Earlier today I read an article in The Guardian about a movie premier at Cannes. The film in question, called The House that Jack Built, is about a serial killer and features several gruesome scenes of child and animal torture. Numerous people walked out, with one saying afterward “seeing children being shot and killed is not art or entertainment.” This caught my eye, as I believe that art, like philosophy, is constantly redefining itself. While it is not entertaining to see children shot and killed, I don’t think it is possible to say that such is not and could not be art. The number of times what was ‘not art’ became ‘art’ is significant, as is the list of art that deals with morbid and gruesome subjects (e.g. Philip Guston).
The field of aesthetics would seem to have an endless task in understanding and interpreting a body of work that will never stay the same. Yet this does not mean its work is thankless, for it provides lots of important insights into how humans deal with the world using the non-conceptual. As a philosopher, I have at times felt like the works of Plato, Kant, Nietzsche and others were more elegantly summed up in a piece of art than in the many pages they each wrote. So just as artists often seek inspiration for their works in academic disciplines like ours, we should at times meditate on their work. Here are some papers to get you started.
- Tod Swanson and Jarrad Reddekop, “Looking Like the Land: Beauty and Aesthetics in Amazonian Quichua Philosophy and Practice,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, September 2017.
- Jessica Wiskus, “Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty: Aesthetics, Philosophy of Biology, and Ontology,” Journal of the History of Philosophy, July 2014.
- John Andrew Fisher, “Aesthetics as Philosophy of Perception,” Journal of Aesthetics & Art Criticism, Spring 2017.
- Dorothy Ko, “Bodies in China: Philosophy, Aesthetics, Gender, and Politics,” Journal of Chinese Studies, January 2018.
- Julia Mehlich, “The Ontological and Aesthetic Overcoming of the Philosophy of Wilhelm Windelband in the Silver Age,” Russian Studies in Philosophy, 2016.
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