Review: Thomas Rowe on Dom Lopes’

By Thomas Rowe

Screen grab care of Mark Sainsbury

According to Lopes, justice is goodness in a relatively large-scale social arrangement. Injustice is thereby badness in such a social arrangement. Aesthetic injustice becomes an issue when cultures encounter one another. The motivating example of the talk was the Canadian government’s use of Haida aesthetic culture (the Spirit of Haida Gwaii sculpture) on the $20 bill. There seemed to be something not quite right about the use of this First Nation art on the national currency. Lopes’s explanation for this is that the use of aesthetic culture subverted the process through which the Haida people fix their own aesthetic profile, contrary to the interest in social autonomy.

The account of aesthetic injustice maps on quite nicely to the familiar notion of political injustice. This is because there is an appeal to the large-scale structural features of society that frame how individuals come into contact with one another. This mirrors the typical approach in political philosophy of seeing justice as a matter of the fundamental political and economic institutions of society.

I will note two points. First, Lopes’s view assumes a perfectionist orientated approach to justice. Perfectionists appeal to an account of a good human life in their accounts of justice. (But what exactly is a good human life?) It is a great contribution, however, to conceive of aesthetic interests as being relevant to justice. The perfectionist approach can be contrasted with approaches of justice such as “realism” which aim to secure conditions for the non-violent coexistence of cultural communities.

Second, Lopes argues that aesthetic injustice can undermine individuals’ capacities to realise the interests of the value of diverse schemes of aesthetic value as well as communities’ interest in social autonomy. These interests can be viewed as part of an account of a good human life, where the former states that it is good, for instance, that there are different ways of doing rock music, and the latter refers to the good of being able to shape one’s life and have an impact on surrounding social practices. Lopes suggested that justice with respect to these interests can be seen as an aspiration to the maximum, and injustice can be seen as the falling below some threshold, where individuals’ capacities to realise these interests are set back to a sufficient degree. But where, we may ask, is this threshold? And what are the particularly aesthetic interests (if any) that are set back by aesthetic injustice? I look forward to hearing more about Lopes’s excellent work on this fascinating area.  

Review: Dom Lopes’ Mark Sainsbury lecture

by Mathilde Victoria Prietzel Nielsen, 1st year Undergraduate in Philosophy

Network Visibility and Network Test Products | Keysight
A network theory of art and artistic value

On March 16th the annual Sainsbury lecture was held as it is tradition to honour Richard Mark Sainsbury’s contributions to King’s Philosophy department. This year’s King’s had the honour of hosting distinguished University Scholar and Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia, Dominic Lopes and the topic ‘Aesthetic Injustice’. An overlooked phenomenon in philosophy, that is, before the night’s lecture in which Dominic took the audience through his forthcoming ‘cosmopolitan theory of aesthetic injustice’. The theory aims at tracking down and bringing to light any aesthetic injustice where other theories fail to do so. To test the validity of the theory, Lopes presented and evaluated cases of aesthetic justice and injustice, first single-handed and later in joint research with the audience members, thus subtly but clearly demonstrating one of the theory’s main claims, that the success of an aesthetic culture’s profile – it could be that of philosophy – stands and falls not with the success of the individual philosopher (or dancer, or barista, or mathematician) but with the success of the (philosophical, dancing, coffee-making, calculating) community. Indeed, if the single aesthetic agents (philosophers, dancers, baristas, mathematicians) fail to work together towards the jointly agreed to aesthetic value, the aesthetic culture fails entirely. In each case – from rap to tap dance to computer games – Lopes kept a strict eye on the nuances and intricacies, thus constantly bringing the audience’s attention to another perhaps more general, yet easily neglected point: nuances matter. Concluding that the cosmopolitan theory is indeed successful in bringing to light otherwise sombre aesthetic injustices, questions were attended to, well-considered and answered, and noted down for final editorial remarks.

Invitation to the Annual Peace Lecture

Join us for the Annual Peace Lecture – online link to follow.

