A philosophical investigation of entertainment

Fletcher, Clifton (2012). A philosophical investigation of entertainment MPhil Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Fletcher, Clifton
Thesis Title A philosophical investigation of entertainment
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2012-09
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Supervisor Michelle Boulous Walker
Marguerite La Caze
Total pages 189
Total black and white pages 189
Language eng
Subjects 220210 History of Philosophy
220319 Social Philosophy
220301 Aesthetics
Formatted abstract
In this thesis I investigate entertainment from a philosophical point of view. My investigation begins with, and revolves around R.G. Collingwood’s work on “amusement art”, or entertainment, which is contained in his book The Principles of Art (1938). I do not agree with every aspect of Collingwood’s account of entertainment, but my argument follows Collingwood in three main ways. Firstly, I argue that entertainment is not a trivial or insignificant aspect of human cultural activity. On the contrary, it is philosophically interesting and important. Secondly, entertainment may seem a harmless, if perhaps guilty little pleasure, but it is actually a form of serious cultural dysfunction and a cause of social, practical, and individual decay. Thirdly, the most effective way to understand entertainment (philosophically) involves a three way conceptual distinction between art, entertainment, and “craft” or techne. I also think that, although it is important to begin with Collingwood’s philosophy of entertainment, there are ways to move beyond certain weaknesses in his view, and thereby provide a more philosophically satisfying account of entertainment.
As a part of his account of entertainment, Collingwood provides a rather unconventional reading of Plato’s Republic. In essence, Collingwood claims that Plato does not banish ‘art’, or ‘poetry’ from his perfect city. Rather, Plato banishes entertainment. I investigate this reading of the Republic in some detail. I argue that there are several important flaws in Collingwood’s reading, but to a large degree he has a good point. Plato, it seems to me, has a deep concern with the problem of entertainment. I also take Collingwood’s reading a little further by suggesting that Plato’s attempt to understand and censure entertainment actually pervades much of the Republic as a whole. In fact, Plato has a great deal more to add to the philosophy of entertainment than Collingwood realises.
In the later chapters of this thesis I attempt to resolve certain tensions in Collingwood’s account of entertainment, as well as examining certain differences between his account and the account of entertainment I find in Plato’s work. In effect, I think we can develop a better understanding of entertainment by combining the most effective aspects of Collingwood’s view, with the most convincing aspects of Plato’s view. I hope this ‘hybrid’ account of entertainment will explain the three-way conceptual relationship between entertainment, craft (or techne), and art or philosophy more satisfactorily. I also hope to develop a clearer account of the peculiar way entertainment pleases us, as well as making it clear why this sort of pleasure has a whole range of negative consequences.
Keyword Entertainment
Collingwood, R.G.

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Created: Thu, 20 Sep 2012, 10:51:02 EST by Mr Clifton Fletcher on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service