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A disagreement over the ability to define "Art"

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shadesofgrey
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This was originally going to be posted as a response to "bad art vs. not art", but I figured it would best be suited in its own forum, so that it could attract the maximum amount of attacks...I mean, debate ;)

Unfortunately many people disagree on what exactly art "is". I'll start with the objective. Part of a currently accepted OED defintion of "art" is: "the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance; the class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria." The objectivist defintion states that art is what the artist believes to be ultimately true and important about the nature of reality and humanity. In this respect, objectivism regards art as a way of presenting abstractions concretely, in perceptual form. However, within the very definition lies the flaw of the objectivist argument.

The key word is "perceptual". In the context of art, perception becomes subjective and as such, is no longer able to be concretely defined. This naturally presents a problem for an objectivist. Given that, according to objectivists, art is how the artist sees the world, how they express their "sense of life". However there are many examples of objects at which two people can look and see very different things, neither of them incorrect. Additionally, many objectivist descriptions about art or art appreciation eschew emotion. Emotion is as real a part of the world as the ocean or mountains. Purely, it is a series of electrochemical reactions within the brain which are expressed physically by the body. However, what elicits emotion is SUBJECTIVE. Empirical observations and physical settings cause signals to be sent to the brain via the sensory organs, but that is where the similarities end. The brain, by mechanisms which we do not fully know, then interprets those signals and a physical response ensues. What form those responses take will vary from person to person. Most of us can control the expression of our emotions, but we can only partially control their triggers.

Seeing as emotional response is therefore subjective and it is related to sensory input (such as art), there is, by proxy, no way to objectify art. You can't define what "is" or "isn't" art when what elicits emotion varys from person to person. To do so would be to attack an opinion as correct or incorrect, at which point rationale breaks down. Going back to the OED definition, we see that art can be any class of objects "subject to aesthetic criteria". That doesn't necessarily mean GOOD aesthetic criteria, just criteria in general. So it would be more accurate for an objectivist to classify art as "bad" or otherwise unappealing, than "not art". Rand's definition of art was not inaccurate, just incomplete. Consider the following quote from her Romantic Manifesto:

"What the Romanticists brought to art was the primacy of values… Values are the source of emotions: a great deal of emotional intensity was projected in the work of the Romanticists and in the reactions of their audiences, as well as a great deal of color, imagination, originality, excitement, and all the other consequences of a value-oriented view of life."

Very true. However, she neglects to mention that more or less every other art movement has done the same thing. Those values may be personal, political, religous, or social, but they are still sources of emotion. Indeed, intense emotion. She was right about imagination, originality, etc., all being part of a value-oriented view of life. However, those same traits can be found in art that objectivists would consider "not art".

Abstract paintings are probably the best example. They are not easily interpreted, quite random, and to the untrained eye, display less obvious "skill" than a more traditional romantic painting. However, to say that abstract works do not portray "emotion, originality, color, imagination and excitement, and all the other consequences of a value-oriented view of life" is patently false. I could list 50 works that meet those criteria off the cuff. They just don't trigger emotions as easily. Perhaps the reason is societal, perhaps it's personal. The reason doesn't matter. Only the outcome....and the outcome is that so-called "non-art" is, by the very objectivist definition, art.

To take it down a notch, a decent defintion of art is the interpretation by the artist, in some medium, of their observations. Be those INTERNAL observations about the self, or external ones about the world around us. How another person interprets those observations within the parameters of a value-oriented life is subjective in that those values differ from person to person; not everyone is an objectivist. Even among objectivists you would be hard-pressed to find all of them agreeing on what is good, bad, or not art. On an even smaller scale, you would have a breakdown between what is "good art" and "really good art" ad infinatum.

We aren't SUPPOSED to agree on what art is. The definition (the real definition) is in and of itself subjective because as soon as you try to make art objective, it becomes manufactured. Cosider your favorite romantic realist piece. If it were mandatorily issued to everyone as "art", hanging in every home and business everywhere, wouldn't it lose a little something? How about your favorite song played over and over and over? It may not be as special to you when you looked at it or heard it everywhere, would it? Such is the consequence of mandating what is and isn't art. A declaration of validity is a death knell for creativity, one of the very virtues objectivism seeks to exalt.

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Let's check a few premises.

The objectivist defintion states that art is what the artist believes to be ultimately true and important about the nature of reality and humanity. In this respect, objectivism regards art as a way of presenting abstractions concretely, in perceptual form.

Can you please substantiate this claim?

