Sunday, July 28, 2019

From 2010, linked in the previous post, but it fits with other recent posts. I should use it.
For a couple of decades the lowly plastic cassette tape, full of good sounds, cheaply copied and passed around like samizdat, served as creative raw material mostly in the indie-music world and the college dorm room.
But in London in the early 1970s, a conceptual artist named William Furlong began harnessing the cassette for his unlikely purposes in the visual arts. The motivation wasn’t dauntingly conceptual: he and his friends talked a lot and listened to the conversations of other artists and realized something.
“It became apparent to us,” Mr. Furlong said in a telephone interview last week from his home and modest recording studio in the Clapham section of London, “that none of that talk and none of our interests were being met by any traditional arts publications.”
Phaidon Press has now published “Speaking of Art,” a small sampling of the immense undertaking that resulted from that dissatisfaction. Beginning in 1973, with the help of a few collaborators, Mr. Furlong created Audio Arts, a no-budget “magazine” composed solely of cassette recordings of interviews with artists Mr. Furlong found interesting. He mailed them to friends and subscribers, at first hundreds and then thousands.

...Mr. Furlong considers the magazine a work of art itself: a monumental audio sculpture.
Considering himself a sculptor he refers to his projects as sculptures; whether they're best defined as that is irrelevant. His pretense fits with the history of video and performance art and of every other process of cultural transformation wherein one formal system acclimates itself to change while maintaining a pretense of continuity.

Culture in the 1960's continued the fraught process of return to a model of non-ideal representation, of representation involving time rather than timelessness, the fine arts specifically struggling to accept what photography and film took for granted. But art was art and movies and theater were entertainment. This is the tension as I've said that marks the mixture of smart observation and absurd prescription in Michael Fried's Art and Objecthood, as well as art-school teachers' fondness for Vertov and indifference to Eisenstein.

This brings us (since I was lucky enough to find both last week) to another example of the same process of change: philosophy, poaching on experimental psychology as "experimental philosophy"

Joshua Knobe, and the "Knobe Effect"
Rather than consulting his own philosophical intuitions, Knobe set out to find out how ordinary people think about intentional action. In a study published in 2003, Knobe presented passers-by in a Manhattan park with the following scenario. The CEO of a company is sitting in his office when his Vice President of R&D comes in and says, ‘We are thinking of starting a new programme. It will help us increase profits, but it will also harm the environment.’ The CEO responds that he doesn’t care about harming the environment and just wants to make as much profit as possible. The programme is carried out, profits are made and the environment is harmed.

Did the CEO intentionally harm the environment? The vast majority of people Knobe quizzed – 82 per cent – said he did. But what if the scenario is changed such that the word ‘harm’ is replaced with ‘help’? In this case the CEO doesn’t care about helping the environment, and still just wants to make a profit – and his actions result in both outcomes. Now faced with the question ‘Did the CEO intentionally help the environment?’, just 23 per cent of Knobe’s participants said ‘yes’ (Knobe, 2003a).

This asymmetry in responses between the ‘harm’ and ‘help’ scenarios, now known as the Knobe effect, provides a direct challenge to the idea of a one-way flow of judgments from the factual or non-moral domain to the moral sphere. ‘These data show that the process is actually much more complex,’ argues Knobe. Instead, the moral character of an action’s consequences also seems to influence how non-moral aspects of the action – in this case, whether someone did something intentionally or not – are judged.
The fact that people are held responsible for thoughtlessness that results in a bad outcome while not given credit for thoughtlessness that results in a good one -an "asymmetry in responses"- is common knowledge.  Here it's somehow a new and surprising thing, named for its "discoverer". Knobe may want to make a distinction between intention and responsibility but the author of the passage doesn't give it much thought, slipping from one to the other just as I assume the "folk" Knobe interviewed did.  It's as if Knobe were surprised to see a woman on the street wearing a bikini while he doesn't notice that the road is running by a beach. Taking a break from his life in the library stacks -and not the stacks in the law library where he'd find discussion of why "ignorance of the law is no excuse"- he thinks he's discovered something new.

