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2009-06-29
Category mistake
Perhaps the reason there are no other threads on this subject is that the subject is misplaced. Inclusion of aesthetics under value theory is a polite nod to Kant but has little to do with today.

2009-07-06
Category mistake
Thanks for your feedback. Not a nod to Kant, really. At least, not in my case. I am interested in aesthetic value, more specifically the ontology of aesthetic value, and I am researching the work of Austrian and Polish philosophers on this topic. E.g., Ehrenfels, Meinong, Ingarden. What is it about aesthetic value that you find outdated?

2009-07-11
Category mistake
I just meant that there is much more to aesthetics than a theory of values. In my reading of Kant's Critique of Judgement, the intellectual architecture he constructed had a slot for ethical judgements and filled it with "good," reflecting the logic or the Critique of Pure Reason where "true" filled that slot. Since there were still some spare parts lying around the intellectual construction site, he went ahead constructing the architecture of aesthetic judgment and filled the payoff slot with "beautiful."

Since, then, many philosophers and art critics have been sidetracked into a hunt for the beautiful red herring. Other than Santayana, none of found anything worth while, in my opinion.

Ingarden is one of the thinkers I would use as example of someone doing traditional aesthetics where questions of value theory don't get much attention (I'm going by memory--I haven't opened Ingarden in 40 years). Yet his contributions, such as the ability of literature to produce "metaphysical" qualities, are quite interesting. And your interest, the ontology of aesthetic qualties (or "values," same thing), is pretty central to our common pursuit these days of an understanding of how the brain constructs the model we label "reality."

2009-07-26
Category mistake
I suppose that my categorical beef lies mainly with Art&Artworks section falling under the general Aesthetics heading. Most contemporary work being done in philosophical aesthetics (especially in cognitive science) has little if anything to do with artworks or art theory, and in my humble opinion, for any substantial strides to be made beyond the realm of the spooky, aesthetics (the field concerned primarily with aesthetic properties, concepts, & value) must abandon the artworld altogether in favor of more pedestrian and likely far more yielding sources (e.g., Ocean Park instead of Richard Diebenkorn's Ocean Park). 
Likewise, the most interesting recent work being done in the philosophy of art (broadly construed) seems to focus mostly on particular issues within a particular artform (e.g., comics, theatre, film, dance) or on broad metaphysical issues not wholly art-germane (e.g., fiction, imagination, ontology of music, depiction)...both trends for which the aesthetic appears largely absent. 

2009-07-27
Category mistake
CMU wrote: "...for any substantial strides to be ... (expand) made beyond the realm of the spooky, aesthetics (the field concerned primarily with aesthetic properties, concepts,&value) must abandon the artworld altogether.."

But, surely, most aesthetics is already so far from the world of art already it could hardly get much further away could it?

DA  

2009-08-19
Category mistake
Reply to Derek Allan
Derek, I suppose you may be correct given a certain demarcation of philosophical aesthetics. I like to make a distinction between Big 'A' aesthetics and Little 'A' aesthetics.
Big 'A' Aesthetics I take to be mostly the province of art&art theory alongside a deep historical background (Kant, Hume, Hegel...) and contemporarily has an almost exclusive evaluative bent taking its cue largely from prescriptive language employed in art appreciation chiefly focusing on traditional aesthetic properties/features/concepts such as beauty, elegance, daintiness, etc., though it does have a tendency lump target as aesthetic loosely related non-perceptual properties such as clever, witty, droll, banal etc. (typically in service to some art theoretic agenda).
Little 'a' aesthetics has blossomed in the last two decades (alongside cognitive science), and I take to be amenable to empirical approaches and to center around 'lower-level' sorts of properties/features/concepts as they relate work being done in the germane areas of cognitive science (e.g., the impressive work done by Michael Glanzberg on personal taste predicates, Casey O'Callaghan on auditory perception, Dustin Stokes on creativity) and decidedly (and refreshingly) looks free from the rather stymied debates about thick/thin concepts, essential value distinctions, or intersections of aesthetic with ethical or epistemic value (as traditionally and broadly understood). I'm happy to see little 'a' aesthetics take off and be so productive, but this is unsurprising given all of the exciting (and hopefully responsible) work being done down the block in moral psychology (sticking with the analogy, those not wanting to hold their breath for a plausible and productive naturalized account of things like respect and integrity should likewise avoid placing bets on such an account of beauty and daintiness being forthcoming).

