Music of the Gods

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Mon, 2008-04-21 06:11

"The emotion involved in art is not an emotion in the ordinary meaning of the term. It is experienced more as a 'sense' or a 'feel,' but it has two characteristics pertaining to emotions: it is automatically immediate and it has an intense, profoundly personal (yet undefined) value-meaning to the individual experiencing it.

"The value involved is life, and the words naming the emotion are: 'This is what life means to me.' Regardless of the nature or content of an artist’s metaphysical views, what an art work expresses, fundamentally, under all of its lesser aspects is: 'This is life as I see it.' The essential meaning of a viewer’s or reader’s response, under all of its lesser elements is, 'This is (or is not) life as I see it.'"

—Ayn Rand, The Romantic Manifesto

Introduction

As often happens, I am in hot water—this time on the "RACH” thread—for fulminating against “headbanging caterwauling” and touting the superiority of Romantic music. I am in hot water with the fans of caterwauling for daring to diss their favoured offal, and with a serious music aficionado who insists “Romanticism” should include sundry post-Romantic meanderers and blowhards. He has ranked some thirty Romantic and post-Romantic works according to merit (according to him) in what looks suspiciously like a J. Evans Pritchard modus operandi.

Here I propose to deal only with the “arguments” of the caterwaulers; the case for or against including the likes of Mahler among the Great Romantics will have to wait ... except to say, paraphrasing Shakespeare: “Brevity is the soul of beauty.”

First, a preliminary question: why does this matter matter? Why do I get so exercised about it? Why can’t I just “live and let live” and leave empty heads and deformed souls alone to wallow in their frightful cacophonies?

My answer: I am perfectly prepared to do that—but they’re not prepared to leave me or any other decent, innocent human being alone. They shove their filth at us at every turn, and I am beyond fed up with it. As Rand might say, "These are the commandos of the haters' army, who crawl out of the sewer of centuries and shake themselves in public, splattering muck over the passers-by. ... The passers-by are the rest of us, who have to live, breathe and work in this atmosphere."

As I said in my RACH editorial:

“They do not rule the world officially but they have taken it over. They have taken over the shopping malls, the shops, the bars and restaurants, the gyms and rugby fields, the interludes between television programmes and even the programmes themselves. Nothing is uncorrupted by these aliens—even opera singers perform with them.

“It’s time to shame these aesthetic thugs into oblivion. Musical masochism is for consenting adults in private; it shouldn’t be sadistically imposed on unconsenting adults in public. Ideally its perpetrators should follow the logic of one of their number, the Slipknot drummer who, when told his was music to commit suicide by, said, ‘We must be doing something right.’ I would certainly encourage that alien and all its fellows to top themselves and leave the earth to human beings.”

Since it’s unlikely that they’ll opt for suicide, unfortunately, it is they who need to be admonished to “live and let live” (if you can call what they do living). They should not be averse to a campaign for the voluntary clearing away of their pollution from places where it’s unsolicited.

Rand said:

"I am not willing to surrender the world to the jerky contortions of self-inducedly brainless bodies with empty eye sockets who perform in stinking basements the immemorial rituals of staving off terror, which are a dime a dozen in any jungle—and to the quavering witch doctors who call it 'art.'"

Well dears, neither am I. When some skunk squirts its filth in my face without my consent, I will punch its snout. And I shall campaign against skunkery in general.

I should say that the reason this essay has taken a while is that it was becoming an academic-style treatise on Romanticism in music. Well, the Internet is replete with such treatises, by people better qualified than I. All I ever intended was an informed layman’s polemic against The Age of Crap as manifest in music, and against the idea that music is somehow exempt from the standard, healthy Objectivist strictures against cultural relativism. Realising I had departed from my brief, I had to start over to get back on course.

I have used Dr. Richard Goode as my foil in this essay because, like Everest, he’s there, and because, in this debate, he is perfect in his immorality (I say this in a caring kind of way). He is delectably quintessential!

Cutting to the chase

So why do I feel entitled to pile on value-judgments such as “sub-human,” “skunks,” “filth” and so on in the realm of music? Didn’t Rand herself say:

“Until a conceptual vocabulary is discovered and defined, no objectively valid criterion of esthetic judgment is possible in the field of music … No one, therefore, can claim the objective superiority of his choices over the choices of others. Where no objective proof is available, it's every man for himself—and only for himself”?

Yes, she did. And, I submit, she was wrong.

Note the practical implication of her dictum: that no one can claim the objective superiority of the Tchaikovsky and Beethoven posted on the Van Cliburn thread over the Slayer posted on the RACH thread. This is absurd on its face—but of course, “on its face” won’t do for those who seize on Rand’s statement as an excuse to remain in the sewer. So let’s keep going.

What did Rand mean by “conceptual vocabulary”?

She tells us. Such a vocabulary would explain how a work evokes the emotions it does. “Why does a succession of sounds produce an emotional reaction? Why does it involve man’s deepest emotions and his crucial, metaphysical values? How can sounds reach man’s emotions directly, in a manner that seems to bypass his intellect? What does a certain combination of sounds do to man’s consciousness to make him identify it as gay or sad?”

Why need we know these things in order to pass objective judgment? What difference would it make? That she doesn’t tell us. But she does reiterate:

“The formulation of a common vocabulary of music would require these answers. It would require: a translation of the musical experience, the inner experience, into conceptual terms; an explanation of why certain sounds strike us a certain way; a definition of the axioms of musical perception, from which the appropriate esthetic principles could be derived, which would serve as a base for the objective validation of esthetic judgments.”

Phew!

This, Rand goes on, means we need to do what we currently cannot do in musical perception--separate subject and object:

“In listening to music, a man cannot tell clearly, neither to himself nor to others—and therefore, cannot prove—which aspects of his experience are inherent in the music and which are contributed by his own consciousness. He experiences it as an indivisible whole, he feels as if the magnificent exaltation were there in the music—and he is helplessly bewildered when he discovers that some men do experience it and some do not. In regard to the nature of music, mankind is still on the perceptual level of awareness.”

Now, it is my contention that Rand has set the bar way too high here—we don’t need to know all that in order to judge—and that furthermore, my contention has her imprimatur:

“The deadly monotony of primitive music—the endless repetition of a few notes and of a rhythmic pattern that beats against the brain with the regularity of the ancient torture of water drops falling on a man’s skull—paralyses cognitive processes, obliterates awareness and disintegrates the mind. ... Primitive music becomes his narcotic [that of a modern man brought up as a 'mentally helpless savage']: it wipes out the groping, it reassures him and reinforces his lethargy, it offers him temporarily the sense of a reality to which his stagnant torpor is appropriate.” (Note, incidentally, what she is describing as primitive music is still a slight advance on rap, which was embryonic in her time: rap has no notes!)

If that’s not passing judgment I don’t know what is! So, is Rand seriously arguing that she would then baulk at the final hurdle and decline to pronounce primitive music inferior to Romantic? She already has so pronounced it!

And with good reason.

Romanticism vs. Headbanging

See, “the endless repetition of a few notes and of a rhythmic pattern that beats against the brain with the regularity of the ancient torture of water drops falling on a man’s skull” is a near-perfect description of, to cite a convenient example, the track, “Rain of Blood” by “thrash metal” band Slayer, linked to on RACH. (Apparently “thrash metal” is a sibling of “death metal.”) The piece is certainly melodically challenged. The rhythm is faster than water drops, to be sure, but the way it beats against the brain is definitely torture (which some clearly enjoy, but I’ll come to that). The description omits, since it wasn’t specifically what Rand had in mind, lyrics that are inaudible (and, on further investigation, unintelligible) rendered by a voice that is unlistenable, the voice of someone being tortured. It omits the seemingly deliberate over-amping of the guitars to effect distortion. It says nothing about harmony—but then, there’s not much to say anyway. Overall, the description could easily be of “Rain of Blood.”

By way of cleansing contrast, let us remind ourselves what makes Romantic music Romantic music, and what we know about music itself that permits us to judge.

We know that the primary components of music are melody, harmony and rhythm—and the greatest of these is melody, the ordering of tones. Melody is fundamental. As plot is to literature, so melody is to music. Whistle a tune, unaccompanied (no harmonies), each note equal in length (no rhythm)—it’s still music. No melody—no music. “It’s the toon, stoopid!”

We know that certain simultaneous combinations of tones (harmony), because of the mathematical relationship of their frequencies, are, as a matter of metaphysical fact, integratable by the human brain (consonant) and others are not (dissonant); that this is true for all human beings apart from the tone-deaf; that the resolution of dissonance into consonance helps give a piece suspense, sophistication and satisfaction, a sense of home-coming; and so we may rightly judge the deliberate refusal to resolve for the sake of refusal to resolve to be an act of sabotage and assassination.

We know that in the Romantic period (nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) composers and performers pushed the boundaries of every musical element, primary and secondary, achieving an unprecedented emotional expressiveness while avoiding the descent into the atonal anarchy that followed. New instruments, bigger orchestras; new forms, and the expansion of old forms; the coming of age of opera and ballet; virtuoso stars, like our modern-day “celebs” only with talent; the cult of the conductor; more inventive melodies using bigger intervals between notes; greater dynamic range—fff (fortississimo: very, very loud) to ppp (pianississimo: very, very soft); more daring harmonies (chromatic and dissonant, without recourse to the sabotage or assassination that became de rigueur later) modulating more frequently into other keys; more rhythmic variety, including greater use of syncopation, rubato (bending of the rhythm), accelerando (speeding up) and ritardando (slowing down), changing of the time signature within movements, etc. They honored but were not straitjacketed by the formalism of classicism, stretching but not eschewing the rules that make music cohere. They knew with their predecessors that coherence was integral to integration, and integration to harmoniousness, and harmoniousness to beauty. They exercised freedom within the rule of law—the perfect mirror of what was going on politically.

Thus did they bring individualism to music—they were each distinguishable from the other; each imposed his distinctive stamp upon the form without going out of it (at least not to the point of disintegration). They united the idiomatic with the idiosyncratic, reason with emotion, Apollo with Dionysus (albeit with a leaning towards the latter, via, it must be admitted, that villain Rousseau). They transformed the “universal language” into an individual language. As one commentary puts it:

“Romantic-era composers kept the forms of Classical music. But the Romantic composer did not feel constrained by form. Breaking through boundaries was now an honorable goal shared by the scientist, the inventor, and the political liberator. Music was no longer universal; it was deeply personal and sometimes nationalistic. The personal sufferings and triumphs of the composer could be reflected in stormy music that might even place a higher value on emotion than on beauty. Music was not just happy or sad; it could be wildly joyous, terrified, despairing, or filled with deep longings.”

We know that, in Objectivist terms, they projected as never before, if not for the first time, man the passionate valuer—their symphonies and concerti were “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” set to music and writ large. We know that Rand's description of Richard Halley's Concerto of Deliverance could only have been of a Romantic composition:

"It was a symphony of triumph. The notes flowed up. They spoke of rising and they were the rising itself, they were the essence and form of upward motion, they seemed to embody every human act and thought that had ascent as its motive. It was a sunburst of sound, breaking out of hiding and spreading open. It had the freedom of release and the tension of purpose. It swept space clean and left nothing but the joy of an unobstructed effort. Only a faint echo within the sounds spoke of that from which the music had escaped, but spoke in laughing astonishment at the discovery that there was no ugliness or pain, and there never had had to be. It was the song of an immense deliverance." (Rach 3, anyone—how about the middle section of the second movement?)