Law is a function of organized society. Its job is the management of conflict, and needs to be consistent in its application. No one has ever insisted that it's absolutely consistent in its formal structure. Similarly there's no reason that people's responses are internally consistent according to one definition of rationality. Responses may be predictable, but that's not the same thing.

People argue from values. The respondents transposed questions of intent into questions of praiseworthiness. Should the CEO be praised by helping the environment without caring one way or the other? No.
Modern empiricism has been conditioned in large part by two dogmas. One is a belief in some fundamental cleavage between truths which are analytic, or grounded in meanings independently of matters of fact and truths which are synthetic, or grounded in fact. The other dogma is reductionism: the belief that each meaningful statement is equivalent to some logical construct upon terms which refer to immediate experience. Both dogmas, I shall argue, are ill founded. One effect of abandoning them is, as we shall see, a blurring of the supposed boundary between speculative metaphysics and natural science. Another effect is a shift toward pragmatism.
The penultimate sentence in that paragraph is more absurd, and more perverse, than anything by Derrida, and it's done more lasting harm.

I posted this before but again it's apropos. The meanings of words change over time. Here's some mainstream left-liberalism from 1965. It does not represent mainstream left-liberalism now.

Language games describe the era in which they're used. There is no access to the language of the past without both an imaginative sympathy and a knowledge of function. There is no valid empiricism absent an (empirically derived) knowledge of history and of historical change. The rigors of formal logic brought into the world become pedantry.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Philosopher Kathleen Stock, linking to Philosopher Holly Lawford-Smith on Twitter
If you’re tempted by the currently fashionable philosophical idea that working descriptive categories are a bit like clubs, and should be “expanded” or “ameliorated” for humane reasons, to be more “inclusive” of people who want to be counted, then see if this tests your resolve.
this is a real paper:
‘How dare you pretend to be disabled?’ The discounting of transabled people and their claims in disability movements and studies

Although the contours of the ‘disabled person’ category are questioned by anti-ableist activists, they remain rigid regarding transabled people (who want to become disabled). For anti-ableist activists, transabled people do not count as disabled. They are perceived to: be falsely disabled; steal resources from disabled people; and be disrespectful by denying, fetishizing, or appropriating marginalized realities. By combining critical discourse analysis, genealogy, and deconstruction, I examine these negative discourses to encourage alliances between anti-ableist activists and transabled people. Ideas developed in disability and trans studies reveal the limits of these discourses anchored in ableist and cisnormative* assumptions.
Blast from the past: when the Associate Editors of Hypatia defamed Rebecca Tuvel
Back in 2017
Tuvel's paper: In Defense of Transracialism

Stock supports Tuvel

If you accept that Tuvel's paper is reasonable then you have to accept that "transablism" is reasonable.

That's a problem for professional rationalists. When the rubber meets the road, Stock and Lawford-Smith, as women and feminists, go against their training. They won't admit it but they do. Leiter is so caught up in defending the profession, and so removed from the issues themselves, that he ties himself in knots.

Feminist philosophers do that as well, when they can twist their rationalizations towards what they want. Empiricism for philosophers is always the last option, only in a crisis, even if only a crisis of confidence 

New tag for experimental philosophy (aka, border-hopping by specialists in dying fields)

Sunday, July 07, 2019

"To add to the military metaphors: Soldier of the judicial press (Bertin). The poets of strife. The litterateurs of the advance guard. This habitude of military metaphors denotes minds not military, but made for discipline, that is, for conformity, minds born domesticated, Belgian minds, which can think only in society." 
New tag for Advertising and Happy Talk 
Unless and until I forget, every post with that tag is also tagged under Utopia and Intentional Communities. Yeah, it's obvious.
Nochlin, "The Invention of the Avant-garde" first published in Art News in 1968,  and the opening essay in The Politics of Vision

The first paragraph.
"Art changes only through strong convictions, convictions strong enough to change society at the same time." So proclaimed Theophile Thore, quarante-buitard critic, admirer of Theodore Rousseau, Millet, and Courbet, an art historian who discovered Vermeer and one of the spokesmen for a new, more democratic art, in 1855, in exile from Louis Napoleon's imperial France. Whether or not one agrees with Thore's assertion, it is certainly typical in its equation of revolutionary art and revolutionary politics of progressive thought in the visual arts at the middle of the nineteenth century.