This, of course, is the reason why myself and others cringe when our work in the philosophy of art gets lumped into the category of 'Aesthetics' or heaven forbid 'Value Theory'. In my quite inflated opinion, the philosophy of art shouldn't be viewed as fundamentally connected to either philosophical aesthetics or value theory, and its practice is best served by purging it of claims entailing just such connections. I know that I have to with respect to my own work simply because I dare not even pretend to know how aesthetic concepts are structured, how aesthetic value ought to be determined, how to cultivate a proper aesthetic attitude, etc. partly because I have a sneaking suspicion that with respect to Big 'A' Aesthetics as traditionally understood, there simply are no coherent and productive distinctly aesthetic concepts, values, attitudes...only philosophical ghosts, the spooky offspring of a bygone era that continue to haunt the philosophy of art.  


2009-08-20
Category mistake
Christy

I was interested to read about 'Little 'A' aesthetics'. All news to me I must admit.

As for Big 'A' aesthetics, I tend to share your suspicion that it is haunted by "philosophical ghosts, the spooky offspring of a bygone era".  Indeed, I think the very word 'aesthetic' has outlived its usefulness and is now more a hindrance than a help in the philosophy of art.  My reasons are in essence: (1) that the term has now become so vague as to be virtually useless for philosophical analysis - and is rarely defined with any precision by its users; (2) that to the extent it is meaningful, it usually tends to link art to the idea of beauty and thus biases thinking about art from the outset; (3) it belongs to an eighteenth century view of human psychology (human nature as consisting of a rational and a sensuous component) which seems quite antiquated now - so that notions like 'aesthetic experience', 'aesthetic pleasure' etc now seem to hang in a kind of psychological vacuum unconnected to anything we today might believe about the (now much more problematical) question of human psychology.

DA




2009-12-25
Category mistake
Reply to Derek Allan
Christy and DA,

I am not sure about your definition of 'aesthetics'. The relevance of the aesthetic to a work of art, a park, a speech, &c. is useful in its gauging affective properties from the latter. Psychological concerns are indeed lofty but not 'unconnected'. Aesthetics requires careful language and creativity on behalf of the philosopher for each particular facet thereof to be adequately articulated. In front of any artwork, Old Master or contemporary, aesthetics makes possible certain classical, phenomenological, and analytic perspectives while at the same time it in no way props the artwork up above lived experience (i.e. the mundane, &c.). Hence, aesthetics does not simply 'link art to the idea of beauty' insofar as it does not excessively privilege the work of art in such a way as to separate it from brute reality: its sensuous nature is brought to the same plane as that of the latter (though they obtain separate but equal talking points).

Should I be wrong in this conclusion please let me know. I find aesthetics to offer more than only the psychological and so have great hope for it.

2009-12-25
Category mistake
Reply to John Gross
Hi John

I'm not at all sure that you and I and Christy are on the same wave length but here, for what it is worth, are a couple of points in response to what you say:

(1) I do not think that the idea of sensuousness takes us very far in thinking about art. I see that idea as one of the many troublesome, misleading hangovers we have inherited from 18th century aesthetics - like beauty, "aesthetic pleasure", taste etc.  (In my view, most of the aesthetics tradition we have inherited from the 18th century (I include Kant) makes nonsense of our world of art today and our experience of it. It effectively operates as a kind of barrier between us and art. But that's another story.)

(2) I think that any worthwhile theory of art is going to have to make a distinction between art and what you call "brute reality".  The idea of "brute reality" is itself a problem of course. It's like the phrase "the actual world" which is so often used in philosophy more generally without any attempt to examine what it might mean.

