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I’m also in disagreement with personal preferences at the sensory level being ascribed as “subjective” when I do think they’re none other than “objective.” This important area of disagreement is the crux of the argument. This inability to decide on “objective” and “subjective” can make the world a living hell for some.

If a painter, were to view a mountain scene and have an impression at the time of the setting sun, and if it is only possible to ascribe beauty to the metaphysical by perceiving with infallible sense organs, why would this experience be anything other than objective? An individual's sense organs are the first step to bringing beauty into the world, correct? (What is an impression anyways?)

“The hard part is how to plan a picture so as to give to others what has happened to you. To render in paint an experience, to suggest the sense of light and color, of air and space.” -Maxfield Parrish

The painter is fallible when trying to recreate in paint what he sees in reality.

This painting, this representation of a “time in place”, can be judged and reduced back to the represented entities in existence. Visual concepts, such as Mr. Parrish’s application of paint can be reduced back to the perceptual. It can be beautiful or ugly. "Trash" or "treasure". It can be objective to the individual calling it a treasure, and that is just fine and objective. But, for others that do not know the standards and how “treasure” is defined and reduced back to the perceptual, without this knowledge, they don’t know that it’s objectively “treasure” or “trash”.

What do you think of the bromide, “One persons trash is another persons treasure”? Define “trash” and “treasure”. Once defined, how can an entity be both trash and treasure objectively? A contradiction? No.

Is it the case that an individual sees something as trash, but with more knowledge they then see that they were wrong, that it is in fact, objectively treasure? So, some object’s

beauty in relation to man, or “trash” or “treasure”-ness depends on the viewers values and level of knowledge applied to perception? This then is objective.

How can a painter, one that seeks truth and beauty, attain a profit from his creation if what he creates as beautiful is actually only beautiful to himself and to no customers?

I can judge, say, a landscape painting, scrutinize it and say perhaps “look here at this near mountain how it was painted with less contrast than this furthest mountain in the background, and why is it that yellow being the first color to fade through the “veils of atmosphere”was applied to the farthest mountain, while blue, the last color to fade is applied to this one in the foreground? With this knowledge I can then say that I don’t like the painting, due to this lack of “truth”. What is the concept “veils of atmosphere”, what is “truth”? Without defining my terms my assessments are baseless to others, no matter how real it is to me, in order for others to understand then standards must be explicitly defined. If an individual wants others to understand then clarity is key correct? By clarity I mean simply stating terms, giving definitions, examples. How I would have loved to listen to Miss Rand and Mr. Parrish have a discussion.

Or how about this, if I see a landscape painting that is executed with bold brushstrokes, has captured a scene that is representative of the "time and place", then I can call this painting a “little gem”, a small, perhaps 10”x8” painting. But what does this mean? What does a “little gem” mean? If I had stated my terms, and explained myself then I would have given you the context, the standards and definitions, a means to reducing the painting back to the perceptual level, and therefore being objective.

Again, what does a “little gem” mean? What is “treasure” when judging an artwork? How about “truth”, as opposed to “lies”? What is “veils of atmosphere”? What is “time and place”? My judgments of a painting can all be objective because I can state my terms, my standards, I do have knowledge and on this basis so too can something be called “trash” or “treasure” and be an objective appraisal.

You can only judge something based on your current level of knowledge correct? I don’t know what knowledge Miss Rand had in regards to her assessment of Mr. Parrish’s painting, nor do I know the definition of "trash" in the context of Miss Rand judging Mr. Parrish's paintings, as has already been stated in this thread.

I do very much enjoy Mr. Parrish’s paintings and find them to be beautiful. I love how he would create miniature landscapes in his studio, and use mirrors underneath miniature

landscape setups to act similar to reflecting water. Fascinating use of context.

Edited by brianleepainter
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I know that you weren't asking me what the purpose of a definition is. I had asked you to define the term "subjective" (as well as "objective"). You didn't, so I posted the quote from Mr. Branden to stress the importance of definitions.

I understand, and I do not dismiss the importance of definitions.

I'm not certain as to why you say that. Did you take my post to be one out of anger towards you? It certainly wasn't made in anger.

I apologize for the misunderstanding, and no -- I didn't take your post to be an angry one; I did not mean to refer to that post, specifically. However, the conversation "around" my attempts to engage in this discussion productively have featured sentiments like, "It's both amusing and pathetic how far certain people will go to deny reality," and "You bore me . . .This 'discussion' is a waste of my time."

To be honest with you? I think that there's something of real interest in this discussion -- the question of what Rand might have meant by "trash," and whether it was proper for her to speak in such a fashion, and what the impetus might have been. I think it's valuable to try to suss this matter out.

But more important to me is how this conversation is actually conducted, here and now. It's not pleasant to have to deal with angry people. It makes things seem like a "waste of time," as you've indicated, and in my experience functions to make my life worse for participating. I don't have a fully formulated theory on proper philosophical discourse yet, but it's a subject that this forum has provoked me to spend some time thinking about. There are many seemingly hostile people about. Perhaps that's just "the Internet." But that doesn't mean I have to like it, or that I'll stand pat while we treat one another like jerks. I expect better, and I think we should all expect better.

As to a "quibble over terminology," I wouldn't characterize it as such. Definitions are critical. And the definitions of "subjective" and "objective" are central to this discussion about Miss Rand's judgements of Mr. Parrish's and Mr. Capuletti's respective works.

Definitions are critical, no question. But even that is within a certain context. I believe that there are conversations within which understanding is possible without necessarily requiring a formal process of definition. And actually where a call for that kind of process might serve to distract. Specifically, I think that both you and Jonathan can understand one another based on the conversation which has already taken place, I sincerely do. And yet? So far as I can tell, you've been talking right past one another. I've witnessed a discussion of definitions, and it did not appear to serve.

