Aesthetics!

JulianP's picture
Submitted by JulianP on Sun, 2006-03-26 01:21

My girlfriend recently started an art course. We just had an intense, hour-long philosophical discussion about objective judgement of ideas (Good vs. Bad) and whether art can be judged objectively. She is not really familiar with Objectivist philosophy (I have never pushed), and I am not an experienced philosopher by a long shot. Neither of us had given much thought to objective judgement of art before. I know only a little bit about Rand's views on aesthetics. I have to confess that even though Linz has recommended it ages ago, I still have not read The Romantic Manifesto. I have a lot of Rand's work left to read for the first time - something to look forward to. Smiling

I ended up using a simple argument about the importance of ideas, and of being able to judge ideas, objectively, based on reality. I argued that since art is an expression of ideas and values, that we can therefore judge art as good or bad. Artists consequently promote certain views and ideas, by putting their art up for public viewing. I argued that good art promotes good values, and that bad art promotes bad values. An ironical fact is that artists have the freedom to promote anti-life, and anti-freedom ideas, due to the free societies that they live in. If they are successful in the promotion of their ideas, they would ultimately lose that artistic freedom. That does not meant that I want to ban bad art, or dictate what artists should create. I do, however, want to promote the creation of good art, and consequently/simultaneously promote freedom, joy, reason, passion and benevolence.

I won't go into the details, but I think we both learnt a lot from that discussion.

Anyway, to get to the point, I realised that I did not really know enough about the details, so I came to SOLO afterwards to see what I could find. Well, I think we need more on aesthetics. Smiling I did a search for the texts 'esthetics', and 'aesthetics', and there is very little. The main page on aesthetics is not finished yet:

http://www.solopassion.com/node/22

I could really do with the 'Basics' section. I'm going to see if I can get it from the archived site, and put it up.

Here's a bit from the Credo:

We see ourselves most emphatically as being at war with the current culture: the culture of anti-heroes, nihilism, destruction and dishonesty (hence a significant, though by no means exclusive, focus on esthetics here).

Significant focus on aesthetics? I suspect that most of the discussions that focus on aesthetics are archived on the old site. I know there were many, brilliant discussions on art on SOLO, before the new site was created. I could very well be wrong, but I don't recall much happening since. In defence, we have only been going for about four month with the new software, and we have also been distracted by some internecine conflict.

Passion, joy and life-affirming values, especially as it relates to aesthetics, were the triggers for Linz's vision - that became Sense of Life Objectivists. That combination of passion and reason was what originally drew me to SOLO, and why I chose it as my home on the internet. There have been hiccups and diversions, but I know that the promise is still there. SOLO could be the vehicle for great cultural change, by attracting questioning individuals who are dissatisfied with the prevailing culture of rampant nihilism and anti-intellectualism. As a dynamic group of individuals, SOLO has the unique vision, passion and the philosophy to change the world, one individual at a time.

I want to learn from, and share experiences with this community of joyful, intelligent, rational and passionate individuals.

My experiences over the last few months, especially with the stressful period of change that SOLO has gone through, have culminated into a personal call to arms for me to rediscover my own passion, to take it to a higher level, to live a productive, joyful and fulfilled life. I still have a long way to go, but I couldn't have wished for a better group of people with whom to share this journey.


( categories: )

Steady, Ricker, a little bit

Ross Elliot's picture

Steady, Ricker, a little bit of Ross goes a long way Smiling

Hey Ross

Lanza Morio's picture

Ross:

A character or subject that could know and choose but not act isn't easy for this Romantic to imagine.

Thanks for the reply. When the principle is so clear I agree that to it's easy to act. The difficulty for me is to accept just how common it is for other people to violate principles (mine or their own). It's astonishing and makes it difficult to predict what other people will do. And when dealing with such unpredictability how does one act?

I'm translating what Rand says about the Byronic view into ethical terms. I get the artistic part of it and am trying to find it in my own life so to get rid of it.

By oath Ross

Rick Giles's picture

By oath Ross, you're so stimulating whenever you talk shop.

And if you want a break

Landon Erp's picture

And if you want a break in the middle of one of those books read the Romantic Manifesto again.

---Landon

It all basically comes back to fight or flight.

Recommendation

Peter Cresswell's picture

'The Romantic Manifesto' is what I would recommend as a starting point. As people including myself and Michael Newberry have argued with some sadness, the authors of 'What Art Is' are not entirely clear on what art is.

Read it by all means, but not as a substitute for RM. In fact, if you want other reading on top, ahead of WAI I'd recommend Alexandra York's 'From the Fountainhead ot the Future.' And then RM again. Smiling

What Art Is

Dan Edge's picture

Hello All

There's a new book about Objectivist Aesthetics that came out a few years ago called "What Art Is". I haven't read it but many of my freinds have given it a positive review. If it's as good as reviewed, it may be a better introduction to Aesthetics than the "Manifesto" since it's an organized text instead of a collection of essays. That said, "Manifesto" is a very enjoyable book which I would recommend to anyone.

