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tygorton

The Art of Romanticizing an Idea

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In order to fight against the concept of altruism, reason must fight against hundreds of years of artwork that has worked to romanticize the notion of self-sacrifice.

How many films project the lone hero sacrificing everything to save others (often total strangers)?

Human beings have been sold the idea that the very essence of their existence IS bound up in the bitter-sweet irony that, despite their greatest efforts, they cannot possibly achieve the highest level of altruism. The important thing to grasp is that it is this precise fact, that a purely altruistic human CANNOT exist, which art has leveraged in order to romanticize the idea. For whatever reason, modern man is obsessed with the unattainable ideal. Hollywood especially has romanticized the notion that the sweetest aspect of humanity is its noble attempt at total self-sacrifice, and inevitable failure.

The madness involved in this equation is frightening.

Essentially, we exist in a world in which the majority has fully embraced a moral philosophy DESPITE knowing that it is unachievable. Further, it is this unachievable aspect of altruism that makes the idea romantic for people. Somehow, the pre-knowledge of failure makes the whole thing “beautiful”, as though trying to achieve something despite the absolute awareness that you will fail in the end is some kind of heroic gesture. It is a tragedy on the scale of any classic Shakespeare play and it is leading to the end of Capitalism and, subsequently, the end of freedom.

How does Objectivism hope to overcome hundreds of years of romanticizing altruism? How do you communicate with a collective that not only understands that the ideal embodiment of their philosophy is unachievable but also believes that there is great beauty in attempting to achieve it regardless; the larger and more devastating the failure, the more romantic a gesture it becomes.

This goes far beyond developing a rational counterpoint to an idea. Altruism has been galvanized in the minds of the American public (and much of the world) via hundreds of years of art. The roots are deep, so deep as to make it difficult for people to remove altruism without threatening their entire romantic notion of “being human”.

If Objectivism is going to make any impact, it must begin making more art. Objectivist artwork, in the long term, is the only way to bring about change. This is why Ayn Rand’s fictional contributions are so crucial. Art defines every culture… and as of right now, the art of altruism is by far the most powerful in existence. This must change.

Edited by tygorton

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As the question is couched, the picture painted is pretty bleak.

Why fight against the concept of altruism? Shouldn’t the fight be for rational egoism?

In Faith and Force, is the bold assertion. “The power of morality is the greatest of all intellectual powers.“

Altruism is about sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of reason on the alter to suffering. Human beings have never truly been offered an alternative to altruism before, and as long as people think that morality is outside the province of reason, no rational morality can be discovered.

We can see the power of morality, even as it is contradictorily rationalized in altruistic bromides. People mouth it, but are frozen from acting upon what they espouse.

The end of the dark ages with the onset of the renaissance unleashed the power of the mind as it had never before been realized. That power, though severely undermined by not having a rational morality to go with it, is evident in every western culture on the globe. Renaissance, quite literally means rebirth or revival. It was quite literally the rebirth, the revival, the rediscovery, if you will, of the mind.

A rational morality has now been discovered. Between the power of morality, and the discovery of a rational morality, altruism will be sacrificed on the alter to the pursuit of happiness. Rational morality is the antidote to altruism. It is continually being administered by the self-trained moral physicians of our time. As it becomes better understood, more efficient distribution methods will be discovered, created and implemented, including within the realm of art.

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Agreed. The only way to "fight" altruism is to bring the alternative to life one individual at a time. Fighting any idea head on, especially one so deeply rooted, typically ends in failure. Only the successful implentation of a superior alternative can snap people out of their stupor.

Art is without question one of the most powerful ways to influence individuals. Objectivist art is the greatest tool available to opening the human mind to its own potential.

I have several art projects underway in my local town that feature Objectivist concepts. If there is to be a viable movement, I believe art must be its foundation, not academia. The recruitment of artists should be an intense focus.