In short, we know that in every important aspect of it one can name, music—demonstrably, empirically, as a matter of fact—reached its apogee in the Romantic era. Romanticism was the culmination of what preceded it, and the transcending of it; it was the high point of musical evolution to date; it was the “total height”—and it remains so. (What came after was disintegration into vagueness, gratuitous dissonance, ostentation, random plinkety-plonk, silly silences and traffic noise.) Not knowing the physiology of how music evokes the responses that it does in us, not knowing how many parts object and how many part subject are involved, cannot gainsay this fact, the supreme stature of Romantic music, and its superiority over any modern throwback to “primitive music” such as that of Slayer, which it seems ludicrous to mention in the same breath.

This superiority can also be ascribed, I should add, to the myriad forms of what one might call “mini-Romanticism” such as operetta, musical comedy, jazz (the intelligible kind), pre-80s pop, movie scores, Ayn Rand’s “tiddly-wink music” and so on. The standard pop tune of my youth was a veritable miniature sonata with a clear theme, stated, developed then reiterated (A-B-A), value-orientated (usually about love!) with meaningful if unchallenging lyrics, audibly articulated. Any of the foregoing is superior to Slayer and all other headbanging caterwauling.

Romanticism and sense of life

Now at this point someone might object: “All this is very well, but you’re over-emphasizing the technical and structural aspects of the compositions and glossing over the business of one’s emotional response to them. After all, headbangers can be complex and clever too. And the fact is, whether you approve or not, Slayer hits my emotional spot and Rach doesn’t. End of story.”

And of course, it is the end of the story if you want it to be, if you’re content with that. Let’s just not continue to tout the relativist fiction that all music is created equal.

And let’s see what can be observed about the emotional response, since the objector is quite right: that is the whole point of the exercise, and music, like no other art form, gets to the point straight away.

I assume that what the objector and I seek from music is the same thing: what I call value-swoon: “This is life as I see it”—in my case, in the form of a spiritual orgasm born of orgiastic love-making between me, the artist, the composer and life itself. Value-swoon consummated by tears. If there are no tears, I haven’t fully value-swooned. Tears of joy, poignance, worship, “unclouded exaltation” in the presence of gods and the godly, of beauty inexpressible in words. The solemn gaze on Van Cliburn’s face as he looks up at his conductor at the conclusion of the aforementioned Tchaikovsky (Piano Concert #1, Movement Three), having thundered spectacularly up and down the length and breadth of the piano and pressed down the final home-coming tonic chord, says it all. Breathes there the man with soul so dead he cannot behold this and exult: “What a piece of work is man!”? This response, of course, is life-affirming, and so, by Objectivist standards, good. Moreover, it is the response the work and the performance are intended to evoke, so the subject’s reaction is consistent with the content of the object.

Now, it's true that one needn't seek the full monty every time, which would be rather exhausting, and there are less weighty but perfectly legitimate reasons one might listen to some types of music. "Objectively superior," after all, implies an answer to the questions, "Superior to what, in what respect and for what purpose?" Country is best for a good laugh (who can resist the hilarity of some retard yodelling about his wife leaving him for the horse?), for instance, and The Carpenters are great for getting to sleep. But it turns out metal fans do actually seek the full monty. Or at least, at first glance, they claim to. Dr. (PhD in philosophy) Richard Goode, Slayer’s cheerleader on the RACH thread, said there:

“Honestly, if you don't feel glad to be alive after a good pounding by Slayer, the Queens of the Stone Age or even Hayseed Dixie, then there’s something wrong with you.” (Note, there’s something wrong with you. Evidently it’s OK to say there’s something wrong with you if you don’t like Slayer but not OK to say there’s something wrong with you if you do!)

But hang on a minute! Pressed by me to explain just how a “good pounding by Slayer” made him “glad to be alive,” Dr. Goode responded as follows:

“Anger. Energy. Passion. Defiance. Catharsis. Slayer are musical genius.”

So, is it anger, etc., that makes Dr. Goode feel glad to be alive, that gives him his value-swoons? I tried to find out:

“Anger about what? Passion for what? Defiance of what? Given that ‘catharthis’ is the release of pent-up emotions, why are your emotions pent up (I did warn you that pomowanking makes one passionless)? Wherein lies Slayer's ‘musical genius’?”

Alas, my inquiries elicited no further response.

Which entitles us to assume, I think, that the anger is not a justified, discrete anger about some particular injustice or other, else Dr. Goode would have mentioned it; it is a generalised, metaphysical anger at life itself that makes Goode feel good!

Now, remember what Rand said about the way music affects us:

“Psycho-epistemologically, the pattern of the response to music seems to be as follows: one perceives the music, one grasps the suggestion of a certain emotional state and, with one's sense of life serving as the criterion, one appraises this state as enjoyable or painful, desirable or undesirable, significant or negligible, according to whether it corresponds to or contradicts one's fundamental feeling about life.”

In the case of Dr. Goode and Slayer, he perceives their music, grasps the suggestion of anger and defiance and appraises it as enjoyable, desirable and significant, since it corresponds to his fundamental feeling about life. He says, “This is life as I see it.” Which, I respectfully submit, taking it at its own word, is anti-life—and the anti-life, need I point out, is, according to Objectivism, bad! Calling it and what evoked it “inferior” is letting it off lightly!

Inferior Music and Philosophy

None of this occurs in a vacuum. It’s no coincidence, but rather entirely congruent, that among Dr. Goode’s other pin-up boys is the philosopher David Hume, who taught that concepts, the means by which human beings make sense of reality, have no basis in reality; there are just brute facts, and the act of integrating them into concepts is entirely arbitrary.

Here’s Rand on Hume:

“When Hume declared that he saw objects moving about, but never saw such a thing as ‘causality’—it was the voice of Attila that men were hearing. It was Attila’s soul that spoke when Hume declared that he experienced a flow of fleeting states inside his skull, such as sensations, feelings or memories, but had never caught the experience of such a thing as consciousness or self. When Hume declared that the apparent existence of an object did not guarantee that it would not vanish spontaneously next moment, and the sunrise of today did not prove that the sun would rise tomorrow; when he declared that philosophical speculation was like a game, like chess or hunting, of no significance whatever to the practical course of human existence, since reason proved that existence was unintelligible, and only the ignorant maintained the illusion of knowledge—all of this accompanied by vehement opposition to the mysticism of the Witch Doctor and by protestations of loyalty to reason and science—what men were hearing was the manifesto of a philosophical movement that can be designated only as Attila-ism.”

Here’s Goode on the significance or otherwise of philosophy, in a SOLO exchange with James Valliant:

Valliant: As a philosopher, can you tell me what the practical upshot of your work is, i.e., its implications to human life?

Goode: Hahaha. You're kidding, right?

Stretching too long a bow?

Hume was a destroyer. Slayer, whose headbanging has included “songs” sympathetic to the 9/11 terrorists and Joseph Mengele, are destroyers. And all other headbangers. They are Hume’s chickens come home to roost. Richard, who claims there is no basis in reason for freedom, is an enabler of the destroyers (I grant he’d be horrified to think so). All three are archetypes. Hume, the clever/stupid philosopher, for whom logic and facts ne’er will meet; Goode, the modern “cool” sophisticat, monotoned and sardonic, getting his kicks from clever-dick nitpicking and word games; Slayer, the ugly reality behind the philosophers’ pseudo-civilized veneer, like so many “metal” bands of whichever variety—“thrash,” “death” or otherwise. It’s useful and instructive to see them all appropriately aligned—all nihilists together in this post-modern Age of Nihilism.

Conclusion

Nihilism is as objectively bad in esthetics as it is in any other realm—and in music as in any other part of esthetics, Rand notwithstanding. Appraising a positive response to musical nihilists as good, as Goode does, is bad. These animals intend to purvey ugliness and mindless rage and like nothing better in response than the perverted value-swoon of the nihilist, the pomowanker’s snicker of approval, perhaps more accurately called the "anti-value swoon." Again, the subject's response is congruent with the object's content.

We all hear the same thing. We all recognise deliberate ugliness and rage for ugliness’s and rage’s sake, just as surely as we all hear a minor chord as somber and a major chord as cheerful. It’s our responses to the ugliness and rage that differ, and the issue here is: evaluating the responses. It’s a question of values, not physiology. Life-affirming values = good; life-negating values (anti-values) = bad. So, if you respond with approval to deliberate ugliness and gratuitous rage, if you seek out and wallow in the anti-value swoon, then, in Dr. Goode’s immortal words, “There’s something wrong with you.” And that’s a fact.

I’m reminded of a painter friend from years ago who read The Fountainhead. He got it. He understood it as well as I. But he chose to blank it out, because, “If I take it seriously it’ll turn my life upside down” (his life being in thrall to axe-through-head tutors).

In his exceptional SOLO essay, “Something Better than Rage, Pain, Anger and Hurt,” Peter Cresswell exhorts:

“Music is our food of the spirit. So do try to be careful what you eat.”

(This admonition, by the way, doesn’t mean we all have to like the same music any more than we have to like the same food. It means we should eat food rather than feces.)

Musically speaking, we have whole generations eating poo and militantly relishing it. It ill-behoves Objectivists to tell them there’s no objective reason not to do so. Objectivism is nothing if not a command to rise. To those addicted to feces but wanting to rise from the sewer, I commend Mr. Cresswell’s essay. He knows whereof he speaks. He has himself risen!

Just these last few days on SOLO, artist Michael Newberry has recounted the story of someone who presented plastic-wrapped blood from her miscarriages as an artwork, and asked:

“Many of you here are freaked out about the possibility of radical Muslims taking over the world. But what is it that could weaken the West so much that it could fall victim to a primitive anti-modern society? When I see America, I see and experience many great things, lots of freedoms. It's much easier to do what you like here than in the other countries I have lived in. But, I also see the postmodern art world everywhere, with its cynical, disintegrated, anti-conceptual mind-set, and pathetic sense of life. That is America too. What if art plays a major role in the health, flourishing, and spirit of country or a culture? If that is so, aren't we more in trouble from the inside than the outside?”

We’re certainly in trouble from the inside. I quote finally from my inaugural speech at SOLOC 1 in 2001. The "jungle cacophony" alluded to is Eminem—I had just compared Johann Strauss and Eminem as exemplars of two contrasting cultures, antipodal pop icons, one danced to by human beings, the other jerked to by the eyeless-socketed ones:

“ ... get out there in the marketplace and promote good art as zealously as you promote good philosophy, both being necessary for the preservation of freedom. The tide is against us at the moment—wherever we turn our ears are assaulted by jungle cacophony of the kind we've just heard. In the visual realm … well, we've just been reading on the SOLO Forum about the Canadian artist I alluded to earlier who won a prestigious award for ejaculating into vials; there was the Turner Award in Britain, recently bestowed on someone whose ‘artwork’ was a room with an electric light in it. These abominations are a dime a dozen right now; it is, as I often say, the Age of Crap. I want SOLO to wage an intellectual war on it every bit as relentless as the physical War on Terrorism.”

