miércoles, 22 de febrero de 2017

Culture and art

Una de las principales características que nos diferencia de otros animales es que somos seres culturales. Tenemos una naturaleza biológica; pero sobre ella construimos otra cultural. De igual modo pasa con el medio. No viviomos en un medio natural, sino que lo hemos adaptado a nuestras necesidades y dotado de un significado cultural. Como vimos, una de las principales herramientas para crear cultura y transmitirla, para idear artefactos y modificar la naturaleza son los símbolos. Ellos sustituyen a la realidad, nos permiten escaparnos de lo inmediato, pensar en cosas ausentes o imaginar las consecuencias de nuestros actos antes de haberlos realizados. Los símbolos, finalmente, enriquecen la realidad con nuevos significados.El arte es una de esas activoidades que existen sólo en el universo cultural. Ningún otro animal crea obras de arte.
Hoy en día el arte tiene algo de gratuito, parece que hacemos arte porque sí, sin más. No obstante el significado y la función del arte ha variado a lo largo de la historia. La palabra arte procede del latín, ars, que, a su vez, traduce el vocablo griego téchne. Para los griegos, romanos y luego durante la Edad Media, téchne era una habilidad, la capacidad de construir algo, ya fuera una casa, estatua... De hecho, hoy día vemos este antiguo significado en la palabra artesano que también procede de ars, alguien capaz de crear con sus propias manos. En concreto, una escultura o una pintura eran entendidas como representaciones, espejos de la realidad y, en ese sentido, eran distintas de la fabricación de un barco. Sin embargo, en todos los casos existían reglas que debían ser observadas.
Sin embargo, durante el Renacimiento el significado fue cambiando: se dejó de considerar arte el trabajo de los artesanos porque el arte, además, debía crear belleza, rasgo que continuó hasta un pasado reciente. En el s. XX algunos pensadores propusieron una aproximación formal a la idea de arte, según la cual líneas, colores y elementos formales eran considerados fundamentales y otros elementos como la belleza o la representación perdieron importancia. De esta modo la forma gana importancia sobre el contenido abriendo las puertas a la abstracción. Además las vanguardias artísticas, especialmente el dadaísmo y el surrealismo, no creían que la belleza fuese una característica necesaria en el arte. El arte debía transformarse como la misma sociedad burguesa en la que se desarrollaba. Era necesario abrior las puertas a un arte más libre, un tipo de arte capaz de transformar la sociedad, donde los hombres fuesen más libres y capaces de desarrollar su poder creativo.
Pero si el arte ya no tiene por qué representar fielmente a la realidad ni tiene por qué ser bello, ¿qué define al arte?
En torno a los setenta apareció la teoría institucional del arte. Esta teoría sostiene que una obra es considerada obra de arte si así lo estiman las figuras representativas de este medio (críticos, galeristas) y/o ocupa los espacios que la sociedad dedica a este fin tales como los museos.
Lo cierto es que una preocupación constante en la filosofía occidental desde Platón ha sido el problema de las definiciones. La idea que subyace a esta preocupación es que sólo conocemos verdaderamente algo si somos capaces de definirlo. Pero esto nos enfrenta a la paradoja de que en ocasiones nos seamos capaces de definir un concepto y, sin embargo, seamos perfectamente capaces de reconocer cuándo no estamos ante él. Lo cual debe suponer que de algún modo tenemos una cierta idea sobre su significado y lo que designa.
El concepto de arte es uno de estos casos. Incluso no siendo capaces de mencionar todas las características que ha de tener una obra para ser arte y que lo diferencia de otra creación humana, parece que reconocemos cuando estamos ante una..

Ejercicios:
Lee los siguientes textos y contesta:
"Una solución a este enredo la dio Wittgenstein con el concepto de parecido de familia, que explicó en su obra póstuma Investigaciones filosóficas.





       One of the main characteristics that makes the difference between us and the other animals is that we are cultural beings. We have a biological nature, but we have created another cultural one.  The same happens with the environment. We live no longer in the natural one. One of fundamental tools to create this space is our symbolic capability. The symbols, as it happens in the language, allow us to think about things that are no present, they allow us to think about the consequences of our actions before we do them, and they enrich reality with new meanings.

                Art is one of these activities that exists only in the cultural world. No other animal create pieces of art. Nowadays, art has something of free, but its meaning has changed over time. The word art comes from the latin word ars, which, in turn, translates the greek word téchne. To the Greeks, Romans and, afterwards, during the Middle Ages, téchne was an ability, the capability to build something such as a house, a statue, a ship…  In particular, a sculpture, a painting was a representation or mirror image of  reality and, of course, it was different  to create a ship. However, in all the cases there were certain rules that had to be observed. Even today we can see this old meaning of art in the word artisan, someone who is able to create something with his own hands.

