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Boydstun

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  1. sN, The conduciveness of the artwork to contemplation of the work for its own sake refers to a characteristic of the work in episodes of esthetic experience. The esthetic experience of art can have various wider functions in life, which is to say that art and our experience of it is not a final end in itself in the way that lives are ends in themselves. This character of experience of art and the ability of an artwork to effect that sort of experience is not very controversial on its face and is left unstated in other definitions of art. I think that aspect needs to be explicit. I think it is one criterion of success or failure that can be put to work in appraising creations as art. One way in which that criterion comes up is in connection with subjects in an artwork. Rand takes that criterion to be more restrictive on subject than I take it, so the application of the criterion, hence its exact full sense, is controversial, even though there is surface agreement. Rand wrote: In The Ways and Means of Painting, Joan Mitchell Blumenthal takes a less restrictive view of choice of subject and its suitability for artistic content in a painting (7–13). Rand’s thought on what is or is not suitable for the end-in-itself contemplation belonging to esthetic experience is contoured to her view of what are the functions of art in the human psyche and life. Those are true functions of art, I say, but not the only ones (IB, IC, IIIA). The thought from Orson Scott Card has a cousin in Steinbeck’s East of Eden. It is Steinbeck’s novel, of course, not the simple Bible story it uses, that is the great work of art. Rand could be comfortable with some of these excerpts from Card and from Steinbeck. They all overlap each other. She called art “the technology of the soul.” However, Rand’s definition of art is a theoretical explanatory definition (cf.). What she means by “selective re-creation of reality,” the genus in her definition, is more narrow, as shown in her applications, than one might guess merely from those words. It turned out that unless a drawing or painting were figural, she did not count it as what she meant by a selective re-creation of reality. As art, such an artifact fails by not satisfying the genus. Likewise it goes with the species factor “metaphysical value-judgments.” One could say “I know those English words, so I know what the phrase means.” No. One has to read further to ascertain Rand’s meaning for this phrase she adopts as a theoretical technical phrase in her esthetics. She spells out what she means by the phrase. I have argued that that cluster of value-concerns can be broadened modestly and still fall within her ambit. But her conception meant by metaphysical value-judgment remains narrow enough, even with that broadening, for one to argue, as I do, that the conception is not inclusive enough to capture all art, not even all representational art, within its scope. I think Rand’s metaphysical-value-judgments try at what is fundamentally at work in art is somewhat original in the history of esthetics and that it should be included within any valid species in a right definition of art.
  2. What Art Is – The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand (2000), by L. Torres and M. Kamhi, defends Rand’s definition of art as “a selective re-creation of reality according to the artist’s metaphysical value judgments.” One of the authors Kamhi argues it is better to replace “according to the artist’s metaphysical value judgments” in that definition of art with “according to the artist’s fundamental view of life, which includes his deepest values.” In either case, much not obvious has to be packed into both the genus and species of those definitions to actually corral only the artifacts the definers mean by art. My own definition of art, as I have it so far, leaves less for unpacking and is more inclusive in its target art: “selective re-creation of reality showing concretely the notable and meaningful (sometimes metaphysical value-standings) through craft of parts integrated into a unified whole conducive to contemplation for its own sake” (4/13). One neat challenge for my definition would be to determine whether it includes Andy Warhol’s Brillo Box. Arthur Danto has a photo of a contemporary fabrication alluding to Brillo Box as image on the cover of his new book What Art Is (2013). Torres and Kamhi had argued the defectiveness of various definitions of art in the latter half of the twentieth century. They quoted Danto saying against all possible definitions of art, and they displayed some of his praise for Warhol. I find no citation for the Danto remark against defining art, but anyway it is evidently not his considered view. In his new book, he argues for the definition that art is embodied meaning connecting to cognizance of what is possible (154–55). Dagny’s solitary meditation alongside the diesel electric power plant of the locomotive would seem to qualify the machine as art under that definition, but of course, there is unpacking to be done in Danto’s definition that can narrow the class included under the definition. “The embodiment of ideas or, I would say, of meanings is perhaps all we require as a philosophical theory of what art is. But doing the criticism that consists in finding the way the idea is embodied varies from work to work” (128). Danto intends his definition to capture all of and only what is common and distinctive of art from the primitive to Leonardo to Warhol. Danto argues an idea and its way of embodiment for Brillo Box that stand it up as art. I worry there are other stories that can be told of the artifact Brillo Box, according with what it presents, perhaps stories too different to stand it under a single definite embodied idea or under a single idea-family. But perhaps such looseness or instability, if demonstrated, would elevate rather than dissolve its standing as art in the view of Danto. Torres and Kamhi appeal to Warhol’s own reports about his creations and his mindset concerning those creations. They appeal to those reports as a trump over any stories formulated merely consistent with the product before the viewer. In my view, the visual artist’s reports of his or her intention is only one story to be considered for match with the product, and this is concordant with my definition of art.