As my effort to light a candle (as opposed to cursing the darkness), I submit that you and I can understand one another, if we make an effort to do it. In fact, I think we're already well on that road.

So far, I'm not so certain of that. A preference for the taste of vanilla over chocolate is being used as an analogy for tastes in art, especially subjective tastes in art. My point is that the preference for vanilla is not subjective and that therefore using it as an analogy confuses the issue.

I think you're not considering the analogy in full. I'm not claiming that the preference for vanilla is subjective. I am claiming, instead, that using that personal preference as the basis for a claim that "vanilla cakes are good of good quality; chocolate cakes are of bad quality" is.

What makes a cake of good or bad quality? I don't know. But if we were to argue for objective criteria, it wouldn't be, "whatever tastes good to you." One's personal tastes are not the standard of objective quality. Or if they are, then it's true that vanilla cakes are of good quality and chocolate cakes are of bad quality... if you're Steve who prefers vanilla. But also true that chocolate cakes are of good quality and vanilla cakes are of bad quality... if you're Rick who prefers chocolate.

But that doesn't seem right to me. Does it seem right to you?

One would have to define the "esthetic" term "trash" objectively, then apply it objectively to any particular works. I'm at a loss with respect to the term because I don't know what Miss Rand meant by it or why she called Mr. Parrish's work "trash." I'd like to know, but it seems that is out of the question.

I agree with you, and I'm similarly at a loss at her statement... but I'm not completely at a loss -- and I feel fairly confident that you're not either. We know this, don't we?: that "trash" is negative. And strong. We know that trash is something that you eliminate from your life. It seems to convey disdain. We don't know precisely what Rand meant, nor the basis for her conclusion -- and without that knowledge, I don't believe I can agree or disagree with her, per se -- but I would be lying if I said that her use of "trash" didn't convey any meaning at all. And I would also be lying if I said that Parrish's artwork looked anything like what "trash" typically means to me.

Is your experience of this different?

Yes, I understand that to be his contention. I don't agree that flavor is not governed by any universal standard, and I still contend that it's a bad analogy to be using with respect to tastes in art, which may or may not be, unlike tastes with respect to sensory qualities, subjective or objective.

With respect to flavor, do you mean to say that one preference -- of vanilla over chocolate or vice-versa -- is, itself, to be preferred according to some standard? That a man who prefers vanilla is therefore better than a man who prefers chocolate (or the other way around, perhaps)?

If so, I have to know -- which is objectively superior?! Vanilla or chocolate? ;)

(And I kid, of course. Actually, I think there's a lot that we could discuss on the subject of flavor... but that's a completely different conversation. At the least we can say that there has not yet been any case made for "vanilla as the superior flavor," nor does a taste for vanilla appear to be at the end of a process of reasoning.)

As regards art, you and I are agreed that there are objective standards for it. And I don't believe Jonathan disagrees with that either. But he's also contending that there are no conceivable objective standards by which Parrish's work can be considered "trash." Just as, suppose we invented a master baker who creates a wonderful cake -- and I'm stipulating that this is so. (By what standard? I don't know, as I'm as much a baker as I am a painter -- but let's say it is according to the specifications put out by Le Cordon Bleu, if we can trust them to produce a wonderful cake.)

Okay. Now we suppose that this is a chocolate cake. The first person who takes a bite of this cake is someone who loves vanilla, but loathes the taste of chocolate. And he steps away from the cake and says in disgust, "this cake is trash! It's chocolate!"

Well, what then? How do we view this pronouncement? Is it "objective"?

Now, here's where we are with Parrish's artwork, I believe: I look at it and say that I like it. Jonathan, I'm guessing, likes it. Do you like it, too, Trebor? I imagine that you do. And Brian says this: "I do very much enjoy Mr. Parrish’s paintings and find them to be beautiful."

All right. But Rand said: "trash." And we don't know how or why she had that reaction, but we must at least recognize the possibility that it was based upon her personal preferences, mustn't we?

What is the standard, the definition of "trash" with respect to artworks? That's the question. The other question, on which this discussion revolves, is whether or not Miss Rand's assessment of Parrish's works to be "trash" is subjective or objective. I think that you and I agree that it's not possible to answer that without knowing what Miss Rand meant by "trash" in that regard and why exactly she regarded Mr. Parrish's works as "trash." I have no means of answering the question: is Miss Rand's judgement true or false, right or wrong, objective or subjective?

We agree.

I wasn't contending that anyone is purposefully aiming to cause confusion. I was, again, just making the point that defining the term "subjective (and "objective") is critical to this discussion, that without clear and agreed upon definitions, confusion was/is bound to pervade it.

If such definitions are truly needed, I am perfectly happy to engage those definitions which you've supplied:

The subjective (epistemologically) is the arbitrary and implies the primacy of consciousness, the view that consciousness determines (as opposed to identifies) what is real.

The objective (epistemologically) is that which corresponds with reality, identifications and evaluations which correspond or correctly identify and evaluate the facts of reality.

We're agreed that there's nothing "arbitrary" or having to do with the "primacy of consciousness" with one's recognition that 1) one prefers vanilla to chocolate, or that 2) he therefore prefers a vanilla cake to a chocolate cake. Indeed it is the very opposite.

However, pronouncing a chocolate cake which one has no taste for to be of low quality, or "trash," because one does not like chocolate, is questionable at least. It does not seem to be an "evaluation which corresponds or correctly identifies and evaluates the facts of reality." Earlier I'd also provided an analogy (which perhaps you also think bad? :) ) of someone who dislikes Hamlet due to their own personal family's history. I don't think that an "arbitrary" thing to do. But I wouldn't say that, should this person therefore claim that "Hamlet is an awful play," that this person has "correctly identified the facts of reality." Would you?

Why do you think that a preference for chocolate over vanilla is subjective?