 However, during the Renaissance this meaning changed.  The work of artisans  was no longer considered art, because art was linked to beauty. This new idea was continued till the modern period.  A number of 20th-century thinkers proposed a formalist approach to art in which lines, colours and other formal qualities were considered as paramount and other elements, beauty or representational aspects, were downplayed or excluded. Thus, form was elevated over content opening the way for the abstractionism. Besides, the artistic avant-gards, specially Dada and Surrealism, didn’t think that beauty were a necessary characteristic of art. Art has to be changed like the bourgeois society had to. It was necessary to create a new art more free. A kind of art able to transform the society in which men were also more free and able to develop their creative power.

But if art is no longer a mirror image of  reality, if it doesn’t have to be beautiful, if it doesn’t has to be in a museum, if many other objects that would have never been in a museum are now in one. What’s art?

In the 1970s appeared the “institutional theory” of art. This theory holds that works of art qualify as such by virtue of having this title given by authorized members of the art world (critics, those responsible for galleries, artists themselves…)

A perennial theme of Western philosophy since Plato has been the pursuit of definitions. The tacit idea is that true knowledge of something depends on being able to define it. But this presents us with a paradox, for those who cannot provide a definition of a given concept are generally able to recognize what it isn’t, which surely requires that they must know, at some level, what it is.

The concept of art present us with such a case. Even if we are not able to mention all the necessary and sufficient conditions for something to count as a work of art, we seem to know what it is.

Exercise:

Read the following texts

“One way out to this maze is provided by Wittgenstein’s notion of family resemblance, which he explains in his posthumously published Philosophical Investigations. Take the word game. We all have a clear idea what games are: we can give examples, make comparisons between different games, arbitrate on borderline cases, and so on. But troubles arise when we attempt to dig deeper and look for some essential meaning or definition that encompasses every instance. For there is no such common denominator: there are lots of thingsvthat games have in common, but there is no single feature that they all share. In short, there is no hidden depth or essential meaning(…)

If we suppose that “art”, like a game, is a family resemblance word, most of our difficulties evaporate. Works of art have many things in common with other works of art: they may express an artist’s inner emotions; they may distil the essence of nature; they may move, frighten or shock us. But if we cast around for some feature that they all possess, we will search in vain; any attempt to define art is misconceived and doomed to fail”

(Ben Dupré 50 Ideas you really need to know)

               

                “They were asking me questions like “Is it art?” and I was saying “Well, if it isn’t art… What the hell is it doing in an art gallery and why are people coming to look at it?”

                (Tracey Emin)

                “No artist desires to prove anything (…) No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.

No artist is ever morbid. An artist can express everything.

Thought and language are to the artist instruments of art.

Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art(…)

All art is at once surface and symbol.

Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. It is the spectator,  and not life, that art really mirrors.

Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex and vital.

When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself.

We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long a he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

All art is quite useless”

                (Oscar Wilde, The picture of Dorian Gray, preface)

1.       Explain which vision of art is behind  each text

2.       Which one do you agree the most?

3.       Try to explain your own vision about art


martes, 17 de enero de 2017

The problem of the objectiveness


     Somehow, when we talk about science we all think about an objective knowledge, an impartial knowledge that can’t be doubted. However, as we have seen, all the different sciences have changed its theories and, as Popper said, a theory is never completely proved.
     Besides the theoretical problems about the truth in science, there are other many factors that can question this supposed objectivity. As the British Steve Wolgar says. Science, like any other human activity is influenced by historical, social or political circumstances and, what’s more, by the other institutions of the society.  As the scientific research is more and more expensive every day, it depends on private or public investments. So, the government interests or the financial ones can influence it.
     On the other hand, at present, science is closely related to technology. This one takes profit of the scientific progress; but, at the same time, helps science to progress. However, technology is only a practical tool. It gives us the best way to get certain objectives; but it can´t say which of these objectives is desirable or not. That’s way The Frankfurt School suggested the use of rationality able to answer to these new challenges: ethical challenges, environmental challenges and social ones. All the discussions about our responsibility generated the expression “Think Global, Act Local”, which urges people to consider the health of the entire planet and to take action in their own communities and cities.  


Exercises:
What do you think does this sentence mean?

