Methods in the Philosophy of Literature and Film

Title: Methods in the Philosophy of Literature and Film

Publication: Herman Cappelen, John Hawthorne and Tamar Szabo Gendler (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Methodology. Oxford University Press, 641–656

Date: 2014


Abstract: This article discusses methods in the philosophy of literature and film (PLF). It begins by providing some background on PLF and how it differs from those philosophically influenced projects for understanding and interpreting literature and film most often undertaken by film and literary scholars. It then reviews the history of the study of literature and film before considering how particular filmic or literary works might function as evidence for, or as things to be explained by, general claims offered within PLF. It examines the claim that literary and filmic works may themselves be sources of philosophical ideas and, sometimes, contributions to philosophy itself. It then describes Darwinian approaches to PLF. Finally, it considers the role of empirical evidence in assessing claims about the value of literature as a source of knowledge.

On getting out of the armchair to do aesthetics

Title: On getting out of the armchair to do aesthetics

Publication: M. Haug (ed) Philosophical Methodology: The Armchair or the Laboratory? Routledge

Date: 18 July 2013


Abstract: It used to be said that that two objects which have the same “appearance” properties—they look or sound the same, for example—could not differ in that one is beautiful and the other not. Pressure was brought to bear on this idea of narrow aesthetic supervenience by Walton and others, who imagined cases where two objects have the same intrinsic non-aesthetic properties—the same specification of colours at all points on its surface—yet differ aesthetically, because they differ relationally. What justifies the resulting shift from narrow to broad supervenience in aesthetics? A tempting answer is intuition. The narrow supervenience claim says that it is not possible for two pictures to have the same colours in the same places, and to differ aesthetically. But we can present imaginary examples of indistinguishable pairs of pictures concerning which readers—some readers at least – have the intuition that they are aesthetically different. We have little idea how widely these intuitive judgements are shared, and studies in other areas suggest that they may not be shared very widely. If intuitions are a reliable guide to how things are in the world, there ought to be (very) widespread, non-collusive agreement in intuition, just as there seems to be in perceptual judgement. How much of this ought to concern us in relation to the debate over aesthetic supervenience? Should we urgently construct surveys to see how widely the Walton intuition is shared? Should we give up on intuition and try to find some other way to make progress on this question? I suggest we do neither of these things.