Where I live (Chico, CA), art is a substantial piece of the cultural puzzle. Unfortunately, because an alarming percentage of the art being produced is born from the idea of man as a fallen being and a self-sacrificial animal, only the artists themselves are interested in supporting the scene. Before delving into Objectivism, I was baffled by the embarassing lack of support for the arts in my town, despite its overwhelming pressence. Now I understand why people want nothing to do with the arts. So much of what is produced offers nothing but dystopia. It is painfully rare to see an art piece that depicts man as noble and in control of his destiny. Why would the average person be interested in surrounding themselves with images that offer only despair and hopelessness?

My end goal locally is to establish an Objectivist Arts Center where artists can learn how to apply the philosophy to their work. I am certain that the public would offer much greater support for the arts if it provided inspiration to them rather than fear and ugliness. Only when Objectivist art permeates mainstream culture can we hope to see a shift toward reason by the majority.

Edited by tygorton

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". . . was art the catalyst for the Renaissance?"

There are multiple ideas floating around on what brought about the Renaissance. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance#Origins I put a fair deal of stock in the idea that the black death was a really big thing to set these huge changes into motion. A ton of people died from all parts of society and left behind a lot of chaos and opportunities. I think art helped fan the flames of the renaissance, but things had already gotten started to enable the art to blossom. They needed to have built up some wealth somehow first to pay people to make all this art.

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". . . was art the catalyst for the Renaissance?"

They needed to have built up some wealth somehow first to pay people to make all this art.

That's an interesting notion, that artists get "paid" ;)

Many of history's greatest artists never rose above poverty in their lifetimes. The iconic notion of the "starving artist" is certainly cliche, but like most cliches, it has a foundation of truth. If artists only made art when they were getting paid for it, I'd imagine we'd have 75% less art in the world today.

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If artists only made art when they were getting paid for it, I'd imagine we'd have 75% less art in the world today.

Judging from 75% of what is referred to as 'art', we might be 75% better off. (toungue in cheek).

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Ha! Can't argue there.

Poop on toast is "art" if someone chooses to place it in a gallery setting. I submit that accepting this kind of pretentiousness as art is about as appealing as, well, eating such an installation would be.

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The payment issue is quite important actually for two reasons. First, they needed to pay for the supplies. You don't just get and carry around a piece of stone as big as the statue of David for nothing. That's out of the budget range of most people. Second, there was a lot of the most well known art from that time being made through commission by the church which often involved big and long term projects and there was the patronage system where wealthy people would provide not only finances for supplies, but the living expenses of an artist the entire time it took them to make a piece of art they were assigned to do, which could take quite a while. Paintings and drawings may not require so much time and money, but stuff like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel took years of working day in and day out and due to size required a lot of materials.

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Personally, I wouldn't suggest that anything was a catalyst to the Renaissance, given that it was a changing time period whose start was not characterized by any *particular* rulers or event (a semantic argument, perhaps). I'd say art produced represented what ideas were beginning to grow, but in a sense, the Renaissance *is* the spread of art. From what I remember of art history in general, any aesthetic genre grew at the same time as a philosophical viewpoint, which includes futurism, cubism, impressionism, surrealism, naturalism, or any other style you can examine. What philosophical viewpoints came just before you start seeing Renaissance-era paintings, I don't know, but as was mentioned earlier, wealth was beginning to build up at the time. Where and how that wealth was acquired I'd really like to know, but once it was acquired, art certainly started to have a role in expanding the ideas which enabled wealth accumulation.

I expand on that idea because I don't see why you speak of "hundreds of years of artwork" romanticizing self-sacrifice. Renaissance artwork is hard to label as self-sacrificial except maybe a handful of religious works, given how they often portray Greek gods. If you found any self-sacrificial representation, I could easily show 5 paintings which showed nothing of the sort. If anything, you could argue that only in the 20th century did anyone begin to romanticize self-sacrifice; after all, Picasso was an ardent communist. At the same time, I'd say Picasso showed an idealization of non-cognition, so the issue still isn't self-sacrifice really.