How can we help to get a better world? Mention two local actions in each of these areas: sustainable environment, privacity and social justice

martes, 22 de noviembre de 2016

HOW TO KNOW THE TRUTH

As we have seen, knowing the truth (if it is possible) is a collective and personal task. It is personal because it requires the will of fighting against the ignorance. But even if we have this will, how can we access the Knowlege? Let`s do  this critical exercise:
Here we have two articles of different newspapers about the same topic, namely, climate change.
The first one appeared the 22th of Novembre, 2016, in the digital newspapaer IPS, Inter Press Service



Climate Doomsday – Another Step Closer 

   ROME, Oct 27 2016 (IPS) - Almost inadvertently, humankind is getting closer everyday to the point of no-return towards what could be called the ‘climate doomsday’.
Now, globally averaged concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has surged again to new records in 2016… and will not dip below pre-2015 levels for many generations.

The warning comes from the United Nations weather agency–the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and further confirms the alarm of climate experts and world specialised organisations.
On the one hand, the WMO secretary-general, Petteri Taalas said that 2015 ushered in a new era of optimism and climate action with the Paris climate change agreement. “But it will also make history as marking a new era of climate change reality with record high greenhouse gas concentrations.”
“Without tackling carbon dioxide emissions, we cannot tackle climate change and keep temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celcius above the pre-industrial era… 
The weather agency had warned earlier this year that the Earth is already one degree Celsius hotter than at the start of the 20th century, halfway to the critical two-degree threshold, and that national climate change plans adopted so far may not be enough to avoid a three-degree temperature rise.
CO2 levels had previously reached the 400 parts per million barrier for certain months of the year and in certain locations “but never before on a global average basis for the entire year.” ....
The 400 parts per million threshold is of great symbolic importance,” said the previous WMO secretary-general Michel Jarraud in 2014. “It should serve as yet another wakeup call about the constantly rising levels of greenhouse gases which are driving climate change and acidifying our oceans.”
This triggered droughts in tropical regions and reduced the capacity of “sinks” like forests, vegetation and the oceans to absorb CO2.
These sinks currently absorb about half of CO2 emissions but there is a risk that they may become saturated, which would increase the fraction of emitted carbon dioxide which stays in the atmosphere, according to the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

Carbon Dioxide Remains For Thousands of Years
The danger is clear: for thousands of year’s carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, trapping heat and causing the earth to warm further. The lifespan of carbon dioxide in the oceans is even longer. It is also the single most important greenhouse gas emitted by human activities.
On the other hand, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) says that the droughts and floods beating down on communities in many parts of the world are linked to the current El Niño, which was expected to affect up 60 million people already by last July.
“In some areas, including in North Eastern Brazil, Somali, Ethiopia, Kenya and Namibia, the El Niño effects are coming on the back of years of severe and recurrent droughts. It is impossible for households that rely on the land for food and farm labour to recover, especially when the land is degraded,” says in this regards the UNCCD executive secretary, Monique Barbut.
What’s more, Barbut adds, these conditions do not just devastate families and destabilise communities. When they are not attended to urgently, they can become a push factor for migration, and end with gross human rights abuses and long-term security threats.
“We have seen this before – in Darfur following four decades of droughts and desertification and, more recently, in Syria, following the long drought of 2007-2010.”
It is “tragic to see a society breaking down when we can reduce the vulnerability of communities through simple and affordable acts such as restoring the degraded lands they live on, and helping countries to set up better systems for drought early warning and to prepare for and manage drought and floods,” according to Barbut.

Agriculture Accounts for One-Fifth of Total Emissions

For its part, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) alerted that the rapid change in the world’s climate is translating into more extreme and frequent weather events, heat waves, droughts and sea-level rise.

The impacts of climate change on agriculture and the implications for food security are already alarming – they are the subjects of this report, according to FAO director general José Graziano da Silva.
A major finding is that there is an urgent need to support smallholders in adapting to climate change. Farmers, pastoralists, fisher-folk and community foresters depend on activities that are intimately and inextricably linked to climate – and these groups are also the most vulnerable to climate change.
“They will require far greater access to technologies, markets, information and credit for investment to adjust their production systems and practices to climate change.”
Unless action is taken now to make agriculture more sustainable, productive and resilient, climate change impacts will seriously compromise food production in countries and regions that are already highly food-insecure, Graziano da Silva alerts...

According to FAO’s director general, it will also affect food availability by reducing the productivity of crops, livestock and fisheries, and hinder access to food by disrupting the livelihoods of millions of rural people who depend on agriculture for their incomes.




