Online booking is now open for the course I'm teaching at Tate Modern, 'Beyond Seeing', Monday evenings 4th June - 9th July 6.30 - 8.00 p.m. (followed by a drink in the Level One Café). Further details here.
Booking hasn't opened yet, but this is just to give advance warning of a new course at Tate Modern, beginning on the first Monday in June...it should be advertised soon in the next Tate programme, and on the Tate Modern website. Beyond Seeing: the Senses in Art
6 sessions, Tate Modern, June – July 2007 Monday evenings, 6.30- 8 p.m. followed by a drink in the level one café Led by Nigel Warburton, author of The Art Question
Our experience of art and our construction of reality depend intimately upon our senses. Although our sense of sight is dominant in the appreciation of visual art, other senses come in to play in a variety of ways. Philosopher Nigel Warburton leads this six-session course which explores the nature and role of our various senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch, but also the ‘extra’ senses of proprioception and of time passing) in relation to works within the Tate Modern collection. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss a range of theoretical positions and test their application against particular works in the gallery. No prior knowledge of philosophy or art history is assumed.
Luciano Floridi has an interesting if neologism-laden downloadable Powerpoint about avatars and their philosophical implications :'Avatars: the Image, the Virtual and the Real' '. It is beautifully illustrated. Avatars are representations of a person in a virtual world. In some elaborate virtual worlds, such as Second Life (now with nearly 5 million participants) avatars can interact, make money, display art, and perform a wide range of activities, some of which have moral implications.
According to Floridi, netizens of the infosphere (i.e. people who use the Internet in the future?) will live in an almost animistic world where just about anything can provide them with information and interaction. At the moment most of us have a sense of a day-to-day world and a virtual world we enter when logged on or accessing the Internet. In the future the virtual world will be part of our everyday world, and if for any reason we are denied access to the great information-provider we will feel bereft.
There is an interesting entry on Nietzsche's typewriter on the weblog excursis. It has a moving image of the type of typewriter Nietzsche used and a reproduction of a typewritten letter from him (in capitals because the machine had no lower case letters).
'I'm pretty sure it's inaccurate - I know of no type-written Nietzsche manuscripts'
Does anyone know of evidence to the contrary?
Acocella has a nice bit at the end of the piece about the experience of writing on a computer compared with writing on a typewriter . As I read it I could hear the satisfying clatter of keys, the reassuring end-of-line ping, and the whirr of the cogs as I removed the typed sheet of paper (even the noise of crumpled paper and the parabola of the innacurate lob to the wastebasket all came back). People are making a lot of the death of the book these days (perhaps prematurely). But the typewriter is dead and a whole range of sensual experiences connected with old-style writing will be almost meaningless to the next generation...
This is a 4-session course at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, held on Friday evenings (1st - 22nd June), led by me (Nigel Warburton) and timed to coincide with the Surreal Things exhibition. Online booking for this course is now open.
In Plato's dialogue Phaedrus Socrates attacks the idea that writing is the best way of communicating ideas. He says that, as with paintings, you might get the impression that words could answer you back, but instead both remain solemnly silent (Phaedrus, 275d-e):
'You'd think they were speaking as if they had some understanding, but if you question anything that has been said because you want to learn more, it continues to signify just that very same thing forever. When it has once been written down, every discourse rolls about everywhere, reaching indiscriminately those with understanding no less than those who have no business with it, and it doesn't know to whom it should speak and to whom it should not. And when it is faulted and attacked unfairly, it always needs its father's support; alone, it can neither defend itself nor come to its own support' (trans. Nehamas and Woodruff)
John M. Cooper in his introduction to this dialogue (Plato Complete Works ed. Cooper, Hackett, 1997, p.507) summarises Socrates' view:
'Knowledge can only be lodged in a mind, and its essential feature there is an endless capacity to express, interpret and reinterpret itself suitably, in response to every challenge - something a written text once let go by its author plainly lacks: it can only keep on repeating the same words to whoever picks it up.'
This contrasts with René Descartes comment:
'To read good books is like holding a conversation with the most eminent minds of past centuries, and moreover, a studied conversation in which these authors reveal to us only the best of their thoughts. '(from Discourse on Method)
Ideally I'd read Descartes' Meditations, and then meet him to discuss it. Where that strategy is not possible, active reading with this imagined conversation, is good. This is what Machiavelli described in a letter to his friend Francesco Vettori about how he composed his book The Prince in exile...he imagined conversations with the great ancient statesmen:
'...I am not ashamed to speak with them, and to ask them about the reasons for their actions; and they, in their kindness, answer me'
I think Socrates was probably wrong to play down the written word so much, though. The combination of writing and discussion seems optimal for Philosophy. Yet, he was surely right to play up the value of discussion with a philosopher, particularly with one who is prepared to clarify, illustrate, argue and even revise his or her position...