The key word is "perceptual". In the context of art, perception becomes subjective and as such, is no longer able to be concretely defined. This naturally presents a problem for an objectivist. Given that, according to objectivists, art is how the artist sees the world, how they express their "sense of life". However there are many examples of objects at which two people can look and see very different things, neither of them incorrect.

Uh, no. The see perceptually the exact same thing. They interpret it conceptually differently. It is not an issue of perception being subjective.

Additionally, many objectivist descriptions about art or art appreciation eschew emotion. Emotion is as real a part of the world as the ocean or mountains. Purely, it is a series of electrochemical reactions within the brain which are expressed physically by the body. However, what elicits emotion is SUBJECTIVE.

Can you provide examples of the Objectivist eschewing of emotion as it relates to art? I find this to be a wholly unsubstantiated claim and in my experience just flat wrong.

I don't think you've stated the Objectivist position properly in any way. Without the proper premises the rest of your argument falls flat.

Edited by KendallJ
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The objectivist defintion states that art is what the artist believes to be ultimately true and important about the nature of reality and humanity. In this respect, objectivism regards art as a way of presenting abstractions concretely, in perceptual form. However, within the very definition lies the flaw of the objectivist argument.

Actually, the Objectivist definition is: "a selective recreation of reality according to the artist's metaphysical value judgments"

There isn't exactly anything incorrect about your explanation, but what an artist believes to be true isn't exactly the point. Ultimately, it shows what an artist values. This of course relates very closely with what someone thinks about the nature of reality and humanity, but it's a little more broad than that. The definition you gave is more narrow than the Objectivist definition, probably leading to your objections in the first place.

To take it down a notch, a decent defintion of art is the interpretation by the artist, in some medium, of their observations.

Many people do define art that way, essentially saying values are not what counts the most. It's your feeling that count, whether you feel like using reason or not in developing "art". It's subjectivism at it's finest, since there is no objective basis to what art is with that definition. I would feel safe in saying that most abstract paintings are not art. It seems that such artists arbitrarily paint whatever, then interpret what they see like an ink blot test. I would say that Picasso's paintings are art, albeit bad art (I'm sure many would disagree).

A lot of this is covered nicely in the Romantic Manifesto, so you should read it.

Edited by Eiuol
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Let's check a few premises.

Can you please substantiate this claim?

Certainly. OK, first claim: I'll refer you again to the Romantic Manifesto, pg. 45:

Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value judgments. Man's profound need of art lies in the fact that his cognitive faculty is conceptual, i.e., that he acquires knowledge by means of abstractions, and needs the power to bring his widest metaphysical abstractions into his immediate, perceptual awareness. Art fulfills this need: by means of a selective re-creation, it concretizes man's fundamental view of himself and of existence. It tells man, in effect, which aspects of his experience are to be regarded as essential, significant, important.

Admittedly I paraphrased, though not inaccurately.

Uh, no. The see perceptually the exact same thing. They interpret it conceptually differently. It is not an issue of perception being subjective.

Second claim: Actually, yes. Perception, by definition, is not limited to the physical senses. I refer you to part of Merriam's definition stating: "Immediate or intuitive recognition or appreciation, as of moral, psychological, or aesthetic qualities; insight; intuition; discernment: i.e. An artist of rare perception." Perception therefore is not limited to physical signals before they reach the brain, but is also reflected by the brain's initial processing of them.

Even conception by definition is not limited to the metaphysical world. Part of IT'S definition includes "A sketch of something not actually existing: i.e. An artist's conception of ancient Athens."

My point is that people can see differences both perceptually and conceptually. If English weren't so old, it probably be more strict.

Can you provide examples of the Objectivist eschewing of emotion as it relates to art? I find this to be a wholly unsubstantiated claim and in my experience just flat wrong.

Claim three: I actually did provide a broad example in the case of abstract art, but allow me to clarify. Since objectivism defines what is art and what is not art, it thereby negates the validity of any emotions experienced while looking at art that is considered "not art" by objectivism. So if you were looking at some random abstract painting and were somehow moved emotionally by it, objectivism would state that that emotion is incorrect or misplaced. Which it can't be because it's an EMOTION. Particularly one elicited by an inanimate object. I can't substantiate it any more other than to say that once you try to tell people what they should or should not feel, you've already lost the rational argument. If there's one thing people don't like, it's the invalidation of their emotions. Personally, I think a lot of art out there is crap, but it's still art. Your experience, as is mine, is inconsequential. We're talking definitions.

I don't think you've stated the Objectivist position properly in any way. Without the proper premises the rest of your argument falls flat.