That war should include the unabashed proclamation of Romantic music’s objective superiority.

Romantic music is composed and performed by the heroes in our midst. It speaks and appeals to the best within us. It awakens our capacity for rapture. It is appreciated and adored by the passionately enlightened. It is inspired by and inspires the most intensely life-affirming value-swoons possible to man. If the expression, "total passion for the total height" means anything, it finds that meaning in Romantic music. In terms of what went into it and what can be taken out of it, Romantic music is simply the best.

And that’s a fact.


( categories: )

Jeff Smith

Jeremy's picture

What got me is the other sentence: You don't see a tree.

What is one to take from this, but what it says? I would never say that. We aren't saying the same thing.

Mr. Perren

jeffrey smith's picture

There may well be fine novels out there of which I'm unaware. I pay scant attention to what is published today, but do somewhat and have in the past enough to reasonably conclude it's not the worth the time and effort to go looking unless something is recommended by a trustworthy source.

Or, in other words, you are like Perigo very willing to condemn things of which you have no actual knowledge.

Well, here's a suggestion for you. Although I would guess you don't rate me a trustworthy source Smiling

http://www.amazon.com/Curious-...

If you think the characters of AS are wooden, you really didn't pay attention, probably because it didn't sit well with your sense of life.

The main reason I found the characters rather wooden is because I sensed no life in them, only an author manipulating characters to make them conform to the plot. It also didn't help that this was during my college years, and I was, effectively, a Brit Lit major (they just subsumed it under the rubric of "English major") and therefore had read or was in the midst of reading many of the truly great novels that have been written in the US or UK. The contrast was jarring, to say the least. When eventually I did return to Rand, it was her essays that I focused on, and my reaction to them was quite different: she is one of the finest essayists in the last century.

See Jeff

Lindsay Perigo's picture

As to your view of Atlas Shrugged, well, I dislike making it appear I'm substituting insult for argument, but that pretty much tells me everything I need to know about your standards and ability to evaluate fiction. If you think the characters of AS are wooden, you really didn't pay attention, probably because it didn't sit well with your sense of life. I strongly suspect you are of the "Muddy the waters to make it appear deep" school of literature. Thank you for an instructive conversation.

If you'd latched on to "pomowanker" at the get-go you'd have saved yourself all that effort. Eye Still, it was, as you say, instructive.

"Maybe You're Wrong"

Jeff Perren's picture

"can you guarantee yourself that you're not missing some perfume coming from some spot in the distance? In all the noise produced by pomo critics, etc., and all the commercialization resulting from mass market literature, perhaps you are missing some good writing."

I can't imagine being swayed one way or another by critics, commercialization, etc., but thank you for once again questioning my capacity to be objective. As far as "missing good writing" I can't, of course, evaluate something I haven't read, so you would have to name something specific. There may well be fine novels out there of which I'm unaware. I pay scant attention to what is published today, but do somewhat and have in the past enough to reasonably conclude it's not the worth the time and effort to go looking unless something is recommended by a trustworthy source.

The more general principle you lean on "can you guarantee..." sounds like just the usual skepticism that asserts, no matter what the evidence, how much experience, how careful one's logic, or being in what circumstances that, "maybe you're wrong." On that, I recommend (though there are lots of ways to counter that view) a fine article by Peikoff titled, wouldn't you know, "Maybe You're Wrong." It was in an old Intellectual Activist issue, if I recall, but may be available somewhere, should you be interested, which I doubt.

As to your view of Atlas Shrugged, well, I dislike making it appear I'm substituting insult for argument, but that pretty much tells me everything I need to know about your standards and ability to evaluate fiction. If you think the characters of AS are wooden, you really didn't pay attention, probably because it didn't sit well with your sense of life. I strongly suspect you are of the "Muddy the waters to make it appear deep" school of literature.

Thank you for an instructive conversation.

Jeffrey: "I'll only add that

Newberry's picture

Jeffrey: "I'll only add that I think that, viewed as literature, Rand's fiction falls squarely in the schlock category."

Actually, the category is epic literature. Atlas is part of the long history going back to the parables of the Bible, Thousand and One Nights, and Homer, in which they are moral stories noted for their stylized characters, and long speeches. I guess that you are equating literature with naturalist genre, which would be something of an opti...I mean, literary illusion.

Michael

Hmmm...

Jeff Perren's picture

Michael,

I agree that both are real, but I don't think both myself and Mr. Smith can be right, if I understand his view correctly. The fundamental question here is: "What is the object of immediate awareness?" On my view, it is a thing in the world out there. On Jeffrey's view, if I have it correct, it is a thing in your head. We can't both be right about that.

Jeffrey and Jeff are both

Newberry's picture

Jeffrey and Jeff are both right about the tree. The light sensations and the tree are real. Vision scientists and excellent representational artists study the phenomenon. That millions of drivers can manage roads safety points that visual perception is fairly reliable. For detailed analysis of visual perception google vision scientist Jan Koenderink. One attribute of a really good visual artist is that they can get you to see afresh, to show you things in away that you may not have seen before. Optical tricks are just tricks once the physics are understood.

Michael

Jeff Perren

jeffrey smith's picture

How did I know you were going to name those pukes? (I'll give you partial points for Faulkner who, though deeply flawed, had some worth.) The second set is laughable, which shows just how far we've fallen in such a short time.

You did mention arbitrary personal opinion, so I'll leave it at that. I'll only add that I think that, viewed as literature, Rand's fiction falls squarely in the schlock category. The only novel with more wooden characters than Atlas Shrugged that I've ever read is The Hunt For Red October, in which the only three dimensional character gets killed on page 2 (the KGB/political commissar whose job was to spy on the crew). (Of course, the wooden characters didn't keep THFRO from being the best thriller I've ever read. ) This is another instance of arbitrary personal opinion.

You merely asserted it takes (a very long?) time to "winnow" but some of us can smell the air, even when we're wafting through it.

Of course you can smell the pollution as you waft through it, but can you guarantee yourself that you're not missing some perfume coming from some spot in the distance? In all the noise produced by pomo critics, etc., and all the commercialization resulting from mass market literature, perhaps you are missing some good writing.

"By which I mean, the

sharon's picture

"By which I mean, the undoubted fact that what we see, hear, feel, etc, is not always what we think it is--usually due to misinterpretation by the brain. You have, I assume, run into optical illusions from time to time."

Short reply: If we make an error, (which is what you are saying) how do we come to know that what we hear, feel, see, etc, was not what it really was--in fact and reality? Don't confuse sense modalities with conceptual mistakes. The senses are necessarily correct. Our interpretation of the facts and our concepts can be mistaken

Big difference

Jeff Perren's picture

No, there is a very significant difference between the two viewpoints on the subject. Your argument is that perception is indirect, that we are directly aware not of external things but of mental things. A huge difference. At least, that is how you phrase it. Your view, at least as you state it here, is that of Representationalism. Mine is from the school of Realism, a vast difference.

[Jeremy]I sense, and my mind

jeffrey smith's picture

[Jeremy]I sense, and my mind processes, data from a real, existent universe.

[J. Perren]I have sensations, that are my means of (sensory) awareness of things

Which is exactly what I said. You just phrase it differently.

[Sharon] The fallibilties of sensory experience? Whoa there, no words in your mouth--this being your own words. What faillibilties?

By which I mean, the undoubted fact that what we see, hear, feel, etc, is not always what we think it is--usually due to misinterpretation by the brain. You have, I assume, run into optical illusions from time to time.

[J. Perren]Feel free to call me Jeff Thank you, but I have the caution born out of the experience of having a very common name. I once found out there are thirty six of me living in my county alone.

"It only implies that we

sharon's picture

"It only implies that we have to be careful to guard against the fallibilities of sensory experience."

The fallibilties of sensory experience? Whoa there, no words in your mouth--this being your own words. What faillibilties?

Jeffrey Smith

Jeremy's picture

You don't see a tree. You experience a bundle of sensory impressions involving color, form, etc., which your mind integrates as the experience of seeing a tree.

Yes, physiologically, that's partly what happens when I see a goddamned tree.

Although I don't "experience impressions", nor does my mind process such airy-fairy concepts in relation to reality. I sense, and my mind processes, data from a real, existent universe.

Quite the circle-jerk this is becoming.

Argument

Jeff Perren's picture

"You experience a bundle of sensory impressions involving color, form, etc., which your mind integrates as the experience of seeing a tree."

Prove it.

I don't sense my sensations. I have sensations, that are my means of (sensory) awareness of things. Consciousness is inherently relational and intentional. Representationalism represents an infinite regress.

Have you read anything post-1940 on the philosophy of perception? Your view is standard logical positivism, abandoned even by philosophers (not consistently the most reliable bunch on the subject) two generations ago.

P.S. Feel free to call me Jeff.

Endless

Jeff Perren's picture

There's no way to settle this, or even progress much, without a full scale examination of what makes a writer good or bad, so take this if you wish as an arbitrary personal opinion.

"Past 1920? I assume you live in an alternate universe where Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, O'Connor and a few others never lived."

How did I know you were going to name those pukes? (I'll give you partial points for Faulkner who, though deeply flawed, had some worth.) The second set is laughable, which shows just how far we've fallen in such a short time.

As to your argument that we don't have the perspective to judge, etc... just how much time needs to elapse? A generation? A century? Why should any time have to elapse at all (beyond that needed to think carefully)? This is skepticism, with hints of reverse cultural relativism, of a particularly unsupportable type. You may not be able to be objective (at least until an author has been dead 100 years?), but on what basis do you claim this is universal and inescapable? You merely asserted it takes (a very long?) time to "winnow" but some of us can smell the air, even when we're wafting through it. We don't have to get up on a mountain top (though that can provide a clearer view, to mix a metaphor).

Mr. Perren

jeffrey smith's picture

I don't see my seeing of a tree; I see a tree

You don't see a tree. You experience a bundle of sensory impressions involving color, form, etc., which your mind integrates as the experience of seeing a tree.

Suggestions for reading noted, with thanks.

Perren

jeffrey smith's picture

Still, I can't think of anyone but Rand who might fill those shoes past about 1920.
Past 1920? I assume you live in an alternate universe where Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, O'Connor and a few others never lived.

But concentrating on the last 50 years: Updike, Bellow, Conroy, Irving come to mind pretty quickly. And I don't pretend to read contemporary novels with much regularity (I prefer non-fiction), so there are doubtless a few more that should be added.

As for plays--I pay attention to theater even less, because there's no decent theater near me. But Arthur Miller was alive until a couple of years ago, and writing--even if his best known works were written before your 50 year cut off. There's also Neil Simon.

And your last paragraph points to the reason that your appeal to lack of greatness does not really refute me. We have the perspective to say who from the 19th century is really great; we don't have the perspective to do the same for the contemporary era, just as the people of the 19th century had a hard time picking out who was great among their own contemporaries.

Trot before running

Jeff Perren's picture

"we experience not the things themselves but only our sensory experiences of the things"

Even this grants half Kant's program. On what basis do you make this claim?

I don't see my seeing of a tree; I see a tree.