A lone hero sacrificing everything to save others? Sure, I can think of some movies and books like that, but I wouldn't suggest that's anyone's favorite part. It's just really easy to write a plot in that style. What attracts people to a movie like Avatar is not the plot, but the visual gimmicks. Why spend time on plot if prettying up a movie takes longer and is what people prefer? In other words, non-cognition is what I see at work, not idealizing self-sacrifice. Renaissance art took a high degree of conceptualization (as do other aesthetic styles, of course), while something like Twilight doesn't.

My end goal locally is to establish an Objectivist Arts Center where artists can learn how to apply the philosophy to their work. I am certain that the public would offer much greater support for the arts if it provided inspiration to them rather than fear and ugliness. Only when Objectivist art permeates mainstream culture can we hope to see a shift toward reason by the majority.

In principle, I agree with what you're getting at, but definitely be wary of using the phrase "Objectivist art". I agree that representing ideals through is the best way to spread ideas, but there is nothing about any art that would represent Objectivism. A self-proclaimed Objectivist may make terrible art which stands against your ideal, and a person who doesn't even know what Objectivism is can make fine art that well-represents your ideal.

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"Personally, I wouldn't suggest that anything was a catalyst to the Renaissance, given that it was a changing time period whose start was not characterized by any *particular* rulers or event (a semantic argument, perhaps)."

The plague, flourishing trade routes being established and utilized, some old classical Greek and Arabic texts (the Arabic ones having been heavily influenced by the Greek ones), and the patronage system were very crucial in setting off the Renaissance. Also, the Medici family in Italy, a rich family who hired people to make lots of art for them, was very important to spurring on the artistic developments. Merchants began running the show in some areas, getting away from feudalism and economic obstacles that came with church influence. Additionally, there are some pretty particular things established about what marks the start of the Renaissance. "Most historiansagree that the ideas that characterized the Renaissance had their origin in late 13th century Florence, in particular with the writings of Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) and Francesco Petrarca (1304–1374), as well as the painting of Giotto di Bondone (1267–1337). Some writers date the Renaissance quite precisely; one proposed starting point is 1401, when the rival geniuses Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi competed for the contract to build the bronze doors for the Baptistery of the Florence Cathedral (Ghiberti won)." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance#Origins

"Where and how that wealth was acquired I'd really like to know . . ."

"The Crusades had built lasting trade links to the Levant . . . Luxury goods bought in the Levant, such as spices, dyes, and silks were imported to Italy and then resold throughout Europe. Moreover, the inland city-states profited from the rich agricultural land of the Po valley. From France, Germany, and the Low Countries, through the medium of the Champagne fairs, land and river trade routes brought goods such as wool, wheat, and precious metals into the region. The extensive trade that stretched from Egypt to the Baltic generated substantial surpluses that allowed significant investment in mining and agriculture. Thus, while northern Italy was not richer in resources than many other parts of Europe, the level of development, stimulated by trade, allowed it to prosper. In particular, Florence became one of the wealthiest of the cities of Northern Italy, due mainly to its woolen textile production, developed under the supervision of its dominant trade guild, the Arte della Lana. Wool was imported from Northern Europe (and in the 16th century from Spain) and together with dyes from the east were used to make high quality textiles." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_Renaissance#Northern_and_Central_Italy_in_the_Late_Middle_Ages

In short, they were well positioned for trading and did so a lot and then invested some of their gains in mining and farming. Suck on that, anti-global trade fools.

I had two classes on the Renaissance at college, one of them focusing on its start in Italy. :ninja: The Renaissance is much better characterized as a cultural movement than just an artistic movement I would say. The art is what most people today hear about from it, but the art was a lot more like the end product of many other factors and was the final piece falling into place. As for the ideas behind the art, there was a big shift in focus onto life here on earth rather than quite so much preoccupation with the "afterlife." This may have been influenced by the plague. Philosophers of the time were heavily influenced by the return of many classical Greek texts. A lot of these Renaissance philosopher's writings contained things that ran contrary to church doctrine, at times coming within a hair's width of throwing out Christianity as a load of rubbish. Mmm, tempted to go dig out my notes from class . . .

