Appreciating the Art of Television: A Philosophical Perspective

Although the title of this book is not intended as a provocation, I am aware it could be taken as one, oddly enough, by two groups of people with quite disparate views. Noël Carroll has documented and analyzed a philosophical tradition of resistance to mass art, including television, whose exponents include critics and theorists such as Dwight MacDonald, Clement Greenberg, R. G. Collingwood, T. W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer.

I expect that, on the one hand, those who are aligned with this tradition will scoff at the idea that television can afford and reward sustained appreciation, let alone that it can be art. Every once in a while I briefly convince myself that Carroll’s analysis, while excellent, is merely of historical interest … but then I am proven wrong. However, I could not improve upon Carroll’s rebuttal if I tried and will not undertake to sway cynics here. This is also partly because, in my own experience, hostility to mass arts like television tends not to be grounded in the sort of argumentation Carroll challenges, but rather in snobbery. That’s not to dismiss snobbery as a problem, but merely to acknowledge that snobs tend not to be moved by reasons and arguments.

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