Not sure this is of any great help to you.

DA

2009-12-26
Category mistake
Reply to Derek Allan
DA,

I might agree that sensuousness does not '(take) us very far in thinking about art' yet find it to be indispensable for any general treatment of art. I find it hard to conclude that there is not a sensuousness in art that is not available in what can be called brute reality. Now, whence this sensuousness? I understand it as evoked in Dufrenne's sense wherein the artwork wills itself (and any sensuousness thereof) through the artist and spectator. This, just as much as 'brute reality' does not will sensuousness through artist or spectator. So sensuousness obtains by way of art itself. (All I am seeking to do is posit sensuousness as integral and unique to art; no doubt, this seems 'troublesome' so far.). If sensuousness inheres in the work of art, then a distinction can be drawn between sensuous and non-sensuous (i.e. art and non-art). Of course, then, Wayne Thiebaud's pies and desserts paintings exhibit sensuous qualities whereas the pies and desserts at, say, the bakery downtown do not: the latter are simply tasty, delectable, perhaps brightly colored, &c. Diebenkorn's Ocean Park exhibits sensuous qualities almost entirely absent - only reminiscent - at Ocean Park. Even Dubuffet's ugly paintings and sculptures obtain a sensuousness missing from the sick, the mad, and the ascetics living in institutions and alleyways. The 'brute' phenomena simply lack sensuousness on an aesthetic level, albeit do belong to the discourse of aesthetics (denoted as brute). Thus, your second argument is answered in that art theory and aesthetics do distinguish between sensuous and brute yet both, on my account, are given equal play.

I hope this makes clear my position. Unlike Christy, I believe (no matter we are talking big 'A' or little 'a' aesthetics) aesthetics should not forget works of art or dismiss the assessment of values. And, unlike your point, I believe 'aesthetics'  and 'sensuousness' both as terms and within their respective field are not mere 'hangovers' from the 18th century, but rather can be used towards further study.

2009-12-26
Category mistake
Reply to John Gross
Hi John

How do you define "sensuousness"?  You seem to be saying it is a quality found in works of art and not in "brute reality". If that were the definition, it would not be of much use for a definition of art, since you have used art to define it in the first place.

Also, in the normal sense of the word, "sensuous" can be applied to many kinds of objects that are not works of art. So are you using in some special sense? If so what?

There are historical reasons why the notion of the "sensuous" got attached to art in the eighteenth century. But it is high time, I think, we took a hard look at it.  Like many ideas about art we have inherited from the eighteenth century, it is of very doubtful value for an understanding of the world of art we know today. (This is not of course to say that art does not make use of "sensuous" elements. But so do many things that are not art.)

DA

2009-12-28
Category mistake
Reply to Derek Allan

Hi DA,

You're right: I should've explicitly defined sensuousness. I should start by defining the sensuous as that property in works of art that invoke a kind of Kantian disinterestedness, one more prone to a uselessness, e.g. not, say, the sound of a car horn, but the blue of Matisse's Blue Nude or the flesh of a Rubens. Now, indeed, this is boggy and needs further explication. One might respond to this definition with the assumption that there is some usefulness behind the flesh of a Rubens, namely that its purpose is to illustrate his respective Baroque episteme (the same for Matisse and a certain modern episteme). Furthermore, one can infer that the flesh of a Rubens functioned to fulfill the demands of the artist's patronage, or to meet some intellectual demands in terms of advancements in artistic pictorial representation. However, to respond with such an argument would cheapen the work of art altogether and would also cost blurring categories (e.g. the economics of an artist's intellect with artistic intellect). Therefore, I hold that the sensuous is useless inasmuch as it exists independently of any socio-economic or material function: it might be transcendental in this regard.