More on topic of the first post though, religious writings especially have lots of promotions of allowing oneself/one's life to be destroyed. Everybody here knows the Jesus thing and Job. In a Russian variant of Christianity (Maybe it was Russian Orthodox? Not positive) I remember reading an old tale of a guy who refused to defend himself from a violent attacker, died, and was made a saint or something similar for this. One Eastern religion (Janism) I read a little about seems to have as its founder and exemplar of their ideal a guy who got so detached and absent of giving a damn bout anything that he just stopped eating eventually and starved to death. For a non-religious story though, one of the stories in The Decameron (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decameron) which was written during the Renaissance, the last story in it I think it might be, was about a girl who was painted as being so great because she got nothing but tons of undeserved shit rained down upon her for ages and just took it. That's not counting things outside of literature like religions that practiced human sacrifice. So, this encouragement of people to not look out for their own interests is certainly really, really old.

On the other hand though, stuff encouraging the opposite is, not surprisingly given that we haven't gone extinct, also really, really old. The Prince and Petrarch's (obnoxious) poem collection were written during the Renaissance too, with The Prince being a guide aimed at instructing a ruler in how not to go down in flames and Petrarch whining about how TORTUROUS it is that he's driven to seek glory, oh woe is him. The ancient Greeks have tons of stuff that is supportive of people taking care of themselves and not rushing to their doom. I wish I could come up with more examples pre-Renaissance, but aside from the Greek classics, pre-Renaissance era they generally don't seem to teach much of any literature aside from Beowulf and some religious stories. :worry:

"What attracts people to a movie like Avatar is not the plot, but the visual gimmicks."

Hehe, I loved how out of all the awards that movie was nominated for, it's technical elements were all it got anything for. So gratifyingly correct for once in a while that they didn't let themselves get biased by, "Oooh, pretty" into declaring EVERYTHING about it must be a masterpiece and stone the non-believers.

Edited by bluecherry

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I think I was imprecise in my wording. My thinking was that while some time periods are set off by specific events, like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand starting WW1, more broad time periods like the Renaissance or Enlightenment can't really be pinned down to a precise moment or person. Of course, there are important individuals involved. If catalyst in this context only means an element that pushed a feedback look, well, then there are numerous catalysts as were noted. About how wealth was acquired, how infrastructure was put into place was more my interest, and especially any economic ideas written at the time.

The Renaissance is much better characterized as a cultural movement than just an artistic movement I would say.

I think this is close to what I was getting at with regards to the Renaissance being an art movement. Yes, it was a cultural movement, but I'd still suggest that it art was different enough at the time compared to anything since the end of the Roman empire that art was the most important element of that movement. At the same time, the "differentness" may have been primarily due to changing investment practices, so it may still be unfair of me to put so much emphasis on the art.

I agree shifting focus to life on earth was influenced by the plague. After all, if people are dying in high quantities around you, it's bound to get you to consider what happens if you die. Certainly, returning to Greek texts had additional influence, which was something probably only enabled by changes to trade first and foremost. Philosophers have every reason to consider more than just Christian texts when suddenly there is new literature to read and life seemed to be able to change in a moment. Actually, the philosophy class I just started yesterday was discussing various historical viewpoints about happiness. The medieval conception of happiness was starting to introduce pleasure as relevant to the equation, albeit "pleasure" being only truly possible in heaven according to some viewpoints. Afterlife mattered, but what you did in life through virtuous action still produced a nice emotional state in the here and now. The ancient Greeks (some of them, anyway) didn't put a lot of weight onto feeling happy. I'd certainly be interested to see some of your notes, as it would help shed further light on how philosophical outlook was changing.