P.S. You don't have to rely on Objectivists for the arguments. Veatch does a fine job of arguing for Intentionality, as do a number of other Aristotelians and Realists. See J. J. Gibson's books for other detailed arguments.

Perigo

jeffrey smith's picture

Keep it here. The thread has now gone where it had to go. I too look forward to Mr. Smith's explanation as to why the fact that we perceive via the senses renders that which they perceive to be not-the-real-reality. Why does the fact that we must perceive by means of perception render those means invalid? And, since he claims to hold that objectivity is possible, whence is it derived?

Whoa, horsey. You're putting words in my mouth that I didn't say. To make the point that we experience not the things themselves but only our sensory experiences of the things does not imply that the perceptions are invalid. It only implies that we have to be careful to guard against the fallibilities of sensory experience.

I did not say Kant was right. Anyone who wrote as turgidly as the German philosophers deserves to be wrong. I only said that I had never seen an actual refutation of his ideas from an Objectivist standpoint. Mr. Perren and Sharon have, very politely, pointed out two places where I could find such a refutation. To them, thank you. To you, Perigo, return to your vomit.

Kant's Errors

Jeff Perren's picture

"I too look forward to Mr. Smith's explanation as to why the fact that we perceive via the senses renders that which they perceive to be not-the-real-reality." [italics mine]

Kant's position is even shakier than this. Accepting his view, how would the argument even get started? How would we know, for example, that we even have senses, that they could convey non-veridical information, that we perceive at all?

19th/20th centuries compared

Jeff Perren's picture

Without pretending this is anywhere near a full answer...

I find this line of argument interesting.

Alleged: The 20th century had bad writers; the 19th century had (an equal number of equally) bad writers, therefore the 19th century was no better than the 20th, at least with respect to literature.

Without even challenging the premise that those earlier writers were equal in number and shlockiness, the syllogism fails to prove the thesis.

Did there appear somewhere in the past 50 years without my noticing a Hawthorne or Hugo, a Dumas or Dickens, a Wilde or Willa Cather? (Yes, I know there is some overlap with the 20th century in the final selection...) It isn't just the presence of bad writers that forms the basis for evaluating the two periods, but the absence of truly good ones. One can't validly ignore half the evidence. Admittedly, the argument is harder to press if you include the first half of the 20th century, but destroying Western culture take time. Still, I can't think of anyone but Rand who might fill those shoes past about 1920.

While we have Wilde on the list, let's also include plays. Has there been a good play written in the past 50 years? I can't think of a single example, but I'm open to reasonable suggestions. (Found one, but it's a borderline case, age-wise: The Lion in Winter, copyright 1966.)

[Aside: I grant there are a fair number of good painters working today, such as Stephen Gjertson. (And, if that small jpeg resembles the canvas, we could place this Jonathan fellow in that league). I confess I find that fact somewhat puzzling. Maybe it has something to do with the relative low cost of production vs relatively high visibility. There may be an equal number of good writers who are simply completely unknown. It's an interesting phenomenon and one worth explaining. Mr. Newberry?]

P.S. Linz, if you think this constitutes a thread hijack, say so and I'll move it to a new one that talks about art (and culture) more generally. Music is a tougher case (except at the extremes like caterwauling).

Actually ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I believe we are hijacking this thread.

Keep it here. The thread has now gone where it had to go. I too look forward to Mr. Smith's explanation as to why the fact that we perceive via the senses renders that which they perceive to be not-the-real-reality. Why does the fact that we must perceive by means of perception render those means invalid? And, since he claims to hold that objectivity is possible, whence is it derived?

It's Goode all over again. Eye

Jeffrey

sharon's picture

(For starters, though, to give Jeffery something to think about: Rand did address the issue, but the burden of proof lay upon Kant who is making a positive assertion regarding reality and man’s senses. So I am going to have to give you a failing grade for not knowing that much, Mr. Smith).

>>Can you be more specific as to where? I said that I have never seen anything Rand or any other Objectivist wrote which actually refuted Kant on that point. That's not the same as claiming she didn't address the issue somewhere or other. I'm only saying that I have never come across it if she did.

Read OPAR. The section is the “validity of the senses” if I recall correctly. Look it up. Meanwhile, let me make my position clear in regards to Kant: you say that Rand never refuted Kant. I say that Kant never proved his assertion.

>>(But if you think Rand was correct, then please tell me what part of reality, other than our own minds, can be experienced in a way that does not involve our senses.)

I never said reality can be discovered by anything other than our own minds. But that does make our sense modalities subjective.

I believe we are hijacking this thread.

Mr. Perren

jeffrey smith's picture

And, I never took you for an Objectivist (nor do I label myself that), but do you align more or less with any particular philosophy or thinker. (I'll keep my guess to myself until I read your answer.)

Are you familiar with the four questions of Ben Zoma in Pirkei Avot?

Who is rich? He who is content with what he has.
Who is strong? He who controls his own passions.
Who is wise? He who learns from all men.
Who is honored? He who honors others.

I haven't read Mr. Kelley's book. I can't even say I remember hearing of it before. The only two Objectivist writers I 've read--and obviously, I haven't read them completely--are Rand and Peikoff.

Rand v Kant

jeffrey smith's picture

(For starters, though, to give Jeffery something to think about: Rand did address the issue, but the burden of proof lay upon Kant who is making a positive assertion regarding reality and man’s senses. So I am going to have to give you a failing grade for not knowing that much, Mr. Smith).

Can you be more specific as to where? I said that I have never seen anything Rand or any other Objectivist wrote which actually refuted Kant on that point. That's not the same as claiming she didn't address the issue somewhere or other. I'm only saying that I have never come across it if she did.

(But if you think Rand was correct, then please tell me what part of reality, other than our own minds, can be experienced in a way that does not involve our senses.)

Jeff Perren

Laure Chipman's picture

Jeff, thanks for your kind reply! It is so nice to read a friendly, respectful post even when I don't agree with parts of it. I think Jeffrey Smith might be right about popular culture of the past being just as bad as, or worse than, today's pop culture. But I am no expert, and I will leave the argument to you two. In fact, it's entirely possible that I'm blissfully out of touch with much of today's pop culture, accounting for my "rose-colored glasses"! (P.S. Is your novel available for purchase?)

Lindsay, "scratch a headbanger and you find a subjectivist" -- oh, come on! Do you have an opinion poll or some objective data to back this up? In my experience, all sorts of different people like all sorts of different kinds of music, and you cannot predict someone's philosophy from the music they like. Plus, you really haven't defined "headbanger" so I don't even know if I am one or not, but I'm pretty sure I'm not a subjectivist. I don't know enough about Kant to even know if his main point was "that we experience things not directly, but only as they are mediated to our minds by our senses" as Jeffrey says, but if so, my response would be "sure, but so what?" You'd have to be superhuman to be able to look down on us and tell us that the evidence of our senses is not valid, and as far as I know, Kant was just a human being, too.

Mr. Perigo

sharon's picture

Mr. Smith: And I've never seen anyone, Objectivist or otherwise, refute the main point of Kant's philosophy that so enraged her: that we experience things not directly, but only as they are mediated to our minds by our senses.

Mr. Perigo: Oh boy! I hope he starts a new thread on that. No surprises here though - scratch a headbanger and you find a subjectivist.

I hope he starts a thread on that too! I don’t agree with Jeffery, either. And I may fall into the category of “headbanger” to top it off.

(For starters, though, to give Jeffery something to think about: Rand did address the issue, but the burden of proof lay upon Kant who is making a positive assertion regarding reality and man’s senses. So I am going to have to give you a failing grade for not knowing that much, Mr. Smith).

Mr. Perigo

sharon's picture

It was a simple and specific question. You need not have gone into a diatribe about that which you are against and what you are for. I know you don’t like "assault-and-battery headbanging caterwauling nihilistic pomo-filth" and that you love classical (perhaps selectively). What I was after was wanting to know what uptempo music you do like (and that is not romantic or classical or even operatic). That is my question.

Thanks.

Jeffrey

Jeremy's picture

"Because we have eyes, we are blind..."

Do you actually believe that? Any possibility that can be answered in less than a paragraph?

Hahahahaha!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Mr. Smith: And I've never seen anyone, Objectivist or otherwise, refute the main point of Kant's philosophy that so enraged her: that we experience things not directly, but only as they are mediated to our minds by our senses.

Oh boy!

I hope he starts a new thread on that.

No surprises here though - scratch a headbanger and you find a subjectivist.

Subjectivism

Jeff Perren's picture

"refute the main point of Kant's philosophy..."

This grows more interesting by the post...

This topic should be continued on another thread, but briefly, have you read Kelley's The Evidence of the Senses?

And, I never took you for an Objectivist (nor do I label myself that), but do you align more or less with any particular philosophy or thinker. (I'll keep my guess to myself until I read your answer.)

Mr. Perren

jeffrey smith's picture

(I don't think Rand should be interpreted to have believed that obviously false proposition, either, but I'll leave that aside for another time.)

On rereading the quote, I will acquit her She said Romantic art is a fuel, but she did leave open the possibility of other things being available for fuel. OTOH, that was preceded by a statement that Romantic art is the first thing that leads to an awakening of the soul and "its last lifetime". So maybe she did believe it was the only fuel. She did have a tendency to make extreme sounding statements for rhetorical effect, yet at other times make equally extreme sounding statements that she meant to be taken literally. which means that one comes across an statement quoted out of its original context, it's not always apparent which category the statement belongs to.

Mr. Perren

jeffrey smith's picture

It amounts to the idea that my argument suffers from selective bias, a form of hasty generalization. It also implies a lack of objectivity (or at least an ignorance of history) and the inability (perhaps intrinsic, on your view) to arrive at valid standards of judgment or to apply them correctly.

Actually, that is exactly what I am saying--the claim that our current popular culture is in some way less intelligent or more nihilistic , or however you want to phrase it, falls flat on its face once you become familiar with popular culture of earlier generations, so it does imply an ignorance of history. Mrs. Radcliffe and Ouida are facts of history, and they wrote stuff that is even worse than most of contemporary novel writing--which didn't keep Mysteries of Udolpho from being one of the biggest best sellers of all time, and spawning a whole progeny whose lastest generations are with us yet, as can be confirmed by a look at the novels offered for sale at your local supermarket and drugstore. East Lynne is a fact of history, and equally schlocky, and one of the dramatic hits of its day. But the ability to form judgments on what is good and bad from the literature of that era has winnowed out most of the schlock from our view, so it's only the non schlock we read when we read 19th century literature. We know the rest is schlock, and therefore ignore it. Modern culture is less easy to ignore, so the awareness of the schlock it produces is keener. But that does not mean that modern culture has produced more schlock than earlier eras, as becomes apparent when you back and actually looked at earlier eras.

I'm not ascribing an inability to form judgments to you, Mr. Perren--although I am more and more inclined to do so with Mr. Perigo--but I am assuming you share the same level of ignorance of 19th century literature (in particular) that most people have. If my assumption is wrong, I apologize.

In the interim, I have a question for Mr. Smith and anyone who agrees with him here: Does your subjectivism encompass only esthetics or does it extend to ethics, and perhaps epistemology or metaphysics?