I don't. I think you're only recognizing part of my case. Here it is again, with emphasis added, and your reaction leading to this question:

Yes, and that's the analogy I take issue with. A personal preference for chocolate over vanilla is not subjective. The concept "subjective" is not relevant to such tastes, though it is relevant to "tastes" in art. I read your statement, and my reaction is, no, that makes no sense: if the assessment of artworks is based upon a personal preference like one's personal preference for chocolate over vanilla, then, given that a preference for chocolate over vanilla is not subjective, it doesn't follow that a similarly non-subjective assessment of Parrish's work would be subjective. I'm just saying that the analogy is confusing.

As an attempt to break this down:

1) One has a taste preference for vanilla over chocolate. -- Not subjective. An identification of a fact of reality.

2) One prefers a vanilla cake over chocolate cake. -- Not subjective. An identification of a fact of reality.

3) The chocolate cake that one dislikes is therefore "trash." -- Subjective? At the least: not necessarily an identification of a fact of reality. (Or, if the cake is trash, it isn't because the person dislikes chocolate.)

Consider these statements: (paraphrased, but based on real life conversations I've had) "Disney's Beauty and the Beast is awful. Why? Because it's a cartoon, and I don't like cartoons." "West Side Story sucks. Why? Because the people sing and dance."

Do these seem to be objective pronouncements to you? They do not to me. This has nothing to do with the recognition that someone has personal preferences; it has everything to do with the conclusions one draws about the merits of cakes, or artwork, or etc., on the basis of one's personal preferences.

Yes, as I understand your point, going from "I like vanilla more than chocolate" is not a basis for declaring that vanilla-based desserts are good and chocolate-based desserts are bad. Good and bad are different judgements and require a standard beyond "I like."

And this is precisely it. This is what I mean.

Jonathan's case is: that there exists no "standard beyond 'I like'" (or in this case "I dislike") which could lead a person to conclude that "Parrish's artwork is trash." And in the name of your definition of objectivity, he invites us to examine reality (as this artwork is available for us to see), and then "correctly identify and evaluate the facts."

"Look at the art," Jonathan says (paraphrased), "and tell me whether this is 'trash.'" He's not wrong to say that.

You and I argue that the missing piece for evaluating, not the artwork, but Rand's statements regarding it is: what did Rand mean by "trash," and how did she arrive at that?

But. We must be open to at least the possibility that Jonathan is correct; that "trash" may have been a judgement based solely on Rand's personal preferences. He hasn't made that case -- not to my satisfaction -- but we should recognize what Jonathan would have to establish in order to press his case... or at least the points on which I would have to be satisfied to agree with him. And that was the purpose to my post #70, to which you'd initially replied. Jonathan maintains that Rand's pronouncements were attributable to a preference for "boldness of color," among other things. Well, all right -- can any case be made for or against boldness of color? Can the case be made that Rand actually preferred that? Does Parrish's art "suffer" from a deficiency of such boldness? And so on.

The issue is, I agree, not one about "clear definitions," but it depends upon clear definitions. That's my only point with respect to asking for definitions of "subjective" and "objective," to make certain that everyone is speaking the same language, so to speak.

I think this discussion (as any other) depends on clarity, insofar as we can manage it, and mutual understanding. I don't agree that an attempt to determine formal definitions always serves this purpose or is always necessary (though sometimes it does serve that purpose, and sometimes it is necessary).

Anyway, Tyler, I did not mean to side track your discussion with J13. I thought that definitions were called for, so I asked. I'll bow out and let you continue your discussion with J13.

I hope you don't bow out. Your perspective and insights are valuable, and I hope you don't take anything I've said as suggesting the contrary, because such was never my intention. (And you may take it from me that I never would want you to bow out from any conversation in which I participate.)

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I’m also in disagreement with personal preferences at the sensory level being ascribed as “subjective” when I do think they’re none other than “objective.” This important area of disagreement is the crux of the argument.

Yes, it is an important area of disagreement, and I too think that it is central to, if not the crux of, the discussion (of whether Miss Rand's assessments or judgements -- "trash" and "sheer perfection of workmanship" -- of Mr. Parrish's and Mr. Capulettis's respective artworks (some are all) are objective (or subjective); of whether anyone can objectively make the same judgements of their works. How can one possibly say without understanding just what "objective" and "subjective" mean, without defining the terms accurately?

However, to say, "I do think they're [personal preferences at the sensory level] none other than "objective," is to accept the same error as in saying that they're subjective.

The subjective-objective distinction does not apply (epistemologically) to personal preferences at the sensory level. Nor does it apply on the perceptual level of awareness. "Yum!" in response to one's experience of the taste of vanilla ice cream is a direct experience and (favorable) assessment. The same is true of "Yuck!" in response to the taste of something which tastes awful.

If someone enjoys the taste of vanilla ice cream, they don't ask themselves, "I like the taste of (the flavor of) vanilla ice cream, but do I really like it, am I right about that, is it true, is it objective?" The question(s) would not come up or be relevant. If I like the taste of vanilla ice cream and prefer it more than the taste of chocolate ice cream, that's an assessment on the sensory-perceptual level, not the conceptual level, of awareness. (I'm only referring the the actual taste or flavor experience, not to some other assessment: "good" in some other sense, "healthy," etc.)

Sensation and perception are forms of direct awareness and even appraisal of existence, not a form of conceptual identification or appraisal of existence. Sensation and perception cannot be right or wrong, true or false, objective or subjective, etc. They are direct experiences, direct awareness and even appraisal, of existence, not conceptual identifications (or attempts at conceptual identification) which may be either right or wrong, true or false, objective or subjective. Experiences of pleasure and pain are sensory-perceptual level assessments of the things experienced, and as far as they go, they are valid, directly informing you of the good or bad of something.