  3. LB, Rand conceived of minds as integral with their bodies and actions. Perception of reality is by bodily senses, by informed thought, including memory, and by further physical investigation. Conceptual faculty is integral with faculty of sensory perception. Chosen values are integral with valences of pleasure and pain delivered by the senses. Integrity is a character trait praised in Rand’s ethics as integration of thought with action. Character and choice of values cannot be separated from action in this ethics. History matters for Randian volition because this volition is informed by learning and does not occur in a value vacuum. One’s values and normative abstractions have a history back to childhood in Rand’s view, as in developmental psychology. Interests of the self are interests of an embodied self, embodied agent and patient, in this ethics. Like other philosophers, Rand sometimes uses self to refer to this whole-person, embodied self. And like other philosophers, Rand sometimes isolates the core human self that is human mind and refers to that as the self. That isolation is useful for getting to certain important distinctions, such as subject/object, inner/outer, and mind/body, and for situating the mind in the person and his or her life. Rand and her circle sometimes used soul to mean “a mind and its basic values,” which was a formula by Nathaniel Branden. No supposition of separability of mind or soul from body is implied and no supposition of immortality is implied by the uses of soul in this philosophy. Purely natural mind, values, and life in this perspective, all end at death, full stop. Stephen*
  4. Related, from Tara Smith's Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: Also, from me:* Also:
  5. The centennial exhibition drawn from the Armory show by the New York Historical Society proved worthwhile. There is a bonus worth on the same floor down the hallway, showing works of contemporary painter Clarice Smith. Smith says her painting is not realist; rather, it is representationalist. The subjects of her exquisite paintings are recognizable objects whose forms and other spatial relations are depicted on the plane of the picture by the means one can learn to discriminate with help from Joan Mitchell Blumenthal’s The Ways and Means of Painting or E. H. Gombrich’s Art and Illusion. Awareness of those perceptual means making possible one’s esthetic experience is fun, but the main thing is one’s experience itself, tuned to the total painting itself.* The Armory show of 1913, whose title was International Exhibition of Modern Art, included paintings representational, less representational, and even less so, that is, paintings fairly abstract. Some paintings and one sculpture I liked in the centennial exhibit are the following: Cézanne – View of Domaine Saint-Joseph* Puvis – The Beheading of John the Baptist* Renoir – Algerian Girl* Robinson – In the Orchard* Hopkinson – Three Girls* Brancusi – Mlle. Pogany 1* Kuhn – Morning* Weir – The Factory Village* Munch – Madonna* Villon – Young Girl* Duchamp – Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) – * Manguin – La Naïade, Cavalière* From the catalogue The Armory Show at 100: Early twentieth-century, modern works—many I found salutary*—are exhibited at Neue Galerie near the Met.