Claim four: I'm not sure what to make of this one. I used direct quotes from Ms. Rand herself for the statements in question, so you'd be hard-pressed to prove that I've misstated the objectivist position. Simply declaring that I've done so is insufficient. I do appreciate your reply though, and look forward to further discussion.

Welcome to Philadelphia by the way ;)

Edited by shadesofgrey
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Actually, the Objectivist definition is: "a selective recreation of reality according to the artist's metaphysical value judgments"

There isn't exactly anything incorrect about your explanation, but what an artist believes to be true isn't exactly the point. Ultimately, it shows what an artist values. This of course relates very closely with what someone thinks about the nature of reality and humanity, but it's a little more broad than that. The definition you gave is more narrow than the Objectivist definition, probably leading to your objections in the first place.

Many people do define art that way, essentially saying values are not what counts the most. It's your feeling that count, whether you feel like using reason or not in developing "art". It's subjectivism at it's finest, since there is no objective basis to what art is with that definition. I would feel safe in saying that most abstract paintings are not art. It seems that such artists arbitrarily paint whatever, then interpret what they see like an ink blot test. I would say that Picasso's paintings are art, albeit bad art (I'm sure many would disagree).

A lot of this is covered nicely in the Romantic Manifesto, so you should read it.

I did. I actually quoted it in the next post. Your first point was very well-written. I agree. I think my definition is both narrower but simultaneously more broad than the purely objectivist approach. I only view art as inherently subjective (partially, at least) because as far back as I can find, that's how the word was literally defined. Ms. Rand changed the fundamental definition of not only a concept, but a word, it's most basic component. I can't get behind that in the same way I can't get behind King James changing the Bible to suit his needs (which had already been changed by people hundreds of years before for the same reason).

Setting grammatical arguments aside, in practice the fact remains that art that is not considered art by objectivism still elicits powerful emotion from people and I haven't found a way to justify telling them that they're somehow off base feeling what they feel. There is plenty of inkblot art, but "most abstract art" does not a defintion support.

By the way, I'm not a fan of Picasso either ;)

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Claim three: I actually did provide a broad example in the case of abstract art, but allow me to clarify. Since objectivism defines what is art and what is not art, it thereby negates the validity of any emotions experienced while looking at art that is considered "not art" by objectivism. So if you were looking at some random abstract painting and were somehow moved emotionally by it, objectivism would state that that emotion is incorrect or misplaced. Which it can't be because it's an EMOTION. Particularly one elicited by an inanimate object. I can't substantiate it any more other than to say that once you try to tell people what they should or should not feel, you've already lost the rational argument. If there's one thing people don't like, it's the invalidation of their emotions. Personally, I think a lot of art out there is crap, but it's still art. Your experience, as is mine, is inconsequential. We're talking definitions.

A sunset itself is not art, since art has to be made by a person. Can you be moved by a sunset emotionally? Yes. There isn't a wrong emotion to feel about art(although from a moral perspective, there are good and bad emotions), but just because something elicits an emotion doesn't make it art. The Objectivist definition of art doesn't tell you what you ought to feel.

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A sunset itself is not art, since art has to be made by a person. Can you be moved by a sunset emotionally? Yes. There isn't a wrong emotion to feel about art(although from a moral perspective, there are good and bad emotions), but just because something elicits an emotion doesn't make it art. The Objectivist definition of art doesn't tell you what you ought to feel.

True, but I read it as telling me what I ought NOT to feel. Indirectly, of course, but the implication is there. Your sun example is a good one. What about a painting of a sunset? What if it were an impressionist painting of a sunset in some place of which you have fond memories? Assume the painting elicits a good emotion (happiness). That painting was created by man, but would the objectivist view state that a manmade creation like that capable of eliciting positive emotion and differing from "real art" only on stylistic grounds would not be art?

As an aside, would you know of a good place I could find a list of the good and bad emotions morally? I haven't been able to find any comprehensive examples.

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Which it can't be because it's an EMOTION. Particularly one elicited by an inanimate object. I can't substantiate it any more other than to say that once you try to tell people what they should or should not feel, you've already lost the rational argument.

Emotions are not validated simply because they are experienced. As noted by another poster, some emotions are good and some are bad based on a particular context. Serial killers are often elated by the thrill of their kill. That's an emotion. Is that a good or correct emotion to have when killing someone who has done nothing to you?

You can argue rationally whether an emotion is correct or not based on a particular context. The fact that the person experiencing the emotion may discard your argument does not mean it cannot be rationally argued, it may simply mean they do not want to listen to a rational argument because they prefer experiencing feelings rather than analyzing why they are feeling them and determining if they are appropriate or not.