What distinguishes sensuousness from, say, something found in brute reality which might be considered sensuous is that the former involves artistic thought. In other words, the bark of a tree and a car horn, for example, are not sensuous because artistic intellect neither informs the quality of the tree's bark nor the arbitrary sound of the car horn. Both are "brute" inasmuch as they will themselves by way of some thoughtless, rudimentary physiological function (viz. as long as the bark protects and the horn sounds warning). Even the "uselessness" of cake frosting does not obtain the artistic intellect of sensuousness in that it fulfills some thoughtless disposition of the producer or consumer that concludes, respectively, "People will enjoy red frosting" or "I like red frosting the most." Rubens's paintings are not informed by a thoughtless "I like fleshiness" or, akin to tree bark, for the sake of protection against some force. There is nothing directly or simplistically appealing about what informs the sensuousness of a work of art. Artistic intellect as procuring sensuousness disables any causal nexus: Rubens's flesh does not flesh (taken verbally) as does that of an animal; Matisse's blue does not blue as does a particular wavelength of light (this might sound absurd). This argument grounds the sense intended for sensuousness as restricted to art.

Architecture provides the proper paradigm: the building's thoughtless sheltering function alone (e.g. orientation of the windows to trap more or less heat/sunlight, adequate living space, division of rooms - bath, kitchen, study - for their respective purposes, &c.) is not sensuous until it is subsumed by the overall uselessness of an intellectual design (wood-/metalworking - not mere fabrication, fenestration treatment, space treatment, &c.). (In the same way as the sheltering function of a building may be subsumed by a variety of architectural treatments, so the protective capacity of the tree bark be subsumed by an overall aesthetic appreciation of nature, but in this way the protective capacity of the bark is rendered null as it is.)

Art is the exemplification of sensuousness because the kind of uselessness embodied in it is unprecedented in brute reality. The sensuousness of the art object appeals to the senses but does not stimulate practical response or instantiate any kind of usefulness. For example, the nude in art reveals itself as (1) a "nude" distinguished from a "naked body," thus indicating the absence of a vulgar, viz. brute, stare and (2) a phenomenon in which sexual desire is not invoked (although it seems that it should according to the brute reality of what the nude is: a naked body). Even a found art object stimulates the senses while it is stripped of its practical devices: brute reality would beckon one to urinate in Duchamp's Fountain, sensuousness would not invoke such a response. Thus, brute reality is a kind of raw material for aesthetic principles such as sensuousness, but until it is rendered as sensuous or aesthetic on some level it remains mere brute reality.

The sensuous is not the grand definition of art, but all art is sensuous among its other facets. Art thus defines sensuousness: it could even be argued that any brute object placed within an art gallery obtains sensuousness unconditionally. The definition of art exceeds the sensuous alone.


2009-12-29
Category mistake
Reply to John Gross
Hi John

RE : "What distinguishes sensuousness from, say, something found in brute reality which might be considered sensuous is that the former involves artistic thought. In other words, the bark of a tree and a car horn, for example, are not sensuous because artistic intellect neither informs the quality of the tree's bark nor the arbitrary sound of the car horn. Both are "brute" inasmuch as they will themselves by way of some thoughtless, rudimentary physiological function (viz. as long as the bark protects and the horn sounds warning). Even the "uselessness" of cake frosting does not obtain the artistic intellect of sensuousness in that it fulfills some thoughtless disposition of the producer or consumer that concludes, respectively, "People will enjoy red frosting" or "I like red frosting the most." Rubens's paintings are not informed by a thoughtless "I like fleshiness" or, akin to tree bark, for the sake of protection against some force. There is nothing directly or simplistically appealing about what informs the sensuousness of a work of art. Artistic intellect as procuring sensuousness disables any causal nexus: Rubens's flesh does not flesh (taken verbally) as does that of an animal; Matisse's blue does not blue as does a particular wavelength of light (this might sound absurd). This argument grounds the sense intended for sensuousness as restricted to art."

and also RE your comment :" The definition of art exceeds the sensuous alone."

I agree with you. But that then leads us on to the question "What is art" or, in your terms, what is "artistic thought" (e.g. as distinct from other kinds of thought) .

The question is a tricky one because it is constantly confused with "How do I tell the difference between art and non-art?" - as if there were some neat little formula hidden somewhere just waiting to be found (It's been a very long wait, has it not?!!) 