  6. So far as I have noticed, professional philosophers affiliated with ARI speak on points in Rand’s thought that they think are correct, defensible, and fertile when they speak in ARI forums. That was also true of writers in Rand’s journal publications. I don’t know anything about these speakers’ disagreements with Rand. I bet they have some. I bet also they differ from person to person. Certainly, the areas of Rand’s thought they propound or elucidate vary from person to person. This group of scholars is loose in the sense that there is no publication such as The Objectivist over which the author of the philosophy rules on what is correct expression of the philosophy. There is no publication voicing unified manifestos on Objectivism from this group of philosophers, which would include T. Smith, Wright, Salmieri, Rheins, Ghate, Bayer, as well as the older fellows Binswanger and Peikoff. I imagine Peikoff, and David Kelley too, have points on which they think Rand got something or other wrong. In Peikoff’s OPAR, as I recall, there are indications of that where he distances himself by saying “According to Miss Rand, . . .” in the course of relating her view on some aspect of child cognitive development. Then too, his treatment in that work of Rand’s gedanken of the indestructible immortal robot—probably sensitive to criticisms, such as from J. C. King—suggests he (and perhaps late Rand) had reservations on her original formulation of the idea, that is, on its complete correctness. It would seem natural that these two, Peikoff and Kelley, who have won esteem as expositors of Rand’s philosophy as a whole should concentrate in their presentations on what they find true and productive in Rand’s philosophy. In contemporary Kant scholarship, there is a similar emphasis in Allison’s Kant's Transcendental Idealism and Wood’s Kantian Ethics. There are different styles of worthwhile books and papers to be written on a philosophy. Smith’s two books Viable Values and Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics engage criticisms and contemporary competitors. Similarly it is with the collection edited by Den Uyl and Rasmussen The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand. Informed defenses of Rand, in print, by professional philosophers against contemporary criticisms of her views did not wait for the era of T. Smith in affiliation with ARI. I’m glad to have all of them, earlier or later, and I find expositions such as Peikoff’s OPAR and the tomes of Allison and Wood valuable as well. Perhaps the old criticisms of Rand’s ethics by Nozick, which were stoutly addressed by Den Uyl and Rassmussen in the ’70’s, will receive some further defensive perspective from Ghate at the meeting of ARS next month. Thus far, the ARS engagements of Rand defenders (including ones affiliated with ARI) with contemporary criticism that have been published include Swanton’s criticism of Rand’s egoism with its response from Wright and Cullyer’s criticism of Rand’s egoism with its response from Smith. Those are in Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue. Noteworthy outside the proceedings of ARS would be Young’s defense of Rand’s egoism against criticisms by Huemer in V5N2 of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. The ARS volume Concepts and their Role in Knowledge includes criticisms of various parts of Rand’s epistemology by five different philosophers and responses from five different philosophers, all of the latter affiliated with ARI. If one reads the various books and papers I have mentioned, one may find some of one’s own criticisms of Rand’s ideas set forth and debated therein. Perhaps not, not yet, ever. Hopefully, books on Rand’s philosophy, pro and con, will continue to issue. I have been able to set out a substantial amount of thought on that philosophy on the web* and may write a book on my own philosophy in the future, which would surely have its debt to and correctives of Rand’s, though that would not be its focus.
  7. . This work The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change (Harvard 1998), by Randall Collins, might well repay study and comparison with Peikoff's DIM.
  8. Correction to #30: John Cooper was not a presenter at ARS, but chaired the session (2005).
  9. PS Contributors to the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies do not include any from the professional philosophical community way wider than the Objectivist one. JARS has been an extended-family affair and a very worthwhile one for the extended family, myself included. But the heavyweights of ethics and epistemology today (think T. Hurka, B. Herman in ethics; C. Peacock, J. Prinz in epistemology), which are the areas in which Rand had something both original and significant to say, will not be showing up in JARS in this generation. (Yes, M. Huemer did appear a few years ago, though not in relation to his claims to fame; delighted if he returns.) And they are not going to be bringing up Rand's thought for serious sustained criticism in the professional journals of the really wider philosophical community this generation either. Engagement by heavyweights in the really wider academic philosophical community does occur sometimes at sessions of the Ayn Rand Society.
