Shortly after Alien Phenomenology was publsihed, Darius Kazemi asked: what’s the difference between carpentry and art? Carpentry, for the record, is my name for the philosophical practice of making things, of which articles and books are but one example. I borrowed and expanded the term from the ordinary sense of woodcraft and adapted from Graham Harman and Alphonso Lingis, who use it to refer to the way things mold one another.
Darius wondered, why distinguish between the different uses of things? Isn’t this just a commission of the intentional fallacy? These are reasonable questions.
As it happens, I have an unpublished and probably unfinished paper that answers this question, and which includes a good measure of carpentry in so doing. But after a back and forth on Twitter on this topic, I figured maybe I should offer a preview of that answer since it’s been almost a year since I wrote the paper and carpentered the illustrations, and I still haven’t done anything with them.
I don’t expect anybody will be satisfied with these answers yet, but I offer them as a preview of more to come:
- Anytime art comes up we have a problem, because the twentieth century made it such that anything can be art, whether you or I like it or not. So in that sense, I guess Darius is right.
- Carpentry is a perspective on creative work that asks philosophical questions. Or differently put, carpentry is what you call it when matter (including art, why not) is used (at least) but especially fashioned for philosophical use.
- Carpentry is the process of making things that help philosophers (which is just to say, lovers of wisdom) pursue arguments and questions, not just illustrations of ideas that “really” live in the discursive realm.
- Carpentry it’s not “just” art because it participates in the practice of philosophy, just like a surgeon’s scalpel isn’t art because it participates in the practice of medicine.
- The above notwithstanding, carpentry surely also has other uses and interpretations beyond the ones I originally conceived.