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Adrian Hester

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Posts posted by Adrian Hester

  1. Ayn Rand has stated explicitly that homosexuality was not normal homo sapien behavior. I support that view.

    She also supported legalized abortion, which you oppose, and unlike her pronouncements on homosexuality she considered abortion a central issue in Objectivism, going so far as to urge her readers to vote against Reagan in 1976 because he opposed abortion: "I urge you, as emphatically as I can, not to support the candidacy of Ronald Reagan. I urge you not to work for or advocate his nomination, and not to vote for him...This description ["a conservative in the worst sense of that word"] applies in various degrees to most Republican politicians, but most of them preserve some respect for the rights of the individual. Mr. Reagan does not: he opposes the right to abortion."

    This line of reasoning is simply not in line with the philosophy of Objectivism that that Ayn Rand created...

    Neither are your views on abortion.

    Will the defenders of Rand's work and beliefs please stand up?

    You disagree with Ayn Rand on abortion yet consider yourself a defender of her work and beliefs. You should extend the same courtesy to those who disagree with you about homosexuality.

    [Edited to add link.]

  2. What is the cost to the other if they are sharing extra resources they don't require for their average level of comfort?

    The cost of the time, labor, and thought put into acquiring aand processing the things found in nature to where they are usable by others.

    How is dignity self made when all our resources come from the Earth and other living things?

    Again the equation of things as found in nature and those same things rendered usable by human time, labor, and thought, both indifferently described as "resources" to be divided among the group with no regard for the ones who made them usable: In short, again the attempt to obliterate the human mind as our distinctive means of survival.

  3. Okay to answer. Now I'm going to try to explain an interesting point about cooperative sharing and competition. Cooperative sharing is not a form of dependence on others.

    Liberal contradicts this bizarre claim below: "Cooperative sharing of resources is only the sharing of extra resources among a group by a member who does not require those resources to maintain an average degree of comfort." So in fact cooperative sharing requires that someone else have what is shared.

    Competition is the actual form of dependence. This is easily observable in the example of two members of different species competing over the entirety of a kill that one has made. Because the two animals cannot negotiate an equal division of the resources, the loss of the resource by the one is felt as a "dependence" by the other.

    Note the sleight of hand in this phrase: "felt as a 'dependence'". There's no effort on liberal's part to explain why this is actually dependence, or even to define "dependence" at all; instead, liberal assumes somehow that there is no need even to justify his claim that the animal feels a certain way, never mind equating this feeling with reality.

    Cooperative sharing is compatible with independence because no one is actually being depended on in cooperative sharing. Cooperative sharing of resources is only the sharing of extra resources among a group by a member who does not require those resources to maintain an average degree of comfort. So, as long as the procurer of a resource keeps enough to sustain their average degree of comfort, no loss or dependence is felt. The dependence is on the Earth.

    Again liberal gleefully ignores productive activity and the use of the human mind and labor, which are precisely what underlie the distinction between the earned and the unearned. Even gathering resources available and ready for use in nature requires the labor of gathering it, and most resources only become ready for use after human processing--labor, time, and the use of the human mind to discover how to do so in the first place. So contrary to liberal's last sentence, the dependency in cooperative sharing is precisely dependence on the labor and minds of those others who gathered or processed the things of nature in the first place, not on the Earth. It's a revealing argument though--by ruling labor and mind out of consideration from the get-go, this allows him to pretend that the cooperative group is itself a part of nature on the same level as the Earth, which liberal seems to consider a desirable state of affairs. Ayn Rand pointed out that leftists seek freedom on the intellectual level, conservatives on the material level, since both sides want to control the realm it considers metaphysically important. Our poster liberal exemplifies this perfectly.

  4. First, let me say I'm excited to be talking with a serious historian (or history buff) about this, and thank you for commenting. If my thesis seems naive and presumptuous and annoying, well, perhaps it is all of those things. I started by saying it was preposterous, and I'm not going to flinch if people are skeptical.

    I'm not a professional historian, I'm a linguist. You don't need historical training to treat such issues, just determination, curiosity, and time.

    To get a positive curve I have to start with the Qin, which basically throws out everything in Chinese history prior to 221 BC.

    So starting with the Qin you start getting positive trends even with your method: Hardly ringing evidence for a universal trend towards decay!

    Again, I'm not averse to doing the analysis independently of Wikipedia or some neutral source, assembling a custom data set. But coming from someone who is not a professional historian, I think the cries of "cherry picking" if I did it that way would be all the louder.

    It's a question of how reliable you yourself to know your data to be. Otherwise you're just picking cherries some boss has laid out a path for you to pick along.

    Now, in regard to your first question, I use rank number versus cumulative years to get average duration, and plot the decline in average duration. Why do the calculation based on the cumulative curve? Because the theory says that the pattern depends on increasing set size, or rank. We can certainly do it other ways and still get a decline -- as you did when you fitted a linear estimate to my table and got the downward trend of about 1.5 years lost per additional dynasty. But if you think the cause is entropy, then you want above all to see what the pattern looks like in a cumulative plot. That allows me to compare apples to apples when I look at disparate data types.

    But the question is how to prove this to someone like me skeptical of your claim about entropy. (And technically, I fitted a power law to your data, though by the quickest method I could, so the details doubtless differ.) The very first step of using cumulative data introduces a bias towards the earlier data that I pointed out renders your method nugatory since it gaves negative trends for reversed time series as well in certain circumstances.

    However, that also creates a strong auto-correlation effect. The scores for a cumulative plot are always good if the slope is even slightly downward. So if I were to cite correlation scores for the graphs the reader actually sees, it would be meaningless and misleading.

    If used for comparison of alternate methods, no, they're useful.

  5. I wrote a lengthier reply earlier that I tried to post just as the power went out, so it's lost. While not as fleshed out with examples, at least I hope this version gains in clarity from concision.

    I agree with these concerns, broadly speaking, but I don't regard them as a conclusive argument against including the data. On the level of analyzing individual rulers, I won't use semi-legendary figures who live 400 years; but given some circumstantial evidence I will accept a dynasty whose precise sequence of rulers is unclear or disputed as nonetheless having governed for X years in total. I see your concern about pre-literate societies but then we have to ask, if they had no records and could not themselves determine who had ruled in the past, does the concept of a "dynasty" even apply? Part of the basic idea of a dynasty is that it establishes the legitimacy of successive rulers by demonstrating their connection to the past. At the point where records do not exist, any argument about the stability of multi-generation rule starts to become moot.

    No, institutions of headship or chieftainship involving lineages over several generations are well-nigh universal whenever we look at non-literate societies. The Samoans, for example, had well-developed kingships and aristocratic societies with well-defied lineages despite not being able to write, as did the Hawaiians, the Bedouins of Arabia, the Salishan peoples of the Pacific Northwest, and on and on and on. It is clear that such societies kept track of their history through oral transmission, and while the details were unclear and fluid, the very fact that their rules had lineages was apparently universal. And when the great powers have had dealings with any part of the world peopled by other societies, we know from their records that they encountered states with ruling lineages, if only in the fact that those rulers paid them tribute in submission recorded in their monuments; these states could be quite large and powerful, as with the various steppe empires neighboring China. And remember: The Iliad and Odyssey themselves were preserved for centuries by oral transmission; oral transmission is not as reliable as writing, but it’s hardly just to conclude, as you do, that without writing these people had no sense of the past or of their neighbors and thus their states cannot be counted as dynasties.

    In any case, we again run into a basic methodological problem with your entire approach: What do you mean by “dynasty” anyway? We know these dynasties you do recognize were surrounded by states with lineages of rulers; we can also be fairly sure that these latter were shorter-lived than your dynasties on average. You exclude them for reasons you haven’t fleshed out, but until you support such a distinction, all you have done is sidestepped the fact that your methodology quite clearly introduces systematic biases towards longer average durations in the earliest periods (before 500 BC), biases that moreover are very great because so few dynasties of medium or short length would be expected to be recorded.

    I agree the early record may indeed be biased toward longer-lived dynasties, and that short-lived dynasties that did keep written records might have been overlooked. But to use this argument to exclude data items kind of begs the question. We're trying to discover what gives a society stability. If stability goes down as the size and complexity of a social system goes up, for example, then small kingdoms not in the historical record might actually have supported longer-lived dynasties. Obviously, we don't know, and I won't rule data in or out based on speculation.

    First of all, you’ve made a basic assumption, bolded above, that needs a great deal of argument: That what gives a society stability is one and the same thing for all societies at all times and places with any social structure, political institutions, technical achievements, or economic systems, as if exactly the same factors make a skyscraper and a tent stable in the same degree. However, feudal monarchies and bureaucratic monarchies are very different, as are sedentary and nomadic societies, agricultural and herding societies, and industrial and pre-industrial societies, and it is a dubious enterprise to lump them all together in periods when one or another form of social, political, or economic organization is spreading at the expense of others.

    Yes and no. I considered throwing out everything after the start of the Industrial Revolution, for example, but I found it again begs the question. New dynasties formed after 1800 had lifespans averaging only a few decades. Existing dynasties made it through the century intact only to die in the Great War, or World War II. So under the pressure of republicanism, expanding literacy, steam power, capitalism, what have you, the early dynasties still behave differently from the late ones within that span of time. That's what we're testing for, so no data gets thrown out.

    So instead of throwing out data from fundamentally dissimilar cases you practice the equally egregious error in the other direction of lumping them all in together.