The real question to my mind needs to be framed this way: "Given that there are some objects that we call 'art' (and if we think there aren't any, there is nothing to discuss anyway) "what quality are we identifying by this term 'art'?"  Which will not give us some sort of rule of thumb allowing us to tell works of art from non-art (that is a silly mirage) but will, if we are persuaded by the answer, explain the nature of the human achievement represented by things such as Shakespeare's plays, Dostoyevsky's novels, Goya's late paintings and etchings, Mozart's music, etc. And that to my mind is where the real surprises lie. The traditional answer has been along the lines of: "art gives us a sense of beauty" or "art gives us aesthetic pleasure etc." All the stuff we have inherited from the eighteenth century. And all quite useless to us now - except as history. But there are other answers that are far from useless...

Enough for now I think

DA   



2009-12-30
Category mistake
Reply to Derek Allan
DA,

Does "enough for now..." mean that you no longer wish to discuss the topic?  Either way, I hope for this to be posted so my thoughts are made visible for others who may take up interest...

I'm not sure if your doubting whether we can identify art is grounded. It seems we have a language for speaking about, identifying, and living with art. Your comment indicates a need for a language of this language in order to guarantee that there is any worth to art at all? Furthermore, I am altogether not so sure about any real, as you put it, "human achievement" in works of art, as much as I believe we can differentiate art from non-art or what I have been calling "brute reality."

You dropped a big question: "what is 'artistic thought'?" I think this kind of "thought" applies to both spectator and artist. Additionally, and most importantly, if this "artistic thought" is a condition in the making of an artwork, no matter whether it is so "made" by a spectator's appreciation or an artist's gesture, is it possible that it be inconsistent? In other words, artistic thought may illuminate the "art" of the artwork, but without such a species of thought the "artwork" would sit as mere "work", a non-artwork or mere construction of parts. For example, x does not see art in, say, Duchamp's Fountain, whereas y finds it a fine artwork. Or, y considered the Fountain an artwork but now finds it a mere found object (not of art). I think that, generally, works of art are identified by some condition of thought, i.e. artworks are artworks by virtue of a long and somewhat protean list of conditions made available by artistic thought. During the time I spend making and studying art I find that, nearly every day, more "conditions" can be added to the list. I speak from my own experience because it speaks of the relationship between a developing education in art/ artistic training and what can be illuminated as aesthetic. That one can find aesthetic worth in piles of garbage may bespeak that particular person's cultivated sensitivity towards the object of art, viz. he or she is attuned to artistic thinking.

A note: I don't think that the average person not versed at all in art can find, say, piles of garbage to be of aesthetic worth. The person who would find the garbage appealing would, along with aesthetic worth, find artistic problems with the garbage (these may entail social, political, philosophical problems as well as those of color, composition, and overall effect).

A further note: It may seem that I am contradicting myself insofar as I refute discerning any "worth" or "human achievement" in works of art yet permit an educational model in which aesthetic worth is increasingly elucidated. I don't take "aesthetic worth" to mean some outstanding quality over and above a swamp of brute, worthless objects. I take it to mean a greater sensitivity concerning the aesthetic mechanics of objects, i.e. their appearing in a light of their more useless aspects- not just what they're thoughtlessly used/usable for- which does not instantiate greater qualitative worth.



2010-10-05
Category mistake
Reply to John Gross
Hi John

I thought I would reactive the discussion. (I don't seem to have received anything from Philpapers for weeks - if not months!)

You write: "I'm not sure if your doubting whether we can identify art is grounded."

My point is a bit hard to sum up in a few words. What I mean is that the attempt to formulate rules by which one might say "this is a work of art and that is not" seems to me a total waste of time. I think art makes itself known over time to those who are interested in it - and love it.  A kind of consensus develops - not an infallible one of course - but it develops through the responses of lots of people, not through any application of rules.

So, asking "what is art?' in the sense of formulating rules is quite futile.