  10. Some of the Societies of the American Philosophical Association are listed here, with hyperlinks to each. For some reason, many of the Societies that regularly have sessions at meetings of the APA are not listed there, but the list gives a sample of the range of Societies. I am a member of two besides ARS, and samples of some of their past conference programs are linked below. They have sessions at meetings of the APA, like ARS has, but they have a sufficient number of scholars to hold their own multiday conferences as well. It will be for generations after us to see if Ayn Rand’s philosophy ever has that much top-shelf scholarly interest and fertility. Notice that the Societies dedicated to a particular philosopher have programs, papers, and publications all within an extended family of scholars competent in and respectful towards some aspect of that philosophy seen as significant and innovative in the history of philosophy. LSNA NAKS There are other societies of the APA dedicated to a topic, not a philosopher, and their sessions are often bouts between sides on issues within the topic, where participants share only adherence to logic and interest in the topic, and there is not any overarching school of philosophy organizing the sessions or their publications. Examples are the Philosophy of Time Society and Society for Realist/Antirealist Discussion. Presenters at ARS by widely respected philosophers who are not within the Objectivist extended family have included: Julia Driver Paul Griffiths Robert Pasnau John Cooper Helen Cullyer Paul Bloomfield Bill Brewer Hasok Chang These philosophers have seen some part of Rand’s philosophy worth thinking about and critiquing. That philosophers of this caliber and this independence from Objectivism will continue to find making a paper for the Ayn Rand Society worthwhile is nowise assured. It depends on the leadership of the Society and the quality and respectfulness of the Objectivist-minded presenting at the sessions. At present the Steering Committee of ARS consists of two members who are affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute and two members who are not and never have been affiliated with that institution. All of them find some significant portion of Rand's philosophy true and something in the philosophy not only true, but original and important enough to promote for consideration and cultivation. I know all of them personally, at least a bit, and have by their written and oral work the highest confidence in their competence in Rand's philosophy and in their professional dedication to its competent criticism and further elucidation. James Lennox, Associate Editor of the series Ayn Rand Society Philosophical Studies, is likely to become Editor since Allan Gotthelf has died. Whether or not that eventuates, he will be the preeminent weight in the future course of the sessions and press of the Society, and he is not affiliated with ARI.
  11. October 2013 Identity, Inner Life and Psychological Change Allan Blumenthal, MD -S
  12. “Physical force means what it does in physics.” Well, no. The context of moral proscriptions against initiating the use of force person-to-person is a teleological context. Force there means more than what it means in physics. The physics of force in a teleological context is part of the physical story, a necessary part, but not the whole of its physical character. Force against life and its specific features and causal organization is more than time rate of change in momentum. Physical force within which the role and character of thought and choice enter into the moral proscription against initiation of force is physical force specifically as it disrupts physical life processes in the human, social case. I expect you agree.
  13. . Yes, I speak also of my company, my family, and my country. Yes, my tribe way back had rightful title to some farms in the South, rightly recognized at times by the US government, much like we recognize ownership of farms by large corporations today. Yes, today my tribe owns land and a casino in Oklahoma. In another recent post, a generous one to you personally, I told you what I thought about something in addition to agreeing to what you thought about it, then showed you, for the fine old language and entertainment, what Thomas Hobbes wrote on the topic, his view, not mine. You responded by spitting on the precious personal information I had shared with you in the first paragraph* and by distortion of my own express view and not as if I had given you a congenial smile, but a punch, and proceeded there as here to striking out at phantoms. You have demonstrated you do not benefit from my thought or information, and I'll not bother with you further.
  14. Mr. Jodeit, The takeover of Native American lands in continental USA was by many different sorts of treaties and methods, but it was not for the sake of building factories. My tribe and its sister tribes were hunters and farmers who adopted the better technology of the European settlers. It is false that those tribes and others merely "lived in the mud." The takeover was overwhelmingly for the sake transferring farms and other lands of the tribes to European settlers, which means European farmers and ranchers. Some land was taken for mining, but that was the exception. The rule was takeover for agriculture by factions of people having influence in the US government. There can be no informed sweeping conclusion saying there were two sides throughout the new settlement of America, one of them always without moral title to the land they had been using, the newcomers always with moral title. That is the collectivist thinking you and I both oppose. Ayn Rand and the person who posed the question to her fell into that error on this occasion, error made possible by their ignorance of the history of the real people, beyond stereotypes.
  15. Some history from our family’s tribe,* the Choctaw: Continued here. Of Native Americans more generally, there was no genocide. Deaths were overwhelmingly due to infection from the Europeans for which Native Americans had no immune defenses. Nobody had our knowledge of that in those days. It was not a deliberate mass killing.
