Philosophy of the Arts


Notes and considerations, follow-up on discussions in class, what not.

Propaganda or not?

…Whether or not someone addresses another person is between the addresser and the addressee… In class, I posed the question whether or not Lenie Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will is a piece of propaganda, or rather documentary as Riefenstahl herself has claimed. Joseph Goebbels was the minister of propaganda. Propaganda, one could conclude from that,…

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On these pages I keep you informed about the literature courses in aesthetics. There are three of them: In “Art and Morality” you study the debate on the possibility of a moral evaluation of art; In “Mind and Art” collections of articles by one author are studied and taken to the task by comparison with…

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Historical Sensations in Shoah

One of the assets of Claude lanzmann’s film Shoah is this that it presents moral witnesses in places that are sure to stir their memories. Lanzmann did not invite them over to the studio for an interview, nor did he visit them in their own homes. The relevant places are either historical sites (the camps;…

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Representing a token of a type

“But how can he tell what the holocaust was, if he is telling the story of a German who saved 1300 jews, while the overwhelming majority of the jews was not saved? Even when he shows the moment of the deportation to the Cracau ghetto, or the camp officer shooting at the deported, how can he do justice, even then, to the normalcy of the procedure of murder, the machinery of the extermination? It did not go like that for everyone. In Treblinka, or in Auschwitz, the possibility of salvation was inconceivable.” (Lanzmann). … (read on)

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Lanzmann and Lang

Claude Lanzmann argued (a.o.) that the Shoah cannot be represented (photographically, I would want to add). He states this clearly in explaining what he would do had he found documentary footage. Now if something cannot be represented, then surely it can be misrepresented. (Rather, every representation of it would be a misrepresentation.) This leads to…

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How does music mean?

A Kind of Depiction? Would one recognise exactly what is depicted by some piece of music? Try this experiment: Perform a piece of music notable for its pictorial nature, hand out a piece of paper to everyone in the audience, and have them sketch the scene depicted. A translation Perhaps it is a viable thought…

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The Moral Witness

Their Peculiar Contribution What if we’d introduce a distinction between the epistemology of the narrative and the sincerity of testimonials of experiential memories that anchor the narrative—liberating the moral witness from having to answer epistemological challenges. the truth of a witnesses testimony is allowed to be idiosyncratic, because what it arguably does is contribute an…

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Guest lectures

The handouts of most of my guest lectures are available on the internet. Some are restricted for enlisted students only, some are available for all interested parties. I hope you got something from my contributions.

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What is Racism?

1. What is Racism?2. How do we establish whether something (or someone) is being racist?3. Doesn’t “is racist” imply a distinction between kinds of people? Imagine you are in the supermarket at the cash register when you see a white man yell at a cashier, a black woman. The man is a racist, you think….

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