--Dan Edge

I WAS WRONG ABOUT ANY FLAWS I FOUND IN THE ROMANTIC MANIFESTO!

Landon Erp's picture

To Jody,

I recently re-read the romantic manifesto and it shocked me how much I'd forgot about it and what a great foundation it is for art (all arts). She covers every topic clearly logically and explicitly and there is a fair amount of personal context allowed for (just not unexamined personal context).

For a while I even went around dogging certain parts of her aesthetic theory myself til I reread it... as I think I stated elsewhere but I think I need to state again as loudly as possible to anyone who can hear it "I WAS WRONG ABOUT ANY FLAWS I FOUND IN THE ROMANTIC MANIFESTO!" It's an amazing piece of work.

---Landon

It all basically comes back to fight or flight.

Lance, not quite sure what

Ross Elliot's picture

Lance, not quite sure what you're asking, but Rand was quite clear that art was essential to concretise metaphysical-value judgements; in Objectivist terms that Man is capable of knowing the world, choosing the correct path and acting upon it. As opposed to the malevolent universe principle that Man may wish and hope but that his world must forever remain a mystery and be beyond his attempts to influence. Man's actions are only circumscribed by physical laws and his ability to decipher them. Rand chose to show in her work, her art, that man is capable of knowing, choosing and acting; that he was heroic. Further, she contended that art was the only way that Man could directly perceive the many abstractions isolated from his metaphysical-value judgements. A character or subject that could know and choose but not act isn't easy for this Romantic to imagine.

"Byronic"

Lanza Morio's picture

The Romantic Manifesto was my gateway book to Rand. It's the one that launched me into the rest of her work. I picked up Hegel's "The Philosophy of History" and "The Romantic Manifesto" at the same time and after getting nowhere with Hegel I leapt into the Rand with everything I had. That was eleven years ago. Anyhow, I've been reading the "What Is Romanticism?" Chapter this week so I'll certainly jump into the discussion.

Here's something I've been wondering about: On page 109 of the softcover edition Rand talks about a "Byronic" style where an artist would present man as having volition regarding values but not regarding existence. That is, he doesn't treat man as able to gain his values in action (but that he ought to develop and fight for his values anyway). I've not read any Byron and am curious about this line of thought.

To be inspired by a work of art like that would mean to see the world somewhat that way. I'm convinced that we have volition in both areas (values and action) but the "values" side of it comes much easier for me. Volition regarding existence or action involves the unpredictabily of the knuckle-heads out there and that has always jammed me up. I see the good in people and I see the bad in people but predicting what people will do is all but a crap shoot to me. That can make action difficult. And so it would appear reasonable to keep your actions limited to a small group of people. But I won't become a millionaire that way! Smiling What are the alternatives?

Julian ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I agree it would be good to restore an emphasis on esthetics. When I started SOLO I said its sub-title should be considered as being "For those who take The Romantic Manifesto seriously." Unfortunately, whenever I sounded off about nihilism in *music*, folk got awfully defensive. Various world wars broke out. Then, when Joe & Jeff came on board we demoted the primacy of esthetics since they, understandably, wanted a site with a more general appeal. Still, esthetics flame wars broke out from time to time, usually spurred by one of my leer-ups. Pomo-wankers didn't get it that, while I let them express their views on my turf, I reserved the right to express *mine* as well. Somehow that made me an esthetic fascist. Anyway, SOLO has a new incarnation, but its original vision remains. More so, given the departure of folk who clearly didn't get the bit in the Credo about honesty, sincerity, & not speaking on lines one has to read between. I'm happy with what the current Credo says about our being at war with the culture. We don't have to make esthetics *primary* but we certainly can place an emphasis on it again. You say, Julian:

Passion, joy and life-affirming values, especially as it relates to aesthetics, were the triggers for Linz's vision - that became Sense of Life Objectivists. That combination of passion and reason was what originally drew me to SOLO, and why I chose it as my home on the internet. There have been hiccups and diversions, but I know that the promise is still there. SOLO could be the vehicle for great cultural change, by attracting questioning individuals who are dissatisfied with the prevailing culture of rampant nihilism and anti-intellectualism. As a dynamic group of individuals, SOLO has the unique vision, passion and the philosophy to change the world, one individual at a time.

Never doubt it. As you make your way through Romantic Manifesto, I'm sure you'll understand ever more clearly why it is so.

Interesting.

Prima Donna's picture

You know, Peter, I never even noticed the subtitle. Yes, I went right to the bookshelf. Smiling Off to ruminate...