  16. Hi Nicky, I think it is very unlikely these books will ever be published as audio books. If you can afford them and can find some shelf space, I would urge you to buy them and let them sit on the shelf. Years hence, you never know how your situation may change and afford time to assimilate this research. I noticed today you had asked me a question on another thread a couple of weeks ago. Delighted to reply, hopefully tomorrow. Stephen
  17. The following two works by Robert N. Bellah look as if they could significantly inform an answer to Michele’s lead question and as likely to be good reading companion to Ayn Rand’s essay “For the New Intellectual.” Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age (Harvard 2013) The Axial Age and Its Consequences (Harvard 2012) –S
  18. James and Nell and Jonathan, I have known a number of philosophers in academia, most of them not Objectivist. My impression is that among English-language philosophers today who have earned a PhD a significant number are realists concerning perception, science, and epistemology more generally. Overwhelmingly, at the same time, they reject foundationalism, especially of the axiomatic sort. The number of philosophers in agreement with Rand’s ethics, or with any egoistic ethics, is insignificant. (Eudaimonistic ethicists today also generally reject egoism.) Some philosophers defend the justice of laissez-faire capitalism, but not many in comparison to those opposing it. There is overwhelming commitment to reason among those professional philosophers. Conceptions of reason will vary considerably, but they stand pat overwhelmingly against fideism, assertions without reasons, and logical fallacies (formal or informal). Overwhelmingly, they are atheists, outside of the religious schools. In sum there is significant concurrence with Rand on realism, reason, and atheism, but next to no concurrence with Rand on axiomatic foundationalism, egoism, or laissez-faire capitalism. Those academic philosophers who have looked into Rand’s philosophy think they can refute it just fine. I imagine some of those philosophers who have not given a sustained look at Rand’s philosophy simply don’t have time for it, estimating it could not give them much help, given it is not academic philosophy. They have much other, definitely helpful work to study. They are pressed for time not only by shortness of life, but by competition from colleagues in their area. Rand’s philosophy does give many other people much help, as you know. I expect it be will be around a while, and eventually someone might even bother to pull together a secularist and philosophically sophisticated book-length critique of the entire philosophy. At this point, however, it is unclear who would be the audience for such a work. Most people I’ve known with an interest in Rand’s philosophy either have an interest in it mainly for political organization or for the sake of themselves and their family. True, a few of us have studied philosophy widely beyond Rand, from all periods of philosophy, including our own, but few is few. Stephen*
  19. I see that in the lead sentence of the article, the adjective amateur has been removed. I had never looked at this article until now. From a quick skim, it looks pretty good. The last sentence of the introduction says that Rand "has been a significant influence among libertarians and American conservatives." I wonder if she has also been a significant influence on contemporary atheism and self-esteem. I expect so for both, but I'm not aware of any sociological research on the extent of those influences.
  20. Opening tomorrow and running through 23 February 2014: The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution The exhibition “will be accompanied by a substantial catalogue with thirty-one essays by prominent scholars from a variety of fields to re-examine the 1913 exhibition and its historical and cultural context.” A related text from MoMA (2013): Inventing Abstraction 1910–1925 How a Radical Idea Changed Modern Art
  21. . 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics Ten Sigma
  22. Newly issued: The Ways and Means of Painting Joan Mitchell Blumenthal
  23. The seminar on the epistemology of concepts this fall was marvelous. The advance readings were very worthwhile.* The discussion was tremendous, with much cross-fertilization among professional philosophers and intellectuals from other disciplines, all serious students of philosophy. Irfan’s leadership in our seminar was very productive. Thanks to him and to Carrie-Ann for bringing this off and for the hospitality. Return to this spot to find what definite shape develops for the Spring 2014 seminar from IOS. If it would be feasible for you to travel to Glen Ridge NJ, west of Manhattan, and if you would like to study David Kaspar’s Intuitionism for discussion next spring with others competent in and alive to Rand’s philosophy, contact IOS.
  24. Robert Nozick (1938–2002) 2001 Interview Reading Nozick – Essays on Anarchy, State, and Utopia Jeffrey Paul, editor (1981) This collection includes Nozick’s 1971 paper “On the Randian Argument” (which is also contained in Nozick’s own collection Socratic Puzzles and has been put online), and it includes the 1978 response “Nozick on the Randian Argument” by Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen. The Cambridge Companion to Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia Ralf Bader and John Meadowcroft, editors (2011)
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