If I like the taste of (the flavor of) vanilla ice cream (and even prefer it over chocolate ice cream), and I then tell someone else that I do, then, given that they do not have direct awareness of my direct awareness or assessment of existence (vanilla ice cream), then they have to judge my statement as to whether it is right or wrong, true or false, objective or subjective. Am I identifying a fact or am I not is a valid concern for them, but not for me.

Pleasure and Pain (Lexicon):

"The capacity to experience pleasure or pain is innate in a man’s body; it is part of his nature, part of the kind of entity he is. He has no choice about it, and he has no choice about the standard that determines what will make him experience the physical sensation of pleasure or of pain. What is that standard?* His life*.

"The pleasure-pain mechanism in the body of man—and in the bodies of all the living organisms that possess the faculty of consciousness—serves as an automatic guardian of the organism’s life. The physical sensation of pleasure is a signal indicating that the organism is pursuing the right course of action. The physical sensation of pain is a warning signal of danger, indicating that the organism is pursuing the wrong course of action, that something is impairing the proper function of its body, which requires action to correct it. The best illustration of this can be seen in the rare, freak cases of children who are born without the capacity to experience physical pain; such children do not survive for long; they have no means of discovering what can injure them, no warning signals, and thus a minor cut can develop into a deadly infection, or a major illness can remain undetected until it is too late to fight it." "The Objectivist Ethics," The Virtue of Selfishness, 17.

The issue with conceptual identification -- which may be right or wrong, true or false, objective or subjective -- is one of relating conceptual identifications to what is given in direct awareness in order to ensure that our conceptual level of awareness corresponds to reality.

This inability to decide on “objective” and “subjective” can make the world a living hell for some.

A curious statement. Perhaps some explanations and examples would be helpful to explain just what you mean.

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I apologize for the misunderstanding, and no -- I didn't take your post to be an angry one; I did not mean to refer to that post, specifically. However, the conversation "around" my attempts to engage in this discussion productively have featured sentiments like, "It's both amusing and pathetic how far certain people will go to deny reality," and "You bore me . . .This 'discussion' is a waste of my time."

I hope that you're not equivocating between the person who draws "first blood," as I put it previously, and the person who responds. J13 was wrong to assert that I am taking great efforts to deny reality, and it was inappropriate in the context of my "attempt to engage in [a] discussion productively." Such "discussions" do bore me and are a waste of my time.

To be honest with you? I think that there's something of real interest in this discussion -- the question of what Rand might have meant by "trash," and whether it was proper for her to speak in such a fashion, and what the impetus might have been. I think it's valuable to try to suss this matter out.

I agree that there's something of real interest in the discussion as such, just not, as far as I am concerned, in a discussion with J13.

But more important to me is how this conversation is actually conducted, here and now. It's not pleasant to have to deal with angry people. It makes things seem like a "waste of time," as you've indicated, and in my experience functions to make my life worse for participating. I don't have a fully formulated theory on proper philosophical discourse yet, but it's a subject that this forum has provoked me to spend some time thinking about. There are many seemingly hostile people about. Perhaps that's just "the Internet." But that doesn't mean I have to like it, or that I'll stand pat while we treat one another like jerks. I expect better, and I think we should all expect better.

Speaking for myself, I would not say that the manner of the discussion is more important than the issue of the discussion; however, I will not participate in a discussion if certain standards of propriety are not met. Life's too short.

Definitions are critical, no question. But even that is within a certain context. I believe that there are conversations within which understanding is possible without necessarily requiring a formal process of definition. And actually where a call for that kind of process might serve to distract. Specifically, I think that both you and Jonathan can understand one another based on the conversation which has already taken place, I sincerely do. And yet? So far as I can tell, you've been talking right past one another. I've witnessed a discussion of definitions, and it did not appear to serve.

And I would say that the reason that J13 and I were "talking right past one another" was due to a lack of clarity on the concepts of "objective" and "subjective." If we do not agree on the meanings of those two concepts, any further use of them in a discussion will only reveal that basic disagreement.

As my effort to light a candle (as opposed to cursing the darkness), I submit that you and I can understand one another, if we make an effort to do it. In fact, I think we're already well on that road.

I agree. My asking you to define the terms ("objective" and "subjective") may have seemed that I took issue with all else that you had said in response to J13, but that was not the case. I basically agreed with what you had said to him. I just noticed what I thought was a need to define the terms.

I think you're not considering the analogy in full. I'm not claiming that the preference for vanilla is subjective. I am claiming, instead, that using that personal preference as the basis for a claim that "vanilla cakes are good of good quality; chocolate cakes are of bad quality" is.

I agree.

What makes a cake of good or bad quality? I don't know. But if we were to argue for objective criteria, it wouldn't be, "whatever tastes good to you." One's personal tastes are not the standard of objective quality. Or if they are, then it's true that vanilla cakes are of good quality and chocolate cakes are of bad quality... if you're Steve who prefers vanilla. But also true that chocolate cakes are of good quality and vanilla cakes are of bad quality... if you're Rick who prefers chocolate.

But that doesn't seem right to me. Does it seem right to you?

No, it doesn't seem right to me.

I agree with you, and I'm similarly at a loss at her statement... but I'm not completely at a loss -- and I feel fairly confident that you're not either. We know this, don't we?: that "trash" is negative. And strong. We know that trash is something that you eliminate from your life. It seems to convey disdain. We don't know precisely what Rand meant, nor the basis for her conclusion -- and without that knowledge, I don't believe I can agree or disagree with her, per se -- but I would be lying if I said that her use of "trash" didn't convey any meaning at all. And I would also be lying if I said that Parrish's artwork looked anything like what "trash" typically means to me.

Is your experience of this different?

I agree. I certainly take Miss Rand's stating that Mr. Parrish's artwork is "trash" as a negative appraisal, but, as you say, we don't know precisely what she meant.