I'm not sure how to answer that question, and obviously I can only speak for myself.
I'm not a Objectivist, because I believe Rand was wrong about a number of things, and that ultimately her philosophy can best be described as being itself a form of subjectivism. I think there are objective standards of morality and beauty, and obviously that there are such things as facts. But if reason is to have primacy, then subjectivity is inevitable, because no two individuals have the same experience, or have the same knowledge of facts--they may closely coincide, but are never the same. And I've never seen anyone, Objectivist or otherwise, refute the main point of Kant's philosophy that so enraged her: that we experience things not directly, but only as they are mediated to our minds by our senses. ("Because we have eyes, we are blind..." Rand's rhetoric about Kant and Hume is enjoyable and worth studying as an example of masterly style, but I've never seen anything from her pen that was an actual refutation and not merely rhetoric.)

Agree

Jeff Perren's picture

"Then those are equally fuel for the soul."

I agree. I don't hold that art is the only such fuel. (I don't think Rand should be interpreted to have believed that obviously false proposition, either, but I'll leave that aside for another time.)

Rose Colored Glasses

Jeff Perren's picture

I've read this argument many, many times in a dozen forms. Unfortunately, I'm too tired and busy right now to shred it, as I've done many, many times.

It amounts to the idea that my argument suffers from selective bias, a form of hasty generalization. It also implies a lack of objectivity (or at least an ignorance of history) and the inability (perhaps intrinsic, on your view) to arrive at valid standards of judgment or to apply them correctly. All of which is mistaken. It makes a number of other false empirical claims and logic errors, which I'll expose for my amusement at a later time.

Consider this a placeholder.

[Added in edit:] In the interim, I have a question for Mr. Smith and anyone who agrees with him here: Does your subjectivism encompass only esthetics or does it extend to ethics, and perhaps epistemology or metaphysics?

P.S. Note to World: please stop using the term "fallacious" or "fallacy" as the equivalent of "empirically false." They are not the same. Even were I wrong on historical or esthetic grounds, it would not constitute an error of logic, to which the term fallacy only properly applies. This correction goes well beyond this discussion, of course. As a corollary, please world, stop inventing new (and bogus) fallacies for every kind of error a commenter makes.

Mr. Perren

jeffrey smith's picture

P.P.S. "Can't we get that same emotional fuel from beauty in design and in nature?" Absolutely! I positively swoon over a well-designed bridge. I cried tears of joy the first time I grasped Maxwell's equations. I adore the sight of my dogs running across the yard with my forest in the background, poetry in motion. I could go on.

Then those are equally fuel for the soul.

Pop culture

jeffrey smith's picture

But, observe what is popular and what is not. That Rand still has outstanding sales is fantastic. It remains true that James Patterson, Nora Roberts, (and worse) are among the most popular authors today. Hollywood 40-70 years ago used to put out a watchable, often good, film a dozen times a year. Today, they produce maybe one a year that isn't total filth, as Linz would put it.

I've read some of the stuff that came out in the 19th century. Patterson and Roberts are amateurs in the field of lousy writing when compared to Ouida, and some of the other popular writers of that period. (Bulwer-Lytton, anyone? He of "it was a dark and stormy night" fame.) What most people read from that era is a relative handful compared to the number of novels that people read back then--and even some of that, some of the stuff by Collins and Trollope is more schlock than anything else. And if you go back a few decades before, you get the Gothic novel craze, much of which would eclipse in badness anything on today's best seller lists. All the satire Jane Austen aimed at it in Northanger Abbey is well deserved--and she didn't satirize everything that could have been satirized.

And if Hollywood put out a "watchable" film a dozen times a year, well that's the law of averages. They made more films then, for considerably smaller budgets. If you want evidence of how bad some of the films back then could be, watch AMC most weekday mornings (and Saturday mornings for the bad westerns). And theater of the 18th/19th century was just as wretched. Have you ever heard of East Lynne?

The idea that previous eras were artistically superior is a fallacy that is induced by the processes of time. Generally, the junk is winnowed out over the years: people keep reading or watching the good stuff, and the bad stuff of previous eras is neglected and fades into oblivion. So we observe only the good stuff of previous times, while seeing all the junk of our own era, into which the good stuff of our time is mixed, and it's not surprising if we can't tell them apart all the time.

Also remember that most of 19th century culture we read today is middle class culture. Pop culture today aims at everyone: in earlier times, they didn't. Lower classes, who often couldn't read, and never went to symphony concerts and might or might not be able to play a musical instrument, often by ear, had their own forms of entertainment, when they could get to it: ballad singers in the 18th century and music halls in the later 19th century/early 20th century had for their audiences the socio-economic equivalents of the people who listen to Eminen and Rihanna today. The difference is that the ballad singers and music halls didn't attempt to compete with the "cultured" music and literature of the day, whereas today's pop singers appeal to everyone. Culture is less elite today, and that means that inevitably more and more of it sounds like junk to minds trained on the highlights of 19th century elite culture. But if you are aware of everything that was going on in the 19th and early 20th century, then you will realize that's no real decline in quality. The junk was always there. We just don't notice it in looking back.

Linz

Jeff Perren's picture

Doh! Ok, I'm a dope... or in a cranky mood thanks to a couple of idiotic reviews of my novel. Strike the whining...

Jeff

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Eye

Not so

Jeff Perren's picture

That qualification (a poor word choice on my part; it should have been "elaborate") constitutes capitulation. Nothing I said in the extended reply contradicts that prior post, or even softens it.

Ms Sharon

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Question: Is there any uptempo music that you like?

There is no uptempo music that I don't like. But "uptempo" doesn't denote assault-and-battery headbanging caterwauling nihilistic pomo-filth like Slayer. As I noted in MoG, theirs is the kind of "primitive music" Rand referred to:

“The deadly monotony of primitive music—the endless repetition of a few notes and of a rhythmic pattern that beats against the brain with the regularity of the ancient torture of water drops falling on a man’s skull—paralyses cognitive processes, obliterates awareness and disintegrates the mind."

There is nothing subtle about the headbangers' "beat": it's just filthy, monotonous, mindless noise, an aural torrent of sewage for "self-inducedly brainless bodies with empty eye sockets who perform in stinking basements the immemorial rituals of staving off terror, which are a dime a dozen in any jungle ..."

Again I ask, why would I eat poo when there's food available?

Try this for upbeat: http://www.audiosparx.com/sa/p...

I agree with Mr. Perren's witty and accurate one-liner (before he capitulated and qualified it): the Newberry experiment has already occurred.

Mr. Perigo

sharon's picture

Question: Is there any uptempo music that you like?

Good Points, Laure

Jeff Perren's picture

Laure,

You make some good points, as always. But, let me qualify...

First, my post was half-joking. The non-joke half is well founded though. It's true that Rand, prints of fine art, museums, etc, are all readily available, and that counts for something. I also disagree with people who think that dreck like that which appears on reality shows on TV constitutes the whole of American culture.

But, observe what is popular and what is not. That Rand still has outstanding sales is fantastic. It remains true that James Patterson, Nora Roberts, (and worse) are among the most popular authors today. Hollywood 40-70 years ago used to put out a watchable, often good, film a dozen times a year. Today, they produce maybe one a year that isn't total filth, as Linz would put it. There are popular singers whom one can enjoy (even though I don't) for an hour like Michael Buble and Jane Monheit. But can any healthy-souled person stand five minutes of Britney Spears? And which of them has the significantly larger sales?

It's true there are plenty of wonderful things available - and more easily and cheaply than ever. (Thank Galt for Netflix and Amazon!) But little of it dominates what can fairly be called 'popular culture' and so-called 'serious' art is far worse. You're right to focus on the good and ignore the bad - believe it or not, on a daily basis, so do I. But that's not the subject here and my point was that we already have the data to decide Mr. Newberry's gedanken experiment. The subject (at the moment) is not what can or ought people to focus on, but of what do the overwhelming majority actually partake. It's the latter that, by definition, constitutes popular culture.

[Your comments about natural beauty, illustration, etc are pointers to your admirable sense of life (no surprise to me having read your typically very sensible posts for quite some time now). But they are empirically irrelevant to the issue. They don't constitute art or culture, popular or otherwise. So, I don't address them here.]

Thanks for your reply. It's always a pleasure to read your views.

Jeff

P.S. "Maybe one of the reasons there's so much dispute over art on this site is that some people equate "Slayer" with contemporary American culture, and some people see it as an irrelevant blip." What are your criteria for deciding? Sales? Website page views? Number of mentions in the entertainment sections of the newspapers? Your personal interests or focus?

P.P.S. "Can't we get that same emotional fuel from beauty in design and in nature?" Absolutely! I positively swoon over a well-designed bridge. I cried tears of joy the first time I grasped Maxwell's equations. I adore the sight of my dogs running across the yard with my forest in the background, poetry in motion. I could go on.

Helen Keller

Newberry's picture

Jeff,

I was being...ummm, literal. More along the lines of pre-Sullivan Helen Keller.

Michael

I disagree

Laure Chipman's picture

Jeff, I disagree. Maybe Americans do not partake of traditional "fine art" as you would wish them to, but think more broadly. We're exposed to beauty, both man-made and natural, every day. Can't we get that same emotional fuel from beauty in design and in nature?

I open my browser to my homepage, CRXCommunity.com... they've changed the banner, and I think it looks really good! I like the metallic look on the lettering and that great image of the car. That little touch of the reflection in the "floor" under the car makes it even more attractive.

I look out my bedroom window and see how the morning light plays on the desert hillside, outlining the saguaros in light, and making the orange tips of the ocotillos seem to glow.

Also, I fail to see how Americans are starved of art. We've got unprecedented access to art in museums and online. We can buy prints of famous artworks for our homes. We can carry thousands of songs, performed by professional musicians, around in our pockets and listen anytime we want. Were these things possible a few hundred years ago?

Also, what's so bad about modern-day American culture? That's my culture you're talking about - the one that includes everything from Ayn Rand's fiction to Michael Newberry's art to Joe Maurone's music (and that other Joe... Satriani! Eye ). Maybe one of the reasons there's so much dispute over art on this site is that some people equate "Slayer" with contemporary American culture, and some people see it as an irrelevant blip.

Experiment Complete

Jeff Perren's picture

That experiment has already been carried out; it's called the culture of America in the late 20th-early 21st century. Millions have been starved in just that way and the results prove your conclusion conclusively.

Vegetables

Newberry's picture

JS: "Art was the fuel for Rand's soul, but that does not mean it is the fuel for everyone else's."

That would be an interesting and cruel theory to prove. You might have create controlled environments from birth, never allowing the persons to be exposed to any art form. I am afraid you would end up with vegetables. Smiling

Michael

Mr Smith

gregster's picture

Yes, I see what you mean. I jumped too quickly that time.

Objectivism is developing, and there's room for robust challenges.

...but he understood that

Jeremy's picture

...but he understood that art wasn't the only possible "spark plug". It could equally be a geometry textbook or a first glimpse of the stars through a telescope that does the trick--or even falling in love with another person. Art was the fuel for Rand's soul, but that does not mean it is the fuel for everyone else's.

This is a good point; I think it requires some examination.

gregster

jeffrey smith's picture

"[Me}Does he have the confidence in himself to do the equivalent of overruling God"
[G]Most here surely do, by discounting suchlike.