The above may be a bit of a tangent, but it is relevant to the extent that changing views on what it even *means* to be happy had a role in establishing the art style during the Renaissance.

More along the lines of the OP, it's worth noting art and entertainment differences across cultures. I don't know who else is an anime-watcher here, but a lot of anime I've seen have a strong emphasis on heroism in general as compared to anything American. There is some amount of a martyr-complex sometimes, though.

Hehe, I loved how out of all the awards that movie was nominated for, it's technical elements were all it got anything for.

It'd be racist to give blue people too many awards. Diversity is what counts, y'know.

Edited by Eiuol

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There is argument for the period to have its "official" start with those two artists competing in the fancy shmancy door design contest. This is a specific event and specific people.

". . . art was different enough at the time compared to anything since the end of the Roman empire that art was the most important element of that movement."

How does the amount of difference make it more important than everything else? It isn't investment practices that are primarily responsible for it either. They did some investing yes, but it wasn't in any particularly new an unusual way. It was all the trading which made them wealthy and the changing attitudes due to influence from the old foreign writings along with greater social and economic mobility which drove the quality and quantity of the art at that time. The art helped perpetuate its own underlying causes, but putting the art as THE defining, most important element of the Renaissance . . . it's like you don't have your ducks in a row here, you're plucking something off the top and taking it away from its foundation. (Though while I'm on Renaissance art and the importance of ideas and whatnot that underlie it, did you know that this was the time period when they developed linear perspective? Their art before had awful scale and depth depiction issues.)

About the philosophic changes, I think I still have one of my text books from the Italian class which has chunks of philosophic writing from some of the most prominent/significant philosophers and philosophy movements at the time. I really liked the text from this one guy I did a short presentation on a lot is why I think I decided not to sell that book back to the school. He had pretty strong Aristotelian influence if memory serves me correctly. Ah! Pompanazi! That's the guy's name. Maybe a little later I can loan you my book or direct you to some sources on the writers and writings in it. :)

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Hmm, the "official start" line of discussion is probably best left for another thread. That's an epistemological discussion.

(Though while I'm on Renaissance art and the importance of ideas and whatnot that underlie it, did you know that this was the time period when they developed linear perspective? Their art before had awful scale and depth depiction issues.)

Now that you mention it, I do recall that fact. I think the idea I'm grasping at is that art is a great representation of a culture in a concretized way, but is itself never the most important element of a social movement. When I think Renaissance, I think specifically kinds of artwork, part of a "flood of concretes" that happens with induced concepts. The concept in this case is a greater interest in this-worldliness which I label as "Renaissance". At the same time, the more abstract concepts of trade and changing conceptions of happiness are all parts of what made the Renaissance. Without everything else, the art is meaningless and would have never been made. The essential is the philosophy, while art is just an important feature. Art in turn makes it possible for people to concretely latch onto and integrate philosophical ideas a person is starting to develop from the world around them.

Ah! Pompanazi!

I'd be wary of a guy whose name sounds almost like Pompous Nazi. :P I'd be interested to read more about the guy.

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Hey, whatcha' know? I think we may actually be on the same metaphorical page now. It didn't take 10 literal pages. XD I've got no bones to pick with this last post of yours. Just a point of interest though, I expect the art is what most people have come to mind right away about the Renaissance, but the first thing that comes to my mind has always been about the growth in prosperity that came with the old establishment starting to lose its stranglehold on society. (Or the nutshell version to pop into my head right away, "F--- the church, f--- f--- f--- the church") I expect the art is a little lower down the line in what comes to mind for me because I strongly associate the Renaissance with being kind of a precursor to the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment seems to never get much attention given to its art. In literature and poetry classes we only really hear about satires from the time and that's it.

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I am getting the sense that asking what was the catalyst to the Renaissance is akin to asking what was the catalyst that sparked Aristotle's use of reason in the manner which he so did.

(Thank reason for that too.!)

Edited by dream_weaver

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