Philosophers as Arts and Culture Critics


“Which living philosophers review fiction, movies, television shows, plays, music, art, etc. for non-academic publications?”

[photo by B. Weinberg]

This question arrived in my inbox recently, and seems perfect for a Friday. I think we can understand “non-academic publications” broadly enough to include not just newspapers, magazines, and online publications, but also personal blogs or websites, and regular and public posts/threads/videos on social media, too.

Readers, please share your knowledge here. (Self-promotion welcome.)

I’ll start by mentioning two philosophers I know of. One is Justin Khoo (MIT), who writes film reviews for various sites. The other is Matt Strohl (Montana), who writes about movies at his site (and whose Why It’s OK to Love Bad Movies was published last year).

Your turn…

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Justin Khoo
11 days ago

Lots of good stuff at https://aestheticsforbirds.com too!Report

Erich Hatala Matthes
Erich Hatala Matthes
Reply to  Justin Khoo
10 days ago

Yes, huge shout-out to Alex King and everyone else at Aesthetics for Birds! It’s great to have philosophers providing a platform (and excellent editorial feedback) for all different kinds of aesthetic commentary.Report

hm59
11 days ago

There’s a series of art reviews by philosophers in the British Journal of Aesthetics (which is an academic journal, but the reviews are written with a broad audience in mind). Bence Nanay writes about Van Eyck, Vid Simoniti discusses Andy Warhol, Claire Anscomb has a piece on Antony Gormley, Eleen Deprez and Michael Newall write about Titian, and so on.Report

Kieran Setiya
11 days ago

Self-promotion: I wrote a series of posts on standup comedy under lockdown.

Not self-promotion: Nikhil Krishnan reviews fiction for the Daily Telegraph.Report

Shen-yi Liao
11 days ago
Dan Weiskopf
10 days ago

I was an art critic for several years. A few links to reviews, essays, and interviews are here:

https://wordsandobjects.net/art-writing/

I took a hiatus and then the pandemic shut things down, but I’d love to do more art writing. It’s also led to a lot of thoughts on what exactly criticism is (as a form of writing, as a mode of thought, and as a social and cultural formation) that I really should write up one of these days.Report

Michel
10 days ago

Noël Carroll (CUNY) used to be a film and art journalist.

C. Thi Nguyen (Utah) used to be a food critic.Report

Michel
Reply to  Michel
10 days ago

Crispin Sartwell used to be a music critic, too.Report

Daniel Weltman
10 days ago

Cows in the Field is a movie podcast with a philosopher. Sacred and Profane Love is a podcast about literature.Report

Carlin Romano
10 days ago

Someone told me Saul died and I came to DN to get more info. Then I saw this thread. So, since Justin invites self-reporting, a mini-bio with explanation.

I served as Literary Editor and then Book Critic of The Philadelphia Inquirer for 25 years, wrote for a combined 22 years for the Village Voice and the Nation, and have been Critic-at-Large of five general- interest publications: Lingua Franca, Town & Country, Fame, the Chronicle of Higher Education and Moment–the Washington-based magazine of Jewish culture and politics co-founded by Elie Wiesel. I think I’m the only philosopher who’s been a Pulitzer Finalist in Criticism. Lots of philosophy teaching over the years too, including as Prof. of Philosophy and Humanities at Ursinus College. See my America the Philosophical (Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage) to get an idea of the kind of mainstream writing I’m talking about–it very luckily got the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

Why am I writing all this? Because I joined the APA Committee on Non-Academic Careers recently–I’d love to see more young philosophers write for the general public. I’m not here to promote myself–okay, maybe a little–but to take the opportunity Justin’s creative invite provides to urge you to try broader cultural criticism if writing for the rest of the world attracts you. I agreed in our last Committee meeting to offer my two cents to anyone who’d like to try journalism and cultural criticism, and this seems an ideal forum in which to amplify that message. I teach now at the University of Pennsylvania–feel welcome to contact me anytime at [email protected].Report

Daniel Talbot
10 days ago

Pretty sure my philosophy teacher at Durham write music reviews for the wire – Andy HamiltonReport

Elisa Caldarola
10 days ago

Jonathan Gilmore (CUNY) used to write art criticism for Artforum.Report

Dan Weiskopf
10 days ago

David Carrier has written extensively on art and its history:

http://www.davidcarrierartwriter.com/

In broader cultural criticism, Justin E. H. Smith comes to mind:

https://www.jehsmith.com/Report

Nick
9 days ago

Guy Dammann (Uppsala) is an opera critic.

In general, I don’t think you have to throw a stone far at an aesthetics conference to hit someone who at least dabbles in criticism.Report

Kevin DeLapp
8 days ago

Bernard Williams was quite the opera critic. His “On Opera” (Yale UP, 2016) collects his many published reviews. And, although this one might not count as a publication per se, Kwame Anthony Appiah chaired the review committee for the Man Booker Prize in Fiction a few years ago.Report

Nicolas Delon
8 days ago

The Very Bad Wizards (psychologist David Pizarro and philosopher Tamler Sommers) have discussed recent movies, tv shows, stand-up comedy, and short stories on their podcast for a while now.Report

Tamler
Tamler
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
7 days ago

yeah we’re used to Justin ignoring our work… Someone made a letterboxd page of the movies we’ve done deep dives hereReport

Cora Diamond
6 days ago

It’s depressing to see no mention of Michael Tanner, the very distinguished music critic and writer on many cultural topics.Report

John Rapko
4 days ago

Inspired by Cora Diamond’s remark about Michael Tanner, I must note that Arthur Danto wrote many, many dozens of art reviews for The Nation and elsewhere. Much of his reviewing is collected in books. Richard Wollheim wrote a number of reviews for the art magazine Modern Painters; I believe that his son Bruno Wollheim is editing a book collecting them.Report

Michel
Reply to  John Rapko
2 days ago

There’s no escaping Danto but, like Bernard Williams, doesn’t count, given the post’s parameters, because he’s dead.Report

David Carl Wilson
David Carl Wilson
3 days ago

I have served as “staff philosopher” for a local theater company in St. Louis for several years. This has mostly amounted to writing an audience-oriented essay for the program about the philosophical dimensions of the play, plus a little bit of informal dramaturgy along the way. I did this first for Upstream Theater, and now for several years for Tennessee Williams St. Louis. The essays are collected here.Report