A&O CLASS NOTES April 14 2020



notes for


TUESDAY April 14, 2020


 (Connect remote sites by ZOOM – instructions to come in e-mail the day of class)

CHECK-IN: be prepared to comment on

    • how you are coping with the added factor of the pandemic … how are you doing? Any experiences to share? Joys? Concerns?


    • how you have changed your POWERPOINT presentation, and 
    • “being on the edge to evoke your best form”
    • “afterthoughts” ideas that pop up after a conversation (or presentation) ends
  •   RELATIVE to YOUR presentation, what can YOUR experience or the experiences you are attempting to present and discuss say about States of Mind–how we FEEL and how that affects the MEANING of what we’re talking about?
  •  Describing other people, “what in the world must they have been thinking when they did that?!  Even paleolithic cave artists, or Neanderthals interring loved ones with flower petals (or red ochre, or their pets) (this could be called “Paleopsychology.”) 


Last week (April 7) we shared individual PowerPoint presentations with each other.   As I saw it, taken together, these illustrated the main points of each person’s main interests in more-or-less detail and with more-or-less of an exploration of non-verbal representations that conveyed the feeling that the ideas in each person’s presentation can evoke.   [You will recall one of the main themes this semester is how an exploration of feelings give topics greater depth—greater meaning. The other way involved personal experience]   



REPRESENTING ART IN YOUR PAPER:  how to include CREATION and/or APPRECIATION of what ART can contribute to insight about about your topic.   RELATED to that is what  PERSONAL experiences energize or contribute to your paper.

RELATED to our concern with more fully representing ideas by using more than just words,  read Silva Jones’ short essay from 2017 about INEFFABILITY—the inability to represent something in words:

“In 2010, the artist Marina Abramović performed for 700 hours at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in a piece called The Artist is Present. It involved her sitting still in the middle of the gallery’s soaring atrium, wearing one of a selection of striking, block-colour dresses that pooled over her feet. Members of the audience could come and sit with Abramović, and face her across a table or empty space, in silence. The emotion and intensity of their responses was astonishing. Some laughed; many cried. Arthur Danto, the late Columbia University philosopher and art critic, compared his time with Abramović to ‘a shamanic trance’, and described the show as ‘magic’ in The New York Times. More than 1,500 people came and sat with Abramović, and 750,000 attended as observers. A recurring sentiment among the visitors was that the performance was a deep revelation for which words were not sufficient. If this is true, then something about it was ineffable.

We’re used to the idea that some of life’s most meaningful experiences are difficult, if not impossible, to describe. But what, precisely, does it mean to say that something is unsayable? Philosophers from Arthur Schopenhauer to Theodor Adorno and Roger Scruton have tended to see ineffability as a mere mark of the extraordinary, rather than being something extraordinary in itself. Yet I’d argue that we should take the concept of ineffability seriously – that we should ask what it is and where it comes from.

Clearly, this enquiry is full of pitfalls. If something is beyond words, then it’s hard to get a handle on what, if anything, it means. Ludwig Wittgenstein, for example, was convinced that it was nonsensical to try to speak about what lies outside the limits of language. Even so, he wrote an entire book about what cannot be said, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921), concluding with the observation: ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’

We might never be able to eff the ineffable, to paraphrase Douglas Adams’s comic detective Dirk Gently. But perhaps we can pinpoint the nature of the thing that can’t be expressed, or find a way to describe what it consists of. I believe that there are at least four possible candidates for a non-nonsensical answer: ineffable objects, ineffable truths, ineffable content, and ineffable knowledge.”  (Read the entire essay at https://aeon.co/essays/what-if-anything-can-be-said-about-what-is-unsayable?utm)