On the other hand, one can ask the question 'what is art?' in a very sensible way. One can say: "Given that there are objects we call art (Macbeth, Titian' paintings, Mozart's music etc) what quality do they all possess? What special power do works of art possess?" That question is not vain at all.

Regrettably, a lot of time is wasted in aesthetics trying to answer the first question (You would think we would know better by now. Despite decades of trying, the results have been zero.) Or else the two questions are confused, which is hardly any better.

Part of the problem, I think, is that so much modern aesthetics is influenced by analytic philosophy (and its offspring analytic aesthetics) in which the first impulse is always to categorize things - to put them in boxes. So the first question is always getting in the way, while the second - the important one - is neglected.

DA




2010-10-11
Category mistake
Reply to Derek Allan
Hi, DA...

I've followed most of your exchange with John and while you're waiting for him to respond to your latest post, I'd like to jump in and make a few comments/pose a few questions as well.  You said,

"I think art makes itself known over time to those who are interested in it - and love it.  A kind of consensus develops - not an infallible one of course - but it develops through the responses of lots of people, not through any application of rules."

First, I'm curious as to how you think "art makes itself known" to anyone "over time."  You seem to be suggesting some sort of revelatory activity on the part of the artwork.  Sounds a little like The Twilight Zone.

Second, I'd like to suggest that (for the uninitiated) an education in art/aesthetics provides a more broadly equitable, reliable, and viable approach to the task of "knowing" artworks than simply relying on interest and love. You mention "rules," seemingly with a negative connotation.  Rules are typically designed to be restrictive; however, rules also contribute critical structure to an activity.  Imagine a football game (for instance) without any rules.  Would it still be identifiable as a football game?  Without rules could there ever be a determination as to who won/lost the game?  Etc.  Initially, in learning how to approach art, having some "rules" to use as guidelines to help one structure the experience can be invaluable.  Knowing how to go about forming a critical judgment of a work of art (any work of art, not just those that appeal) involves much more than the mere exercise of interest and love.  Later, with much more experience under his/her belt, interest and love may play more important roles in the process. 

Third, consensus and/or "the responses of lots of people" to a particular artwork should be only one of a number of criteria used in its evaluation.  After all group mentality, popularity contests, and fads are all about "consensus." Your phrase, "over time", can often be a better indicator of a work's ultimate success or failure, depending on how substantial the expanse of time.  And it must also be remembered that an individual's assessment of a work is every bit as valid and legitimate as that of the herd, even if his/her verdict is contrary to that of "those who are interested in it - and love it."

RC

2010-10-11
Category mistake
Hi Robin

By "art makes itself known" I just meant that it becomes known over time as a result of its own qualities.  The "official" aesthetic position of course is that we somehow apply “rules” to find out what is art and what is not, but this has never been the case in the real world, and in fact there are no rules - as most realistic aestheticians will admit in their candid moments.

RE: “Imagine a football game (for instance) without any rules.  Would it still be identifiable as a football game?”  No, but then football is not art. 

Personally, I admire and love art of all kinds – music, visual art and literature - but I can say quite honestly that, right from the beginning – in my teens – I have never applied any rule whatsoever to my responses, or to decide what I loved or was bored by.  Frankly, I doubt if anyone in the entire history of the world ever has - if they were being sincere, that is.  Does anyone love La Traviata or La Bohème because some rule told them to?  Ditto for any great work of art one cares to name.

RE: “And it must also be remembered that an individual's assessment of a work is every bit as valid and legitimate as that of the herd, even if his/her verdict is contrary to that of "those who are interested in it - and love it."

Certainly it’s as “valid” if that means they have a right to it.  If someone loathes Mozart (billions do) they have a perfect right to do so.  And no conceivable rule, I should add, is likely to change their mind.  If, however, they are exposed to lots of Mozart, and if they listen with a little attention, there is at least some chance they might grow to like it – perhaps one day even love it.