    Well, at this point you've thrown out roughly a third of my data, focusing on the extremes on either end, and yet there's still a downward trend. I agree that even after 1000 AD the list isn't complete, but again I'm reluctant to speculate about the statistical character of dynasties we know nothing about, and that may not even have existed. (Just for example, we now know that New Guinea supported a large population over the past several thousand years. There were enormous numbers of people living in the interior of the island that early 20th century explorers simply missed. But when first contacted, these previously unknown peoples didn't have large-scale political systems, or dynastic rule, or even written language. It seems unlikely that they had these things in the past, and lost them.)

    Ah, but we know that other states did exist, and some were quite large and powerful without leaving records of their own. We also know of others by name that did have contemporary records, but these have been lost--the Greek kingdom of Bactria, for example, from which only coins, archeological remains, and brief, ever so brief mentions by later Greek historians survive. Similarly, the Toba Wei (who established the Jin states in north China) might have possessed writing, but no trace of it has survived. And there are many other examples, such as the Hephthalites of Central Asia, the southern Arabian kingdoms before Islam (much of what we know about them is due to their importance to the struggle between Rome and Persia).

    I agree that apart from the Old and New Worlds prior to 1492, dynasties were never absolutely independent of one another, but I think the idea that the trend can be explained by them competing for territory is kind of vague. I wouldn't say China was seriously competing with Spain at any point in their histories, for example. The Silk Road trade no doubt allowed East to influence West and vice versa, but it hardly seems like a determining factor in regime stability.

    So what? That entirely misses the point. Spain and France competed bitterly in that period against each other and against Britain, Austria, and their neighbors, and in so doing they gobbled up many shorter-lived neighboring states and put ends to their dynasties. You lump this process of consolidation in with the co-existence with little mutual influence of Spain and China on opposite ends of the same landmass, which is dump oranges in the apple bin and sell them all as Granny Smiths.

    And anyway, merely being able to come up with an alternative hypothesis for why there is a decline trend doesn't show mine is unsound.

    Ah, but "merely being able to come up with an alternative hypothesis" is an uncharitable description of what I've done. I'm pointing out alternative factors we know existed and pretty clearly were in play but that you ignore, and whose exclusion introduces systematic extensive bias towards your conclusion. It doesn't deal your case a fatal blow, but it does constitute a major body blow against the reliability and completeness of your data.

    I'm aware of the complexity of the story, and the problems with the quality of the data. However, the whole point of a maximum entropy curve is that it allows estimates to be made of the trend or the range of outcomes without knowing the details of how the system works. The data are sufficiently good to perceive that kind of simple trend (and sadly, as I observed, if kingship lists aren't good enough as data, then almost nothing from ancient history is).

    You have to ask, good enough data for what? For the dynasties for which they survive, yes, but as representative of the experience of the rest of human societies at the time, hardly. They introduce systematic biases that you rely on as model cases of the processes you claim to detect.

    Toynbee makes a good point of comparison, as does Spengler. I don't think it's fair to say either man "cherry-picked" his data, just as I don't think that that complaint is true of me. If you want to accuse them of something, or me, I think a better charge would be overly broad generalization -- a theory that is excessively inclusive rather than exclusive.

    Which entails something akin to unconscious cherry-picking. If a historical schema is over-inclusive, then to support it in argument you have to disregard lots of contradictory data, which Toynbee and Spengler most certainly did--and what would their criteria have been? That the contradictory data was unimpressive. Unimpressive why? Because it didn’t fit the program. You can call it something besides cherry-picking if you like; in any case, it’s the sort of error that historians are trained from their earliest years of study to recognize and avoid, and thus strikes historian critics of Toynbee and Spengler as basic errors of the crudest sort.

    They intended to cover all the relevant cases and made a good-faith effort, but their arguments were too simple to explain all the facts. Mine starts with an apologia for why a very, very simple model might actually be sufficient. (And not to be snarky, but I think Toynbee and Spengler both stand up quite well as scholars and historians in comparison with Rand's "Attila and the Witch Doctor" essay.)

    “John has more moral failings than Bill” is hardly a shining encomium, and “John has more moral failings than Bill, so Bill deserves respect” is fallacious. In any case, I think Ayn Rand’s emphasis on basic philosophical positions much more convincing than Toynbee’s Christian apologetics or Spengler’s etatist pessimism.

  6. The data for China that I used are (years duration first, then name)

    628 Three August Ones and the Five Emperors

    470 Xia Dynasty

    554 Shang Dynasty

    275 Western Zhou Dynasty

    514 Eastern Zhou Dynasty

    246 Spring and Autumn Period*

    254 Warring States Period*

    15 Qin Dynasty

    215 Western Han Dynasty

    16 Xin Dynasty

    195 Eastern Han Dynasty

    45 Three Kingdoms

    52 Western Jin Dynasty

    103 Eastern Jin Dynasty

    161 Southern and Northern Dynasties

    37 Sui Dynasty

    289 Tang Dynasty

    53 Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms

    167 Northern Song Dynasty

    152 Southern Song Dynasty

    209 Liao Dynasty

    119 Jin Dynasty

    97 Yuan Dynasty

    276 Ming Dynasty

    1 Shun Dynasty

    267 Qing Dynasty

    4 Empire of China

    First of all, you include on the one hand the Liao and the Jin dynasties and on the other the two Song dynasties, even though they coexisted. (The Liao was a state ruling the north China plain and vast stretches of the steppes founded by the Khitans, an early Mongolic people; the Jin was founded by the ancestors of the Manchus after they revolted against the Liao. The two Song dynasties were their native rivals in the south.)

    Second, there's no cause to include the Shun or the supposed "empire of China," and in any case the period given for the latter is dubious. The first was founded after the death of the last Ming emperor by a rebel peasant leader who captured Beijing (amid other powerful figures in the rest of China) in April 1644; his forces were defeated a month later by the Manchus, and his supposed dynasty was just a claim to the throne and a name. The duration of a year given in that list refers to his lifespan after April 1644, not to any period of effective rule. The second was founded by the first president of the Republic of China, Yuan Shikai, who served an elected term of 4 years, 1912-1916. In December 1915 he decided to reestablish the monarchy and declared himself emperor; the empire was abolished three months later and far from ruling any part of China effectively, it greatly sped the collapse of the republic into a congeries of domains of competing warlords (a period that lasted until Chiang Kai-Shek's Northern Campaign of 1926). So that figure you have of 4 years confounds his republican term of office and his three months of failed empire-building. In both cases they are historical curiosities that for whatever reason (they do have some slight historical importance, but not of the same degree as the Tang and Song) Wikipedia included out of a whole constellation of earlier futile and abortive bids for power that they ignored.

    Third, you include several periods of disorder and disunity as single units: The Three Kingdoms period after the end of the Later Han (the terms Former Han and Later Han are probably more mainstream than the geographical designations, but both are common enough currency, both in Chinese and Western scholarship), the Jin dynasty (which ruled only the northern part of China; the rest of China was divided among the so-called "16 Kingdoms," a period lasting from 304-439, and thus overlapping with the following period), the period of the Southern and Northern dynasties, when again China was divided into more than one state, and the period of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms after the collapse of the Tang. By lumping these all together, you follow a native tradition common in Confucian historiography (which means pretty much any Chinese history written in the imperial period, but identifies the intellectual source of the tendency) to disregard from consideration all dynasties that were not decided on whatever grounds (usually sheer success) to have received the Mandate of Heaven. Those periods were ones in which no agreement was reached on whether the Mandate had been passed down at all or simply withheld by Heaven, and thus much complexity is written off by using a simple canonical list. (Though even here the list is not canonical: The Shun certainly was not canonical, and by no means was Yuan Shikai's empire.)

    On the other hand, when the Mongols established the Yuan dynasty, their political program, such as it was, put them forward as successors to both the Chinese native dynasties and the empires of the steppes, and as a result the Confucians who wrote history for the Yuan wrote dynastic histories of both Song dynasties as well as the Liao and the Jin; had the Mongols not conquered the south of China, it is doubtful the successor of the Southern Song would have commissioned histories of the Liao and Jin. More generally, the choice of whether a dynasty was canonical or not was determined partly by the political circumstances of its successor, for the successor would in imperial Chinese political tradition have the obligation to compile a history (actually more of an encyclopedia of governance and administrators with lots of added almanacs) of its predecessor; after a period of disunion, the state that unified China (or at least part of China) could pick and choose favorites in the past with some freedom.

    Similarly, your figures are based on the view of the Former Han dynasty starting in 206 BC, but in fact the Qin dynasty was overthrown by a number of local rulers, and the one who declared himself supreme, Xiang Yu, ruled from 206-202 BC, before he was finally killed by the ruler of the Former Han, his former vassal. Since this was before the full-fledged intellectual dominance of Confucianism (which pretty much established its dominance in governance and political thought with the eclectic syncretism of Dong Zhongshu around the middle of the Former Han), it was the historical writings and schema of Sima Qian that set the date of 206 BC as the founding of the Former Han and the end of the Qin. (His biography of Xiang Yu is well worth reading, by the way, well-written, well-drawn, and wonderfully dramatic.)

    Fourth, while you include the Xin dynasty that overthrew the Former Han, your list leaves out many other cases of effective usurpation that simply weren't treated as canonical by later scholars. For example, Wu Zetian (Empress Wu) established what she called the Zhou dynasty (same character as the Zhou dynasty beloved of the Confucians) from 690 to 705; it ruled China effectively and was not ended by strife--Empress Wu abdicated due to illness and handed the govrnment over to a son, who reestablished the Tang dynasty. In essentials her dynasty was almost the same as the Xin dynasty, except that the founder of that dynasty (a son of a Former Han empress) was killed by an army of peasant rebels and the Han reestablished by the descendants of the emperors of the Former Han; whether you view the Hans and the Tang in either case as one long dynasty or two small dynasties separated by a short usurping dynasty is a matter of debate and in the list you use is something that was decided purely and simply by the political needs of the victor over the usurper.

