My friend Ed Gibney has written on each and every one of the thought experiments in Julian Baggini’s, The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: 100 Experiments for the Armchair Philosopher. He has also summarized his own100 blog posts on Baggini’s 100 thought experiments in “What I learned from 100 Philosophy Thought Experiments.”
Here is his summary of, and commentary on, Baggini’s thought experiments dealing with aesthetics. It follows from a previous post on ethics. I have added my own brief reflections at the bottom of the page.)
From Ed Gibney’s blog, reprinted with permission.
In #48 Evil Genius, we see now how ethics and aesthetics can be united. Beauty is good; it is that which promotes the long-term survival of life. Bad art, no matter how well it is executed, is blind emotion that purports falsehoods for truth. #37 Nature the Artist helps us understand that this idea of beauty is objective to reality, but the beauty of any object is subjective to the considerations of each specific observer. That is how we make sense of the confused and competing definitions of beauty and art that exist at present. But in #86 Art for Art’s Sake, we see that artistic objects have no intrinsic worth on their own; they are not a form of life. Art must provoke emotions in someone (even if it is just the artist) in order to be considered art. And therefore, as in #66 The Forger, a true connection to the emotions and knowledge of an artist undoubtedly adds an extra dimension to any work of art, and that dimension can even become priceless whenever such a connection is deemed irreplaceable and full of inspirational beauty. When such art impels us to grasp for good lives, we reach out to those around us in order to actually accomplish it. And that leads us to the final branch of philosophy in our worldview.
My brief reflections – I probably know less about aesthetics than any other branch of philosophy. Let me just say that there is something about beauty that is intrinsically worthwhile. Truth, beauty, and goodness are the 3 great ideas by which we judge things. Here I’ll quote from Bertrand Russell’s last manuscript:
“There is an artist imprisoned in each one of us. Let him loose to spread joy everywhere.”
(Next up – the thought experiments dealing with political philosophy.)