• Aesthetics,  Art

    Feelings and Film

    Consider the following scenario: you are watching a movie in which a character, S, is in great peril. You fear for the life of S knowing that there is no such person and no real peril. Are you being irrational? After all, there is nothing to be afraid of. Perhaps, instead, you aren’t really scared. You’d feel completely differently if you were in peril and the peril was real. You certainly wouldn’t place yourself in peril for fun. Perhaps you are experiencing something like fear for S but not real fear. Still, it certainly feels like fear. Further, it isn’t the case that you’d never enjoy real fear. People pay…

  • Aesthetics,  Epistemology

    Beliefs and Imagination

    The strength of my faith rests in part on repeated readings of the Chronicles of Narnia. The imagination is a powerful faculty of the human mind. As Gordon Graham writes, “Assembling evidence is often a rational strategy in arriving at a verdict, but imagination … can be another means by which reality is brought home to us” (Gordon Graham). What I want to consider in this post is the comparison Graham makes between imagination and a rational strategy. Presumably, by ‘reality is brought home to us’ and ‘arriving at a verdict’ Graham means belief. A ‘rational strategy’ for forming a belief (presumably) involves a proposition, p, being justified by evidence and basing…

  • Aesthetics,  Hermeneutics

    Intentionalism Defended

    Intentionalism is the view that the meaning of a text is just what the author meant by it. In the following, I am going to lay out a case for it given by E. D. Hirsch, perhaps its most well known recent proponent. First, a distinction: According to Hirsch, there is a difference between the meaning of a text and its significance. He writes, “Meaning is that which is represented by a text; it is what the author meant by his use of a particular sign sequence; it is what the signs represent. Significance, on the other hand, names a relationship between that meaning and a person, or a conception, or a situation,…

  • Aesthetics,  Education,  History of Ideas

    Should We Read Books by Bad People?

    I am sometimes asked why we assign readings by people who exhibit bad character or perform immoral acts. Of course, there aren’t any morally perfect writers, but there are plenty who have done or supported pretty terrible things. Why lend their lives credence by exalting one of their works to a list of ‘great’ books? On one view, certain immoral acts should be condemned by ignoring all the works of those who perform them. After all, works are expressions of the characters of the people who authored them. Consequently, those expressions are as bad as the one who expressed them. Call this the strict censure view. According to this view,…

  • Aesthetics,  Hermeneutics

    Single Meaning View

    Does a literary work have one meaning or multiple meanings? Here is an argument in support of a singular view given by William Ames in 1629: “There is one meaning for every place in Scripture. Otherwise the meaning of scripture would not only be unclear and uncertain, but there would be no meaning at all–for anything which does not mean one thing surely means nothing.” (William Ames, 1629) This argument leaves much unsaid. What makes it the case that possessing any meaning, a text must possess only one meaning? How might the argument be elaborated? The argument for the singular meaning view has been elaborated by various philosophers and, with…

  • Aesthetics

    Why my Guitar Gently Weeps

    I have played the guitar since I was 14. One of its chief attractions for me is the guitar’s capacity to express emotion. To be honest, I’m not that good at expressing mine in any other way. ‘I feel sad’ doesn’t quite capture emotion in the same way a lengthy bend on my B string can. And nothing says ‘I’m annoyed’ as well as a tritone. My influences were all players who knew how to ‘speak’ with their guitars (see here, here, here, or here for examples). For some reason, I hear emotions in some sounds. I don’t merely mean that the music causes me to have an emotion. I…

  • Aesthetics,  Hermeneutics

    Text and Intention

    Semantic autonomy is the view that literary works are independent objects that possess properties sufficient for determining their interpretations. One has no need to consult the author’s intentions. The view was defended in “The Intentional Fallacy” by Wimsatt and Beardsley in 1946. Its most prominent opponent was E. D. Hirsch whose book, Validity in Interpretation (1967), defended the view that the meaning of a literary work is determined by its author, specifically by the intentions of the author. Hirsch argues that if the author does not determine the meaning of a work, then nothing does. It would follow that there really is no such thing as the meaning of a…

  • Aesthetics,  Art,  History of Ideas

    Art: Crisis, Creativity, and Christianity

    In the early part of the twentieth century, a crisis took place in the art world. Objects that were not beautiful were hung in galleries as art. Most famously, in 1917, Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) submitted a urinal to an exhibition in New York. His piece was called “Fountain” (1917). If that could be considered art, then surely anything can be. The art crisis provoked questions. What counts as art? What is the nature of art? What makes it valuable? Definition of Art What kinds of objects count as art? Think of as many pieces of art as you can. You will probably come up with a list that includes things like paintings,…