I thought it was obvious I was being metaphorical. I know Objectivism has no room for God.

What I meant was, having enough confidence in oneself to ignore what "authorities" say, no matter how authoritative they may seem, and insisting on thinking for oneself, and sticking to the results even when they conflict with those "authorities".

Oh, wow!

Brant Gaede's picture

"The highest experience possible to man, a state of unclouded exaltation."

Not orgasmic sex?

Nathaniel Branden (extremely crude paraphrase of oral remarks circa 1980): After my talk on romantic love, I got on an elevator with an elderly woman who looked quintessentially spinsterish. She appreciated what I had said, she said, but for her nothing beat listening to the music of Leonard Bernstein. As you know, I'm not the sort to ever be at a loss for something to say, but she rendered me literally speechless.

--Brant

Bizarre Mr Smith

gregster's picture

"Does he have the confidence in himself to do the equivalent of overruling God"

Most here surely do, by discounting suchlike.

Rand quote

jeffrey smith's picture

"Just as Romantic art is a man's first glimpse of a moral sense of life, so it is his last hold on it, his last lifeline. [Bold mine—Linz]

"Romantic art is the fuel and spark plug of a man's soul; its task is to set a soul on fire and never let it go out. The task of providing that fire with a motor and a direction belongs to philosophy."

I'll assume Rand did not mean Romantic art=art produced by the 19th century Romantic movement, but something more general. Unfortunately, Mr. Perigo seems unable to make that distinction.

But assuming she had the more general meaning in mind, it's a rather trivial observation. Charles Williams took the same idea and developed a Christian theology out of it while Rand was still working out her ideas for herself (Williams' fullest statement is in a book called The Figure of Beatrice, if you are interested in comparing his ideas with Rand's), but he understood that art wasn't the only possible "spark plug". It could equally be a geometry textbook or a first glimpse of the stars through a telescope that does the trick--or even falling in love with another person. Art was the fuel for Rand's soul, but that does not mean it is the fuel for everyone else's.

the highest experience possible to man, a state of unclouded exaltation

Which I also dissent from , because exaltation is itself a form of clouding, and more importantly, it is meaningless unless it motivates the exaltee to do something afterwards.

Sharon

jeffrey smith's picture

like Medieval monks pouring over the Talmud

In fact, Medieval monks were more likely to burn Talmuds than study them. Wasn't until the Renaissance that Christian scholars became interested in what the Talmud actually said--even if Aquinas seems to have taken a good deal out of Maimonides's philosophical writings.

I'd let you emend that to "Medieval rabbis", except you'd be insulting rabbis everywhere. The simplest Talmudic discussion far outstrips, in its use of logic and general intellectual acumen, any discussion I've seen in which Mr. Perigo is involved. And Mr. Perigo's "challenge" to Rand's theory is nothing compared to some of the things in the Talmud. Does he have the confidence in himself to do the equivalent of overruling God, which the Talmud does from time to time? (Google "stove of Akhnai" for some mild entertainment, and read down to the coda involving Elijah the Prophet for what the rabbis imagined God's reaction was.)

Although come to think of it, I have a comment to make on one of the Rand quotes. But that's another posting.

Mr. Perigo

sharon's picture

"Perhaps it's escaped your attention that this very thread is based upon a disagreement I have with Rand."

And since you are an Objectivist that can disagree with Rand, how does the cherry-picks of where you agree with her rescue your thesis? This hasn’t been done to anybody’s satisfaction. Arguing the matter on its own merits will be more fruitful.

Rubbish, Sharon

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Perhaps it's escaped your attention that this very thread is based upon a disagreement I have with Rand.

Thus spoke Rand

sharon's picture

While Marcus, Jonathan and Mr. Perigo argue over what Ayn Rand actually wrote (or didn’t write) and search out the correct interpretation of her writings, like Medieval monks pouring over the Talmud, I would much rather discuss the topic *on its own merits* and/or, in the very least, the errors and short comings of Rand’s esthetic theories.

A propos

Lindsay Perigo's picture

"If he finds himself fearing, evading and negating the highest experience possible to man, a state of unclouded exaltation, he can know that he is in profound trouble and that his only alternatives are: either to check his value-premises from scratch, from the start, from the repressed, forgotten, betrayed figure of his particular Buck Rogers, and painfully to reconstruct his broken chain of normative abstractions—or to become completely the kind of monster he is in those moments when, with an obsequious giggle, he tells some fat Babbitt that exaltation is impractical.

"Just as Romantic art is a man's first glimpse of a moral sense of life, so it is his last hold on it, his last lifeline. [Bold mine—Linz]

"Romantic art is the fuel and spark plug of a man's soul; its task is to set a soul on fire and never let it go out. The task of providing that fire with a motor and a direction belongs to philosophy."

Guess who?!

Jonathan, you seem to forget...

Marcus's picture

...when I listed the emotional/ spiritual (SOL) as a music criteria, I specifically named it as being the 'result'.

To quote myself,

"In terms of emotional/ spiritual (SOL), you are objectively looking at the 'result' on the audience (yourself included)."

That means I'm not psychologising what the artists SOL was, but what effect the work had on me (and the response of others).

Are you saying that I cannot know my own mind?

Are you saying that Rand is not allowed to also proclaim that:

"But a painting of such a woman would be a corrupt, obscenely vicious attack on man, on beauty, on all values—and one would experience a feeling of immense disgust and indignation at the artist. (There are also those who would feel something like approval and who would belong to the same moral category as the artist.)"

- without contradicting herself?

Jonathan

Ellen Stuttle's picture

"Perhaps they're upset for reasons similar to yours for having been upset about the fact that TAS invited Pigero to speak at their Summer Seminar. Why did you give a damn about his opinions back then?"

But I didn't. That wasn't the reason I was upset. I stated at the time and several times subsequently why I objected. I will repeat the gist:

My objection was to the two slated talks being presented as ~invited~ talks. I'd have objected to anyone's giving an invited talk with the title of the music one; I objected to Linz's in particular being invited to talk on what's wrong with O'ist behavior, since I think that his behavior has many times been a case in point.

I would not have objected to anyone's, including Linz's, giving either talk as a contributed talk.

 

"I am interested, however, in discovering whether or not you, Ellen, think that his opinions of Sibelius are examples of objective aesthetic judgment, and whether or not you agree with him and Marcus that sense of life (and, presumably, other emotions) are not subjective."

Jonathan, not for the first time, I wonder if you read my posts. You did say you were mulling over my most recent on the "Catholicism" thread, but really, don't you know, in general terms, my views on the issues you cite?

Of course I don't think that his opinions of Sibelius are examples of objective aesthetic judgment.

As to "sense of life," I've said a number of times over the years (though maybe not recently, but I think I did say it someplace on the "Catholicism" thread): I don't think that the idea describes a "psychological real." It's a kind, sort idea which one can kinda, sorta sense makes some kind of sense, but it falls apart on close examination.

As to "subjective," this would depend on how you define "subjective" and "objective." If you mean "private," yes; if you're thinking in terms of the Objectivist trichotomy, emotions could be "objective" in the sense of being a veridical relation to reality. "Subjective" often connotes "just your opinion, with no proper basis," but an emotion can be a soundly based (in the logic sense of "sound") assessment.

"Sense of life," btw, Rand described as a special sort of emotion. I'll leave someone else, if someone else wants to do it, to look up the quote.

Ellen

PS: I'm still having horrible problems with this site blowing my browser; don't know why, only that the problem started after the recent update and isn't occuring on other sites. Any typos I notice in the above post upon re-reading (somtimes I don't notice a typo on first or second re-read), I'll just leave rather than go through the ordeal of trying to get a working screen long enough to edit.

Why Care?

Jonathan's picture

Ellen wrote,
"I think that what bothers people, Linz, is your classifying music they like as 'shit,' and them as 'filth and dregs' for liking it.
I continue to ask: So what? Why care? If people think you're wrong, why give a damn for your opinion?"

Perhaps they're upset for reasons similar to yours for having been upset about the fact that TAS invited Pigero to speak at their Summer Seminar. Why did you give a damn about his opinions back then?

Ellen wrote,
"(E.g., I don't give a damn if you dislike a lot of Sibelius. It's your loss, poor thing.)"

I, too, couldn't care less about Pigero's opinions on Sibelius, or on Slayer or Slipknot, and I think that his judgments of others based on their tastes are comical. Pigero is a buffoon, and I find it hard to take anything he says seriously. I am interested, however, in discovering whether or not you, Ellen, think that his opinions of Sibelius are examples of objective aesthetic judgment, and whether or not you agree with him and Marcus that sense of life (and, presumably, other emotions) are not subjective.

J

Objective Emotions

Jonathan's picture

Marcus wrote,
"A SOL is not subjective, just a bit too complex for some of you to understand or appreciate."

And Pigero added,
"Recurring error...by the cheerleaders for musical filth and dregs: equating 'subjective' with 'personal' and claiming in effect that the latter is incompatible with objectivity. Desperate dregs make elementary errors."

I don't think I've ever heard Objectivists before claiming that emotions are not subjective, but that they're instead "personal" but objective.

Here's Rand on sense of life:
"A sense of life is a pre-conceptual equivalent of metaphysics, an emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man and of existence."

Here's the reasoning that Rand gave for her view that sense of life is not a criterion of aesthetic judgment:
"A sense of life is the source of art, but it is ~not~ the sole qualification of an artist or of an esthetician, and it is ~not~ a criterion of esthetic judgment. Emotions are not tools of cognition. Esthetics is a branch of philosophy—and just as a philosopher does not approach any other branch of his science with his feelings or emotions as his criterion of judgment, so he cannot do it in the field of esthetics. A sense of life is not sufficient professional equipment. An esthetician—as well as any man who attempts to evaluate art works—must be guided by more than an emotion."

Here's Peikoff on the same topic (OPAR, 438):
"Even though the task of art is to concretize a certain emotion, Ayn Rand holds, this does not mean that the emotion is a tool of cognition; a sense of life is the source of art, but it is not a means of esthetic judgment. The viewer, reader, or listener can feel that a given work is great, he can even feel that it is a superlative embodiment of profound value-judgments – but feeling doesn't make it so. In this field, as in any other, valid assessment requires a process of reason."

So, let me see if I've got this straight: Rand believed that sense of life is a pre-conceptual, emotional, subconscious response, that emotions are not a criterion of objective judgment for ANY of the branches of philosophy, including aesthetics, because they are not tools of cognition -- they are not objective: they are not the process of volitionally adhering to reality by following rules of logic and reason -- yet Marcus and Pigero insist that their sense of life emotions are not subjective, but an example of something that is "personal" but objective?

And they also claim that Rand believed that sense of life IS one of the criteria by which we can objectively judge art, even though she, and Peikoff, very clearly said that it IS NOT?

Does that mean that emotions are also a valid criterion of the other branches of philosophy, that emotions can be valid "tools of cognition" in other realms, even though Rand said that they are not?

