Thursday, July 31, 2008

Demonstrative Thoughts About A City

In Varieties of Reference, Evans says that a subject, sitting in a room in his house, cannot have demonstrative thoughts about the city he lives in:

"Sitting in a room in a house, a subject is not in informational contact with a city; if he believes there is a city around him, this belief cannot be based solely upon what is available to him in perception, nor can he make judgments about the city on that basis (save, perhaps, judgments which hold good of it in virtue of the condition of its parts)" (p.177).

But Evans attaches a footnote to that remark, and says, "The situation is different when we are aloft in some high building and can survey the city beneath us".

Evans thereby furnishes a reason for living or working up high: the ability to entertain demonstrative thoughts about the city you live in. There are thoughts that those in skyscrapers can have that those living close to the surface of the earth cannot.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Conceptual Art and Philosophy

In the late 1960s, conceptual artists produced some artworks inspired by analytic philosophy---typically pieces of text in various media:

Art & Language, Abstract Art No. 7, which is a blown-up review of Quine's Elementary Logic (scroll to the right to view); Bruce Nauman, A Rose Has No Teeth, a statement taken from Part II, § xi of Wittgenstein's Investigations, cast in bronze and nailed to a tree; Joseph Kosuth, Art as Idea as Idea: A blown-up, lithographed definition of the word "meaning".

There is a similar, though more inspired, use of text from John Dewey and Jane Addams currently installed all over the University of Chicago. The work is Instance the Determination by Helen Mirra. Here is some text in the stairway outside the philosophy department, and here is a map showing the locations of all the other pieces of metaphysical graffiti (Jay, via the Dead Milkmen, gets the credit for the pun).