Cover shift

On his blog, Brad Skow discusses Theodore Gracyk’s account of cover songs. He gives a fair summary of Gracyk’s view, according to which a version is only a cover if reference to the canonical version is part of its artistic content. So (on this way view) you can only appreciate a cover by taking into account the canonical version. In contrast with common usage, Gracyk holds that any version which lacks this referential structure is a remake instead of a cover.1

With all that in place, Skow notes that Taylor Swift’s remakes of her own work seem designed to efface the originals rather than refer to them. So he suggests we might call them anti-covers.2

The problem is that one familiar function of so-called covers has been to crowd another recorded version out of the market. This is often given as an explanation for why the word cover was used in the first place: They were meant to cover over or cover up the originals.3

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Imagination, philosophy, and imitation games

Via Daily Nous, I came across a blog post by Justin Smith-Ruiu about creative writing as philosophy. The post is, ultimately, an argument that philosophy can be “incitement of the imagination, by creative means, to see the world in unfamiliar ways.” I agree with that! But there are digressions along the way that range from false speculation to attacks on the kind of philosophy that I (sometimes) do.

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Two drafts about music

I’ve posted two draft papers,written with different collaborators, addressing different issues in the philosophy of music.

  • Tell Me Why This Isn’t a Cover: A paper with Cristyn Magnus, Christy Mag Uidhir, and Ron McClamrock, using lessons from the philosophy of cover songs to think about Taylor Swift’s project of rerecording her earlier work.
  • Music genres as historical individuals: A paper with Evan Malone and Brandon Polite, arguing that genres are historical individuals in a sense. That qualifier “in a sense” is carrying a lot of weight.

Lincoln!

My paper Generative AI and photographic transparency now has a DOI and is on-line, occupying that liminal space of published but not quite which is characteristic of contemporary scholarship. The publisher has given me a link to the published version, but it won’t let you download or print it. (As always, you can grab the preprint from my website.)

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Who I am these days

Recent updates to the department website have added a direct link to my CV and a list of representative publications, so it made sense to rewrite my bio as well. Here’s what it says now:

His areas of research include philosophy of science, the philosophy of art and music, the epistemology of technology (Wikipedia and AI), and pragmatism. His work in the philosophy of science, motivated by a falliblist but non-sceptical conception of scientific knowledge, has addressed topics like the underdetermination of theory by data, natural kinds, and values in science. He regularly teaches courses in philosophy of science, logic, epistemology, pragmatism, and philosophy of art.

CFP: environmental philosophy grad conference

For many years now— with a brief hiccup during the pandemic— the graduate students in my department have hosted an annual graduate conference. It’s a great event. I have been around since the first one, and I’ve always enjoyed attending.

This year’s conference will be Saturday April 20, 2024. The topic is environmental philosophy.

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It took me years to write it

Fifteen years ago, I conducted a small study testing the error-correction tendency of Wikipedia. Not only is Wikipedia different now than it was then, the community that maintains it is different. Despite the crudity of that study’s methods, it is natural to wonder what the result would be now. So I repeated the earlier study and found surprisingly similar results.

That’s the abstract for a short paper of mine that was published today at First Monday. It is a follow-up to my earlier work on the epistemology of Wikipedia.

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A grue by any other name is just as likely to eat you in the dark

Over at the APA blog, Noël Carroll whinges about the fact that the blog categorizes his post as Philosophy of Film. He acknowledges that the label is used for a particular philosophical subdiscipline, but he doesn’t like it. On the one hand, the subdiscipline addresses not just movies but also television and video games. On the other hand, “film” in an original sense is strictly photographic. Today even most movies aren’t on film.

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Further adventures in art pluralism

A short paper by Christy Mag Uidhir and me has been accepted by Estetika. It further develops and refines the view we’ve articulated in earlier work.

TITLE: Does art pluralism lead to eliminativism?

ABSTRACT: Art pluralism is the view that there is no single, correct account of what art is. Instead, art is understood through a plurality of art concepts and with considerations that are different for particular arts. Although avowed pluralists have retained the word “art” in their discussions, it is natural to ask whether the considerations that motivate pluralism should lead us to abandon art talk altogether; that is, should pluralism lead to eliminativism? This paper addresses arguments both for and against this move. We ultimately argue that pluralism allows one to retain the word “art”, if one wants it, but only in a loose, conversational sense. The upshot of pluralism is that talk of art in general cannot be asked to do theoretical and philosophical work.