Tuesday 11 May 2021, 17:00-19:00

Cécile Fabre:

Snatching Something From Death: 

Value, Justice, and Humankind’s Common Heritage

When Notre-Dame Cathedral was engulfed by fire on April 15, 2019, the world (it seemed) watched in horror. On Twitter, Facebook, in newspapers and on TV cables ranging as far afield from Paris as South Africa, China and Chile, people expressed their sorrow at the partial destruction of the church, and retrospective anguish at the thought of what might very well have happened – the complete loss of a jewel of Gothic architecture whose value somehow transcends time and space. My aim in this lecture is to offer a philosophical account and defence of the view that there is such a thing as humankind’s common heritage, and that this heritage makes stringent moral demands on us. I first offer an account of the universal value of (some) heritage goods, and then offer a conception of justice at the bar of which we owe it to one another, but also to our ancestors and successors, to preserve that heritage.

Professor Cécile Fabre is a Fellow of the British Academy, Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, and Professor of Political Philosophy at Oxford University.

The lecture will be chaired by Professor MM McCabe, FBA, Chair of the British Academy Philosophy Section and Professor of Ancient Philosophy Emerita, King’s College London.

The Peace Lectures are due to Alan Lacey, a life-long pacifist who taught philosophy at King’s College London for some fifteen years, and who left a generous bequest to fund a lecture series promoting peace.

Invite: Simon Critchely talk

Topic: Simon Critchely ‘Pandemic Mysticism’Time: Apr 8, 2021 07:00 PM London
to join the Zoom Meeting please email your details to mathilde.prietzel_nielsen@kcl.ac.uk

Simone Weil

Seminar outline.

In the wake of COVID-19, many of us have grown used to being hermits, socially distanced and masked against a contaminated and untrustworthy reality defined by pestilence, suffering and death. In a world of contagion – possibly being contagious ourselves – we have followed a practice that the ancients called anachoreisis, a withdrawal into solitude, a retreat from the world. Whether we liked it or not, we all became anchorites or anchoresses. There is a strange asceticism to the world of lockdown and disease which opened us up to extreme experiences of doubt, dereliction, dreams, hypochondria, hallucination, and a desperate desire for love or a connection with something or someone outside or larger than the self. These experiences and emotion have profound historical and religious echoes with the logic, poetics and practices of mysticism. It is as if something elemental and primeval has been revived in the pandemic. Perhaps it is worth looking into. It seems to me, then, that this might be an opportune moment to study some mystical texts together and think about the nature of mystical experience. Such is the simple purpose of this seminar. In its attempts to articulate religious experience in thought, mysticism both borrows heavily from philosophy and undermines its standard procedures. What often results is a strange philosophy of contradictions, confessions, and enigmas. While not being blind to the many mystical traditions, we will focus on Christian mysticism, especially medieval texts, and especially those written by women. Authors that may be included are: Dionysius the Areopagite, Hadewych of Antwerp, Meister Eckhart, Marguerite Porete, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Angela of Foligno, and others. The seminar will also include selections from more recent authors inspired this tradition, for example William James, Bataille, Lacan, Michel de Certeau, Simone Weil, R.D. Laing, Caroline Bynum and Amy Hollywood. We will pay attention to the political dimension of these traditions that are focused around the odd phenomenon of mystical anarchism. And we will also pay attention to the relation of mystical experience to popular music in various forms.

This seminar has been organised by Mathilde Prietzel Nielsen, 1st year Philosophy student. Please email mathilde.prietzel_nielsen@kcl.ac.uk for the zoom conference login details.