As an aside, would you know of a good place I could find a list of the good and bad emotions morally? I haven't been able to find any comprehensive examples.

Emotions are good or bad within a particular context so you will not find a comprehensive list.

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Emotions are not validated simply because they are experienced. As noted by another poster, some emotions are good and some are bad based on a particular context. Serial killers are often elated by the thrill of their kill. That's an emotion. Is that a good or correct emotion to have when killing someone who has done nothing to you?

You can argue rationally whether an emotion is correct or not based on a particular context. The fact that the person experiencing the emotion may discard your argument does not mean it cannot be rationally argued, it may simply mean they do not want to listen to a rational argument because they prefer experiencing feelings rather than analyzing why they are feeling them and determining if they are appropriate or not.

I agree. My context was while looking at what is more widely accepted as "art". You actually bring up a refreshingly unbiased point in your second paragraph. A lot of art is about experience and not dissecting emotions into tiny pieces. I've kind of gotten used to people saying "I don't want to talk about it" (be it an emotional subject or not) and I'm fine with that. Conversely, how would it be correct for objectivism to tell someone that their emotion is "bad" because it was based on an impressionist or abstract painting versus a romantic realist one? Can you really justify an argument on stylistic grounds that one powerful work is art and another powerful work is not art based on a few brushstrokes?

Let me reiterate that I understand the objectivist rationale for defining art. My point is that I think it's prohibitively restrictive when it comes to the bigger goals of objectivism such as the advancement of the individual, personal growth, etc. If you look at an impressionist painting and it motivates you to improve yourself and your life, I think you'd be hard-pressed to de-classify it as art when a romantic realist painting may not elicit the same motivation. It goes back to my point about how the definition of the word "art" should have never been changed in the first place, but I won't beat a dead horse. Any more :)

Edited by shadesofgrey
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shades of grey,

Thanks for the welcome. I'm not actually in Philly yet, but will be there in about a month.

Certainly. OK, first claim: I'll refer you again to the Romantic Manifesto, pg. 45:

Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value judgments. Man's profound need of art lies in the fact that his cognitive faculty is conceptual, i.e., that he acquires knowledge by means of abstractions, and needs the power to bring his widest metaphysical abstractions into his immediate, perceptual awareness. Art fulfills this need: by means of a selective re-creation, it concretizes man's fundamental view of himself and of existence. It tells man, in effect, which aspects of his experience are to be regarded as essential, significant, important.

Admittedly I paraphrased, though not inaccurately.

Ah ok, I think I see some parts of the issue. You're correct I believe your paraphrase is not technically inaccurate. However, right off the bat you don't apply the concepts correctly, and as such are misrepresenting it. As below.

Second claim: Actually, yes. Perception, by definition, is not limited to the physical senses. I refer you to part of Merriam's definition stating: "Immediate or intuitive recognition or appreciation, as of moral, psychological, or aesthetic qualities; insight; intuition; discernment: i.e. An artist of rare perception." Perception therefore is not limited to physical signals before they reach the brain, but is also reflected by the brain's initial processing of them.

While it's true that this could be a possible meaning of the word perception, it is not true that a word in any usage denotes all of its possible meanings. When you selectively choose one meaning to represent, as you have admittedly done, you have to have a basis for concluding that in the context of usage, the word actually has that meaning. What's even more critical however, is that used in philosophical discourse, the concept perception is a technical term. That is, it is a technical term of the science of philosophy, and more specifically the branch of epistemology. Different philosphers can and do mean something different by the term because their systems of philosophy depend on how they mean it to differentiate themselves. What Mirriam Webster suggests could be a meaning of the term has no relevance, and if Rand is an honest philosopher that should be at term that she has developed as part of Objectivist epistemology and in fact she is quite clear on what it means and how she is using it.

If you click through the lexicon link in my sig, it's actually quite easy to find.

A percept is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of a living organism. It is in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses and apprehends reality. When we speak of “direct perception” or “direct awareness,” we mean the perceptual level. Percepts, not sensations, are the given, the self-evident. The knowledge of sensations as components of percepts is not direct, it is acquired by man much later: it is a scientific, conceptual discovery.

So as such, Rand is referring only to the senses with percepts being a collection of sensory inputs, ONLY. So your claim about the perceptual level in the Objective definition of art is invalid. People do not perceive things different, unless their senses are malfunctioning. The fact that people have differing emotional responses to art however is covered by Rand, and it is subsumed by the term "sense of life." But that is addressed in you next point.

