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Title: A metaethical study of Simone Weil's notion of attention through critical practical analogy
Author: Alfier, Dino
ISNI:       0000 0004 2009 7647
Awarding Body: University of the Arts London
Current Institution: University of the Arts London
Date of Award: 2011
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This research provides an example of art practice employed within a metaethical framework by addressing Simone Weil's ethical notion of attention. In this thesis, 'metaethics' is defined as a second order inquiry into first order questions of normative ethics, more specifically, an inquiry into the metaphysical and epistemological premises of Weil's discourse on the ethical value of attention. On one hand, I demonstrate how Weil's notion of attention can expand the scope of art so as to include metaethics. On the other hand, I use art to widen the current knowledge of Weilian attention. The research projects described and analysed in this thesis are predicated on a method which I designate 'critical practical analogy'; this is an analogy which includes art practical operations for the purpose of critical investigation. This method subsumes both theoretical and practical inquiries. I used two analogies: – Normative analogy compares (a) the dualistic relation that Weil postulates between agent and reality in her discourse on attention to (b) the relation that I postulate between my agency through observational drawing and the object of observation. The analogy operates by using Weil's assertions on attention normatively in observational drawing. – Imaginal analogy compares (a) Weil's use of tautology and contradiction in her arguments for ethical attention to (b) tautology and contradiction considered as argument forms. The analogy operates by giving aesthetic presence to these forms, i.e. by turning them into images through artworks. The analogies obtained the following outcomes: – The normative projects afford a practical knowledge of Weilian attention by interpreting it as an ethical practice of detachment. The projects also demonstrate that, notwithstanding Weil's transcendent view of truth, such a practice of detachment is compatible with a subjective notion of truth. – By capitalising on the non-propositional mode of representation which is typical of visual art, the imaginal projects engender a scepticism which favours dialogue and values questions as positive research results. The outcomes indicate the following implications for visual arts practice: – The outcomes of the normative projects demonstrate how contemporary artists who regard notions of universal truth with scepticism need not necessarily disavow ethical intentions in their practice. – Due to its propositional character, theoretical metaethics can reach an impasse from which it can only point discursively to the limits of language. The outcomes of the imaginal projects evidence that art can move beyond these limits non-propositionally. The use of critical practical analogy also indicates a methodological implication for art practical, interdisciplinary research. Critical practical analogy could provide artists with both a heuristic research tool and a template for articulating a discursive representation of art practice which both acknowledges the non-linearity and indirectness of practice-led research and the need for interdisciplinary intelligibility.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Drawing