The next article appeared the 27th of november 2015 in the web page www.scientificamerican.com. Here it is:
 
Climate Change Will Not Be Dangerous for a Long Time



By Matt Ridley on November 27, 2015

    The climate change debate has been polarized into a simple dichotomy. Either global warming is “real, man-made and dangerous,” as Pres. Barack Obama thinks, or it’s a “hoax,” as Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe thinks. But there is a third possibility: that it is real, man-made and not dangerous, at least not for a long time.
This “lukewarm” option has been boosted by recent climate research, and if it is right, current policies may do more harm than good. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and other bodies agree that the rush to grow biofuels, justified as a decarbonization measure, has raised food prices and contributed to rainforest destruction. Since 2013 aid agencies such as the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank have restricted funding for building fossil-fuel plants in Asia and Africa; that has slowed progress in bringing electricity to the one billion people who live without it and the four million who die each year from the effects of cooking over wood fires.
In 1990 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was predicting that if emissions rose in a “business as usual” way, which they have done, then global average temperature would rise at the rate of about 0.3 degree Celsius per decade (with an uncertainty range of 0.2 to 0.5 degree C per decade). In the 25 years since, temperature has risen at about 0.1 to 0.2 degree C per decade, depending on whether surface or satellite data is used. The IPCC, in its most recent assessment report, lowered its near-term forecast for the global mean surface temperature over the period 2016 to 2035 to just 0.3 to 0.7 degree C above the 1986–2005 level. That is a warming of 0.1 to 0.2 degree C per decade, in all scenarios, including the high-emissions ones.
At the same time, new studies of climate sensitivity—the amount of warming expected for a doubling of carbon dioxide levels from 0.03 to 0.06 percent in the atmosphere—have suggested that most models are too sensitive. The average sensitivity of the 108 model runs considered by the IPCC is 3.2 degrees C. As Pat Michaels, a climatologist and self-described global warming skeptic at the Cato Institute testified to Congress in July, certain studies of sensitivity published since 2011 find an average sensitivity of 2 degrees C.
Such lower sensitivity does not contradict greenhouse-effect physics. The theory of dangerous climate change is based not just on carbon dioxide warming but on positive and negative feedback effects from water vapor and phenomena such as clouds and airborne aerosols from coal burning. Doubling carbon dioxide levels, alone, should produce just over 1 degree C of warming. These feedback effects have been poorly estimated, and almost certainly overestimated, in the models.
The last IPCC report also included a table debunking many worries about “tipping points” to abrupt climate change. For example, it says a sudden methane release from the ocean, or a slowdown of the Gulf Stream, are “very unlikely” and that a collapse of the West Antarctic or Greenland ice sheets during this century is “exceptionally unlikely.”
If sensitivity is low and climate change continues at the same rate as it has over the past 50 years, then dangerous warming—usually defined as starting at 2 degrees C above preindustrial levels—is about a century away. So we do not need to rush into subsidizing inefficient and land-hungry technologies, such as wind and solar or risk depriving poor people access to the beneficial effects of cheap electricity via fossil fuels.
As the upcoming Paris climate conference shows, the world is awash with plans, promises and policies to tackle climate change. But they are having little effect. Ten years ago the world derived 87 percent of its primary energy from fossil fuels; today, according the widely respected BP statistical review of world energy, the figure is still 87 percent. The decline in nuclear power has been matched by the rise in renewables but the proportion coming from wind and solar is still only 1 percent.
Getting the price of low-carbon energy much lower will do the trick. So we should spend the coming decades stepping up research and development of new energy technologies. Many people may reply that we don’t have time to wait for that to bear fruit, but given the latest lukewarm science of climate change, I think we probably do.
--
Matt Ridley writes a weekly column in The Times of London and writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal. He was elected to the House of Lords in February 2013. He declares a relevant interest in income derived from leasing land for farming, coal mining and wind power.


Vocabulary: 
averaged: promedio
usher in: marcar el inicio. E.g.This period ushered in the first era of mass migrations
threshold: umbral
greenhouse gas: gases de efecto invernadero
drought: sequía
lifespan: duración
hoax: engaño, bulo
lukewarm: tibio, indeciso, poco entusiasta
rainforest: bosque tropical
the point of no return
wake up call. E.g: It was a wake up call for me when I failed my exam.
dip: bajar, sumergir, disminuir

1. What does the first article mean by  "climatedoomsday"?
2. Which is the tukewarm option of the second article?
3. Describe the effects of the climate change accordig to the first article and name the main differences with the second one
4. How does this affect the problem of the knowledge?