Review: Social Arrangements & Aesthetic Injustice

by Irene Martínez Marín, Aesthetics PhD Candidate (Uppsala University/Visiting researcher KCL)

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii (Sculpture)

Dom Lopes presented at the annual Mark Sainsbury Lecture a novel and promising framework from which to better understand cases of aesthetic injustice: the cosmopolitan theory. The goal of this theory is to capture what is special and sometimes problematic about our engagement with other aesthetic cultures. Lopes started the talk by characterizing justice as goodness in the arrangement of social life. From there, social arrangements of social life are aesthetically unjust when they harm people or communities in their capacity as aesthetic agents, which capacities serve two interests: value diversity and social autonomy. A well-known scenario of aesthetic injustice is cultural appropriation. Lopes’ strategy was to apply his theory to this form of injustice in order to show how there is more to cultural appropriation than “violation of the source culture’s property rights, misrepresentation, disrespect or assimilation”. Using the example of a Haida artwork, ‘Black Canoe’ Lopes convincingly showed that aesthetic cultures also ask for “recognition of the right kind”.  By focusing on how the members of an aesthetic culture coordinate and collaborate around their aesthetic profiles, Lopes concluded that this expertise and interaction can be undercut and harmed. And, that is precisely why cultural appropriation is problematic, because it prevents such capacities. The talk was followed by a lively discussion. Some of the issues that came up in the Q&A: how to draw the line between insider/outsider of an aesthetic culture? Who is aesthetically responsible for acts of aesthetic injustice? Are some artistic developments (those that made other artistic forms disappear) to be characterized as cases of aesthetic injustice? How are we to understand ‘aesthetic value’ within the cosmopolitan theory? The conference was attended by an international audience of over one hundred people, including KCL staff and students.

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Would you like to post a review on the King’s philosophy blog? If so, then please get in touch with vanessa.brassey@kcl.ac.uk

Final Call – today at 3pm, Career Panel

Wednesday, 24th of March 3:00-4:30pm, ZOOM LINK DISTRIBUTED THROUGH KING’S EMAIL.

Now is a good time to begin reflecting on your future career. Next week the department will be co-hosting a panel with the King’s College Alumni Association (KCLA) on careers for philosophy graduates. This is an opportunity for you to hear about the types of work recent alums of the department have gone into, and be supported on your next steps. Panellists will give some practical tips to you about applying for jobs to enable you to feel more confident. There will also be an opportunity for you to ask questions. Please find the Zoom link below. 

The panel will consist of:

  • Hannah Bondi – Public Affairs Coordinator at the International Justice Mission, a non-governmental anti-slavery organisation. 
  • Kristina Pakhomchik – Strategy Officer at the World Ethical Data Forum, a non-profit organisation focused on the ethical development of technology. 
  • Esther Ezegbe – Digital Relationship Manager at ikigai, a start up app which combines wealth management and everyday banking. Founder of Root2philosophy, which aims to improve access to study philosophy for Black and minority ethnic people.  

The session will be introduced and compered by Benjamin Hunt, previous President of the King’s students’ union 2016-17, who now works in education policy at the regulator for higher education, the Office for Students.  

Review: Aesthetic Injustice

by Mari Maldal, 2nd year Philosophy & War Studies

Professor Dominic Lopes

This year’s Mark Sainsbury lecture was given by Professor Dominic McIver Lopes. The topic of which was what he described as a cosmopolitan theory of aesthetic injustice. I have not personally studied philosophy of art, and I am therefore not going to attempt to give a precise account of the theory. I think Professor Lopes did a great job at that himself.

I will however write about my initial thoughts on the conversation. I found Lopes’ conception of aesthetic injustice as a phenomenon separate from cultural appropriation very interesting. The idea that too much attention can limit one’s capacity as an aesthetic agent was something I’d never considered before. Despite being a newcomer to this subject of philosophy, Lopes’ lecture was clear and easy to follow, and like most pieces of great philosophy, it left me with questions I didn’t even know I could ask.

Reminder! Planning your Career?

Career Panel: Philosophy Alumni Supporting you to think about your next steps

Wednesday, 24th of March 3:00-4:30pm, ZOOM LINK BELOW

Now is a good time to begin reflecting on your future career. Next week the department will be co-hosting a panel with the King’s College Alumni Association (KCLA) on careers for philosophy graduates. This is an opportunity for you to hear about the types of work recent alums of the department have gone into, and be supported on your next steps. Panellists will give some practical tips to you about applying for jobs to enable you to feel more confident. There will also be an opportunity for you to ask questions. Please find the Zoom link below. 