Claim three: I actually did provide a broad example in the case of abstract art, but allow me to clarify. Since objectivism defines what is art and what is not art, it thereby negates the validity of any emotions experienced while looking at art that is considered "not art" by objectivism. So if you were looking at some random abstract painting and were somehow moved emotionally by it, objectivism would state that that emotion is incorrect or misplaced. Which it can't be because it's an EMOTION. Particularly one elicited by an inanimate object. I can't substantiate it any more other than to say that once you try to tell people what they should or should not feel, you've already lost the rational argument. If there's one thing people don't like, it's the invalidation of their emotions. Personally, I think a lot of art out there is crap, but it's still art. Your experience, as is mine, is inconsequential. We're talking definitions.

You gave an alternate definition of art, yet you seem not to be sticking to it at all. Your implicit assumption here is that art seems to be whatever you respond to emotionally, or maybe respond to emotionally and positively. If you study Objectivist thought on the nature of emotions you'll see that Objectivism doesn't "negate the validity" of emotional responses to anything. What Objectivism does say is that emotions aren't tools of cognition. That is, an emotional response to something will not tell you if that something is good or it is bad. Your emotions are not the standard or tool to cognitively determine anything. Beyond that, emotions are not the province solely of art, and as such Objectivism cannot negate a response to something that is not art. As others have pointed out, one can have an emotional response to many things, and of many shades. It says nothing of art. Objectivism doesnt' say what you "should" feel about a particular piece of art. It says only that your emotions are a response, a causal response, part of which is based upon the ideas you have integrated. It says that your response to art will be determined by your "sense of life," i.e. an automated response that you essentially have burned into your subconscious based upon the ideas you explicitly and implicitly. If you love death consistently, then you will like anti-life art. etc.

The "should" part comes regarding the ideas you choose to hold, but if you can find Rand anywhere saying that therefore you "should" emote in a certain way, I'd like to see how you interpret that. It's a very common mistake for instance among Objectivists early on to actually imitate the characters in Rand's books. They then question the fact that they don't always feel the way they think they should. They misunderstand the nature of emotions. Emotions don't follow ideas directly and immediately. You don't automatically change your emotional responses once and even if you adopt a new idea. That's why you dont' use your emotions to know if something is good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. And it's why Rand doesn't address emotions in that way in her work.

Claim four: I'm not sure what to make of this one. I used direct quotes from Ms. Rand herself for the statements in question, so you'd be hard-pressed to prove that I've misstated the objectivist position. Simply declaring that I've done so is insufficient. I do appreciate your reply though, and look forward to further discussion.

Sure, you stated the definition almost correctly, and then proceeded to ignore what it meant and make claims about it that are incorrect. You don't appear to understand the quotes and what they mean.

If you look at an impressionist painting and it motivates you to improve yourself and your life, I think you'd be hard-pressed to de-classify it as art when a romantic realist painting may not elicit the same motivation. It goes back to my point about how the definition of the word "art" should have never been changed in the first place, but I won't beat a dead horse. Any more :)

ugh, this is a really muddled sentence conceptually. Objectivism doesn't declassify impressionism as non art. Nor does it negate the feeling one gets from it. Again, you are assuming a sort of consequentialist definition for art.

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As an aside, would you know of a good place I could find a list of the good and bad emotions morally? I haven't been able to find any comprehensive examples.

You might find what Dr. Ellen Kenner has to say on emotions to be helpful:

Follow any links, like "Definitions," "Decode," and "Detecting"

Emotions are automatic responses resulting from our subconsciously held, automated, value judgements. Being automatic responses, it make little sense to consider them to be rational or irrational, right or wrong, good or bad, correct or incorrect. Such judgements apply to the subconsciously held value judgements, but even then they have to be "brought up" to consciousness in order to be aware of what they are and to determine whether they are good or bad, true or false, etc.

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I'd start first with what Rand had to say on the topic.

By all means; start there if you think it's best.

The entry for "Emotions" in the Ayn Rand Lexicon has several quotes from various sources of Miss Rand's writings.

In addition, you might find Harry Binswanger's lecture on "Emotions (CD)" to be very helpful. It's two lectures on CD for $46.95. See the description.

[Edited to add links.]

Edited by Trebor
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Shades,

I think you're trying to address too much at the same time here. I'm stuck on you very first paragraph...

Unfortunately many people disagree on what exactly art "is". I'll start with the objective. Part of a currently accepted OED defintion of "art" is: "the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance; the class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria." The objectivist defintion states that art is what the artist believes to be ultimately true and important about the nature of reality and humanity.

