthetics because Hamlet is written in English. The error is so obvious no one can be making it, in a considered way. Nevertheless, to see what we can see, it seems worthwhile wrenching ourselves out of this rut, even if it is only due to path dependence in modes and manners of framing the topic. Pictures are tools—technology. What implications of this truistic thought are obscured by favoritism for artistic examples and insights? by consistent choice of artifacts that are paradigm museum pieces, as if this made them paradigms of pictoriality?

Panelists are not just reading the same papers in two venues on two consecutive days. They have agreed to read their papers in two parts. Part 1 on Day 1, Part 2 on Day 2.

Day 1 will involve a more formal presentation, and Day 2 will involve a more workshop-style informal discussion between the panelists and the audience.

Day 1 (Wed, 5 June 2013)

Venue: Tembusu College, Education Resource Center, SR-2

[2pm – 2.30pm]
Frames Foster Function (Part 1) by John Holbo (National University of Singapore, Philosophy)

[2.45pm – 3.15pm]
Is ‘depicts’ semantically ambiguous? (Part 1) by Rafael de Clercq (Lingnan University, Visual Studies)

[3.30pm – 4pm]
Interpreting Images (Part 1) by Ben Blumson (National University of Singapore, Philosophy)

[4.15pm – 4.45pm]
Pictorial Kitsch (Part 1) by Michael Newall (University of Kent, School of Arts)

Day 2 (Thu, 6 June 2013)

Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3-05-23)

[2pm – 2.30pm]
Frames Foster Function (Part 2) by John Holbo (National University of Singapore, Philosophy)

[2.45pm – 3.15pm]
Is ‘depicts’ semantically ambiguous? (Part 2) by Rafael de Clercq (Lingnan University, Visual Studies)

[3.30pm – 4pm]
Interpreting Images (Part 2) by Ben Blumson (National University of Singapore, Philosophy)

[4.15pm – 4.45pm]
Pictorial Kitsch (Part 2) by Michael Newall (University of Kent, School of Arts)

“Seeing, Visualizing, and Believing” by John Zeimbekis (11 Apr)

I begin with an account of how visual processes construct the nonconceptual contents caused by picture perceptions, and then ask how those contents survive into doxastic, personal-level awareness. The account suggests that subjects have a degree of personal-level control over some of the visual processes that yield visual experiences, phenomenal characters, and nonconceptual contents as outputs. The cognitive penetrability of relatively early visual processes potentially conflicts with the use of perception to justify beliefs. I argue that this form of penetrability should be admitted, but that it does not have the pernicious epistemological consequences usually expected of cognitive penetrability because picture-perceptions do not cause beliefs. The account put forward secures a key point for understanding pictures as a form of representation. It shows that the mental states caused by pictures do not form the contents of attitudes or psychological modes (eg illusion, belief or perceptual belief with those contents), but are representations toward which we can subsequently adopt a number of different attitudes depending on the use of the picture. If there is time, I shall place this conclusion in the context of my (2010) proposal that pictures are always used to perform type (as opposed to token) demonstrations.

Philosophy Seminar Series.
Date: Thursday, 11 April 2013
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: John Zeimbekis, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Patras
Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

About the Speaker:

John Zeimbekis is assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Patras and maître de conférences on leave from the University of Grenoble. He has held fellowships at the Institut Jean Nicod, Paris, and the University of Pennsylvania. He works on vagueness and appearance properties, pictorial representation, fiction and mind reading, aesthetic value, indexical thought, the contents of perception, and cognitive penetrability. Publications include articles in the BJA, JAAC, Noûs and Philosophical Studies, several articles and book chapters on aesthetics in French and in Greek, and a book on aesthetic judgment (Qu’est-ce qu’un jugement esthétique, Paris: Vrin, 2006). He recently completed a monograph, Pictures, Perception and Meaning, which is under review, and is co-editing (with A. Raftopoulos) a volume entitled Cognitive Penetrability. He is currently treasurer of the European Society for Aesthetics.

“Creativity and the Negative Emotions” by Derek Matravers (26 Apr)

Recent work by Malcolm Budd, Aaron Smuts, and others has shown the so-called ‘paradox of tragedy’ (the conjunction of the claims that we willingly submit ourselves to painful art and the hedonic view of motivation) is no such thing. What remains, according to Smuts, is the ‘motivation question’ (‘Why do people want to see painful art?’) and the ‘difference question’ (Why do people subject themselves to things in art that they would not in real life?’). This paper argues that this obscures the deeper role of negative emotions in art: that they are essential for creativity. Drawing on the work on Richard Wollheim, this paper sketches an account of artistic creativity that draws on the work of Melanie Klein and Hannah Segal. Along the way, it has something to say about the role of intention in interpretation, before answering Smuts’ two questions.

Philosophy Seminar Series.
Date: Thursday, 26 Apr 2012
Time: 2-4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 Level 5)
Speaker: Derek Matravers, Professor of Philosophy, The Open University
Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

About the Speaker: Derek Matravers is Professor of Philosophy at The Open University and Bye-Fellow and Director of Studies at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He current interests lie in aesthetics; particularly with fiction and narrative. His introduction to the Philosophy of Art is about to appear with Acumen Press and his book, Fiction and Narrative, will appear with OUP next year. He is the author of Art and Emotion (1998, Clarendon Press), as well as numerous articles in aesthetics, ethics and the philosophy of mind.

More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.