    Fifth, the actual dates of each dynasty used by Wikipedia are somewhat arbitrary. Their article on Chinese dynasties includes one example: The Qing unified much of Manchuria by 1599 and took all the measures necessary to make a successful bid for traditional dynastic power by 1616; they established the Qing dynasty as such in 1636 when they gained rule over the Inner Mongolian tribes and received the imperial seal of Chinggis Khan; they captured Beijing in 1644; they defeated the last Ming pretender in 1662; but they also had to fend off a massive revolt in the period 1674-81 (the Revolt of the Three Feudatories). Which date do you choose? Similarly, the Mongols defeated the Jin and declared war on the Southern Song in 1234; they effectively (well, effectively by their lights, but they had quite different views of governance than the Chinese, so a Chinese view would be "effectively and cruelly") ruled much of north China from 1215, but it was only because Khubilai Khan had been trained by Confucian scholars as a young man that he saw the need to declare himself emperor in the Chinese tradition in 1271, and only in 1279 defeated the Southern Song and took control of all of historical China. So why 1271 in his case (the year he declared the dynasty) but 1644 for the Qing (the year they captured the rival capital)?

    Sixth, this list of dynasties covers a long period in which there was massive systematic change in the very character of Chinese society and political thought, as well as extensive geographical expansion; it's not geography or social structure or political structure but ethnic continuity that determines what you have chosen to compare as like to like. (For example, historically China was situated on the North China Plain around the Yellow River, and the Chinese still revere this as the cradle of Chinese civilization; when that area was ruled by non-Chinese dynasties after about 300 AD, Chinese literati in the south mourned themselves as exiles in their own homeland--they lived under native dynasties but what they saw as their true homeland was under alien rule. A similar situation held in the Southern Song.) Similarly with the social structure: The Shang and Zhou were feudal states; the emperor enfeoffed each local ruler in a ceremony in which (at least under the Zhou) he handed his vassal a handful of earth from the territory in which he established him. As a result, the emperor had an important political role as the figurehead who legitimized the power of the local ruler, regardless of his degree of political power in the imperial realm--this is why the end of real imperial power by the end of the Spring and Autumn period didn't lead to the end of the dynasty. Had it been expedient to do so, the Zhou would have been deposed. In terms of real political power rather than polite fictions, the Warring States period was a period of competition and disorder like the Three Kingdoms and other such periods, and note that while the Zhou dynasty was recognized, actual political power was vested in the title of Hegemon (ba in Chinese), which was the title that all rulers until towards the end of the Warring States period strove for--it's quite analogous to the Japanese case, in which effective imperial power ended in 1092 with the establishment of the Kamakura Shogunate, but because of Japanese political ideals the emperors could not be deposed even if they were purely ornamental throughout much of Japanese history.

    The Qin on the other hand represented the culmination of the bureaucratizing trends in all of the individual states of the Warring States period, during which the aristocracy exterminated itself en masse as a group or class and power and administration turned increasingly from the personal to the bureaucratic (whenever a state fell, its victor enslaved much of the leading nobility and made the rest commoners; at the same time, Confucianism was spreading as the ideology of the commoners who staffed the administration, and their political views were for a fully bureaucratic, rigidly moral administration in the service of a legitimate ruler); however, the mixed feudal system of the later Warring States period did not die out immediately; significantly, Xiang Yu took the title of "Hegemon-King" (bawang) and the other rulers as kings (wang), such as the founder of the Han dynasty as King of Han (a state around the Han River, hence the name of his dynasty), precisely the political system of the Warring States and thus a repudiation of the Qin system; and while the Han kept the less objectionable features of Qin bureaucratism, they still found it necessary to enfeoff a number of powerful local figures as princes who revolted throughout the Former Han dynasty. (It was that process that finally killed off the remnants of the Warring States political tendencies.) Of course, bureaucrtization continued to develop throughout Chinese history (selection of officials by examination rather than personal recommendation by a patron and birth into an aristocratic family was not established for much of the administration until the Tang dynasty, and selection by examination as the sole source of officials until some time in the Northern Song, I believe, and it was only after that time that an ideology of personal advancement purely by merit and scholarship regardless of the circumstances of birth spread throughout society and showed up strongly in literature), but there was a sea change between the Zhou and the Tang that makes treating them as part of one long history but the dynasties of France or Italy as distinct from the Roman Empire essentially arbitrary. There is a great difference between a feudal monarchy and an absolute monarchy heading a bureaucratic administration--at least as great as the difference between the latter and a modern republic. To focus on monarchy to the exclusion of all other political factors is a drastic oversimplification that by its very nature lumps together many dissimilar regimes that should be treated separately.

    Finally, very little is known about the actual history of the Shang dynasty; the Confucians revered the Shang and in lieu of actual detailed information about it treated it with a simple schema of dynastic establishment and decline. It is unclear that it was actually one unified dynasty with effective rule throughout that period, nor do we know the details of whatever political fictions might have been erected to give a gloss to the machinations of political actors behind the scenes or to give legitimacy to fundamentally new institutions, actors, or families. If we restricted ourselves to the same level of detail for the rest of Chinese history, the Eastern and Western Zhou would have to be treated as one single dynasty, as would the Former and Later Han and the Northern and Southern Song; the Jin and Liao would have to be excluded entirely, and the Three Kingdoms period and the following period of disorder probably lumped in with the Han and the Tang, respectively; the Sui and Qin would probably disappear (they were usurpers whose innovations, which were pretty extensive, were picked and chosen among by their successors), and the Yuan would as well, most likely. So no, I don't think it valid to include the Shang; it's simply incomparable in the amount of actual hard facts to the rest of Chinese history. (And I've already stated my objections to including the first two that you ilist above--tell me, do you include Adam and Methuselah in your king lists somewhaere? If not, then you should exclude those two periods as well without the slightest qualms.)

  7. This we can see if we do a simple thought experiment: The geographical region of Utopia has been ruled by 20 dynasties; the first one lasted 500 years, the second 200 years, the third 30 years, and each of the subsequent dynasties lasted 10 years longer than the predecessor of its predecessor. (This gives a sharp initial drop followed by a slightly rising heavily jagging rise similar in very broad outline to the Chinese dynastic data.) The general trend is rising, and if fit to a power law has an exponent of 0.0084; however, if you fit the cumulative means to a power law regression towards the mean predominates and you have an exponent of -0.014. (Moreover, the correlation coefficients are 0.145 and 0.696, respectively, for the cumulative means wash out much of the variation in the actual figures, so that the power law fits the cumulative-mean data very much better.)

    What is fatal to the trustiness of your method is that if we reverse the data we sometimes get much the same result!

    As with the mythical state of Utopia. If we reverse the data, then for the raw data we find an exponent of -0.0084 and for the cumulative mean an exponent of -0.0081. So no, your method does not show what you want it to show; it's simply unsound.

  8. First some examples of decline on the dynastic level:

    Dynasties ruling Portugal, 868-present

    Vimara Peres to 1072, 204 years, so for N=1, mean length 204

    2nd County to 1139, 67 years, so for N=2, cumulative mean 135.5

    Burgundy to 1385, 246 years, so for N=3, cumulative mean 172.33

    Aviz to 1495, 110 years, so for N=4, cumulative mean 156.75

    Aviz-Beja to 1581, 86 years, so for N=5, cumulative mean 142.6

    Hapsburg to 1640, 59 years, so for N=6, cumulative mean 128.67

    Braganza to 1853, 215 years, so for N=7, cumulative mean 140.71

    Saxe-Cobourg Gotha to 1910, 57 years, so for N=8, cumulative mean 130.25

    Braganza to 2007, 97 years, so for N=9, cumulative mean 126.6

    Even though I know fairly little about Portugal, I still know enough to question the wisdom of treating the period of Spanish rule between 1580 and 1640 on the same level as native dynasties.

    If you plot these on a spreadsheet and fit a power-law curve to them, you get an exponent of -0.178. My universal model predicts -0.30576. So this is a slightly shallower decline than expected, but then they cluster around -0.30576, they don't precisely match it every time.

    "Cumulative mean"? So in other words you're basing vast claims about human behavior on the general phenomenon of regression towards the mean! Let's do this differently and take your same data with duration versus dynasty number. In that case you have a decline that is much less precipitate; if you fit a power law to it you get an exponent of -0.03149, with a correlation coefficient of 0.34. (Note that the number of digits I've kept is far greater than appropriate, but then you do the same.) It would be an interesting mathematical exercise to start with time series fitted to a power law with a low correlation coefficient and a low absolute power exponent, represent the expected cumulative mean as a time series, fit that to a power series, and find the expected power exponent for that; I suspect due to regression towards the mean you'd find the expected exponent to be negative and rather larger in absolute value for a wide range of initial parameters. So yes, another reason your methodology is entirely suspect--ironically, through the simple operation of randomness and the law of large numbers!

