A Guide to Philosophical Book Covers, Abridged

Lots of people worth reading have posted about what book covers mean for our society, its views on race, and what exactly happens when a cover gets picked to sell books, forget what the book itself says.  Yes, it’s important stuff—really now, if the author says the main character isn’t white but you put a Nordic-looking blonde on the cover, summin’ ain’t right—but I like to lurk in the dark underworld of academic humanities publishing.  Thus, how to judge books by their covers, or make your Dusty Tome look like something worth reading.

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Ebooks and Philosophy: Odd Writings and Aphorisms

It’s no secret that philosophers are often odd people.  They also write strangely sometimes, too.

“No, really?  We didn’t notice.”  Yes, I know philosophical writing is notoriously bad—there’s a reason I put a pot leaf sticker on my copy of Heidegger’s Being and Time*—but some philosophers (oddly enough, often the ones who could actually write) use very odd formats for their works.  Though several philosophers have peculiar styles they’re associated with—Plato’s dialogues, Nietzsche’s aphorisms, Aquinas’ disputed questions—two thinkers seem to have writings that beg to be dealt with in a way electronic publishing could do a better job of than print media ever could.

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Intentio Lectoris: The State and Art

Google Penance time.*  The Search Engine Juggernaut has been referring more than a couple people looking for information on Umberto Eco’s essay to Ye Olde Humble Blogge, so I guess I should probably give those people a hand.

First, at least part of the essay is on Google Books.  Have a looksee there—Eco’s a good writer, and, in this case, the horse’s mouth is as good a place to hear things from as any.

You’ve read Eco now?  Yes?  Good.  No?  Do it later, you won’t regret it.

Interpretive theories—especially those relating to “constructive” interpretation**—have many applications, most notably in aesthetic criticism and, thanks to Ronald Dworkin, jurisprudence.  Now, while I think Dworkin overstates how far you can take interpretation in law, language, and aesthetics (I may explain why later, for the three people who would ever be interested in hearing why), I do think he raises an important point: the kind of interpretation one does in legal practice is very similar, formally speaking, to the kind one does in aesthetic criticism.  Thus, before I start ranting about Hart, Kripkenstein, and rule-guided behavior, let’s have some art. Continue reading

About the Manuscripts

I’ve used a few medieval illustrated manuscript photos in some of my posts (and probably will in the future), but, for those of you interested in such things (most anyone reading this, really), there’s a rather interesting discussion of the one I like to use, Royal MS 10 E iv (AKA the Smithfield Decretals) over at Got Medieval.

Enjoy.

Yves Klein and Interpretation, Part 2: The Strange Hell of Beauty

I left off last time with the idea that Klein’s works seek to create a void, to instantiate a nothingness.  Why, exactly, is this such a horrifying idea?

Short answer: anyone can play God; Klein’s trying to become Anti-God.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

Creating the Immaterial Zone—annihilating gold in the Seine

Now, the idea of creation ex nihilo is something that drives philosophers batty; to make a very long story short, it’s something only God can get away with.  Of course, creation has a flip side in annihilation; anything that now is, can just as easily not be.

This is the key message of Yves Klein.  To return to the original primal void requires more than simple destruction, but rather an act of God, a true annihilation of being.  Klein, time and again, attempts to create this utter nothing, to sell “zones of immaterial pictorial sensibility” to those willing to embrace annihilation and negation: Continue reading

Yves Klein and Interpretation Pt 1: Why Art Museums Need Philosophers

Blue Monochrome (IKB 45)

Last year, the Hirshhorn put on about the best exhibition I’ve ever seen at any museum—which as a chronic museum rat, is saying a lot.  Their Yves Klein retrospective, “With the Void, Full Powers,” was nothing if not spectacular, thought-provoking, and, for reasons I’ll get into later, terrifying.  It was about as close to a perfectly curated exhibit as you could ask, with the exception of one thing.

The title was completely wrong. Continue reading