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Brandon Polite, philosophy professor, stands among trees on campus


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Polite Conversations: How Art and Philosophy Talk to Each Other

Brandon Polite, philosophy professor, stands among trees on campus

The pandemic has inspired innovations in the Knox community, and one of them is a new online series by Brandon Polite '03, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Chair of Philosophy, Polite Conversations: Philosophers Discuss the Arts. 

“Philosophy is awesome! Art is awesome! Talking about both together is super awesome!” said Polite. On the philosophy blog Aesthetics for Birds, Polite describes the Polite Conversations series as highlighting “cool and innovative work” in the field of aesthetics to the philosophical community and the general public. All of the philosophers he interviewed for the series were peers in the field—and often friends. “If you watch the videos, you'll notice that I often steer the discussion, regardless of the topic, toward music. That’s because of my own scholarly (and personal) interests in music.” This includes his discussion from summer 2020 on the contentious genre of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.”

“Getting to see philosophers doing philosophy together can be a really eye-opening experience for students,” Polite wrote in the aforementioned blog post. The seed for the Polite Conversations series was planted in his Philosophy of Music course in the spring of 2020, where he made a number of videos with many of the authors on his syllabus just for his students. “For the most part, the videos weren't conversations, but instead the authors responding to students’ questions and concerns,” said Polite. “When Knox's teaching went virtual again during Fall 2020, he decided to continue the method. “Instead of short videos just for my students, I decided to make the interviews longer, more conversational, and public-facing. Hence, the series was born.”

Polite explained that there’s a good chance that these discussions could lead to published co-authored works—either journal articles or popular philosophy pieces. “One goal of mine is to collect a selection of these interviews in a book focusing on music and its connections to the other arts,” he said. Some of these interviews already have direct connections to his published scholarship, such as his interview with Matt Strohl (University of Montana) covering a couple of pieces they co-wrote on internet art discourse

The blog Aesthetics for Birds has hosted the first slate of Polite’s videos as a teaching resource, which includes brief descriptions, keywords, and links to relevant readings for each video. New videos have appeared since then, and more will be appearing in the future. You can also find Polite’s series on his Youtube channel

In September, Professor Polite continued his discussion of the philosophy of music at the University of Uppsala. His talk, titled “The Fine Art of Sonic Duplication,” was presented to the members and affiliates of the Aesthetics Research Seminar. “In that talk, I explored the metaphysical, aesthetic, and ethical dimensions of artists attempting to create sonically identical re-recordings of their old songs and albums, like Def Leppard did with a couple of their hits back in 2012 or what Taylor Swift is currently doing with Fearless and five other albums in her back catalog.”

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Printed on Thursday, June 1, 2023