    And in fact we can test this very easily with the Chinese dynasty data. Start with the data set that includes the Shang dynasty with a duration of 510 years (an oops above--that, not 540, was the duration I used throughout), breaking up the Eastern Zhou into the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods (which is actually beneficial to your argument, since that tips the exponent from slightly positive to just very very barely negative), and including the Liao and Jin (non-Chinese dynasties ruling nortern China) rather than the two Song dynasties (native dynasties ruling south China in the same period), though the differences resulting from that last choice are entirely negligible. This set of choices, which still has many points to quibble about, gives an exponent of -0.0006763, based on my figures, with a correlation coefficient of 0.009. If you then calculate the cumulative means and fit a power law to that, you (or a least I) find an exponent of -0.022 with a correlation coefficient of 0.88. But you'll find that with a wide range of data sets; using the cumulative mean wipes out vast amounts of variation and greatly exaggerates the effects of earlier dynasties on the results. This we can see if we do a simple thought experiment: The geographical region of Utopia has been ruled by 20 dynasties; the first one lasted 500 years, the second 200 years, the third 30 years, and each of the subsequent dynasties lasted 10 years longer than the predecessor of its predecessor. (This gives a sharp initial drop followed by a slightly rising heavily jagging rise similar in very broad outline to the Chinese dynastic data.) The general trend is rising, and if fit to a power law has an exponent of 0.0084; however, if you fit the cumulative means to a power law regression towards the mean predominates and you have an exponent of -0.014. (Moreover, the correlation coefficients are 0.145 and 0.696, respectively, for the cumulative means wash out much of the variation in the actual figures, so that the power law fits the cumulative-mean data very much better.)

    What is fatal to the trustiness of your method is that if we reverse the data we sometimes get much the same result! For the same Chinese data reversed, the cumulative mean when fit to a power law has, yes, a negative exponent, -0.012. So whether going forwards or backwards in time, you get a negative exponent either way! For the Portuguese data reversed, on the other hand, the shortness of the last two dynasties suffices to give positive exponents, 0.031 for the raw data and 0.0168 for the cumulative mean.

    Dynasties ruling France, 843-1870

    There are 14 dynasties in the series, from the Carolingians to the last of the Bonapartes. I'll give the lengths of each, and the cumulative means:

    144 / 144

    341 / 242.5

    170 / 218.3

    17 / 168

    74 / 149.2

    203 / 158.2

    12 / 137.3

    10 / 121.4

    1 / 108

    0.5 / 97.2

    15 / 89.7

    18 / 83.8

    4 / 77.6

    18 / 73.4

    Stability in France declined a good deal more steeply than in Portugal. The best fit curve has an exponent of -0.385, a little worse than my universal model. Again, you can play with these numbers in various ways but I think the conclusion is always going to be a power law decline.

    Well yeah, if you fit a time series to a power law, in lieu of other information you can expect the power law to be declining in half the cases. If you then add in regress towards the mean by relying on cumulative means, especially with small absolute values of the exponent, of course you're going to have a predominance of power law declines!

    In any case, your French data are a mass of incompatible regimes--not dynasties since you're lumping in republics with empires and monarchies. Here is the second half of your data with the names of the regimes in question labeled and classified:

    12 / 137.3 First Republic (usually divided into different regimes as follows: Constitutional monarchy, republic, the Directorate, and the Dictatorship of Napoleon)

    10 / 121.4 First Empire (Bonapartist)

    1 / 108 Bourbon Restoration following Napoleon's abdication (pre-revolutionary monarchical line)

    0.5 / 97.2 Return of Napoleon from exile at Elba

    15 / 89.7 Second Bourbon Restoration (pre-revolutionary line)

    18 / 83.8 July Monarchy (Orleanist, an offshoot of the Bourbon line)

    4 / 77.6 Second Republic

    18 / 73.4 Second Empire (Bonapartist)

    Not only do you lump in republics with dynastic regimes, you put the period from Napoleon's abortive return from Elba until his defeat at Waterloo on the same level as the Carolingians! Suffice it to say that's a sign of utter historical ignorance. Before the 1750s there was very little antimonarchical sentiment in Europe, but once it spread, then yes, there was a great deal of political instability in Europe, and particularly in France. This passel of regimes is a major reason for your results, but it's signally unclear it's fair to include them. If we exclude the First Republic and all later regimes, we find that the decline is much less marked (and in this case is obscured by taking the cumulative mean, thanks to the sagging middle): -0.064 for the raw data, -0.016 for the cumulative means (correlation coefficients of 0.26 and 0.31, respectively), versus by my figures -0.13 for the overall raw figures, -0.036 for the overall cumulative means (correlation coefficients of 0.65 and 0.93, resp.). For the reversed data excluding post-Revolutionary regimes, we find +0.064 for the raw data (as we should) and +0.014 for the cumulative means.

    It would be interesting to take all of your data, reverse them in time, and fit the resulting cumulative means to a power law and see how many of them remain negative--given the low correlation coefficients for the raw data you've already presented, it's a toss-up, but that's because your method is fundamentally unsound for showing what you want to show.

  9. Here is a breakdown of the data. It shows how many dynasties I found for that period in history, and their average durations.

    # AVG

    3050-2500 BCE 6 637

    2499-2000 BCE 10 507

    1999-1500 BCE 14 304

    1499-1000 BCE 8 216

    999-500 BCE 16 137

    499-1 BCE 26 189

    CE 1-500 27 297

    CE 501-1000 61 184

    CE 1001-1500 109 132

    CE 1501-1800 73 107

    CE 1801-2008 38 52

    First of all, note that before about 500 BC, very few dynasties are recorded--the historical record is incredibly sparse for that period, and in many cases the king lists that you are relying on probably include many legendary and semi-legendary figures who were given reign periods that can't be checked and were probably fabricated out of whole cloth for cultural reasons. (Like the sage emperors in China.) Besides that, the only dynasties from that time we'd have records of are the ones so powerful and so long-lived as to make such an impact on later societies, for very few societies had writing then! The average durations you rely on for the period before 500 BC, in other words, are simply not at all comparable in completeness, accuracy, or reliability with later periods. Moreover, the period after 1800 saw republican revolutions throughout Europe and Latin America; that too renders their inclusion suspect since an entirely new ideological factor had come on the scene.

    So, if we focus only on the years between 500 BC and 1800 AD, we find a general downward trend by number of dynasties: The average duration of all dynasties in years is 273.5-1.549*N (N=number of dynasties), with a correlation coefficient of 0.73 and error about the mean of 49.6. But even on your own terms, that makes sense: Thy're not all independent at all, but rather competing within larger geographic areas, so of course some win out at the expense of others, a process that is more intense the greater the number of dynasties. But you can't blithely disregard the serious problems of reporting either--the historical record is very spotty, so you have a general trend throughout the period of 1000-1800 AD of consolidation against a much greater mass of documentation from 1500 on; a similar pair of competing factors is at play for the period before the collapse of Rome.

    You can see that on a detail level, the data are not absolutely uniform. The trend plunges downward steeply in the years approaching 500 BCE, then rises to a local peak in the early centuries AD, before plunging down again. But taking the cumulative average, we see a curve very closely approximating the previous two. We have zoomed out to an even more colossal scale, and the shape of the curve is the same yet again. History . . . is fractal!

    What I see is that you have no idea of the factors at play on a true "detail level." The data simply are not comparable throughout the period; taking the cumulative average is a meaningless exercise without such detailed treatment.

    There are plenty of issues that can be raised here about the quality of data. Do we know if the early kings referred to in documents from 4,000 years ago actually existed? Shall we trust the inferences of archeologists about the Pharaohs? Perhaps in those distant times there are empires completely unknown to us, that lived much shorter lives and died without records.

    I see you actually do have a glimmering of the difficulties you've not addressed, but the fact that you treat them as open questions is significant.

    But even if we discarded the data prior to 500 BCE as being untrustworthy, and took only those dynasties that were established since Aristotle, or since Christ, we'd still have the same basic result. Decline pervades the data set. It cannot be purged by removing a few unusual items, or postulating a few missing ones.

    Ah, but I'm not "postulating a few missing ones," I'm pointing out systematic gross errors with strong time dependencies that knock your entire methodology into a cocked hat.

    What this suggests is that long spans of history are tied together by a mathematical rule. If staying in power represents success, then throughout human history, hereditary dynasties have been inexorably growing less and less successful, and more and more unstable.

    A result based in great part by including semi-historical and pre-historical (i.e., legendary) dynasties and ignoring basic questions of the reliabilityand completeness of the sources of your data.

    The presence of the rule on the other levels suggests that on this level as well, the trend has real predictive and causal meaning. We don't know yet WHY this rule operates...

    No, we don't even know THAT this rule operates at all.

    What does this make you think of?

    It makes me think of Hegel.

    Makes me think of Toynbee--a vast historical schema to which he fit cherry-picked data with no regard for the historiographical difficulties at the base of his entire enterprise.

  10. I am sure some of you will be tempted, as I was, to hypothesize that this has something to do with limited human lifespans, and the vigor of youth, intergenerational dynamics, and the inherent limitations of hereditary rule. We might call it the "King Lear" effect...He delays until the last possible moment, in most cases until he actually dies. This means that he is succeeded by his adult son, or perhaps several sons, who have spent a lifetime waiting in their father's shadow.

    More generally, if succession is from the father to the son, the if the father is long-lived the son will be fairly mature upon accession to the throne and simply in the course of things will not be expected to have as long a lifespan.

    This is a good theory, but ultimately wrong.

    Wrong? Or do you mean incomplete? Those are very different claims.

  11. This is a good theory, but ultimately wrong. It is relatively easy to test. In a number of countries, one dynasty has followed another for thousands of years. Egypt, China, Rome, Byzantium, and other great states outlasted even their strongest dynasties by an order of magnitude. As many as 30 dynasties have succeeded one another in governing the same geographic region. So we can perform the same analysis as we did for the individual rulers, but on a wider scale.

    We find that here too, there is decline. Later dynasties do not last as long as the early ones. The shape of the curve is the same; the average decline of 20 percent from the first half of the list to the last half is again evident.

