July 10-12, 1998, St John’s College, Santa Fe, New Mexico
The first session was composed of two panels. Arguing that architects should make buildings that engender beauty as well as serve material needs--that like alchemists of the past they should fuse the spiritual and the physical--Lori Ryker, Texas A&M University, contended in her paper, “Alchemy and Material Transfiguring in Architecture,” that Maritain’s “poetic intuition” could provide the necessary means. According to Professor Elmer Duncan, Baylor University, in his paper, “The Lack of Historical Perspective in Aesthetics,” the study of ethics has maintained its relationship to the history of ethics, but aesthetics has failed to remain related to its history and, thus, may cease to be important in philosophy. Many contemporary debates concerning the definability of art, Jeffrey T. Dean, University of Wisconsin, Madison, argued in his paper, “The Definition of Art: What a Concept,” stem from a confusion between ways of “identifying” art and ways of “defining” it. Although we can generally identify art it does not follow that we can or should be able to define it.
The second panel was on “Art as Concept.” Michael Manson, of University College of Cape Breton, presented his research on “Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian,” a novel, Manson argued, that forms a critique of humanism in its deconstruction of certain myths associated with Western America. At the center of Manson’s argument was the idea that McCarthy does not allow his characters solid identities, but forces them to adapt to the violence and aggression of the conditions in which they find themselves. John Samson, Texas Tech University, addressed Jack London’s critical perspective on Nietzsche’s ideas in London’s novel in “Jack London’s The Mutiny of the Elsinore.” Samson argued that London was much attracted to Marx’s philosophy of social equality, and it was therefore his belief in Nietzsche’s concept of the “superman,” that created a conflict within his social philosophy. Roger Seamon, University of British Columbia, in his paper, “Essentialism and the Challenge of Conceptual Art,” argued “conceptual art” was not, as others have assumed, in conflict with imitation, and that “conception” should be added to Bosanquet’s traditional triad, “imitation, expression, form,” as a fourth dimension in artistic analysis.
The second session was composed of panels on “Contemporary Issues in Aesthetics” and “Native American Art.” In the first of these Paul Taylor, University of Cape Town, explored in his paper, “Literary and Moral Judgments,” instances in which literary and moral judgments concerning works of art overlap. In such cases, he argued, it may be legitimate to condemn or praise a work because it lacks or possesses aesthetic value. As American Buddhist poetry seems to invite anarchy by violating formal restraints, James Whitlark, Texas Tech University, claimed in his paper, “The Aesthetic of Chaos in American Buddhist Poetry,” its true aim as suggested by chaos theory is to reveal that all things are richly and complexly united. Tobyn De Marco, Hunter College, considered in his paper, “Originality is Aesthetically and Artistically Valuable,” a range of possible meanings of “originality,” focused on those which are valuable in the creation of art objects, and considered counter-arguments that claim originality is neither necessary nor sufficient in aesthetics or art.
The image of the coyote in Southwestern art has become more than a historical referent, according to Louis Cicotello and Raphael Sassower of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. In their joint paper, “Images of Coyotes as Avant-garde Art,” they suggested that a mixture of consumer demands and romantic images of the bohemian artist have created, in the coyote motif, an image of avant-garde artists themselves. Dee Horne, University of Northern British Columbia, in her paper, “Trickster Aesthetics in Louise Erdrich’s Tracks,” argued that Erdrich’s novel actually teaches us a creative reading of cultures by going beyond the simple reversal of colonial hierarchies, and moving, like the trickster figure itself, through ambivalent realms of power, such as those suggested in Homi Bhabha’s recent work. Reuben Ellis, Hope College, in both an investigative and explorative analysis, “I Know Nothing about Kokopelli,” suggested the extent to which we create our own contextual needs and desires through our reading of the Southwestern Kokopelli figure.
The keynote session featured John J. McDermott, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Texas A&M University. McDermott unfolded in his address, “Aesthetics Against the Grain,” the implications of John Dewey’s philosophy of art, in which he illustrated by story and example the dangers of separating art from ordinary experience and imposing upon art and ordinary experience preconceived structures of thought. To live life on the edge, he concluded, is to be open to the ever-changing flow of experience and its ever-present aesthetic richness.
The fourth session included a panel on “Music as Theory and Communication.” Fred E. Maus, University of Virginia, spoke on the applicability of analytical and communications theory to an understanding of music in performance in his paper, “Musical Performance as Analytical Communication.” Robert C. Jones, Central Missouri State University, discussed the life and music of Charles Ives and his reception among different generation in “The Music of Charles Ives.” James Baldwin’s fiction follows patterns of composition familiar in early twentieth-century popular music according to Cat Moses, in the paper she presented, “Blues and Bebop in James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues”
A second panel was devoted to “Art and Metaphysics.” “Charles S. Peirce’s Philosophy of Art” was described by Professor Arthur Stewart, Lamar State University, as based on two assumptions: the equivalence of logical completeness with beauty and the ugliness of narrowly positivistic conceptions of reality. Alastair Beattie, University of the Andes, argued in his paper, “The Emergence of Mind from the Brain,” that what we know concerning the nature of brain-functions cannot be accounted for by a merely neuro-physiological theory, but requires the existence of a virtual mind to provide the basis for the functional unity of the brain.
The fifth session included a panel on “The Uses of Art” and a panel on “Art as a Profession.” Jeff Bell, Southeastern Louisiana University, argued in his paper, “The Director Function: Auteur Theory,” that there was still a critical space for the concept of the “auteur” in film; this in contrast to postmodern critical suggestions that the “auteur” function has become hopefully fragmented. Don Driscoll presented his research on “Plato, Gracian, and Hume and the Real World,” exploring what he cited as the persistent interest in the idea of humans entering the world fully formed. Rick Mott, University of New Mexico, made connections with the new technology in “Teaching Literature on the Web,” and suggested ways of creating literary home pages.
Charles Hudlin and Pam Chadick, both from the United States Air Force Academy, began their paper, “Missing the Mark, Professionally Speaking,” by stating that all professions share one or more of three characteristics: expertise, social responsibility, or corporate unity. They concluded that as artists have sought to becomes professional by stressing expertise, they have missed the mark by failing to establish corporate unity. Francis Downing and Robert Warden, both in Architecture at Texas A&M University, presented in their paper, “Visualizing the Philosophy of Research,” the syllabus they use to acquaint graduate students with key philosophical assumptions which must be considered in conducting research, and invited critical responses from the audience. Vincent Canizaro, Texas A&M University, described in his paper, “Focal Practices in Architecture,” examples of focal practices in the architectural design of Alexander and compared them with “Enframing” in Heidegger’s critique of Technology.
The Artist at Work Session was a talk given by C. J. Chadwell of Victor, Colorado on “Plein Air and Personal Paintings.” Ms. Chadwell discussed a range of contemporary and early artists of the Plein Air group and their various uses of Impressionist techniques of color and light in the natural landscapes of America.
The final session, “Poems from the Southwest,” was a reading by two poets associated with the division, Cindy William, of Houston, Texas, and George Moore, of Boulder, Colorado. The poets read and discussed their poetry in the context of personal and regional associations that influence their works.