In “Language, Truth, and Logic,” A.J. Ayer did art a great disservice. In one broad stroke, he labeled aesthetics meaningless. That is, as being merely a language-game, a sum of hopelessly subjective value judgments that are without truth content; no different, but perhaps worse, than ethical and theological propositions. Sadly, Ayer’s anti-aestheticism found too many supporters amongst analytic philosophers and with few exceptions perseveres to this day. Among the few exceptions, however, is Nelson Goodman. The late Nelson Goodman re-vitalized the study of aesthetics in analytic philosophy in his “Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols”  and subsequently delineated what I think is a fruitful area of continued philosophical research.
Art is a symbolic practice. Like all symbolic endeavors, it refers to a world, or, in Goodman’s terms, it “helps construct a certain world,” of which both the artist and the aesthetic subject (you and me) are interpreters. In this way, aesthetics is much like mathematics, language, and science- both in kind and import: namely, it relies upon structure, style and imagination; indeed, it is a uniquely human activity. Such an insight was beyond Ayer and his austere philosophical program. It is my sincere hope that we can avoid Ayer’s failure and reverse the trend within the analytic community. This is why we have elected to change the prevailing image on our blog. Also, while sunrises are all well and fine, they can get a bit tiresome. Therefore, a change in scenery, I think, should be welcomed.
The piece selected for display is Joseph Mallord William Turner’s “The Scarlet Sunset” (1830-1840). Upon first glance- impression, perhaps- the avid art lover can see the resemblance Turner’s piece has to a later, and unfortunately more popular, artistic movement: Impressionism. In fact, Turner lived and worked a good thirty plus years before the first presentation of Impressionist art in 1874. To see a most striking comparison, balance “The Scarlet Sunset” to Claude Monet’s “Impression, soleil levant.” Of course, outside of Britain and a few select environs of Europe and America, Turner’s oeuvre is largely unknown, while Claude Monet is perhaps one of the most recognizable names in all of art history and wildly popular among purveyors of kitsch (I reference one to the movie “The Thomas Crown Affair”).
If Turner’s painting engenders discussion, more the better; but, above all it is my desire that it is enjoyed. I hope that after “The Scarlet Sunset” has been displayed for some time, maybe another contributor will share a piece of art- of whatever form and media- of his/her own.