Funny aside, assuming that it's true: I remember reading about some gallery in NYC, I believe, which was in the process of some kind of renovation. During the renovation, they temporarily moved their modern art displays out on the sidewalk. The garbage collectors, thinking that the works were trash, hauled it all away as trash.

With respect to flavor, do you mean to say that one preference -- of vanilla over chocolate or vice-versa -- is, itself, to be preferred according to some standard? That a man who prefers vanilla is therefore better than a man who prefers chocolate (or the other way around, perhaps)?

If so, I have to know -- which is objectively superior?! Vanilla or chocolate?

(And I kid, of course. Actually, I think there's a lot that we could discuss on the subject of flavor... but that's a completely different conversation. At the least we can say that there has not yet been any case made for "vanilla as the superior flavor," nor does a taste for vanilla appear to be at the end of a process of reasoning.)

As to standard, I meant it in the sense in which Miss Rand mentioned in the quote I posted in reply to Brian. (Pleasure and Pain - Lexicon), specifically to Miss Rand's statement:

"The capacity to experience pleasure or pain is innate in a man’s body; it is part of his nature, part of the kind of entity he is. He has no choice about it, and he has no choice about the standard that determines what will make him experience the physical sensation of pleasure or of pain. What is that standard?* His life*." "The Objectivist Ethics," The Virtue of Selfishness, 17

As regards art, you and I are agreed that there are objective standards for it. And I don't believe Jonathan disagrees with that either. But he's also contending that there are no conceivable objective standards by which Parrish's work can be considered "trash." Just as, suppose we invented a master baker who creates a wonderful cake -- and I'm stipulating that this is so. (By what standard? I don't know, as I'm as much a baker as I am a painter -- but let's say it is according to the specifications put out by Le Cordon Bleu, if we can trust them to produce a wonderful cake.)

Yes, I agree that there are objective standards for art.

I do not know whether or not J13 agrees with that.

I do not think that Miss Rand was the type of person to throw out rash, unfounded judgements, and given that she said that she considered Mr. Parrish's artwork to be "trash," I don't think she just threw out an unconsidered judgement. I just do not know what her reasoning was, and apparently, if she did not reveal it, I can not know, even if I can speculate.

Okay. Now we suppose that this is a chocolate cake. The first person who takes a bite of this cake is someone who loves vanilla, but loathes the taste of chocolate. And he steps away from the cake and says in disgust, "this cake is trash! It's chocolate!"

Well, what then? How do we view this pronouncement? Is it "objective"?

The pronouncement is objective in the sense that, given that they loathe the taste of chocolate, then they would loathe anything that they taste which is chocolate flavored. In that sense, by that standard alone, it would be "trash."

But their loathing the taste of chocolate is not the standard for other assessments. That's why I've been making a big deal about the definitions of "objective" and "subjective" as well as attempting to distinguish between sensory-perceptual level assessments and conceptual level assessments.

Now, here's where we are with Parrish's artwork, I believe: I look at it and say that I like it. Jonathan, I'm guessing, likes it. Do you like it, too, Trebor? I imagine that you do. And Brian says this: "I do very much enjoy Mr. Parrish’s paintings and find them to be beautiful."

All right. But Rand said: "trash." And we don't know how or why she had that reaction, but we must at least recognize the possibility that it was based upon her personal preferences, mustn't we?

Personal preferences based on what?

If such definitions are truly needed, I am perfectly happy to engage those definitions which you've supplied:

We're agreed that there's nothing "arbitrary" or having to do with the "primacy of consciousness" with one's recognition that 1) one prefers vanilla to chocolate, or that 2) he therefore prefers a vanilla cake to a chocolate cake. Indeed it is the very opposite.

However, pronouncing a chocolate cake which one has no taste for to be of low quality, or "trash," because one does not like chocolate, is questionable at least. It does not seem to be an "evaluation which corresponds or correctly identifies and evaluates the facts of reality." Earlier I'd also provided an analogy (which perhaps you also think bad? :) ) of someone who dislikes Hamlet due to their own personal family's history. I don't think that an "arbitrary" thing to do. But I wouldn't say that, should this person therefore claim that "Hamlet is an awful play," that this person has "correctly identified the facts of reality." Would you?

Questionable? It depends on how you interpret the person's use of "trash." (What I said above with respect to loathing the taste of chocolate and saying that a cake is "trash.") One standard is not another. (We're already in agreement on that.)

The reason that I think the analogy is "bad" is that it conflates the distinction between direct awareness and appraisal and conceptual awareness and appraisal, of art in this case.

I agree, if a person dislikes Hamlet due to some personal family history, their saying that "Hamlet is an awful play" reflects their personal experience, but that is not the standard for Hamlet as bad art. Unlike you, however, I would say that the person has "correctly identified the facts of reality": I've had this bad experience and this play so effectively recreates reality that it brings back to mind my bad experience. It's awful! And it is "awful" in that sense. But awful as art?

This reminds me of what Windy McElroy said in her discussion of the "rape" scene in The Fountainhead ("Looking Through a Paradigm Darkly Was Dominque's rape in The Fountainhead actually rape? Why ... or why not?"), in her statement:

"Equally, any woman who has been battered or raped will probably have difficulty with Rand's harshly graphic sex scenes — and understandably so. Although such women may grasp and enjoy the intellectual values being portrayed, the emotional impact of those values will be lost upon them."

Or, consider these two (the second up to 1:57) dramatizations of the "rape" scene in The Fountainhead:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7-u0w1F7qQ

And:

Which is the better art? By what standard? Both recreate the "rape" scene, but they're certainly not equal.

As an attempt to break this down:

1) One has a taste preference for vanilla over chocolate. -- Not subjective. An identification of a fact of reality.

2) One prefers a vanilla cake over chocolate cake. -- Not subjective. An identification of a fact of reality.

