Posts Tagged ‘Aesthetics’

Posted: November 20, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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Are these animals too ‘ugly’ to be saved?

People are used to being asked to help save photogenic pandas, but are there animals whose strange appearance hinders conservation? Creatures that achieve world fame for being under threat – the panda, the mountain gorilla, the tiger – tend to be conventionally aesthetically pleasing, even cute. But the scientists who study the planet’s rarest beasts say that many of the most precious and threatened creatures have physical characteristics that, although perhaps not adorable in the most orthodox sense, make them truly unique. A project run by the Zoological Society for London (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) is trying to raise awareness of these less appreciated creatures. “I love all the species on the Edge list,” says Carly Waterman, director of Edge. “But I think some do need a little extra help to get them a place in hearts of the general public.” Here are a few of the less doe-eyed and fluffy and more spiky, scaly, big-nosed and slimy animals that might be conservation icons. (via BBC News – Are these animals too ‘ugly’ to be saved?)

Ted Hiebert
In Praise of Nonsense: Aesthetics, Uncertainty, and Postmodern Identity
Montreal: McGill Queens University Press, 2012.

David Cecchetto

From the late 17th to the mid-18th Century in Europe, scientists and citizens alike believed that an element called phlogiston was contained within flammable substances. [1] This theory explained a number of diverse observations, including the presence of flames (taken to be the emerging phlogiston), the powdery nature of ash (because a solid object would crumble when it lost its phlogiston), and processes like smelting (which would work by transferring phlogiston). In short, phlogiston theory postulated what we might now call a “negative oxygen,” where understanding combustion as a gain of oxygen (as we now commonly do) is logically equivalent to understanding it as a loss of phlogiston, such that “any chemical reaction that involves the transfer of oxygen [could] equally be viewed as a transfer of phlogiston in the opposite direction.” [2] The catch — which ultimately obsolesced the theory — is that chemists realized that for phlogiston to exist it would need to have a negative mass, which is physically impossible.

But what if we weren’t quite satisfied with physical impossibility as grounds for dismissal? That is, what if we took this physical impossibility not as a cue to look to another explanation, but rather as a method of sustaining and focusing the imaginative possibility that underwrites impossibility, as well as the impossibility that underwrites possibility itself? In short, what if we recalibrated the humanist injunction to mean away from the goal of understanding what is possible and towards the goal of imagining new impossibilities? Instead of debunking phlogiston in the name of what is already known, we might instead come to bear on the precise ways in which knowledge is always simultaneously a form of not-knowing. Moreover, we might take seriously the possibility that it is this negative knowledge — these delusions — that “maintain the integrity of the question[s]” we ask in and through our daily lives. [3]

Posted: July 4, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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When Nietzsche says, as he frequently does, that “the truth is terrible” he has in mind three kinds of terrible truths: (1) the terrible “existential” truths about the human situation (the inevitability of death and suffering); (2) the terrible “moral” truth that “life is essentially something amoral”; and (3) the terrible “epistemic” truth that most of what we think we know about the world around us is illusory. These terrible truths raise Schopenhauer’s question: why continue living at all? nietzsche’s answer, from early in his career to the very end, is that only viewed in terms of aesthetic values can life itself be “justified” (where “justification” really means restoring an affective attachment to life). Something can have aesthetic value even if it has no epistemic value—indeed, Nietzsche takes it to be a hallmark of art that “the lie hallows itself” and “the willl to deception has good conscience on its side.” Similarly, something can have aesthetic value even when it lacks moral value, something well-exemplified, he thinks, by the Homeric sagas. But how could the fact that life exemplifies aesthetic value restore our attachment to life in the face of the terrible existential truths about our situation? I suggest that there are two keys to understanding Nietzsche’s answer: first, his assimilation of aesthetic pleasure to a kind of sublimated sexual pleasure; and second, his psychological thesis, central to the Genealogy, that powerful affects neutralize pain, and thus can “seduce” the sufferer back to life. Finally, life can only supply the requisite kind of aesthetic pleasure if it features what I call the “spectacle of genius,” the spectacle represented by the likes of Beethoven, Goethe, and Napoleon. Since such geniuses are not possible in a culture dominated by “morality” (in Nietzsche’s pejorative sense), the critique of morality is essential to the restoration of an affective attachment to life, since only by defeating morality will the spectacle of genius continue to be possible.

Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog: “The Truth is Terrible”

Posted: June 23, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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At the risk of sounding brusque or curmudgeonly, I have always felt that asking or being asked, “What is art?” has been a bane ever since art school, because the answer is so complex. People often ask that question in order to plumb the shape of culture at a given time, or in order to “know what art is” so they know what to make to be accepted by a community, gallery, etc. Perhaps I am a bit cynical. I find that art is a set of cultural and aesthetic practices that have many categories and cultural functions. It is driven by position, context, history, and community – all of these things. It is a dim mirror for the human condition, and an early indicator of trends in culture. (via What is art in the 21st Century?)

Posted: April 19, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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The brain network activated during an intense response to art overlaps with the brain network associated with inward contemplation and self-assessment.A study from researchers at New York University sheds new light on the nature of the aesthetic experience, which appears to integrate sensory and emotional reactions in a manner linked with their personal relevance.We all have strong aesthetic reactions to works of art, even though the images that move us vary across individuals. Moreover, we are moved by particular images for very different reasons. Nonetheless, the ability to be aesthetically moved appears to be universal. – When art touches a nerve, brain lights up

Posted: April 8, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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Prosthetics get the personal touch: Synthetic legs have become a medium for self-expression, thanks to customization made possible by sophisticated technology. It’s a bold melding of modern science and fashion statement.


Posted: March 17, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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A must watch :

Prosthetics can’t replicate the look and feel of lost limbs, argues industrial designer Scott Summit, but they can carry a lot of personality. At TEDxCambridge, he shows 3D-printed, individually designed prosthetic legs that are unabashedly artificial and completely personal.

The talk features a fantastic quote from Summit that could also apply to us “normal functioning” humans looking ahead to a transhuman future:

If you’re designing for the person—for a real person—you don’t settle for the minimum functional requirements. You see how far beyond that you can go where the rewards really are way out in the fringe of how far past that document you can go. And if you can nail that, you stand to improve the quality of life for somebody for every moment for the rest of their life.

TEDxCambridge – Scott Summit’s beautiful prosthetics (by TEDxTalks)

HT to SentientDevelopments