...The very term "avant-garde" was first used figuratively to designate radical or advanced activity in both the artistic and social realms. It was in this sense that it was first employed by the French Utopian socialist Henri de Saint-Simon, in the third decade of the nineteenth century, when he designated artists, scientists, and industrialists as the elite leadership of the new social order:
It is we artists who will serve you as avant-garde [Saint-Simon has his artist proclaim, in an imaginary dialogue between the latter and a scientist] ... the power of the arts is in fact most immediate and most rapid: when we wish to spread new ideas among men, we inscribe them on marble or on canvas.  
...What a magnificent destiny for the arts is that of exercising a positive power over society, a true priestly function, and of marching forcefully in the van of all the intellectual faculties ... !'
My copy has "NO" scrawled above the first line. "The 'convictions' are that society has changed and that the artist is honest enough to admit it."

Nochlin: "Whether or not one agrees with Thore's assertion,..."  She was a smart woman and a serious historian, but aside from some scribbling on margins,  I've just ignored the history before the mid 20th century. I attacked the Pompiers and defended Baudelaire, but I ignored the earnest Socialists.

The direct line from from utopianism to Madison Ave, but I bypassed Saint-Simon.

Nochlin, from "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" 1971
The difficulties imposed by such demands on the woman artist continue to add to her already difficult enterprise even today. Compare, for example, the noted contemporary, Louise Nevelson, with her combination of utter, “unfeminine” dedication to her work and her conspicuously “feminine” false eyelashes; her admission that she got married at 17 despite her certainty that she couldn’t live without creating because “the world said you should get married.” Even in the case of these two outstanding artists—and whether we like The Horsefair or not, we still must admire Rosa Bonheur’s achievement—the voice of the feminine mystique with its potpourri of ambivalent narcissism and guilt, internalized, subtly dilutes and subverts that total inner confidence, that absolute certitude and self-determination, moral and esthetic, demanded by the highest and most innovative work in art. 
We have tried to deal with one of the perennial questions used to challenge women’s demand for true, rather than token, equality, by examining the whole erroneous intellectual substructure upon which the question “Why have there been no great women artists?” is based; by questioning the validity of the formulation of so-called “problems” in general and the “problem” of women specifically; and then, by probing some of the limitations of the discipline of art history itself. Hopefully, by stressing the institutional—i.e. the public—rather than the individual, or private, pre-conditions for achievement or the lack of it in the arts, we have provided a paradigm for the investigation of other areas in the field. By examining in some detail a single instance of deprivation or disadvantage—the unavailability of nude models to women art students—we have suggested that it was indeed institutionally made impossible for women to achieve artistic excellence, or success, on the same footing as men, no matter what the potency of their so-called talent, or genius. The existence of a tiny band of successful, if not great, women artists throughout history does nothing to gainsay this fact, any more than does the existence of a few superstars or token achievers among the members of any minority groups. And while great achievement is rare and difficult at best, it is still rarer and more difficult if, while you work, you must at the same time wrestle with inner demons of self-doubt and guilt and outer monsters of ridicule or patronizing encouragement, neither of which have any specific connection with the quality of the art work as such. 
What is important is that women face up to the reality of their history and of their present situation, without making excuses or puffing mediocrity. Disadvantage may indeed be an excuse; it is not, however, an intellectual position. Rather, using as a vantage point their situation as underdogs in the realm of grandeur, and outsiders in that of ideology, women can reveal institutional and intellectual weaknesses in general, and, at the same time that they destroy false consciousness, take part in the creation of institutions in which clear thought—and true greatness—are challenges open to anyone, man or woman, courageous enough to take the necessary risk, the leap into the unknown.