    Post your data for China--the names of the dynasties and their durations upon which you based your result. I'm fairly familiar with Chinese history and unlike you don't have to rely on the vagaries of Wikipedia for what constitutes a "dynasty." I'll add up front that I ran the same test and found results at great variance with yours--positive power-law exponents in all cases, regardless of how you define "dynasty" (for it's a vague term that meant different things at different times), provided you use only the dynasties for which the dates are actually solidly supported in the historical or archeological records. (Which excludes the Xia and Shang dynasties; it's ridiculous on the face of it if you know anything about Chinese history and culture to even consider including the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, who are purely legendary figures of the same sort as Adam and Methuselah and with much the same overinflated lifespans.) The existence of the Shang is at least established, though the dates are sketchy; if we include a duration of 540 years (the various figures are around that), then and only then do I get negative exponents--very small negative exponents in some cases, very small positive exponents in others, with correlation coefficients between 0.02 and 0.06. (The Xia is charitably described in many sources as "possibly legendary.") In other words, the data are such that you have to include one semi-historical dynasty about which virtually nothing of its history or its reign periods are known in order to support your thesis, and even then it's statistically nugatory. More generally, in fact, a discussion of the Chinese data would clarify many of the problems with your blithely relying on others to do your basic ground-clearing.

    Two initial questions:

    1. Do you fit your power-law curve to the number versus duration of each dynasty, or to the beginning year versus duration of each dynasty? (For me this doesn't matter; I get a positive power in all cases without the Shang and positive or negative but with very small absolute values with the Shang included. It's an important question though to pin down your methodology.)

    2. Why haven't you reported your correlation coefficients? In all cases mine were less than 0.18, which is hardly impressive evidence.

    Once I see your data, I'm sure I'll have a large number of questions about your principles of selection--though you've already admitted you most likely fobbed off the responsibility for answering them onto Wikipedia.

  12. Genghis Kahn was a strategic genius, the Chinese states were divided, and Chinese culture was rotting.

    Chinggis Khan died in 1227, before war with the Southern Song dynasty even started (in 1234); moreover, there were only two Chinese states (in the sense of states based in historically Chinese lands with predominantly Chinese populations), and in fact under the Southern Song Chinese culture, science, technology, and printing flourished, and indeed the Chinese economy not only expanded extensively (population growth without a decrease in per capita production) but intensively (an increase in per capita production). In fact, the Song saw one of the few pre-modern industrial revolutions (fueled by advances in metallurgy, paper production, and so on, with literati reinvesting their earnings in trade and industry rather than rent-seeking). See Eric Jones' Growth Recurring: Economic Change in World History. More than that, the Song did not neglect their military; they established the first standing Chinese navy in the 1130s, for example, and by the end of the dynasty (1279) had a million men in arms. The problem is that the other "Chinese" state in northern China, the Jin (founded by the Jurchens, ancestors of the Manchus who founded the Qing dynasty in 1644), fell to the Mongols in 1234, after which the Mongols were able to use their armies and military technology. Even so, it still took 45 years after war started (when the Jin finally fell, the Southern Song seized some of the historic Chinese capitals in the North China Plain against their agreement with the Mongols, which was taken as an act of war) for the Mongols to conquer the Southern Song; the Southern Song was hardly a rotten shell just waiting for a sharp kick to knock it over. And it was a shame the Southern Song did fall, because it was their fall that doomed the Song policies of reduced government regulation, military prowess, and their vibrant cultural accompaniments in the eyes of later Neo-Confucian scholars and rulers.

  13. A child or newborn is entitled to support from those who created it. A fetus is automatically supported if its mother simply cares for herself properly during pregnancy: a positive action is required to end the pregnancy.

    A positive action of self-defense, in which case the consequent death of the fetus is justified.

    What someone wants or wishes is not the determining characteristic in this or many other contexts.

    What you are saying then is that unlike every other sphere of social life, a pregnant woman does not have the fundamental right to deal with others or not as she wishes. Why? Precisely because in this case the fetus cannot support itself. You are saying that it is precisely because a fetus is not rational, not independent, not able to live on its own--and that its needs somehow give it rights that no other human being has.

    In both instances, though, this is different from actively interfering with an otherwise healthy, living organism.

    But again, if the fetus does not have the right to live at its mother's expense, then it doesn't matter how healthy it may be, it can be aborted--killed as an act of self-defense.

    My argument is that rights arise from the requirements of human life at a particular stage in our development, with parents responsible for their children because they created them.

    Rather, parents are responsible for their children because they consented to support them by not giving them up for adoption--or if they are adoptive parents, by the fact that they adopted them. In this respect it doesn't matter whether they created them or not.

    What I hold is that a fetus is a human life at that stage in its development. Like a newborn, it is unable to sustain itself except through its mother. Since it was created partly through her actions, she has a responsibility for its (and so does its father) survival until such time as it can support itself.

    An arbitrarily asserted responsibility, yet again, begging the question. Any sufficiently crippled human being at any age cannot support himself--and by your own argument, he still possesses a right to existence just as a fetus does (the fetus's right to existence, you say, is what remains when you pare away all the other rights recognized for different stages in life, therefore their right to existence is the same). But he does not have the right to be supported at another's expense against that person's consent. The fetus has that same right of existence--therefore by your own admission it has no more right to support than a crippled genius does. Saying that the cases are different because of the mother's responsibility to her fetus for her actions smuggles in the conclusion you claim to prove: She only has such a responsibility to it if it has a right to such support, and the only basis you have for claiming it has such a right is this arbitrarily asserted "responsibility" a mother has to her fetus, based unlike any other human rights on that fetus's needs.

    Carrying the fetus will not, ordinarily, place her actual life at risk. The fetus has no more right to life than anyone else, but the requirements of its life are, like those of a newborn or child or even an adolescent, different from those of a fully conscious, rational adult.

    "Requirements." In other words, its need. Need gives no one a right to anything. The need for a fetus to be carried to term in order eventually to grow into a fully rational human being does not give it the right to the support necessary for it to do so--this right can be assumed legally if consent to support the child has been given, first by giving birth, second by keeping the child or adopting it as the case may be. (This is why birth is the most convenient dividing line for when an immature human being is given legal protection.) But the very fact that a woman aborts a fetus shows that she does not consent to giving it birth.

    A woman has control over her body in her decision when, where and with whom to have sex. She can use birth control to avoid conception. But, her desire not to be pregnant doesn't change the metaphysical status of the fetus.

    "Metaphysical status"? At best a fetus is a human being like any other, and as such has no more right to support because of its needs than any other human being does, and if a woman does not consent to support it, it's self-defense to remove it from her support, even though it must kill the fetus to do so. In fact, as far as "metaphysical status" goes, you've erected the fetus into a super-human entity whose simple fact of existence gives it a right to support that no other human beings possess, by the simple fact of its needs, precisely because it is not rational or independent (and, I might add, a right that it loses at birth).

    To me, this is a fundamentally different situation than that of pregnancy resulting from voluntary sex, in which a human life results as a consequence of her own volition.

    Consenting to sex does not imply consent to any of its unintended consequences. Yes, you are responsible within certain standards of reasonable expectations for the unintended consequences of your actions, but that responsibility is to other persons who have legal standing--the fact that a fetus results unintentionally from a consensual act does not by that fact make it into a person with legal standing to whom one owes responsibility.

    In both cases, the fetus is a human life, but in one case you can kill it as a matter of justice and in the other, you can't. So yes, I am concerned with the rights of both the woman and the fetus, and the context within which they exist.

    No, you're concerned with the needs of fetuses (which you have insinuated through their "context"), which you see as negating the rights of women.

  14. What I think is overlooked is that rights arise from the requirements of our nature as human beings in a social setting. The nature of the requirements for our survival as human beings varies depending on the stage in our development. Newborns and children require care.

    At whose expense? What if a person does not wish to provide that care--must she be forced to do so?

    By no measure are they capable of survival on their own or through their own efforts.

    The same is true of someone in a coma on life support. Is it proper then for the state to force someone else to support him? Is it a violation of his rights not to be supported by someone else?

    Initially, everything about them that defines their identity and personality is

    merely "potential."

    Then the same right must hold just as fully for someone whose personality is already developed--thus, anyone who is unable to support himself has the right to the labor and persons of others to support him: After all, if it's true of a fetus or a child, then it's just as true of an adult. If the only way to save someone's life is for a doctor to provide medical care, however expensive, rare, delicate, long-term, or whatever have you, then by what right may a doctor refuse? Doing so would condemn the patient to death, and everyone, even potential human beings like fetuses, has the right to exist--and in any case, it's much less of a violation of a doctor's person than nine months of having one's body occupied by someone else. If socialized medicine is a violation of doctors' rights, then how is forced pregnancy not a violation of the mothers' rights?

    In this context, recognizing their rights consists mostly, if not completly, of protecting the potential their life represents. Since rights can be violated only through force, this means protecting them against being injured or killed. Since newborns, infants and children lack the ability for fully rational thought and thus complete independence, they have fewer rights than adults. Working backwards, then, rights fall away until all that is left is that of the right to life, which is not just the right to a fully conscious, rational and self-actualized life - something impossible for newborns and even small children - but of the right to exist.

    Again, at whose expense?

    I see no fundamental difference between the requirements of the life of a newborn (both metaphysically and politically) and that of a fetus.

    A newborn can be given over to the care of someone besides the mother; it need not be supported at her expense. A fetus cannot; if a woman does not wish to support it, then you are condemning her to nine months of living against her will so as to support another human being, because there is no way to give the fetus over to another's care. Forcing a doctor to give medical care to someone does not suddenly become moral when the doctor is the only one able to give the care, and the same is true of a fetus's mother. How is it not a violation of her rights and in fact simple slavery in the fullest sense of the word when it's only a potential and not an actual person she must support against her will? (If a woman wishes to carry a fetus to term and give it up for adoption, that's an act of charity, pure and simple, but the fact that some women are willing to do so does not in any way imply all women should do so.)