The idea that art is a matter of rules, judgements, etc seems to me one of the many misleading notions we have inherited from Enlightenment aesthetics, especially Kant.  And regrettably it’s a view still earnestly perpetuated by Anglo-American (analytic) aesthetics, and to some extent by continental aesthetics also. Which is perhaps one of the reasons why both schools - especially the former - always seem so remote from the actual experience of art.

DA



2010-10-11
Category mistake
Reply to Derek Allan

Hi again, Derek…

I’m curious as to the ‘“official” aesthetic position’ you mention. “Official” in what sense?  Are you suggesting that there is some kind of organized espousal and/or application of a rule-governed process purported to distinguish art from non-art?  If so, under what rubric or aegis does it operate?  And on what basis do you speak for “most realistic aestheticians”?

What process of elimination did you employ when you dismissed a football game as non-art?  Was that an instance of using “its own qualities” to arrive at such a determination?  Either way, doesn’t that constitute making a judgment? 

I also find it extremely problematic that you seem to be holding up your personal experience as a sort of “gold standard” for all human experience of art, both past and present.  Not all people have been as fortunate as you (or I) in the physical accessibility/availability of works of art; nor do all people everywhere necessarily experience art in the same ways that you or I do.  

I’m curious as to how you classify your brand of aesthetics, as opposed to “Enlightenment” or Kantian aesthetics, “continental aesthetics”, and/or “analytical aesthetics”; please enlighten me (if you’ll pardon the pun)!  I do understand your remark about the two schools (analytic and continental) seeming “so remote from the actual experience of art.” You suggest they “always” seem remote, while I would assert that they frequently seem remote.  In light of that I think there would be many fewer “deaths by friendly fire”, if aestheticians and fine artists were to work more collaboratively.

Robin


2010-10-11
Category mistake

Hi Robin

Thanks for your reply.

My term "official" was intended a bit flippantly. I meant that the view in question (that we apply rules to find out what is art and what is not) is the prevailing view among writers in aesthetics – especially analytic – though it is usually implied rather than explicitly stated.  

I don’t claim to ‘speak for “most realistic aestheticians”’ – perish the thought – but my experience at conferences etc is that, when pushed, most will agree that there are in fact no identifiable rules. Certainly, there are very few who are happy to step forward and list them.

Re football, of course one can call it an art if one wants – in the same sense that one talks about the arts of conversation or cooking. But speaking as someone who has played three varieties of football and who still enjoys watching it occasionally, I would never for a nanosecond place it in the same category of human achievement as say Crime and Punishment, Mozart’s piano concertos, or Picasso.  Is that a judgement? Yes certainly - but more of that below.

I certainly don’t hold myself up as ‘a sort of “gold standard” for all human experience of art’ (perish the thought again). My point was that if we interrogate our own experience we will find, I think, that the psychology of our responses to art does not take the form of a judgement. It’s much more like a fascination – a kind of willing absorption into another world. Certainly we often judge later. We say: That was great! That was awful. That was wonderful, etc. But that’s post facto. The psychology of the experience itself is quite different.  I quoted my own experience because it’s the only one I can interrogate. If others disagree and think they respond via a succession of judgements when (for example) they go to a performance of La Bohème, then I have to accept that - though I find it very difficult to understand.

What is my brand of aesthetics? Is has no brand. In fact I think the branding tendency is one of the banes of the philosophy of art – and of philosophy in general. It fosters a sheep-like tendency to ‘follow the brand’ and not think for oneself.  I have certainly been strongly influenced by the theory of art of André Malraux but only after reading very widely in analytic and continental aesthetics – both of which I found to be sorely deficient.  I may be wrong, of course.  But I am happy to defend my positions trench by trench.

You suggest that “aestheticians and fine artists {should] work more collaboratively.” I would be surprised to see it happen. There is a yawning gulf between the philosophy of art and art. One interesting indication of that is the immense gap between the disciplines of aesthetics and the history of art. Which is quite bizarre when you think about it. Imagine if in universities there were departments of the “history of literature” and departments of “literature” – a bizarre thought in itself – and that they seldom had any contact.

DA

 


2010-10-12
Category mistake
Reply to Derek Allan
Hi Derek...

