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Revisiting Existential Marxism

A Reply to Alfred Betschart

Ronald Aronson

Alfred Betschart has claimed that the project of existential Marxism is a contradiction in terms, but this argument, even when supported by many experts and quotes from Sartre’s 1975 interview, misses the point of my Boston Review article, “The Philosophy of Our Time.” I believe the important argument today is not about whether we can prove that Sartre ever became a full-fledged Marxist, but rather about the political and philosophical possibility, and importance today, of existentialist Marxism.

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Gal Raz, Giancarlo Valente, Michele Svanera, Sergio Benini and András Bálint Kovács

This article provides evidence for the existence of a robust “brainprint” of cinematic shot-scales that generalizes across movies, genres, and viewers. We applied a machine-learning method on a dataset of 234 fMRI scans taken during the viewing of a movie excerpt. Based on a manual annotation of shot-scales in five movies, we generated a computational model that predicts time series of this feature. The model was then applied on fMRI data obtained from new participants who either watched excerpts from the movies or clips from new movies. The predicted shot-scale time series that were based on our model significantly correlated with the original annotation in all nine cases. The spatial structure of the model indicates that the empirical experience of cinematic close-ups correlates with the activation of the ventral visual stream, the centromedial amygdala, and components of the mentalization network, while the experience of long shots correlates with the activation of the dorsal visual pathway and the parahippocampus. The shot-scale brainprint is also in line with the notion that this feature is informed among other factors by perceived apparent distance. Based on related theoretical and empirical findings we suggest that the empirical experience of close and far shots implicates different mental models: concrete and contextualized perception dominated by recognition and visual and semantic memory on the one hand, and action-related processing supporting orientation and movement monitoring on the other.

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Alfred Betschart

Ronald Aronson praises Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential Marxism in an essay in the Boston Review. I argue that existential Marxism is a case of a contradictio in adiecto. Sartre was never recognized as a Marxist by his contemporaries. He not only failed to show any interest in the question of economic exploitation, but most of the answers he gave in the Critique even contradicted Marxist theory. His expression of Marxism as the philosophy of our time seems to have rather been more an act of courtesy than the expression of deep conviction. As Sartre himself later said, Marxism and existentialism are quite separate philosophies.

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Malcolm Turvey

This article questions the priority that Carl Plantinga accords to the viewer’s emotions in his theory of the rhetorical power of screen stories, and makes the case that reason, in the sense of practical reasoning, plays just as important a role as emotion in our ethical response to such fictions. Practical reasoning is the form of reasoning concerned with the actions of agents and what they should do in specific situations. The protagonists of screen stories often engage in practical reasoning, articulating and deliberating about the reasons for their actions, and secondary characters around them regularly question their reasons. In this way, these stories prompt us to understand and question their reasons too and thereby to engage in practical reasoning, a species of which is moral reasoning. Screen stories also often stage a confrontation between divergent ethical perspectives and ask audiences to reflect about which one is more morally compelling.

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Vasiliki P. Neofotistos

Using the Republic of North Macedonia as a case study, this article analyzes the processes through which national sports teams’ losing performance acquires a broad social and political significance. I explore claims to sporting victory as a direct product of political forces in countries located at the bottom of the global hierarchy that participate in a wider system of coercive rule, frequently referred to as empire. I also analyze how public celebrations of claimed sporting victories are intertwined with nation-building efforts, especially toward the global legitimization of a particular version of national history and heritage. The North Macedonia case provides a fruitful lens through which we can better understand unfolding sociopolitical developments, whereby imaginings of the global interlock with local interests and needs, in the Balkans and beyond.

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"There's Something About HER"

Realities of Black Girlhood in a Settler State

Kandice A. Sumner

In this article I examine my lived experience as a Black girl in a white settler state using an autoethnographic approach within the framework of critical race and feminist theory to unpack the deleteriousness of existing as a Black female in a white educational settler state. Drawing on my doctoral research, I conclude that greater attention, in terms of theory and praxis as well as compassion, needs to be applied to the educational journeys of Black girls in white settler states, particularly in predominantly white schools.

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Cary J. Nederman

During the Latin Middle Ages, as today, “tyranny” connotes the exercise of power arbitrarily, oppressively, and violently. Medieval thinkers generally followed in the footprints of early Christian theologians (e.g., Gregory the Great and Isidore of Seville) and ancient philosophers (especially Aristotle) regarding the tyrant as the very embodiment of evil rulership and thus as the polar opposite of the king, who governed for the good of his people according to virtue and religion. However, examination of the writings of some well-known and influential authors from ca. 1150 to ca. 1400—including John of Salisbury, Ptolemy of Lucca, William of Ockham, Bartolous of Sassoferrato, and Nicole Oresme—reveals three very diverse and distinct conceptions of tyranny, each of which justified the tyrant in one way or another.

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Times of Democracy

The Unavoidable Democracy of Mid-Nineteenth-Century Denmark

Anne Engelst Nørgaard

Democracy became a popular and highly contested concept in the Danish-speaking parts of the Danish monarchy in 1848. For a brief time, it went from being an occasional guest in political language to a popular concept in the constitutional struggle of 1848–1849. This article argues democracy became attached to an equally popular concept of the time, movement, when introduced into everyday political communication in Denmark. In this context, democracy became a name for the movement observed in Europe and in the Danish monarchy. The article identifies three main interpretations of democracy that occurred in the Danish constitutional struggle of 1848–1849 and argues the battle over the constitution was essentially a battle over how one interpreted the past, the present, and the future. Democracy became a key term in this battle in 1848 Denmark.

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Marilyn Strathern

This stimulating collection puts agriculture into current conversations on the Anthropocene. In particular it relates, as an effect of the impetus toward defining responsibility, the contemporary sense of urgency that makes “us” find new reasons for thinking of humankind as a whole. The articles carefully unpick this holism, both in terms of people’s varying relations to the circumstances of cultivation or marketing and in terms of populations being divided through offsetting or knowledge-distribution strategies. It is a small extrapolation to observe that the same must be true of the particularity of crops: no more than persons can they be lumped together.

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Toward a Naturalized Aesthetics of Film Music

An Interdisciplinary Exploration of Intramusical and Extramusical Meaning

Timothy Justus

In this article, I first address the question of how musical forms come to represent meaning—that is, the semantics of music—and illustrate an important conceptual distinction articulated by Leonard Meyer in Emotion and Meaning in Music between absolute or intramusical meaning and referential or extramusical meaning through a critical analysis of two recent films. Second, building examples of scholarship around a single piece of music frequently used in film—Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings—I follow the example set by Murray Smith in Film, Art, and the Third Culture and discuss the complementary approaches of the humanities, the behavioral sciences, and the natural sciences to understanding music and its use in film.