3) The chocolate cake that one dislikes is therefore "trash." -- Subjective? At the least: not necessarily an identification of a fact of reality. (Or, if the cake is trash, it isn't because the person dislikes chocolate.)

Consider these statements: (paraphrased, but based on real life conversations I've had) "Disney's Beauty and the Beast is awful. Why? Because it's a cartoon, and I don't like cartoons." "West Side Story sucks. Why? Because the people sing and dance."

Do these seem to be objective pronouncements to you? They do not to me. This has nothing to do with the recognition that someone has personal preferences; it has everything to do with the conclusions one draws about the merits of cakes, or artwork, or etc., on the basis of one's personal preferences.

Re: 3: It all depends on the meaning of "trash," the meaning in which a person is using the term.

They're objective pronouncements in the sense that they identify, correctly, the person's personal preferences, but yes, I agree, such personal preferences are not an objective standard for judgements of artworks as art.

And this is precisely it. This is what I mean.

Jonathan's case is: that there exists no "standard beyond 'I like'" (or in this case "I dislike") which could lead a person to conclude that "Parrish's artwork is trash." And in the name of your definition of objectivity, he invites us to examine reality (as this artwork is available for us to see), and then "correctly identify and evaluate the facts."

"Look at the art," Jonathan says (paraphrased), "and tell me whether this is 'trash.'" He's not wrong to say that.

He is wrong in treating "trash" as some intrinsicistic, self-evident concept. And he's wrong to think that should anyone say that Mr. Parrish is or is not "trash" then they are agreeing with or disagreeing with Miss Rand's assessment. Without knowing the basis for her assessment, it's not possible to know.

You and I argue that the missing piece for evaluating, not the artwork, but Rand's statements regarding it is: what did Rand mean by "trash," and how did she arrive at that?

Yes.

But. We must be open to at least the possibility that Jonathan is correct; that "trash" may have been a judgement based solely on Rand's personal preferences. He hasn't made that case -- not to my satisfaction -- but we should recognize what Jonathan would have to establish in order to press his case... or at least the points on which I would have to be satisfied to agree with him. And that was the purpose to my post #70, to which you'd initially replied. Jonathan maintains that Rand's pronouncements were attributable to a preference for "boldness of color," among other things. Well, all right -- can any case be made for or against boldness of color? Can the case be made that Rand actually preferred that? Does Parrish's art "suffer" from a deficiency of such boldness? And so on.

Considering the source, I would say that it would be arbitrary to assume that Miss Rand's judgement may have been based solely on some irrelevant personal preference. But certainly, bring on the evidence.

With respect to "boldness of color," the only way I see to determine the significance of that is by reference to a standard, specifically an objective standard of art. The question would be how does boldness of color relate to that standard?

I think this discussion (as any other) depends on clarity, insofar as we can manage it, and mutual understanding. I don't agree that an attempt to determine formal definitions always serves this purpose or is always necessary (though sometimes it does serve that purpose, and sometimes it is necessary).

I believe that I've addressed this issue.

I hope you don't bow out. Your perspective and insights are valuable, and I hope you don't take anything I've said as suggesting the contrary, because such was never my intention. (And you may take it from me that I never would want you to bow out from any conversation in which I participate.)

Thank you, Tyler. I'll not be discussing anything with J13, at least for the foreseeable future. That's not to say, obviously, that I won't be continuing this discussion with you. But, to the extent that you and J13 are having a discussion, I'll not be participating.

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However, to say, "I do think they're [personal preferences at the sensory level] none other than "objective," is to accept the same error as in saying that they're subjective.

I think it would be correct to rephrase my initial statement to, “I’m in disagreement with personal preferences, such as the preference of heat from a fireplace as opposed to heat from a furnace, being ascribed as “subjective” when they’re none other than “objective”(In this rephrasing I have removed “personal preferences at the sensory level)".

It can be an objective fact that I prefer to have the sensation of heat generated from a fireplace rather than a furnace, but the actual sensation of heat at the sensory level is not even subject to being “objective”. The sensation of heat is not subject to “Hey, this is warm. But is it right or wrong, etc.” But the object that produced the heat fireplace, furnace can be appraised. There is no standard to the sensation, but there is a standard to what object was required to have the sensation in the relationship between perceiver and the object that is acted upon. Correct?

As another example, a person can prefer to workout outdoors rather than, say, the gym, but since the actual sensation occurs before the conceptual level it cannot be considered as either “subjective” or “objective”. Walking on a treadmill indoors and hiking outdoors can both produce the same sensation(muscle burn,etc.) but in introspecting about a preference, there can be reasons as to the preference in the two activities, which is then dealing with the conceptual, which would then be an objective fact. Would you agree?

In regards to the example of ice cream, when I taste ice cream the sensation is outside the bounds of even being considered “objective” or “subjective”, but when discussing my personal preference for vanilla, it is “objective”. It is an objective fact that I enjoy vanilla over apricote icecream.

A curious statement. Perhaps some explanations and examples would be helpful to explain just what you mean.

By inability I mean a lack of knowledge by the individuals who spread ideas(intellectuals,gallery owners,etc.) and by hell I mean individuals setting the context for a state of "what is"(art considered as "subjective") as opposed to "what ought to be."(art considered as objective)

If an individual thinks that the “good” or the “beautiful is “subjective”, without defining their terms, then I think it’s logical that the individual may act in a way to hinder and or harm the ones that are actually objectively “good” or objectively “beautiful”, and here is the kicker, all the while the individual does not have knowledge that they are hindering or harming the good, or they aren’t interested while thinking well of themselves in relation to others.