    To my mind, abortion (except in cases of rape - where it is a form of self-defense - or the mother's life being at risk) is actually a violation of individual rights.

    And here we come to the dark underside of the whole argument: How in the world is abortion in the case of rape but not in case of voluntary sexual activity a form of self-defense? The only criminal in rape is the rapist, and the right to self-defense then applies against the rapist during the act of rape, not the fetus conceived and either carried to term or aborted some time after the crime has ended; the fetus is not guilty of rape, and being innocent therefore has just as much right to exist as any other fetus. Why does the crime of the father condemn his progeny to death? How does one human being's crime rightfully condemn another to death? How does the conception of the fetus through an act carried out against the woman's will make any difference in the rights possessed by the new human being created thereby? Why does the very existence you insist on protecting of a fetus become a violation of the mother's rights only in the case of rape, and only then does abortion--the killing of an innocent human being--become an act of self-defense? Why does a woman pregnant by voluntary sex not have such a right of self-defense, self-determination, power over her own body and person--a right not to have her body the involuntary host for another human being?

    The only difference between the two cases is the possibility that the woman who was not raped might have enjoyed herself in the act--conception is then an unintended consequence of a voluntary act, not an involuntary one. However, if the conception of a fetus is an unintended consequence, then forcing her to carry it to term is itself an act of forcing her to do something against her will, and again--how does a fetus have such a right, one that a dependent adult does not? If I remember correctly, you have argued in the past that she should be "responsible" for her actions--but that is an arbitrarily asserted responsibility that begs the question. If a fetus has the right not to be aborted, then and only then does it follow that the mother has a responsibility to carry it to term (since such a responsibility is a consequence of its right to life), but if the fetus has no more right than any other human being to be supported by force against another's will, then the mother's only responsibility is to herself, and she should get an abortion if she does not want to carry it to term. Saying that a woman's taking responsibility for the consequences of her actions means she must therefore carry a fetus to term against her will is simply to re-assert the conclusion you claim to prove.

    Or put another way, if conception is an unwanted consequence of an act undertaken voluntarily for whatever reason, however trivial in your view, then saying the mother should take responsibility for her actions means only that just as with any other activity, she should pay reparations to anyone whose rights were violated as an unintended consequence of her actions--but the consequence, what responsibilities if any are owed to the fetus, depends precisely on the prior question of what rights if any a fetus has. Moreover, conception resulting from rape is just as unintended a consequence as conception from voluntary sex, and therefore a woman should take responsibility for her actions in both cases--how does the fact that rape is involuntary free her from the responsibility to carry the fetus to term? A fetus is a fetus regardless and has exactly the same rights in either case. The very fact that you introduce rape as an exception to prohibitions on abortions shows that it's not just the supposed rights of the fetus that you're concerned with.

  15. The analogy you make to novels is illustrative. What I understand you to be saying is that Atlas Shrugged can be enjoyed by anyone who is willing to focus.

    Provided they're not philosophically strongly opposed to Objectivism, yes. Even in that case it's possible, I suppose, that they might still admire the structure, but I've yet to meet such an animal.

    One does not have to be particularly smart, nor have a particular interest in the art of novel-writing. Similarly, I read you as saying that people who dismiss Atlas and Ullysses as being too thick and intellectual are wrong, as are those who like both primarily because they're thick and intellectual (assuming such people exist!)

    Not exactly how I'd put it, but yes. It's the equation of thick and intellectual that's a problem. Thick can mean two things--large in scale or dense in detail; neither is necessarily intellectual (in either sense, needing intellectual training to appreciate or setting forth a highly philosophical view). Now, thick (in either sense) might be necessary for fully expressing the author's vision (and that vision might be highly intellectual), or then again there might be lots of filler; but thick does require the reader's attention, and if it repays his attention then the length or density is necessary to the work. (There are any number of writers I can think of to exemplify length here, including Ayn Rand, of course. Density's a different matter--Faulkner perhaps. Or Wallace Stevens, whose poetry is quite dense and difficult, but often worth the effort for me--but he was a very philosophical poet with a fondness for very subtle uses of language and very striking, bizarre imagery, and those are not concerns most people care for in their poetry; indeed, when I was younger I didn't appreciate his poetry at all.) In fact, thinking about that parenthetical statement, the equation of dense and intellectual is understandable.

    Now, with structure in literature, I'm not talking strictly about plot. That's part of it, but a novel can have a good plot yet still have a number of events shoehorned in that don't really belong, but they still seem to contribute to the novel somehow. Presumably that's because they shed interesting light on certain characters or make for interesting comparisons between characters. In addition, novels frequently include symbols and particular wordings or lines of expression that recur in widely separated scenes, and some minor characters appear as counterpoints to major characters (for an example from The Lord of the Rings, Faramir, Boromir, Eomer, and Eowyn can all be compared to each other in interesting ways, as can Theoden and Denethor, in how they react to the Ring and to the spectacle of impending doom.) Those are structural qualities, and while filler makes the novel less unified, more sprawling, and distracts from the plot, it's not wholly irrelevant in many cases--it just represents a failure of unity, and if you're analyzing the novel you'll want to ask what structural purpose it serves besides plot to express the novel's theme. (If you're just reading it you can enjoy it for what it is or glide over it in irritation.) I haven't read The Art of Fiction, so I don't know what Ayn Rand would have said on the matter of structure as I've phrased it; don't assume I'm using her terminology or making a point she did. Rather, I'm drawing out a certain point at which literature and music can be usefully compared directly.

    So the basic difference between novels and short stories is length. Short stories don't as a rule have intricate plots; an author with an intricate plot would automatically write a novel. Instead, short stories will focus on a compact plot that reveals character, say. The other elements of stucture might be relatively more important than in a novel as well, since they'll serve to unify the story or express its theme in lieu of a sequence of events in a plot. Similarly, in poetry there's the structure given by the form of the poem, but additional structure is given by internal rhyme, assonance and consonance, and so on, as well as "echoes of meaning" from using related or associated words in different lines or sections. This is a better example of structure, incidentally, since in much poetry there's no plot to unify the poem; instead, the poem expresses its theme through a sequence of associated imagery. (Though there is narrative poetry of various sorts, such as epic, that does have plot.) Longer non-narrative poems rely more on the coherence of the imagery; shorter ones can do quite well with a striking contrast in imagery that upsets the reader's expectations and leads him to see similarities in quite dissimilar things. In any case, shorter poems simply have smaller scope for expressing the poet's vision through a coherent stream of imagery, and in lieu of that the other structural elements are frequently very important and quite complex.

    But you don't need to be smart or well-trained to react to the complexity in the structure--the elements in the structure all have some effect on any general reader, and a good poet will be able to evoke his vision through the elements he chooses and the structure he gives them. The structure will be felt by the attentive reader as a pleasing, effective sequencing of reactions to each word and phrase in which separate parts of the poem are further unified by the similarities in wording and sound. Analyzing a poem consists of making explicit to oneself at least some of the structure of the poem--how echoes of one part bring to mind the imagery of that part at the same time the part you're reading is evoking a different image, for example. Critical vocabulary for analyzing literature simply generalizes over the various examples of literary techniques, naming the general type presumably on the basis of similar effects on the reader.

    The same is true of musical structure. A musical piece doesn't typically have a plot--some narrative songs do, of course, such as settings of narrative poems. Instead they are quite similar to non-narrative poetry in the resources available to the composer. The difference is that instead of images that can be expressed in a number of different ways, the composer has themes that evoke emotions--not always the same emotion for a given theme, depending on harmonization, key, and so on, but a smallish set of emotional responses, sometimes quite diverse. (In this respect they're like characters in literature and a large piece of music sometimes feels like a conversation or interaction or struggle between two characters, but that's quite metaphorical and the other aspects of characters and themes don't lend themselves to particularly useful metaphors--in particular, it doesn't make much sense even in this view to talk about the plot of a piece of music, though of course composers of programmatic music were inspired by trying to do so.) These are his basic elements, and they can be played in sequence or simultaneously (perhaps with a delay) for striking contrasts in emotional response. Structure is introduced in the task of setting out the interplay of themes so as to allow both similarity (unity, integration) and variety (to give a sense of progression, to prevent boredom), and there are many elements to it--harmonization, transitions, development, and so on. For large-scale works you need the full range of structural techniques, but for small-scale works you typically need a simple structuring of the themes (ABA song form, for example) and skillful use of harmonization and so on, which can get quite complex, even dense. But if it's a good piece, the various techniques used in a small-scale work will all have their intended effects on the listener and deeply enrich the effect of the themes. In a large-scale work, the structure will also have a unifying effect by virtue of its ordering of the effects of each element on the listener. (But this also depends on the quality of the themes. I've never had much esteem for Elgar's symphonies, for example, because they are too large for the material to sustain. Instead of a dramatic struggle between heroic and lyrical, for example, his themes are essentially noble or sentimental, and their interplay goes on for almost an hour, which is probably 30-45 minutes too long.) And those effects are immediate and effectively automatic--musicological terminology starts with those effects and generalizes them to unify the vocabulary for describing the techniques. You don't need to be smart to feel the structure of a large, complex piece; the structure will make itself felt if you listen with attention, just as that of a poem will, and musicological vocabulary simply names what you feel. Analyzing the structure, however, does take training. You don't have to be smart to "see" the structure rather than just feel it as you hear a piece, but you do have to have been trained to recognize and name the various techniques.

