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What, if anything, distinguishes natural beauty from artistic beauty?

I don't think that natural beauty and artistic beauty are fundamentallydistinct, but the beauty of art often depends on representation in away that the beauty of natural objects does not. Works of art can bebeautiful because of what they represent. For example, a portrait orlandscape painting might be beautiful in large part because of thebeauty of that which is depicted. But they may also be beautifulbecause of the way thatthey represent. So, for example, it is possible for a painting to bebeautiful even though it depicts anobject or event that is not beautiful. There are, for example,beautiful paintings that depict scenesof great suffering, which we would not count as beautiful (e.g., somebeautiful paintings that depict St. Sebastian's martyrdom). Or considersome famous paintings of ordinary objects (Cezanne's still lifes) orordinary scenes (Vermeer's). We might be hesitant to describe thoseobjects or scenes as beautiful, even though the paintings of them arepretty central cases of beauty. And that...

What are the most important similarities and differences between "Literature" and "Philosophy"? Akbar Baharlou

Works of literature and works of philosophy are both the meaningful products of human thought and action. This makes them interpretable, which is an important characteristic of both. Moreover, both philosophy and literature are predominantly linguistic, although non-linguistic representations such as pictures and diagrams can play a part in either. In the contemporary context, both literature and philosophy are 'text-centric', but the centrality of texts is not a necessary part of either practice. Think of Socrates (who didn't produce any written texts) as well as traditions of oral literature. Both literature and philosophy often address issues of deep human concern (e.g., serious ethical issues), and this is an important feature of both practices. But it is also plausible that this is a not a necessary condition of either. Philosophy doesn't have to address deep human concerns (e.g., you can philosophize about horror movies and--though I like them--I don' t think they're a matter of deep...

If an infinite number of monkeys were at an infinite number of typewriters, would the work of Shakespeare eventually come out?

They couldn't produce the work of Shakespeare. Only Shakespearecould. In fact, there's good reason to think that they couldn't produceany work of literature at all. Doing that would require sorts ofintentions that those infinite monkeys would not have. ProfessorVelleman's reasoning shows that there's a probability of 1 that theywould produce a text identical to the text of one of Shakespeare'sworks. Actually, it looks like there's a probability of 1 that theywould produce texts identical to that of all of Shakespeare's works (and all versions of those works). But texts are not identical to literaryworks--Shakespearean or otherwise. A word-for-word duplicate ofDicken's Bleak House written by, um, Shmickens would not be Bleak House .See Jorge Luis Borges' wonderful story "Pierre Menard, Author of theQuixote" for some relevant thoughts on the text/work distinction.

Is philosophy like art? Is it a personal journey, where the philosopher finds a gnawing within themselves and seeks to unravel it using words and ideas? And the papers and articles they produce are artefacts of the journey - like stone markers they travel past on their way to somewhere? Or is philosophy like engineering? The papers produced are like buildings, constructed using the materials of ideas and theories and the tools of logic and thought. The philosopher is more like an architect - working out what goes where and how it fits together to make something worthwhile.

Architecture is traditionally thought of as a form of art, and architects (at least many of them) are often considered artists. This suggests further reason to think that the two approaches you describe may go hand in hand. But I think there's a myth about art embedded in your question. While some art is a matter of a personal journey and the product of 'an inner gnawing', much art--even some great art--has little to do with the artist's own life journey or deepest psychology. Consider, for example, all the great visual art that has been done on commission for patrons, the immense amount of traditional folk art that does not seem to stem from 'inner gnawing', and the vast amount of art that is produced by groups rather than individuals (e.g., cathedrals, the majority of films, most theatrical and dance performances). Artmaking itself--like philosophy--is motivated by a variety of concerns.

Do truth and morality affect beauty? We hear of immoral beliefs being 'ugly'. All other things being equal, would a piece of art that supported falsity and immorality be any less beautiful? (For example, art that supported the Nazi party?)

This questions raises all sorts of interesting issues. I'm going tolimit my focus to the question of the relationship between morality andbeauty and avoid any discussion of more general questions relating totruth and the value of art. But there's a wealth of good literature onthe relation between morality and artistic value. See, for example, theessays in Jerrold Levinson (ed.), Aesthetics and Ethics , (Cambridge: CUP, 1998). But here are a few thoughts on beauty and morality. Itis true that we sometimes talk of immoral beliefs being ugly. We mayalso characterize immoral actions as ugly and moral ones as beautiful.And character assessment is sometimes made in terms of beauty andugliness ; e.g., 'she has a beautiful soul'. But I'm tempted by thethought that these usages are metaphorical; that is, we are not reallymaking aesthetic judgments--we are not literally ascribing beauty tothese objects-- when we talk this way. Why? Well, beauty and uglinessin the paradigm cases are associated with...