As an example, a leader of an organization asking an artist to donate one of his/her paintings to the organization thinks they are doing the “good” If this individual starts to try and persuade the artist by using terms such as “greater good” or “the moral thing to do” “to give is better to receive”(floating abstractions) then they can certainly go ahead and achieve the donation if the artist did not understand what is actually objectively good, that making a profit and a living is the moral thing to do. All the while the individual didn’t have to define their terms, because in their authority and pressure it is possible to do so without explicitly defining terms or setting standards. But all the while this authority figure does not actually know that they are doing the bad, or they don’t realize it, and it is possible that they are not concerned.

But this insult only occurs one way depending on the knowledge of the artist, all the while the artist knows what is the good, and knows objectively, but this knowledge can only be seen by the one on the other end, while the initiator is blind.

I think the whole state of the “art world” is created in part because of a lack of defining terms, the critics, collectors, etc. do not have to define terms to make an impact on others but it does not interest them, or they are too busy thinking well of themselves in relation to others.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” Nope, it isn’t, but perhaps that doesn’t interest even the Important authorities, i.e. some gallery owners, business men, critics, intellectuals, etc. and I think it is this bromide, among others, that substitute for knowledge in order to continue a war of ideology that has real consequences.

“Art is subjective”, I often read. "Define your terms?", should be the response. The ones with this onus of proof do not have to define their terms in order to disarm the others who have not taken the time to study philosophy. There are honest workers of different paths of life influenced by intellectuals who are just interested in impressing others, and then these workers of differing fields who go to a gallery are then baffled and are not confident when voicing themselves and saying what they really like, “well I don’t know much about art but..”

Edited by brianleepainter
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I think it would be correct to rephrase my initial statement to, “I’m in disagreement with personal preferences, such as the preference of heat from a fireplace as opposed to heat from a furnace, being ascribed as “subjective” when they’re none other than “objective”(In this rephrasing I have removed “personal preferences at the sensory level)".

Why do you prefer heat from a fireplace as opposed to heat from a furnace?

It can be an objective fact that I prefer to have the sensation of heat generated from a fireplace rather than a furnace, but the actual sensation of heat at the sensory level is not even subject to being “objective”. The sensation of heat is not subject to “Hey, this is warm. But is it right or wrong, etc.” But the object that produced the heat fireplace, furnace can be appraised. There is no standard to the sensation, but there is a standard to what object was required to have the sensation in the relationship between perceiver and the object that is acted upon. Correct?

With respect to a fireplace versus a furnace, what standard are you referring to? In what sense is your preference objective?

As another example, a person can prefer to workout outdoors rather than, say, the gym, but since the actual sensation occurs before the conceptual level it cannot be considered as either “subjective” or “objective”.

The actual sensation? What's the sensation of outdoors? What's the sensation of a gym?

Walking on a treadmill indoors and hiking outdoors can both produce the same sensation(muscle burn,etc.) but in introspecting about a preference, there can be reasons as to the preference in the two activities, which is then dealing with the conceptual, which would then be an objective fact. Would you agree?

I do not understand what you are asking, and so I can't say I agree.

In regards to the example of ice cream, when I taste ice cream the sensation is outside the bounds of even being considered “objective” or “subjective”, but when discussing my personal preference for vanilla, it is “objective”. It is an objective fact that I enjoy vanilla over apricote icecream.

Yes, your personal preference for vanilla is objective in the sense that it is a fact that you prefer it (it is true for you and true for anyone else that you prefer vanilla), but that is as far as it goes. You can not infer, from the fact that you prefer vanilla ice cream over apricot ice cream, that your preference for vanilla means that vanilla is better in some other sense, such as for your health for example.

Given what I think you've said, I think that you're making too much of the fact that I say that all personal preferences, whether they are objective or subjective or neither, are objective in the sense that they are in fact preferences. My point, in that respect, was in reference to the distinction between FOR and OF, not as a means of declaring that all preferences are objective in any other sense. I think that, outside of this discussion (and even further along in this discussion for the most part) it is only confusing to refer to preferences as objective in any other sense than that they are objectively valid in contrast with their being subjective or arbitrary. I wanted to clear up any confusion about the distinction between FOR and OF, but it's starting to seem that I did not do so.

If you're drawing the conclusion that any preference that anyone holds is objective (in any other sense than that it is a fact that they hold it), then preferences for representational art, romantic or naturalistic, are just as objective as are preferences for non-representational or abstract art.

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I hope that you're not equivocating between the person who draws "first blood," as I put it previously, and the person who responds.

As I'm sure you might guess, no, I'm not. :) Or at least, that's not my intention. But I did want to comment on the basic situation, and how it relates to my experience and participation in the thread (and more generally on this board). I thought I could do so without exhuming the matter to "get to the bottom of things," and perhaps that was a mistake on my part.

There's a lot more that I'm sure we could both say on this subject, but I respect your desire to break off conversation with Jonathan and I don't mean to sidetrack us further. It's just -- and perhaps I should make this into a script (do people still use scripts?) -- I think there's something about civility which is worth mentioning and worth fighting for. Perhaps someday that will be its own thread, and I can build myself a proper soapbox to stand upon there.

For now, back to the art...

Funny aside, assuming that it's true: I remember reading about some gallery in NYC, I believe, which was in the process of some kind of renovation. During the renovation, they temporarily moved their modern art displays out on the sidewalk. The garbage collectors, thinking that the works were trash, hauled it all away as trash.

Right. And it's exactly this sort of thing that the word "trash" puts in my mind. This is the sort of thing I feel as though I'm invited to compare to Parrish's work, and it's this which makes me react in the manner I do and say, "no -- that's not trash!"

This is not my way of backtracking. We're still in agreement that we can't evaluate Rand's statement without a better understanding of what she meant and her reasons. But I do want the record to show that I react in a certain way when I hear "trash" used in any way to describe artwork like this. I feel like I have some basic understanding of what "trash" is, and Parrish's artwork just ain't what comes to my mind.