-- Aut viam inveniam aut faciam

Reading Group

Peter Cresswell's picture

The chapter-by-chapter discussion sounds like a good idea. I'm happy to put imn my two cents worth as we go. Smiling

FOr my first deposit: May I point out something quickly forgotten with 'The Romantic Manifesto.' Specifically, it's subtitle. I'll let you check it out just so you might remember it. And then ask yourself why you think Rand chose to subtitle it that way.

I suppose....

Jody Gomez's picture

...that one could have a general theory of aesthetics, but one place where I see problems arising with Rand is where her implicit context(literature) is applied to capital-A Art. I don't see the possiblily for an aesthetic theory with any depth to arise, which tries to shelter all forms of art under the same umbrella.

Understanding Art: A Recommendation

Marnee's picture

Great ideas. I am very interested in the art & aesthetics myself.

I also have a recommendation:

The best way to understand art is to take a drawing class. I've learned so much in my quest to learn how to draw. This way one can learn was art is from a direct perspective -- the actual act of re-creating reality.

Smiling

Yes...

Prima Donna's picture

The discussion could be a sub-forum of the forum. Then we can revel in aesthetic fora. Smiling

-- Aut viam inveniam aut faciam

Both sound like great ideas

Landon Erp's picture

Both sound like great ideas (study group and straight aesthetics forum)

---Landon

It all basically comes back to fight or flight.

I think that's a great idea.

JulianP's picture

I think that's a great idea. Smiling An online reading/study group. It would be fantastic if I could ask other people for help in clarification and explanation.

However, I haven't even started yet. I'll have to borrow a copy from somebody until I get my own.

Shall we set a date to start, and advertise so other people who might be interested could join in?

Cheers
Julian

Suggestion

Prima Donna's picture

Julian, since you are now reading The Romantic Manifesto, and I need to re-read it for some upcoming work, might it be worth it to have an online discussion of each chapter?

That's one of the things

JulianP's picture

That's one of the things that I was wondering about. Peter Cresswell once posted a picture of a Soviet statue which he admired - A man and woman in a heroic pose. It is good. If it was made in America to celebrate industry , and stood in Chicago, for example, would it be better? Does it depend on the context?

Obviously, I need to read some more. Smiling

Not all good art is life-affirming

sjw's picture

Leonard Peikoff had a talk on this at the Tahoe conference, he pointed out that art can be appreciated as "good" on different levels, so for instance something with an essentially evil message can still be appreciated for its cleverness and style, say. Though obviously the best art has both style and content that are life-affirming.

He read an evil poem he liked in a respect, something with a switch at the end that just punched you in the stomach, which I could remember the name...

Christ, Rick, you're cute

Ross Elliot's picture

Christ, Rick, you're cute when you're impassioned.

Yeah, Julian, read The

Ross Elliot's picture

Yeah, Julian, read The Romantic Manifesto. Rand's face should be plastered on t-shirts the way that that marxist poster-boy Che Guevara's is.

Eudiamonia

Rick Giles's picture

Great posting Julian, keep the enthusiasm rolling. Let's not stop at this.

This is the business end of SOLO to my mind, this is the endevour that has a future. Put our energy into this and growth will endure.

The study of virtue, the crafting of character to moral ideal, the message of liberty. There's so much philosophy going to waste, going undiscovered and unpractised in the world. Someone should do something about that.

Well, firstly, I have to

JulianP's picture

Well, firstly, I have to catch up with the rest of you, by reading The Romantic Manifesto. Smiling

After that, I don't know yet. Perhaps a prominent forum on SOLO, dedicated to aesthetics, could be a good start. Peter Cresswell likes posting pictures of beautiful works of art. Personally, I'd like to encourage this... Smiling

No idea where to begin ...

Duncan Bayne's picture

... but I'd like to observe that aesthetics aren't solely for art - aesthetics are a vital component of engineering too. From source code to motorcycles, it's possible to impart beauty & a sense of life while meeting the most stringent functional requirements.

E.g. one of the most beautiful motorcycles ever made is the Ducati Supermono racebike. Fast, light, without a single superfluous component ... and yet within those constraints, met by so many other racebike designers, Pierre Terblanche managed to style it to suggest a dense, compact powerhouse just waiting to fly around a track.

Likewise, knives. The F&S Commando Dagger, designed by Captains Fairbairn & Sykes for use by the SAS in World War II, had to be robust enough for military use, keen enough to cut without effort, long enough to reach awkward arteries like the clavicular, and balanced for ease of use. All of this they managed, but like Terblanche, gave it that something extra that makes it one of the most beautiful knives of all time.

Hopefully, someone here who's a designer or an artist may be able to answer this for me: what is it that Terblanche, Fairbairn & Sykes have, and do, that others don't?

Bravo!

Prima Donna's picture

Wonderful recommendation, Julian. I emphatically agree, so where do we begin?

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