    This, incidentally, is where serialism (twelve-tone music of Schoenberg and Company and its generalization by people like Boulez) goes wrong. Tonality is one of the structural elements used to unify a piece of music. In my experience, twelve-tone music can be listenable (though often it is not) and on occasion even pleasurable (Berg's Violin Concerto's the only striking example though), but it's written with a basic part of structure missing. If you listen to it closely on the small scale, what you get is a kaleidoscopic feel of subtly changing tonal centers cycling through the duration of the tone row, but nothing larger. This can be effective in certain circumstances, usually on the very small scale, and to express certain musical visions, though in most cases they're simply not worth expressing, at best tepid, watered-down porridge and quite often simply unpleasant. It's not a revolution in music but rather a very narrow technique that can work only with a few straitened forms, and then only with true inspiration; outside those forms it does not provide enough structure to unify the momentary and usually weak emotional responses to the individual elments of the piece. This is why it is arid and unrewarding, and why it has been written for as long as it has only because it was ensconced in the universities and tied in with a certain bundle of malign ideologies and the propaganda of its creator.

    (In this I'm in full agreement with Kyle Gann: "Maybe the value of 12-tone method for certain composers is its extreme limitation, which if understood that way can inspire creativity against obstacles, like writing an augmentation canon, or a novel that doesn't use the letter "e." The rhetoric of 12-tone music claimed to offer something: unity, organicism, consistency. Instead, it denies something, and only the composer clever enough to outwit it can make anything of it. That deposes 12-tone technique from the level of an analogue for tonality to the level of a technical device, like a canon, and while canons are fascinating (I collect them), they are not considered one of the major musical genres. They are valued not because they are often great music, but for what they achieve despite absurd limitations." His italics.)

  16. Because between that, the rest of your phrasing, and the overall tone of your post, I definitely saw it as attacking and accusatory.

    I apologize for that.

    Here, this is at once the bottom line and the real irony here. If you weren't so hostile in your approach so as to do such things as describe me as an animal viciously balking against its own good then I can guarantee you that I would have pleasantly engaged all of your queries.

    "Viciously balking"? That's a strange phrasing.

    Do we have a deal?


  17. Okay, I will grant you that it is a reasonable interpretation to believe that the words "in that way" are refer to "purely on the level of its structure," so I can see how I did mention that I think author was expecting people to appreciate music "purely on the level of its structure."

    Good, that's a good start.

    But this is referring only to the claim in my post # 61. By showing I was wrong there, you have not validated your original accusation that I was responding to. Nor, at that, your other accusations or your general characterization of my original post.

    If you wish to return to that broader issue, then that's fine. Consider the first paragraph of your original posting: "Right, and adding to this: the author, implicitly, is saying that what he is looking for from his music is the complexity of structure to it - i.e. for the piece to do something "clever," musically. This is also the meaning behind the "smart people" thing - because it is required that one be smart to be able to enjoy a piece of music in this way." Even in your second sentence you were already saying that his tastes require the listener to be smart. Why? Because, as you have stated several places in this thread, you believe someone has to be smart to be able to appreciate music "in this way," purely on the level of complexity, and that is the reason he goes on about smart people. But that is not what the author stated, nor is it a reasonable surmise based on his comments, and it is not what he meant by talking about smart people: Quoting myself, "The implication in the article is that smart people read novels of great complexity for pleasure ("someone with wide knowledge outside his field, good judgement, and refined tastes in many things"); why don't they do the same for music?"

    Nor, as I pointed out, do you have to be smart to enjoy music with a good deal of complexity (certainly complex as compared to the popular music he was thinking about), like, say, Brahms, Beethoven, Chopin, and so many others--that was in response to an argument you made when responding directly to the author (second sentence above) and in closing about "progressive music." There's no real change in your argument from the beginning, where you talk about the author, to the end, where you talk about fans of progressive music--you say both are interested in cleverness, both urge on others music you have to be smart to listen to, and in the middle say that people like the author and the other musicians you have in mind view music in the same way, a way that you say non-musicians needn't be expected to appreciate.

    No, that's what you've done, in your previous accusations of how I'm "constructing" straw men "in order to" "insinuate" this and "implicitly equate" that. What I have suggested is not dishonesty on your part, but prejudice.

    First, "in order to" is a misquote. I wrote, "phrased in such a way as to insinuate...," which does not necessarily imply intent but result. I'm quite agnostic as to what your intent might have been, but I know what the result is. Second, you need not have intent nonetheless to implicitly equate two things--throughout your first post you discussed the author and progressive musicians in the same terms and at least once in the same breath, and implied when you didn't state it that they were taking the same position--you equate them but not always explicitly, so "implicitly equate" is an accurate description of the result. Third, "construct" is the neutral verb with strawmen, for they certainly do not spontaneously generate; why put it in quotes but not strawmen, which it seems to me is the more serious charge? As for strawmen, see the discussion above. (I'm actually not sure I used "construct" in any case; I noticed "played with" and "set up.")

    And I only presented the possibility of your wanting to think I have said these wicked things because at this point I have to ask: why are you stretching what I said so far?

    Because your original posting at best was very poorly thought out and unfair and your responses since then have been most unsatisfactory, and it's necessary to refer constantly to your own words and the structure of your arguments to make clear why. If I didn't, you'd attack me for calling you names; then when I take the effort to make perfectly clear why I wrote as I have, you say I'm just stretching your words much too far. If you simply think your postings don't deserve so much attention, I disagree.

    If you are not in fact wanting to think that I am the way you've characterized me, then how about you stop acting like it and start discussing things with me in good faith instead of as an attack?

    I don't "want to think" that you are how I've characterized you (that's a red herring of yours that distracts from the issues); I simply think that you are based on what you've written. There's no need to consider you dishonest in this thread--one-sided, hasty, unfair, stubborn, willing to consider what you actually wrote only if dragged to it like a cat balking at the vet, yes, certainly I think those likely. Most likely it wasn't even a very important topic for you and you just tossed it off half-thinkingly--perhaps that's why you think I'm blowing it way out of proportion out of personal antipathy. But you seriously misrepresented the author's position in such a way as to insinuate (that is, in such a way that it could easily be read as saying) that anyone who shared his views was equally a snob and a lover of complexity regardless of other musical qualities--and note that people in this thread had already agreed with what he actually said. At best your posting was an irrelevant flourish against completely different people that you found the author a convenient figure to hang on; but it could also be reasonably read as a snide attack on people here. You say now that wasn't your intention and I fully accept that, but your postings are still unfair and your arguments objectionable. If you want to drop the issue, that's fine; I've said what needs said for anyone curious.

  18. Again you are not reading what I said - you are stretching it mightily to make it say what you think or want to think I said. (emphasis added)

    Actually, I'm reading exactly what you wrote; it's not my fault if it's not what you meant to say. (And I note you've smuggled in the implication that I'm dishonest in the bolded section. I believe that is against the forum rules, and I'm taking it up with the other moderators accordingly.)


    You seem to be implying that I've said that. But I haven't and I'd like to see where you think I have.


    In fact I would go so far as to say that it is only musicians who are entertained by a piece purely on the level of its structure (i.e. apart from its overall harmony), because they study and understand composure itself. Music that is particularly concerned with that structure, often (but not always) to the exclusion of harmony, is generally referred to as progressive - and it exists in many schools of music including jazz, rock and roll, and even metal.

    But the mistake I think people like the author (and his fellow musicians) make is that no non-musician has any reason to care about or appreciate music in that way.

    So in fact, if you look at the italicized passage, you can see that you are wrong when you claim: " By the time I have moved on in my post to discussing favoring structure to the exclusion of other factors, I am no longer specifically mentioning any individual here or anywhere else. But you missed that." No, you were directly accusing the author and people like him of believing non-musicians should appreciate music "purely on the level of its structure."

    No, you need to take better care with your reading because you are leveling accusations against an innocent man.

    I read your words quite well enough, thank you.

  19. Who said I was addressing anyone here? I am simply saying that I've seen musicians who appreciate music on a purely structural level, and that I think that the author is one of the people who does that.

    Actually, no, that's not what you said:

    Right, and adding to this: the author, implicitly, is saying that what he is looking for from his music is the complexity of structure to it - i.e. for the piece to do something "clever," musically. This is also the meaning behind the "smart people" thing - because it is required that one be smart to be able to enjoy a piece of music in this way.

    And then you refer to "people like the author (and his fellow musicians)." You did not say that is what you think the author is saying, you asserted it with your first words. But what did he actually say in any detail about the music he means?

    "But there's a world of very high quality, accessible music other than the more commonly encountered rock, rap, country, etc., that you would expect to be the light fare of intelligent, educated people." Note: He explicitly said "accessible." What qualities does he contrast? "...I realize it is not the satisfying form or interesting textures, rich harmonies or rhythmic diversity that captivate them; it is the sheer energy (and volume) of the sound."

    You have no basis for saying he's interested in complexity for the sake of it--that's unwarranted. I knew it was unfair the moment I read your posting. And if that is what you think he meant by saying what he said, then it goes just as well for anyone here who says the same thing. If this seems unjustified to you, then all I can say is you need to take better care with your wording in the future.

  20. I think Arete was on the right path when he said it was about form. If one were to take chunks of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, and randomly place them in a timeline, it would come out sounding poor. While the instrument playing might be good, the music would not flow--one part would not lead and prepare for another part correctly...I don't keep up with pop music by any high degree, but what I have heard was very lacking. I could listen to it, but it would get dull fast, and it wouldn't catch my emotions or appeal to my values.