In the above, you're stating your view of Obejctivism's view of art. Then, you go on to explain what is wrong with that view. I suggest that you focus on this para alone (i.e. the understanding of what Objectivism says art is), because otherwise you'll be at cross-purposes to those who think you're attacking a straw-man.

...many people disagree on what exactly art "is".
Before we even get to Objectivism vs. others, this statement itself gives the wrong impression. Of course if we assume you are stressing "exactly", we can see the sense in which it is true. Nevertheless, it would be more accurate to say something along these lines: when it comes to most forms of painting, literature, and song, most people substantially agree on whether some particular thing is or is not art; there are some things that people might disagree about, but they tend to be the minority. However, when it comes to defining what is common about all these things that we call art, we find a little more (but not much) disagreement.

I'll start with the objective. Part of a currently accepted OED defintion of "art" is: "the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance;...
Looking at this definition, we see two things: desirability (i.e. "beauty" and "appealing"), and importance (i.e. "significance"). when looking at the various instances of art, the editors of the OED conclude that what they have in common is this: people are producing them to express significant and appealing things. In other words, to express important values.

The objectivist defintion states that art is what the artist believes to be ultimately true and important about the nature of reality and humanity.
I'm not sure where you got "true" from, but it is not a big deal anyway. I find the OED definition to be pretty similar to the Objectivist one. I find this unsurprising; if you were to list various concrete items (whether paintings, or stories, or poems, or songs, or tunes) that an Objectivist would call "art", and if you were to ask a hundred laymen whether they were art, you'd find nearly 100% agreement that these specific things all were indeed art. There's no particular virtue in such a merry consensus; but, it demonstrates that Objectivism does not have some radical new category of existents that it calls "art".
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Before we even get to Objectivism vs. others, this statement itself gives the wrong impression. Of course if we assume you are stressing "exactly", we can see the sense in which it is true. Nevertheless, it would be more accurate to say something along these lines: when it comes to most forms of painting, literature, and song, most people substantially agree on whether some particular thing is or is not art; there are some things that people might disagree about, but they tend to be the minority. However, when it comes to defining what is common about all these things that we call art, we find a little more (but not much) disagreement.

I agree. Your statement is definitely more comprehensive than mine. I assumed that I'd use a casual definition of art that the "layman" would consider using, but there's certainly no harm in being specific. It's a necessity in this thread, anyway.

Looking at this definition, we see two things: desirability (i.e. "beauty" and "appealing"), and importance (i.e. "significance"). when looking at the various instances of art, the editors of the OED conclude that what they have in common is this: people are producing them to express significant and appealing things. In other words, to express important values.

I'm with you...

I'm not sure where you got "true" from, but it is not a big deal anyway. I find the OED definition to be pretty similar to the Objectivist one. I find this unsurprising; if you were to list various concrete items (whether paintings, or stories, or poems, or songs, or tunes) that an Objectivist would call "art", and if you were to ask a hundred laymen whether they were art, you'd find nearly 100% agreement that these specific things all were indeed art. There's no particular virtue in such a merry consensus; but, it demonstrates that Objectivism does not have some radical new category of existents that it calls "art".

Well, "true" in the sense that a proper (i.e. objectivist) artist would be expressing reality as it actually is, without any kind of personal or interpretive interference. I also agree that the OED definition and the objectivist definition are pretty similar. In fact, most of the places I looked up the definition of "art" had roughly the same theme running through them. However, this wasn't the point of my original post. Several people have now commented that objectivism doesn't tell you what to feel and it doesn't tell you how to interpret art, but rather it only tells you what is considered art by the rationale expounded by the philosophy itself. Fine. Makes sense. Point A to point B. I get it. Let's just stick to painting for the time being.

My issue, and let me be very clear here, is the EXCLUSION of almost every other style of art that isn't a direct relation or descendant of romantic realism from the category of "art". I agree with you that objectivism is completely clear as to why romantic realism IS art. What I contest is why OTHER types of art AREN'T. The answer I've been getting is that it's because those other styles of art (impressionism, abstract, cubism, etc) don't reflect the same parameters that romantic realism does, and therefore, do not fit the objectivist definition of art.

Where I disagree with you is your last paragraph. You could take those same hundred laymen and show them them various concrete works of art, some of them the most well known and most highly-revered in the world, and if they were impressionist, or religious, or any of the other aforementioned categories, you'd tell them that they weren't looking at real art. They'd look at you like you had 9 heads. You're right: objectivism doesn't have a radical new categorization of what it calls "art", it has a radical new categorization of what it DOESN'T call "art".