Rand seems to have taken pride in the precision of her thinking. If she believed that certain emotions are not subjective, but objectively "personal," like Marcus's and Pigero's senses of life, why did she (and Peikoff) not say so? If she believed that certain emotions could be "personal" yet objective, wouldn't she have specified that only subjective emotions are not a criterion of judgment, and that objectively "personal" emotions are a perfectly valid criterion?

And are there any other things about which Marcus and Pigero would claim that Rand's position was the opposite of what she actually said? When she said that A is A, for example, did she actually mean that A could be B or Z or whatever Marcus and Pigero want it to be if they use the powers of their special objectively "personal" emotions?

J

"In the light of what I've said, it is of course impossible to name the sense of life of fictional characters. You ~might~ name the sense of life or your closest friend – though I doubt it. You may, after some years, know approximately the sense of life of the person you love, but nobody beyond that. You cannot ~judge~ the sense of life of another person; that would be psychologizing. Judge their philosophical convictions, not whether their feelings match their ideas. That's not for you to judge, it's of no relevance to you." (Ayn Rand Answers, 186)

>I think that what bothers

sharon's picture

>I think that what bothers people, Linz, is your classifying music they like as "shit," and them as "filth and dregs" for liking it.

>>No doubt. But it's not music - it's assault and battery. And in my book, one must be sub-human to like it. Though that's probably being unfair to animals.

But it's not music? What isn't? What songs? What genre? What group or individuals? What? What? Blank-out.

Jeremy

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I'm a layman and a complete sap for that over-muscular crashing-cymbals and drums stuff

If you like hellfire and brimstone in your music, did you listen to that Scriabin I posted on the other thread? No cymbals and drums - no need. Eye

Mr. Perigo

sharon's picture

"I hate to think what Tom Sawyer is, but I hazard a guess it's closer to Slayer than Mark Twain."

Tom Sawyer is a stunning song from the rock band RUSH. Although the tune has little to do with Twain, Slayer and Rush are not even in the same ball park.

Mean mean stride

Jeremy's picture

Tom Sawyer is the much-celebrated anthem to a modern-day...Tom Sawyer, an individualist explorer of human spirit and adventure. It's by Rush. I won't link it--there wouldn't be much point because it's full of caterwauling, but if you heard the first few seconds of the song you might be inclined to agree that it fits the entrance of good ol' Ragnar pefectly. But it might not fit the tone of said film. Sticking out tongue

A modern-day warrior
Mean mean stride,
Today's tom sawyer
Mean mean pride.

Though his mind is not for rent,
Dont put him down as arrogant.
His reserve, a quiet defense,
Riding out the days events.

...No, his mind is not for rent
To any God or government.
Always hopeful, yet discontent,
He knows changes arent permanent,
But change is.

I'll forgo the obligatory Rush-Rand connection; we all know of it.

Listening to the clip you offered, I felt the first four minutes to be an expression very deep, pensive sadness. Not exactly full of Romance; more the loss of romance, or desire for it, and not as uplifting as I expected it would be. The 18th Variation you mentioned always reminds me of Greensleeves, but with flight. I don't know why; the two aren't remotely similar.

My favorite piece of "classical" music is of course O Fortuna from Carmina Burana, because I'm a layman and a complete sap for that over-muscular crashing-cymbals and drums stuff. Also portions like 4:00-4:15 of the Hough 2nd Concerto clip really get me going--I see the fella on drums in the very back, underlining the drawn-out, sorrowful high notes of the piano with his wave of bass, and I LOVE it.

Did I mention I played the violin when I was 10 years old? Hated taking care of the strings, and opted for kiddy martial arts instead. Could probably still play Go Tell Aunt Sally, because we practiced it about a thousand times a day. That's another thing I hated--it was hard to do, and I was friggin 10 years old!

On Rand and the 19th century

Jeff Perren's picture

To those who have studied (and loved) the 19th century (and the first 15 years of the 20th), this short passage of Rand's is absolutely vital; it contains the essence of her entire philosophy. It's no accident that the 19th century saw the rise of so many of man's greatest achievements and offered so many giants in a dozen fields. Maxwell, Brunel, J.J. Hill, Frick (and many more) in science and business, Hugo, Dumas, Beethoven (and many more) in the arts. Even the serious errors of the time, such as those made by Marx and Hegel, were on a grander scale.

[irrelevant personal material snipped in edit]

Does any of that prove Perigo's thesis? No, but down that road lies the evidence.

Ha!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I hate to think what Tom Sawyer is, but I hazard a guess it's closer to Slayer than Mark Twain. Eye

Here's a cool band doing a live gig. Solo dude is Mr. Hough again.

About 4' 00" in begins the 18th Variation, maybe THE most famous piece in the Romantic repertoire:

Can the sweet talk, see?

Jeremy's picture

Ha! Heaven forfend you invent a time machine, Linz. The noble men of the post-Great War era world would frown at your...spicy...language. And they had Tommy guns. Smiling

Edit: I loved Hough's commentary. The 2nd kicks ass, okay? No doubt if I ever wrote and directed Shrugged the movie, the 2nd would open, middle and close the whole damn thing. And I guaran-damn-tee that every time Ragnar Danneskjöld came on-screen I would blast Tom Sawyer on that soundtrack. And you would love it!

Ellen

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I think that what bothers people, Linz, is your classifying music they like as "shit," and them as "filth and dregs" for liking it.

No doubt. But it's not music - it's assault and battery. And in my book, one must be sub-human to like it. Though that's probably being unfair to animals.

I continue to ask: So what? Why care? If people think you're wrong, why give a damn for your opinion?

Quite so. I continue to ask that too.

The silence re Mr. Hough's comments is remarkable.

I'd urge folk to watch it against the backdrop of these remarks by Ayn Rand:

As a child, I saw a glimpse of the pre-World War One world, the last afterglow of the most radiant cultural atmosphere in human history … If one has glimpsed that kind of art - and wider: the possibility of that kind of culture -- one is unable to be satisfied with anything less. I must emphasise that I am not speaking of concretes, nor of politics, nor of journalistic trivia, but of that period's 'sense of life.' Its art projected an overwhelming sense of intellectual freedom, of depth, i.e., concern with fundamental problems, of demanding standards, of inexhaustible originality, of unlimited possibilities and, above all, of profound respect for man. The existential atmosphere (which was then being destroyed by Europe's philosophical trends and political systems) still held a benevolence that would be incredible to the men of today, i.e., a smiling, confident good will of man to man, and of man to life. … It is impossible for the young people of today to grasp the reality of man's higher potential and what scale of achievement it had reached in a rational (or semi-rational) culture. But I have seen it. I know that it was real, that it existed, that it is possible. It is that knowledge that I want to hold up to the sight of men -- over the brief span of less than a century -- before the barbarian curtain descends altogether (if it does) and the last memory of man's greatness vanishes in another Dark Ages.

Perigo

jeffrey smith's picture

Suppose you focus on the actual proposition of my article that Romantic music is objectively the best there's been thus far, for reasons that were well canvassed, notwithstanding the attempts by filth-and-dregs devotees to blank them out and attack me for advancing them. Far from being unproved, the case is conclusive: get a handle on the various criteria I specified

But that's (leaving aside the problems your rhetoric begets) exactly what the problem is. Your argument is an elaborate petitio elenchi. You pick criteria for which Romantic music is the best fit, and you therefore claim that Romantic is the objectively the best. But it's not the best if other criteria are used. and you don't even come close to providing evidence that your criteria are actually the best criteria to use. Person A might claim that a consistent beat and easy singability (in other words, pop music of most eras) are the most important criterion; Person B might claim that harmonious sounding counterpoint and the ability of the performer to improvise on the composer's written score (in other words, baroque music) are the most important criterion, and they can make as valid a claim as you do.

You'll probably answer this by saying those are the criterion produced by an examination of the purpose or goal of music; but you haven't proved anything about the purpose of music, either; only asserted it. Therefore your argument remains merely assertion. You seem to want music to be glorious sounding; but an art that attempts to be glorious generally results only in banality. It's when art attempts to be beautiful and succeeds that glory might result, as an accidental side effect: so the real basic question, which you seem to be ignoring all through this thread, is "What is beauty?"

If I might hazard an answer...

Ellen Stuttle's picture

I think that what bothers people, Linz, is your classifying music they like as "shit," and them as "filth and dregs" for liking it.

I continue to ask: So what? Why care? If people think you're wrong, why give a damn for your opinion?

(E.g., I don't give a damn if you dislike a lot of Sibelius. It's your loss, poor thing.)

Ellen

Sharon ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Like Bosch, I'll probably regret it, but I'm going to treat your comment as having been made in good faith.

Suppose for a moment you forget about "objective superiority of one's taste in music," since it causes you such personal umbrage. Suppose you focus on the actual proposition of my article that Romantic music is objectively the best there's been thus far, for reasons that were well canvassed, notwithstanding the attempts by filth-and-dregs devotees to blank them out and attack me for advancing them. Far from being unproved, the case is conclusive: get a handle on the various criteria I specified. Suppose also you remember that I have never said it's incumbent on folk to like *only* the best, on a continuum of "good, better and best." Suppose you remind yourself that I have damned poo, yet upheld the right of filth and dregs to eat it even as I damn them for doing so. What, after you did all that, would be your problem?

"Recurring error by the

sharon's picture

"Recurring error by the cheerleaders for musical filth and dregs: equating "subjective" with "personal" and claiming in effect that the latter is incompatible with objectivity. Desperate dregs make elementary errors."

This is an intriguing argument, Mr. Perigo. You might have something here. I am willing to admit that one’s taste in music is very personal, and I do acknowledge that “personal” does not exclude objectivity, but objectivity does not necessarily include personal. Music remains personal, yes, but the objective superiority of one's taste in music remains unproven.

Gregster

Lindsay Perigo's picture

One for Linz.

Tauber's later version of that song in English was something of a pop hit and became his signature tune. The world was surely different then!

Recurring error ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... by the cheerleaders for musical filth and dregs: equating "subjective" with "personal" and claiming in effect that the latter is incompatible with objectivity. Desperate dregs make elementary errors. Eye

A page of Rand's and related sounds

gregster's picture

I liked Doin' The New Low Down by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson with Don Redman and His Orchestra. I think this would have been hip in 1932.

One for Linz.

And Rand meant what she said...

Marcus's picture

A SOL is not subjective, just a bit too complex for some of you to understand or appreciate.

"Introspectively, one’s own sense of life is experienced as an absolute and an irreducible primary—as that which one never questions, because the thought of questioning it never arises. Extrospectively, the sense of life of another person strikes one as an immediate, yet undefinable, impression—on very short acquaintance—an impression which often feels like certainty, yet is exasperatingly elusive, if one attempts to verify it.

This leads many people to regard a sense of life as the province of some sort of special intuition, as a matter perceivable only by some special, non-rational insight. The exact opposite is true: a sense of life is not an irreducible primary, but a very complex sum; it can be felt, but it cannot be understood, by an automatic reaction; to be understood, it has to be analyzed, identified and verified conceptually."

Rand Meant What She Said

Jonathan's picture

Marcus wrote,
"Nowhere does she intend that meaning."

Yes she does. When Rand said that a sense of life "is not a criterion of esthetic judgment," she meant that the Objectivist Esthetics does not recognize sense of life as a valid criterion of objective aesthetic judgment.