    Though I'm not sure that's a fair comparison; again, you're comparing one work crafted to three or four minutes with one that's quite a bit longer. I'd compare a pop song to a song from another genre of popular music, or to an art song. Even then, though, I agree that lots of pop music gets dull quite fast, and faster the more recently it's been written, roughly. (In that respect, compare The Beatles' "Bungalow Bill" to Britney Spears' "Oops, I Did It Again." The latter rips off the theme from the Beatles' refrain, makes it rather less interesting, and puts it in an even less interesting musical context.) But then pop music seems to me to have evolved to fill a certain social purpose: Public background music inoffensive to the greatest number that can be piped over the airwaves without drawing too many complaints, usually with a mixture of certain distinctive musical elements from various genres (rock, R&B, earlier pop) that are subordinated to a distinctive (nowadays often not so distinctive) voice starting with (and often nowadays not going beyond) a fairly simple theme and refrain and a fairly simple (though often compelling) beat. At least that's what I think of for pop music, as opposed to popular music, which is a much broader category of many genres, many with excellent works. (This is an important point in this discussion, by the way. People taking the view that "pop music" has many fine pieces might well be taking "pop" to mean "popular," and others might be letting "pop" stand in too much for the best works of "popular" music. I suggest it's good to be more specific about which works or genres we're thinking of. For example, in my case I don't like hard/metal rock overmuch, but there's some I quite like, even certain cheesy speed-metal bands like Dragonforce; though I love a group like Big Lazy, who are a rock trio that plays what I think of as smoky surfer blues with a heavy rock tinge. Similarly, I can't stand most rap, but even there I've been surprised; and I abominate much country, but Lyle Lovett and Mary Chapin Carpenter are very much exceptions. But that's generally a response to the general sound and feel of a genre, not necessarily to whether it's complex or not.)

  21. Since I evaluate for theme first and everything else afterwards, I prefer modern music (in most cases) to classical: a lot of classical music lacks a theme that I consider powerful or important. Vivaldi, for instance--the Rite of Spring makes me think of overgroomed domesticated deer stepping fastidiously through a manicured lawn.

    That's a failing common to many performances on modern instruments with modern performance practice. "Spring" from The Four Seasons, for example (The Rite of Spring is by Stravinsky), is pretty tepid when played the way violinists are wont to play it--much too slow and like some sort of Romantic-era tone poem. Violinists trained in Baroque performance practice, however (a tradition that passed out of favor by the early Romantic period and was only re-established with the rise of the early music movement), like Monica Huggett, can show what a marvellous work it is. (In fact, it was only after I heard her performance of it that I ever really liked it--though it was "Winter" that was the greatest revelation.) Her performances tend to be half to three-fifths the duration of what you usually hear, and that makes a vast difference. (But then the same is true of a performance I heard of Brahms' Third Symphony conducted by Furtwangler. It's a joyous work, but Furtwangler slowed it down so much it was a dirge; I had to actually stop it, start it over, and hum the notes as he played them to make sure he was actually conducting Brahms' Third. And yet I gather some people consider him the conductor of the century, which I think is nonsense.)

  22. arete1952: you are revealing yourself as little more than a classical music snob by the fact that you simply recite the famous old names. Anyone I've ever met who actually embraces music and has a useful opinion about it does not like Wagner AND Mozart AND Bach etc.

    Well, I do. I like all of the composers he listed (though my patience for Wagner wears thin very easily), though not all of their works by any means, and it's certainly true that it took me a while to come to appreciate some of them--Palestrina and Bach, for example. Of course, I don't know if you'd say my opinions are particularly useful to you or others; they're useful enough to me, and that's what counts in my book.

    The composers you mentioned have phenomenally different styles and I don't think it's *possible* to genuinely like *all* of them. Stravinsky was arguably a *hack*: his most popular work, the Nutcracker Suite, was written on spec and he detested it. It's also the only thing he wrote that I actually enjoy. :D

    Do you mean Tchaikovsky? There I agree; most of his symphonies are second-rate or worse and I'm not a great fan of his ballet music either. But even the Fourth Symphony manages to be a fine enough work. As for Stravinsky, I don't care for The Rite of Spring, but I quite like much of his music (his concertos, Les Noces, the symphonies, and his lesser-known ballets, for example).

    If you want to argue about music, stop discussing "types" of music with meaningless, nonessential definitions--there being more variation within types than there are between them.

    I agree. Again, I think the basic distinction is in scale. Small-scale works of whatever genre have different detailed esthetic standards than do large-scale works and "scratch different itches," if you like, and I find I can't get by in the long run without both--large-scale classical and jazz pieces, or small-scale pieces of most genres (classical, jazz, or various kinds of popular music: Latin, blues, some rock, ska, reggae, African, even Portuguese fado).

  23. Right, and adding to this: the author, implicitly, is saying that what he is looking for from his music is the complexity of structure to it - i.e. for the piece to do something "clever," musically.

    No, that's not necessarily what he's saying, and "clever" is just a sneer to deride an authentic position. Short songs are like short stories, longer works like novellas and novels. There can be great artistry in music or literature of both sizes, but the larger sizes require extra structure to support larger forms.

    This is also the meaning behind the "smart people" thing - because it is required that one be smart to be able to enjoy a piece of music in this way.

    No, now you're just playing with strawmen. The implication in the article is that smart people read novels of great complexity for pleasure ("someone with wide knowledge outside his field, good judgement, and refined tastes in many things"); why don't they do the same for music?

    There's just one problem with that - not everybody wants to get that particular kind of enjoyment out of music. Some of us - yes, even smart people - aren't interested in the structural complexity and cleverness of a piece - we're interested in whether is sounds good (i.e. harmonious) or not. We're interested in the particular emotions that a piece expresses and accesses.

    If I were to say "How Dionysian of you! All you want from your music is an emotional warm bath," then you could rightly charge me with erecting a strawman, yet that's exactly what you're doing in implying that people who love large-scale structure in their music are not interested in emotional response, only in a certain intellectual pleasure from contemplating form. It's as if you think everyone should be satisfied with well-crafted short stories and anyone who wants the large scale of a novel as well is a dessicated, effete esthete addled by "structural complexity."

    In fact I would go so far as to say that it is only musicians who are entertained by a piece purely on the level of its structure (i.e. apart from its overall harmony), because they study and understand composure itself.

    The word is "composition."

    Music that is particularly concerned with that structure, often (but not always) to the exclusion of harmony, is generally referred to as progressive - and it exists in many schools of music including jazz, rock and roll, and even metal.

    But who here is arguing in favor of nothing but structure? No one! (Not even the original author necessarily--nowhere does he mention any musical works.) That's another strawman. You're implicitly equating people who like art music of a higher degree of complexity than you enjoy with people who like nonsense like John Gaddis that is complex and difficult for the point of it and has nothing else to offer anyone. But the fellow who started this thread has mentioned some of the composers he's thinking of: "J.S. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Monteverdi, Palestrina, Wagner, Dvorak, Schubert, Stravinsky..." Those are all composers who used large-scale structures to create works of great beauty and emotional value; they have nothing to do with people spinning complex weaves of notes for the sake of it.

    But the mistake I think people like the author (and his fellow musicians) make is that no non-musician has any reason to care about or appreciate music in that way. It's kind of a by-artists for-artists art. It doesn't make them smarter or more sophisticated - it is at best purely a professional interest, and at worst a form of pretentious rationalism that utterly misses the purpose of music - i.e. to be enjoyed emotionally.

    But again, no one here is arguing for that position. What you have ended up doing is setting up your own strawman phrased in such a way as to insinuate that people who argue in favor of concert music favor structure over emotional response. And that insinuation is wrong: Rather, the structure adds another layer to the emotional response. I'm not a musician--hell, if I even sang it would scare animals--but I love music with large-scale and complex structure. In fact, I prefer a Bach fugue to Beethoven's Fifth any day (though there's lots of other Beethoven I love very much, such as his quartets and sonatas, even a peice as simple in its basic materials as the Fifth, like the Seventh Symphony).

    So what if it's simultaneously working three levels of structure which switch on every third stanza or whatever. Does it sound good? What does it do on an emotional level? Is all that complexity acting in the service of harmony, or is it just getting in the way of it? Or worse, is there no harmony at all, with the complexity being there for its own sake? (which is not only useless, emotionally, but in the extreme could mean that there isn't even a song at all - just a bunch of cleverly composed noise!) Those are the questions that the end users of music are concerned with.

    Well, consider the following composers: J.S. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Monteverdi, Palestrina, Wagner, Dvorak, Schubert, Stravinsky. Your implicit question is so easily answered with a vast range of counter-examples that even asking it is truly misplaced emphasis. And the way they use structure and large-scale form to unify their music (repeating the themes throughout to give unity, varying the themes in emotionally effective ways to add variety) affords an extra dimension of emotional response (one might even argue a more conceptually-based form of emotional response, much as the structure of a well-crafted large novel adds a dimension of emotional response a short story simply cannot have because of the inherent limitations of scale) that is well worth the effort involved in listening attentively to it.

    So while you do have to be smart to appreciate progressive music, it doesn't make necessarily any better than anyone else for doing it, nor do all smart people have to do it. So to look down on people or get all worked up because they don't spend their time appreciating progressive-style music is erroneous.

    Actually, no, I think you're wrong on this point. You don't have to be smart to appreciate music with greater complexity than a simple popular song; you simply have to be willing to listen and make the effort to follow the various lines in a piece of music. This might be too much effort for many people, just as there are many people who don't like novels because they're too large and complex, but that's no reason to sneer at people who do like the larger forms as snobbish, dessicated pedants who avoid emotion in art.

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