KendallJ's post was too long for me to address now. I'll have to get to it tomorrow.

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My issue, and let me be very clear here, is the EXCLUSION of almost every other style of art that isn't a direct relation or descendant of romantic realism from the category of "art".

I'm a bit confused here. Can you provide a reference for this "exclusion as art"? I know the Objectivist corpus pretty well and I'm not familiar with it. Now if you mean instead that by providing a standard, one is able to judge art and categories of art as good or bad, that is a different story. However, that is not what you're saying.

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Well, "true" in the sense that a proper (i.e. objectivist) artist would be expressing reality as it actually is, without any kind of personal or interpretive interference.
I could read this to mean that an Objectivist should try to be like a photographer who does not even plan what to capture, or a journalist who treats all facts on par without any sense of what is important. That would be nearly the opposite of what Rand thought; and, quite likely that is not what you mean. However, if not that, then what do you mean? After all, the moment one veers from that particular type of photographer or journalist, one is starting to make the creation personal (and I suppose that would also qualify as being interpretive). In other words, far from being opposed to such an approach, making it personal and interpretative could be said to be of essence

Several people have now commented that objectivism doesn't tell you what to feel and it doesn't tell you how to interpret art, but rather it only tells you what is considered art by the rationale expounded by the philosophy itself.
But... as per your post just above this one, we are now agreed that Objectivism does not do this. We're agreed that the things it considers art are the things that the editors of the OED and various other people also consider to be art; right? If so, it is not the "rationale of Objectivism" (not in the sense you mean it) that guides it in determining what is art and what is not.

My issue, and let me be very clear here, is the EXCLUSION of almost every other style of art that isn't a direct relation or descendant of romantic realism from the category of "art".
I've got to ask: by any chance have you just begun reading "The Romantic Manifesto"? If so, perhaps you've misunderstood the early essay(s). It is pretty clear in that collection that Rand considers Naturalistic art as art. Either there or elsewhere, it is also clear that she considers genres like "fantasy" and science fiction to be art. More than merely considering them to be art, she also makes clear that they can be good art.

A naturalist painter can definitely produce art. Measured aesthetically, he can produce good art.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Well, "true" in the sense that a proper (i.e. objectivist) artist would be expressing reality as it actually is, without any kind of personal or interpretive interference.

Because that is exactly what Rand did in her novels! Atlas Shrugged is a triumph of the naturalistic slice-of-life literary style.

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I could read this to mean that an Objectivist should try to be like a photographer who does not even plan what to capture, or a journalist who treats all facts on par without any sense of what is important. That would be nearly the opposite of what Rand thought; and, quite likely that is not what you mean. However, if not that, then what do you mean? After all, the moment one veers from that particular type of photographer or journalist, one is starting to make the creation personal (and I suppose that would also qualify as being interpretive). In other words, far from being opposed to such an approach, making it personal and interpretative could be said to be of essence

Exactly right. I understand that objectivism seeks not to simply reproduce the real world in its art, but that it should strive to elevate and idealize the human spirit. Hence why photography, for example, is invalid as a camera merely records the world exactly as it is and has very limited, if any, capacity to carry a moral message beyond the photographer's choice of subject matter (a conclusion that I'm not sure applies any longer given the amount of technological manipulation that can be done with photographs these days). So yes, that's not what I meant. As far as making it personal and interpretive, what would happen if you made it personal in a negative way or you interpreted the world around you or the human spirit as dark or weak or otherwise repugnant? Would that still be art in an objectivist sense?

It is pretty clear in that collection that Rand considers Naturalistic art as art. Either there or elsewhere, it is also clear that she considers genres like "fantasy" and science fiction to be art. More than merely considering them to be art, she also makes clear that they can be good art.

This was surprising to me because I didn't get that impression. The sci-fi and fantasy genres I understand because they certainly can contain idealistic themes. Though it makes me wonder if Rand's definition of naturalism is different than your "traditional" definition of naturalism. As I understand it, naturalism is a type of art that pays attention to very accurate and precise details, and portrays things as they are (perceptually). The realism movement of the 19th century advocated naturalism in reaction to the stylized and idealized depictions of subjects in romanticism. It was kind of reactionary. One of the reasons naturalism became popular when it did (in parts of Europe and America anyway) was because of all of the controversy that was arising around Darwin and his theories. Didn't naturalism have a Darwinian perspective of life and a view of the futility of man against the forces of nature? Even the name elevates nature over man. I wasn't able to find how that view of naturalism cohered with objectivism.