The panel will consist of:

  • Hannah Bondi – Public Affairs Coordinator at the International Justice Mission, a non-governmental anti-slavery organisation. 
  • Kristina Pakhomchik – Strategy Officer at the World Ethical Data Forum, a non-profit organisation focused on the ethical development of technology. 
  • Esther Ezegbe – Digital Relationship Manager at ikigai, a start up app which combines wealth management and everyday banking. Founder of Root2philosophy, which aims to improve access to study philosophy for Black and minority ethnic people.  

The session will be introduced and compered by Benjamin Hunt, previous President of the King’s students’ union 2016-17, who now works in education policy at the regulator for higher education, the Office for Students.  

Check your email (inbox) reminder for zoom link details.

Review: Dom Lopes on Aesthetic Justice

By Winnie Ma (PhD candidate)

The ‘Black Canoe’ Haida artwork on the Canadian $20 bill

Dominic Lopes, philosopher of aesthetics at the University of British Columbia, spoke at the Mark Sainsbury lecture about a new kind of injustice, aesthetic injustice, which will be the subject of his forthcoming book, Aesthetic Injustice: A Cosmopolitan Theory. This notion may be reminiscent to many of us of epistemic injustice, which has recently been an extremely salient and widely discussed topic in epistemology, ethics, and political philosophy.* According to Lopes, an aesthetic injustice is a large-scale social arrangement that harms people in their capacities as aesthetic agents, which capacities serve interests in value diversity and social autonomy. Lopes applied this notion to the cases of contact between different aesthetic cultures (such as contact between indigenous Haida and mainstream Canadian culture), and spoke about cases of cultural appropriation, the weaponization of the aesthetic, and what Haida artist Yahgulanaas dubbed the “Medusa Syndrome”, whereby outsiders to an aesthetic culture can petrify the aesthetic capacities of cultural insiders, presumably via many of the same kinds of mechanisms that work in stereotype threat (which can also lead to epistemic injustices). We eagerly await Lopes’ forthcoming work on aesthetic injustice, which promises, like the notion of epistemic injustice, to be extremely fruitful and salient in discussions about cultural equality and intercultural respect, and in our everyday lives.

* Miranda Fricker originated the term “epistemic injustice”. But, importantly, Rachel McKinnon notes that minority ethnic feminist philosophers had been working on issues of epistemic injustice for quite some time before its more recent widespread uptake.

***

This is our first review of Dom Lopes’ presentation for the Mark Sainsbury Lecture, Tuesday 16th March 2021. Did you attend? Would you like to submit a review? If so, please contact vanessa.brassey@kcl.ac.uk.

Reminder! Book in now for the Annual Mark Sainsbury Lecture.

REMINDER — Department of Philosophy, King’s College London

Join us for the Annual Mark Sainsbury Lecture

Tuesday 16 March 18:00-20:00

Dominic Lopes: 

Aesthetic injustice

Abstract

People with different cultures come into contact with each other, and the contacts can go well or they can go badly. Indeed, if justice is goodness in the arrangement of social life, then arrangements of social life that shape cultural contact can be just or unjust. This lecture introduces a framework for thinking about what is special in contact between aesthetic cultures, in particular, and it proposes two interests that should be built into a theory of aesthetic justice. In proof of concept, the framework is briefly applied to cultural appropriation.

Dominic Lopes is Distinguished University Scholar and Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia. He has worked on pictorial representation; the aesthetic and epistemic value of pictures, including scientific images; theories of art and its value; the ontology of art; computer art and new art forms; and aesthetic value, wherever it may be found.

All very welcome!

Register here to be sent a ZOOM link on 16 March

Eventbrite Sainsbury Lecture Tickets