I am a liar. It's difficult because all lies are misrepresentations of the past (you can't really lie about the future), but at the same time, since the past only exists within our minds and can only be represented with words, the second I tell a lie, it becomes truth. I guess I'm wondering how a lie is ever a lie given that it is dependent on something that we can't know for certain (the past)?

What about the present? I can lie about the present can't I? Forexample, I could lie to you about what I am doing right now. I won't. Andyou're mistaken to think that we cannot lie about the future. If I wereto sincerely tell you that I will be eating excellent barbecue tomorrow(I wish!) with the intention that you come to believe me, then thatwould be a lie. I won't be, and I know it. I'll be eating my heart outover not being able to get good barbecue around here. So it seemsobvious that we can and sometimes do lie about the future. Insofar aswe can talk about the future and intend to deceive others about it, wecan lie about it. How would telling a lie about the past turn the lie into truth? (Note that your way of posing the question assumes that we can tell lies.) Suppose John lies on his job application and says that hereceived a degree from a prestigious university which he neverattended. His claim that he received the degree wouldn't make it true.Haven't we all read articles about...

I would like to study the impact of entertainment and marketing on people. How would studying philosophy help me to that end? Are there particular types of philosophy courses that would help? Particular philosophers?

I thinkAlex was a bit quick to dismiss the relevance of philosophy to theissue you're interested in. There is a long tradition of philosophicalinterest in entertainment/mass culture/mass art. For example, Plato wasconcerned in The Republic about the negative effects of tragedy and poetry (theentertainment of his time), and versions of his concerns can be foundin contemporary debates about the effects (and moral status) of variousforms of mass culture. See Alexander Nehamas' interesting essay "Platoand the Mass Media." Monist (April 1988), 214-234 fordiscussion of Plato's arguments and their relation to contemporaryconcerns. A good discussion of some of the ethical issues relating toentertainment (including moral concerns about its effects) can be foundin No ë l Carroll's book A Philosophy of Mass Art . You won't find useful answers to empirical questions about the actual effects of entertainment on people in the above works. I guess that's what Alex was getting at. On the...

Can you recommend any introductions to aesthetics?

Here are a few good introductions (there are others): Noël Carroll, Philosophy of Art: A Contemporary Introduction Marcia Muelder Eaton, Basic Issues in Aesthetics Cynthia Freeland, But is it Art?: An Introduction to Art Theory (note: this is the least academic, but it's fun and interesting) Gordon Graham, Philosophy of the Arts: an introduction You also might look at some of the good anthologies out there. Here are two that I like: Peter Lamarque and Stein H. Olsen (eds.), Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art: The Analytic Tradition (note: this is excellent, but it's more difficult than the other books on the list) Alex Neill and Aaron Ridley (eds.), Arguing about Art: Contemporary Philosophical Debates (note: this doesn't give a general overview, but it focuses on a variety of interesting topics)

What exactly is the moral/ethical problem with a professional athlete taking performance enhancing drugs? I'm talking about a talented professional who carefully weighs the known risks and side effects of such drugs and decides their use is necessary for him/her in order to be competitive in their sport. Shouldn't this just be a personal decision? Aspiring beauty queens are allowed to get plastic surgery, and athletes are allowed to get "corrective" laser eye surgery (significantly improving their perfectly normal distance vision)...

Given the rules in place in most professional and amateur sports, anathlete who takes performance enhancing drugs will be typically beguilty of some form of deception. But I think you're asking whether thereis a moral justification for the putting those rules into place. Ithink there is. Many performance enhancing drugs are dangerous (e.g.,EPO), and a policy that prohibits their use looks likely to reduce thesignificant harms that their use may produce to the user and to others.This seems to provide a moral basis for such policies. Whatabout concerns for the individual liberty of adult athletes? In somecases our concern for harm overrides the presumption in favor of suchliberty. Consider that the use of performance enhancing drugs bytalented professionals may have a tendency to promote the use of suchdrugs in others. And if the use of steroids were allowed, there wouldlikely be (even more) pressure on all athletes to use them so as tocompete with users. What about a performance enhancing drug...

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