Edited by shadesofgrey
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I'm a bit confused here. Can you provide a reference for this "exclusion as art"? I know the Objectivist corpus pretty well and I'm not familiar with it. Now if you mean instead that by providing a standard, one is able to judge art and categories of art as good or bad, that is a different story. However, that is not what you're saying.

Well to be more specific, I'll use the actual words "valid" and "invalid" when describing styles of art. So the styles that I was talking about being "excluded" (impressionism, naturalism, modernism, photography, etc.) I'll adjust to being called "invalid" art. I have no issue with whether someone considers art good or bad. The personal (and yes, subjective) judgment of art is what seems to be the issue.

So since we got a bit off track (admittedly due to my overly broad definitions in the original post), I'll back up and make this much simpler. I posted a couple of questions in my last response to Softwarenerd. However, if I had to boil it down to one item, it would be this (I'll use modernism purely as an example):

Why, if a painting (in the modernist style) is skillfully executed and elicits postive emotion from its audience that in some manner elevates their spirits, would that painting be considered "invalid" art?

The goals achieved by the artist are almost identical to those sought by objectivism, but in this case the modernist painting would arrive at those goals by some different route.

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Let me reiterate that I understand the objectivist rationale for defining art. My point is that I think it's prohibitively restrictive when it comes to the bigger goals of objectivism such as the advancement of the individual, personal growth, etc. If you look at an impressionist painting and it motivates you to improve yourself and your life, I think you'd be hard-pressed to de-classify it as art when a romantic realist painting may not elicit the same motivation. It goes back to my point about how the definition of the word "art" should have never been changed in the first place, but I won't beat a dead horse. Any more :)

Who said that impressionism is not art?

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Well to be more specific, I'll use the actual words "valid" and "invalid" when describing styles of art. So the styles that I was talking about being "excluded" (impressionism, naturalism, modernism, photography, etc.) I'll adjust to being called "invalid" art. I have no issue with whether someone considers art good or bad. The personal (and yes, subjective) judgment of art is what seems to be the issue.

As was mentioned before, naturalism is art, but by an Objectivist's standards, it is bad art. Same with impressionism. Photography is not art by the Objectivist definition. Modernism is a little too vague or broad. This was part of the reason why I made the "bad art vs not art thread", because it isn't always an easy thing to distinguish. It requires thought about a particular piece of work, which is why judging something by its genre alone is not always effective.

Why, if a painting (in the modernist style) is skillfully executed and elicits postive emotion from its audience that in some manner elevates their spirits, would that painting be considered "invalid" art?

I'm not exactly sure what the modernist style is. There is enough "modern art" out there that some pieces could be art, but most of it is not. It would be better to look at a specific piece of work and judge that rather than just judge broad genres. A good photograph requires skill to take. A good photograph can elicit positive emotion. A photograph is not art. Does a photograph not being art diminish its value? No. How a work is created often determines whether or not something is art.

If this is what you're thinking is modern art: http://unraveled.com/archives/assets/image..._modern_art.jpg (google searched modern art)

It would not fit the Objectivist definition of art. Where is any recreation of reality? Was there even an artist, or did somebody grab several cans of paint and throw it at a canvas? How can the metaphysical value judgments be represented in a style based on random drops of paint rolling down the canvas? Of course, a person who thinks reality is an illusion may see value in it because it represents the truth of reality: an incoherent mess. But the piece of work is still not art.

Edited by Eiuol
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My issue, and let me be very clear here, is the EXCLUSION of almost every other style of art that isn't a direct relation or descendant of romantic realism from the category of "art". I agree with you that objectivism is completely clear as to why romantic realism IS art. What I contest is why OTHER types of art AREN'T. The answer I've been getting is that it's because those other styles of art (impressionism, abstract, cubism, etc) don't reflect the same parameters that romantic realism does, and therefore, do not fit the objectivist definition of art.

Where I disagree with you is your last paragraph. You could take those same hundred laymen and show them them various concrete works of art, some of them the most well known and most highly-revered in the world, and if they were impressionist, or religious, or any of the other aforementioned categories, you'd tell them that they weren't looking at real art. They'd look at you like you had 9 heads. You're right: objectivism doesn't have a radical new categorization of what it calls "art", it has a radical new categorization of what it DOESN'T call "art".

KendallJ's post was too long for me to address now. I'll have to get to it tomorrow.

Who the hell said that only "romantic-realist" art is "ART"?

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