More history

Călinescu,  Five Faces Of Modernity: Modernism Avant-Garde Decadence Kitsch Postmodernism, Duke, 1987. A reprint of Faces of Modernity, Indiana, 1977, with an additional essay.
The word "avant-garde" (fore-guard) has an old history in French. As a term of warfare it dates back to the Middle Ages, and it developed a figurative meaning at least as early as the Renaissance. However, the metaphor of the avant-garde -- expressing a selfconsciously advanced position in politics, literature and art, religion, etc. -- was not employed with any consistency before the nineteenth century. Among other things, this fact accounts for the indelibly modern appearance of the label "avant-garde." Poggioli's earliest example of the cultural use of the term is from a little-known pamphlet published in 1845 by Gabriel Désiré Laverdant, a follower of Charles Fourier.  I was convinced, with Donald Drew Egbert, that the cultural notion of the avant-garde had been introduced at least two decades earlier, in 1825, and that the utopian philosophy of Saint-Simon had been responsible for this specific application of the term. Actually, the avant-garde metaphor was applied to poetry almost three centuries earlier, as I found out looking up the word "avant-garde" in the recent and excellent Trésor de la langue française ( Paris: Editions du CNRS, 1974, vol. 3, pp. 1056-57). During the second half of the sixteenth century, in a period that anticipates certain themes of the later Quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns, the French humanist lawyer and historian Etienne Pasquier (1529-1615) wrote in his Recherches de la France
A glorious war was then being waged against ignorance, a war in which, I would say, Scève, Bèze, and Pelletier constituted the avant-garde; or, if you prefer, they were the fore-runners of the other poets. After them, Pierre de Ronsard of Vendôme and Joachim du Bellay of Anjou, both gentlemen of noblest ancestry, joined the ranks. The two of them fought valiantly, and Ronsard in the first place, so that several others entered the battle under their banners. 

...Although it is encountered in the language of warfare, the modern notion of “avant-garde has a lot more to do with the language, theory, and practice of a comparatively recent kind of warfare, the revolutionary civil war. In this sense, it is safe to say that the actual career of the term avant-garde was started in the after- math of the French Revolution, when it acquired undisputed political overtones. The first periodical to bear this specific word in its title was, to be sure, a military one, but it left little doubt as to its revolutionary political stance. I am referring to L’Avant-garde de I’armee des Pyrenees orientates, a journal that appeared in 1794 and whose watchword—engraved on the blade of an emblematic sword—was: “La liberte ou la mort.” This journal was committed to the defense of Jacobin ideas and was intended to reach, beyond military circles, a broader audience of “patriots.”We can therefore take the 1790s as a starting point for the subsequent career of the concept of avant-garde in radical political thought. In hindsight, considering the analogical potentialities of the military notion, it is not difficult to explain the appeal of the metaphor for various kinds of revolutionary, and therefore future-oriented, philosophies: their representatives certainly liked the idea of being, at least intellectually, closer to Utopia than the rest of mankind, which was to follow their paths.

It is, therefore, not by chance that the romantic use of avant-garde in a literary-artistic context was directly derived from the language of revolutionary politics. This occurred in 1825, when the term avant-garde was applied to the arts in a dialogue written by one of the closest friends and disciples of Saint-Simon, namely, Olinde Rodrigues. Rodrigues's dialogue, "L'Artiste, le savant et l'industriel," was published in a volume entitled Opinions littéraires, philosophiques et industrielles, which appeared in 1825, the year of Saint-Simon's death. Although generally attributed to Saint-Simon, it is known that this unsigned volume was, in fact, the result of a collaboration, which, beside the work of the master, included those of his disciples: Léon Halévy, Rodrigues, Duvergier, and Bailly. This occurrence of avant-garde was discussed at some length by Donald Drew Egbert but, curiously, the author -- who seems only to have consulted the 1825 edition of Opinions... -- attributes the use of the term avant-garde to Saint-Simon and does not mention the name of Rodrigues, who, even if inspired by Saint-Simon's socialism, actually wrote the dialogue between the artist, the scientist, and the industrialist.