Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Fashionably Late (Aesthetics) – Matthew Gosselin

As a prerequisite: Here were my answers to the questions we were given to complete in class! (Trying to guess what the questions were from memory and my responses actually….)

A: What were your questions/topics you wanted to explore?

Can you force or plan an aesthetic experience? Does your mental state affect your ability to have an aesthetic experience? Is it possible to have a truly aesthetic experience when mentally drained or tired?

B: Explain an aesthetic experience that you had that related to one of your questions.

I went to watch Star Wars: Rogue One (A film series that I am typically vividly entertained by) on Christmas, possibly the most aesthetically pleasing day of the year. The catch was that I had slept for a mere 2 hours the night before. Although the plot was strong, my concentration was simply unable to be engaged to the degree I’d call an aesthetic experience. It may not be impossible, but it is exponentially harder to have an aesthetic experience the less mental energy left in the system.

C: Explain an aesthetic experience that you had that didn’t relate to any of your questions.

I went skiing (I typically snowboard every year.) for the first time in eight years, and after a few minutes of frustration due to my skill level not meeting the challenge, my brain clicked and I was having a blast. It was simply an aesthetic experience without an objective. (I was very surprised I could still ski, and felt nostalgic towards the times when I was very good at it.) I admit that an argument can be made that as I grew more physically tired  through the runs, the intensity of my aesthetic experience declined. (Which it did.)

D: What were your results or conclusions? What did you find?

I found that aesthetic experiences can only be as strong as your mind and body, depending on the activity. I also found that with a planned activity such as going to the movie theatre, expectations of an aesthetic experience can diminish or enhance the intensity of the experience. For instance, I went under the premises that the new Star Wars movie was a huge success, and I was mildly disappointed. Had I not been expecting much, I may have appreciated the good points more than I noticed the bad ones.

E: What’s next on the agenda? Is there anything you still have left to answer or would like to delve further into?

I would like to experiment to see if it’s actually truly possible to have an aesthetic experience while mentally and/or physically drained, as my last attempt was unsuccessful. Also, I’d like to explore the realm of planned/projected aesthetic experiences vs. “natural” aesthetic experiences. Finally, I want to explore the differences and what you can get out of a strong negative aesthetic experience.

The three objectives of this assignment were: (Sorry I’m much more used to writing lab reports than freely-written stuff so that’s how most of these end up.)

  1. Define your aesthetic perspective.
  2. Align your aesthetic perspective with what you can find of other philosophers’ perspectives.
  3. Describe your holiday experience(s) as examples of this aesthetic.

(Prepare yourself, this will answer both 1 & 2.)

Trying to formulate and then articulate a coherent individual response to the first question is often difficult, and working backwards helps. Therefore, I read up on each popular philosopher and tried to connect with each of their ideas and found out where my agreements and disagreements were, leading myself to a better understanding of my own aesthetic perspective. Lo and behold, YOUR BOY PLATO had it in my heart all along. I originally wanted to agree with Descartes, and I still do to a degree, but I couldn’t fully. This was due to the reason I believe solipsism retains merit on occasion, even if just for a second perspective, I couldn’t find a bridge between the two. If all the world was a figment of my imagination, I don’t believe there would be a way that I wouldn’t understand how others and therefore other parts of my imagination could not see my perspective on art and beauty. I believe that the world AGREES on a set principle of art and beauty, in the same way that I believe that every single thing in the world can be a metaphor for something else. (Most likely the reason I connected Philosophy to a Neapolitan pizzeria.) In my opinion, the objective of art is to mimic reality. (Also to mimic a future or past reality! Not just how life is in the present.) If there came a day when virtual reality was so good that you couldn’t tell the difference between it and real life, and you could be content living in a virtual reality, that would be the purest form of art in my eyes. Not necessarily healthy for society or the individual, but I believe it would be pure art, and Plato would most likely agree. However, there are ways in which I stray from Plato’s ideals. If there was a simplistic painting of a blue house with a white picket fence, and a cracked glass frame on top, Plato would look away in disdain, for the artist would have failed in his eyes. I disagree. To me, even though the painting may not be detailed, it has metaphorical value. I see the house and fence as an idealistic world, plain and simple, where everything seems to make sense. The cracked frame represents our flawed sense of perception and lens on reality. Life is always more complicated than we think it to be. Every artwork can have metaphorical value, and I believe that it is judged as good or bad (from an objective standpoint) subconsciously on two things: the degree as to which it may relate to reality, both in detail and metaphorical value, and the number of people who experience this relation. The more people who can find the metaphorical value in an artwork, the better! On the flip side, a subjective standpoint will always reason with Descartes upon the principle that one artwork may not please every person the same way, leading to the simple judgement that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I find enjoyment in taking the path less travelled. Is that immoral? Maybe, but I find intrinsic value in augmenting my own happiness without the cost of others’.

I’d like to relate this aesthetic perspective to the time I went to see Star Wars: Rogue One. I find that science fiction movies lose value as more and more logical mistakes are made. For instance, (SPOILERS AHH) when only 6 rebellion ships are able to join in a fight on Scarif, the tropical planet, I expect there to be only 6 ships. However, after a few minutes of individual character plots, the ships are still fighting and popping up as if they have an entire rebel fleet. This takes it away from the reality of the position they were in. I lose value in the pilots of the ships, and the bleakness of their position! A major predicament has been altered without most of the audience knowing. The metaphorical value of a situation so desperate that unbelievable luck and skill are required to overcome the obstacles was ultimately disappointed in that moment. (Also there were many things in the movie I didn’t find appealing such as a lack of lightsabers. I mean that’s one of the main reasons I watch Star Wars..) Anyways I had a great holiday and hope everyone did as well! Thanks for reading!

Matthew Gosselin

Current Philosopher, Eventual Jedi


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