I supposed that you were using the word "official" in an offhand manner ; however, one never knows without probing a little.  That's one problem with electronic communications between parties who don't know each other and don't have a visual component with which to gauge responses.

Back to the subject of "rules".  I'm aware that art can't be defined via application of some set of contrived "rules"....to even try would be a nonsensical task.  Before, when I spoke of "rules" acquired in conjunction with an education in the arts and/or aesthetics, I probably should have used some term like "conceptual framework" to help more clearly communicate what I was trying to say. My rather hasty football analogy didn't help matters because, of course, the game is rule-governed of necessity, whereas art is not. 

When referring to the football game I was not meaning to suggest that there was necessarily any art involved.  It seems to me that when the word "art" is immediately preceded by an article or immediately followed by a preposition, the reference is more often to a set of specific skills and/or talents rather than to an end product (i.e., art).  However, in disqualifying the football game as art (simply on the basis of its known qualities), doesn't one run the risk of disqualifying Brillo boxes, soup cans, urinals, Mona Lisa w/mustache, etc. for similar reasons?

I like your description of "interrogating" our own experience; however, human beings don't usually fall so neatly into that psychological model.  From my own experience (in this case, years of teaching art criticism methodology) I've found that most people whom I have encountered do make a snap judgment first and only come to a deeper "appreciation" or "understanding" afterward.  The initial judgment is usually nothing more than a knee-jerk response: "I like it" or "I don't like it."  In the second instance people have to literally be pushed to examine the work more closely.  Oddly enough, however, many who initially said they didn't like a work, discover a new appreciation/understanding of it after proceeding through the prescribed criticism steps.  Eventually, as their critical experience grows, the process becomes automatic, much less formal, and even idiosyncratic, to a degree.  I'm afraid being carried away, i.e., totally absorbed, by a performance or visual artwork is a much more romantic notion than what actually constitutes the minority experience.  But without adequate education in the fine arts (including art history), it's not surprising that the masses don't share the enjoyment that we do.  They're not incapable of it, simply ill-equipped to do so.

Sorry for using the word "brand"....I should have known better!  It's been awhile since I had to think/write philosophically and I had forgotten that there are certain "trigger words" in philosophical lingo that connote something other than they do when used in the vernacular.  I agree, unfortunately, that collaborations between and among aestheticians, artists, and art historians are not very likely.  It's as though we're all walking around wearing glasses with different colored lenses....we're only seeing part of the picture.  In the larger scheme of intellectual pursuits I find this curious phenomenon to be the most disappointing.

Robin

2010-10-13
Category mistake

Hi Robin

Yes I agree. Electronic communication can be tricky. Especially in discussions like this when one is trying to deal with quite complex issues in a few words.

Just a couple of thoughts.  I should have made it clear that, like you, I think it can often take time to “appreciate” a work of art (I don’t like the word “appreciate” in this context but it is hard to think of another sometimes).  I recall that in my teens, when I was a great fan of pop music, being more than a little derisive when my elder brother started buying “classical” music (another word I don’t like) and playing the LPs (as they were then) in the house. “What’s this stuff?” I would protest. Then gradually over a period of – I don’t know – weeks, maybe, I found myself inexplicably liking the “stuff” and gradually losing interest in my beloved pop.  And now, for many years, I have found pop, rock and even jazz almost unlistenable to – a kind of aural irritation.

So in short, I agree with the point you make. Even today, I do not always respond to a piece of good music immediately.  One only becomes “absorbed” in music, to use my word, once it has begun to “make itself known” – once one starts to respond to its language.

Even so, I would still argue that, once one does begin to respond, the psychology of that response is not a series of judgements.  I think the whole Enlightenment schema about “taste”, judgement, beauty, aesthetic pleasure etc is long overdue for a serious re-examination.  It still dominates the world of academic aesthetics but in my view is a kind of historical hangover that confuses us more than it enlightens us.  Much more to say on that issue, but I shall leave it there for now.

I realise there are other points in your post too but maybe I could come back to them next time.

DA