Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Where analytic philosophy doesn’t reach

This weekend Lois and I decamped 12 miles west to stay in a cottage in a small village in the Park which we’ve visited many times before. Practically speaking, for getting to the fells, it is not much more convenient, if at all. Slightly shorter distances on windy country roads replace a longer distance on the main Park artery. The cottage has little heating or hot water and there’s no possibility of a lengthy bath after a walk. Nevertheless, the qualitative difference between being based on the edge of a housing estate on the edge of a town (both pleasant enough) and being in an altogether more beautiful, rural setting is profound.

But, like the pleasure of hill walking in general, this is not something about which I can write usefully here. It is a strange aporia in analytic philosophy. Even the philosophy that can usefully be called a ‘philosophy of nature’, such as McDowell’s, does not even begin to address what a different aesthetic response to nature or a more primitive embedding in it might be like.

There is, indeed, an analytic version of philosophy of aesthetics. I have, for example, just ordered an interesting but expensive collection on conceptual art (Goldie, P. and Schellekens, E. (eds) (2007) Philosophy and Conceptual Art, Oxford: OUP). But the problems raised do not seem to go deep enough in the tradition of logical analysis and without, eg, a Kantian notion that aesthetic judgement is a clue to something metaphysically deeper and darker, analytic aesthetics seem a mere backwater.

Of course the other pleasure I gain in relocating even a mere 12 miles might simply be escaping my computer: another sense in which philosophy doesn’t reach into the Park.