Marcus wrote,
"She is actually saying that SOL cannot be the 'only' criteria for aesthetic evaluation of art."

She is saying that sense of life is subjective, and that it is not a valid criterion of objective aesthetic judgment.

Marcus asked,
"But - she was also saying - if that's what you accept and enjoy, then this illustrates the same deficit in your own SOL and morality.
'But a painting of such a woman would be a corrupt, obscenely vicious attack on man, on beauty, on all values—and one would experience a feeling of immense disgust and indignation at the artist. (There are also those who would feel something like approval and who would belong to the same moral category as the artist.)' Jonathan and others here, do you agree with Rand that you fit into this second category?"

I fit into the category of people who can enjoy certain works of art which include blemishes, disfigurements, ailments, etc., including not just paintings, but other types of art as well, like the novels The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Precious Bane, the statue of Admiral Nelson in Trafalgar Square, the musical The Phantom of the Opera, and the film The Miracle Worker. Does that answer your question? Have I revealed enough of my aesthetic tastes now for you to judge exactly how deficient I am in sense of life and morality?

J

Marcus

jeffrey smith's picture

(and Gregster, too:)
I think from Rand's comments, her example was of an artist who wanted to 'highlight' the cold-sore and thereby despoil the image of beauty. Although as Rand later implies, such a painting could still be technically perfect and illustrate its theme perfectly.

I repeat my earlier question: suppose the cold sore was painted for a serious artistic purpose. Renaissance art is full of such iconography. If the beautiful woman is corrupt, paint her as a beauty, but with the sore, and thereby signal to the viewer the inner corruption. The artist felt that in the case of this woman, the beauty needed to be despoiled; that, if he painted her without the sore, as a classic beauty, he would be lying to his audience by suggesting she was an ideal woman when in reality she was not.

If the artist painted the cold sore because he thought cold sores were beautiful--or if he painted the cold sore simply to be perverse--then I think most of us here would reject that as ugly. But there are times when presenting beauty requires the depiction of ugliness. After all, you can't affirm life unless you are first aware of death.

Cold sore Icons

sharon's picture

Sexy Sexy
Rand: "But a painting of such a woman would be a corrupt, obscenely vicious attack on man, on beauty, on all values—and one would experience a feeling of immense disgust and indignation at the artist. (There are also those who would feel something like approval and who would belong to the same moral category as the artist.)"

Marcus: Jonathan and others here, do you agree with Rand that you fit into this second category?

Congratulations, Marcus, for coming up with a new variation on the old canard: ‘Do you still beat your wife?’

Jonathan, that's not Rand's meaning...

Marcus's picture

"Sense-of-life is not a valid criterion of Objectivist Esthetic judgment..."

Nowhere does she intend that meaning.

She says in my quote,

"This does not mean that a sense of life is a valid criterion of esthetic merit, either for the artist or the viewer. A sense of life is not infallible. But a sense of life is the source of art, the psychological mechanism which enables man to create a realm such as art."

Also...

From your quote...

"A sense of life is not sufficient professional equipment." "...it is not the sole qualification of an artist or of an esthetician."

but...

"The essential meaning of a viewer’s or reader’s response, under all of its lesser elements, is: “This is (or is not) life as I see it.”

She is actually saying that SOL cannot be the "only" criteria for aesthetic evaluation of art.

Well, I didn't say it was.

My list of criteria for evaluating music included it in amongst a list of five, as Jeffrey pointed out.

Linz, too, in his essay lists "melody, harmony and rhythm".

So what's your problem with the example of painting a cold-sore on the lip of a beautiful woman?

I think from Rand's comments, her example was of an artist who wanted to 'highlight' the cold-sore and thereby despoil the image of beauty. Although as Rand later implies, such a painting could still be technically perfect and illustrate its theme perfectly.

But - she was also saying - if that's what you accept and enjoy, then this illustrates the same deficit in your own SOL and morality.

"But a painting of such a woman would be a corrupt, obscenely vicious attack on man, on beauty, on all values—and one would experience a feeling of immense disgust and indignation at the artist. (There are also those who would feel something like approval and who would belong to the same moral category as the artist.)"

Jonathan and others here, do you agree with Rand that you fit into this second category?

Quibble?- I'll Quibble Ya

gregster's picture

”Not to quibble, but would a sorrowful painting of the World Trade Center collapsed into a burning heap of concrete and steel be an acceptable painting? “

It would be as it represents. Nothing wrong with that. Each to their own, as to any interpretation.

”Or must a cheesy backdrop of the sun-gleaming Towers be transposed behind the agony, to make us feel better? “

Irrelevant.

”I for one am able to possess, or view, emotions like sadness, sorrow, anger, and indeed hatred, and not fall into a pit of ever-burning despair over them and join Sadists For A Worse Tomorrow. I'm not a child and don't need Art to treat me like one.”

I haven’t surmised that you’re a child. If you are, you’re surely a prodigy.

”If the artist wishes to express anger, frustration, stupidity, ugliness and horror in a work of art, I say: fine. These can be valid themes and emotions in art, expressed in a positive way--roundabout and not exactly uplifting, to be sure, but positive nonetheless.

Yes, an artist’s philosophy need not cloud one other’s appreciation of this artist’s work.

”Pieta: one of the finest works of stone ever crafted by human hands. But it has that icky Dead-Jesus in it, so smash the fucker.

In fact, since so many classical pieces of music were composed by Christians lamenting the death of Christ and extolling the debt we owe Him, burn that shit too.”

Are you testing me here? (I don’t mind.)
Great works of art have been created in the name of deities. "God Bless America" is a meaningful statement, mostly.

”The artist is creating with his emotions, you're judging with yours. Just like Linz, et al, including me. Who wins? That's not a rhetorical question.”

And [the artist's] emotions are wrought upon his work, the piece de resistance?

”I have my own answer: the winner is the person willing to accept everything a work of art has to say and is mature enough to decide whether or not to let that art effect his or her own life in a meaningful, rational way.”

That is not in contention, and I like that.

”If admiring it would ruin your life, don't admire it.

If creating it would kill your soul, don't create it. I don't think any piece of art has yet effected [sic] me so drastically, so my tastes are pretty varied.

I like clean lines, obvious skill, depth--but maybe you like subtlety?

Who cares?

Oh come on, I care, and I’m not an art historian.

”I can listen to Pink Floyd and not be ruined psychologically.”

Yeah? Well I cut back marijuana many years ago.

” Maybe Linz can't. Is it necessary to say: This is filth and THIS is why you believe in bank bail-outs”.

I can’t speak for Linz’s conflation of airhead musical flavours and non-intelligent political maneuvers but surely the results are apparent and the theory is proven?

"Your music sucks, dude"

Well Jeremy, you and I probably have some musical faves in common but that is extraneous.

cont..

Jeremy's picture

....Get what I'm saying?

The artist is creating with his emotions, you're judging with yours. Just like Linz, et al, including me. Who wins? That's not a rhetorical question.

I have my own answer: the winner is the person willing to accept everything a work of art has to say and is mature enough to decide whether or not to let that art effect his or her own life in a meaningful, rational way.

If admiring it would ruin your life, don't admire it. If creating it would kill your soul, don't create it. I don't think any piece of art has yet effected me so drastically, so my tastes are pretty varied. I like clean lines, obvious skill, depth--but maybe you like subtlety? Who cares?

I can listen to Pink Floyd and not be ruined psychologically. Maybe Linz can't. Is it necessary to say: This is filth and THIS is why you believe in bank bail-outs. Can't I just say: Your music sucks, dude.

Gregster

Jeremy's picture

Not to quibble, but would a sorrowful painting of the World Trade Center collapsed into a burning heap of concrete and steel be an acceptable painting? Or must a cheesy backdrop of the sun-gleaming Towers be transposed behind the agony, to make us feel better?

I for one am able to possess, or view, emotions like sadness, sorrow, anger, and indeed hatred, and not fall into a pit of ever-burning despair over them and join Sadists For A Worse Tomorrow. I'm not a child and don't need Art to treat me like one.

If the artist wishes to express anger, frustration, stupidity, ugliness and horror in a work of art, I say: fine. These can be valid themes and emotions in art, expressed in a positive way--roundabout and not exactly uplifting, to be sure, but positive nonetheless. You need look no further than the Taggart Comet to understand what I'm talking about. Did Rand really have to depict so many people dying such horrible deaths? YES. SHE DID.

Esmeralda and Quasimodo didn't really need to end so tragically, did they? They should have gotten a sea-side villa and built Roarkian buildings in Versailles in the seasonable French summers, wind heroically tossing their hair. FUCK THAT. They had to die.

Pieta: one of the finest works of stone ever crafted by human hands. But it has that icky Dead-Jesus in it, so smash the fucker. In fact, since so many classical pieces of music were composed by Christians lamenting the death of Christ and extolling the debt we owe Him, burn that shit too.

(continued for ease of reading....^)

gregster, art historian?

sharon's picture

>>>A painting of a woman with a temporal skin inflammation is a travesty, and is not fine art.

And why isn’t it?

Wiki simply defines ‘fine art’ as thus: “Fine art describes any art form developed primarily for aesthetics and/or concept rather than utility.”

Fine art can also be described as the ‘academic arts’ which includes three-dimensionality and perspective, etc. In short: representational painting depicting discernable objects. That’s the fine arts...where painting is concerned. So this definition of ‘fine art’ would include the "fetid works" of Frances Bacon and Odd Nerdrum, etc.

Jeffrey et al

gregster's picture

"What if the painter were called upon to paint the portrait of a woman who had a prominent birthmark? Would Rand think ill of him for including the birthmark? Is art actually required to be an idealization of life, and forbidden from acknowledging the existence of the ugly in the real world?--"

That is nothing more than mischief making.

Am I supposed to believe that you people can't get the point of Rand's illustration?

I don't believe you and Sharon are that thick.

A painting of a woman with a temporal skin inflammation is a travesty, and is not fine art. Don't bullshit us with your talk of birthmarks Jeffrey. You are one sad fuck! And you tell us you're intelligent! You can't dig you're way out of that one, IMHO.

Perhaps your soul-mate Jonathan the Kid has an healthy income painting derelicts under flattering lighting but only one with a fetid sense of life would appreciate the results.

Philip and his Sparkling sense of life.

sharon's picture

>>Me? I'd take the less 'whacky' painting of the beautiful woman sans cold sore, every time.<<<

Oh well, I suppose you are just morally superior to me, honey.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll also take a Vermeer painting as well. I have a lithograph of ‘Girl with a pearl earring’. That sounds like me too, you know. And I have a copy of Eric White’s ‘It feeds itself.’ Wonderful stuff!

I won't

Brant Gaede's picture

kiss a woman with a cold sore. I could love her. I won't buy a painting of a woman with a cold sore. That'd be a painting of a cold sore, not a woman.

--Brant
I had a cold sore once. A woman didn't kiss me when I had it. Darn!

'As an aside, I think a

PhilipD's picture

'As an aside, I think a painting of “beautiful woman with a cold sore” sounds hilarious, something wonderfully whacky.'

That sounds right for you, Sharon. Me? I'd take the less 'whacky' painting of the beautiful woman sans cold sore, every time.

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