I do not think that Miss Rand was the type of person to throw out rash, unfounded judgements, and given that she said that she considered Mr. Parrish's artwork to be "trash," I don't think she just threw out an unconsidered judgement. I just do not know what her reasoning was, and apparently, if she did not reveal it, I can not know, even if I can speculate.

I agree that Rand wasn't the type of person to throw out rash, unfounded judgements. And I don't believe that this truly represents a difference between our opinions, but I think it's worth stating that even people who aren't the type to do rash things sometimes do them.

So we're agreed that we don't know Rand's reasoning -- and perhaps can't know -- and therefore cannot evaluate her conclusion. But I might stop short of saying that "I don't think she threw out an unconsidered judgement." Such may well have been "out of character"... but that remains a possibility, doesn't it?

The pronouncement is objective in the sense that, given that they loathe the taste of chocolate, then they would loathe anything that they taste which is chocolate flavored. In that sense, by that standard alone, it would be "trash."

But their loathing the taste of chocolate is not the standard for other assessments. That's why I've been making a big deal about the definitions of "objective" and "subjective" as well as attempting to distinguish between sensory-perceptual level assessments and conceptual level assessments.

All right, I think I may better understand some of the miscommunication here.

We can imagine two distinct senses of "trash." The first is, as you say, "whatever is loathsome to me is trash." By that standard, I could pronounce Hamlet "trash" if I happened to loathe the Danes for some reason, and my judgement could be considered "objective" in the sense that I'm correctly identifying my own experience of disgust.

The second sense of "trash" is a verdict on the quality of the play, as such, according to whatever objective criteria we'd ultimately agree are relevant to dramatic art.

I believe that both Jonathan and myself have been relying upon this second sense of "trash" -- assuming that Rand's claim must be assessed against objective measures for quality in art. If she was merely saying "I don't like it," then of course there would be nothing wrong about that.

But we don't know which sense she intended.

I agree, if a person dislikes Hamlet due to some personal family history, their saying that "Hamlet is an awful play" reflects their personal experience, but that is not the standard for Hamlet as bad art. Unlike you, however, I would say that the person has "correctly identified the facts of reality": I've had this bad experience and this play so effectively recreates reality that it brings back to mind my bad experience. It's awful! And it is "awful" in that sense. But awful as art?

We should be careful of what I believe is the potential for equivocation here. A man can say "Hamlet is an awful play" and mean the sense of "awful as art"; if he does, then he hasn't "correctly identified the facts of reality" even if Hamlet is truly awful for him in the personal sense of bringing back painful memories.

The correct identification of the facts of reality in such a case would be, "Hamlet is a great play (or perhaps even, 'Hamlet may be a great play') but I don't personally enjoy it; it is awful for me." I grant that this sentence could be summarized with, "Hamlet is an awful play." But I think it's important to recognize that this is a different sense than the one I've identified in the previous paragraph. "Hamlet is an awful play" may mean one or the other, but we can't equivocate and insist that it always carries the meaning of both senses in which this phrase may be used.

This reminds me of what Windy McElroy said in her discussion of the "rape" scene in The Fountainhead ("Looking Through a Paradigm Darkly Was Dominque's rape in The Fountainhead actually rape? Why ... or why not?"), in her statement:

"Equally, any woman who has been battered or raped will probably have difficulty with Rand's harshly graphic sex scenes — and understandably so. Although such women may grasp and enjoy the intellectual values being portrayed, the emotional impact of those values will be lost upon them."

Windy McElroy? Lol, I know -- that essay went on forever, right?! (I only kid because I'm at least twice as verbose as she...)

Actually, I thought that McElroy was very fair and evenhanded in her discussion of the material, especially in light of the personal history she related in her conclusion. I just -- as you well know -- disagree with her conclusions. And since I'm trying to get some separation from that topic even in the thread dedicated to it, I hope you'll forgive me if that's all I say about that particular scene here. (Though I will say with regards to the film clips you embedded that I thought the panda bear a nice touch... ;) )

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As I'm sure you might guess, no, I'm not. :) Or at least, that's not my intention. But I did want to comment on the basic situation, and how it relates to my experience and participation in the thread (and more generally on this board). I thought I could do so without exhuming the matter to "get to the bottom of things," and perhaps that was a mistake on my part.

There's a lot more that I'm sure we could both say on this subject, but I respect your desire to break off conversation with Jonathan and I don't mean to sidetrack us further. It's just -- and perhaps I should make this into a script (do people still use scripts?) -- I think there's something about civility which is worth mentioning and worth fighting for. Perhaps someday that will be its own thread, and I can build myself a proper soapbox to stand upon there.

No, I don't think it's a mistake to address the importance of civility in discussions. I think that it's important. Hostile discussions are not typically very enjoyable, and I mostly want to just get away from them. The important issue gets lost in the fray.

For now, back to the art...

Right. And it's exactly this sort of thing that the word "trash" puts in my mind. This is the sort of thing I feel as though I'm invited to compare to Parrish's work, and it's this which makes me react in the manner I do and say, "no -- that's not trash!"

Certainly understandable. I like Mr. Parrish's work as well, and so, given what I think of Miss Rand, I am and have been puzzled and intrigued by her remark about his work.

This is not my way of backtracking. We're still in agreement that we can't evaluate Rand's statement without a better understanding of what she meant and her reasons. But I do want the record to show that I react in a certain way when I hear "trash" used in any way to describe artwork like this. I feel like I have some basic understanding of what "trash" is, and Parrish's artwork just ain't what comes to my mind.

I understand and agree.

I agree that Rand wasn't the type of person to throw out rash, unfounded judgements. And I don't believe that this truly represents a difference between our opinions, but I think it's worth stating that even people who aren't the type to do rash things sometimes do them.

So we're agreed that we don't know Rand's reasoning -- and perhaps can't know -- and therefore cannot evaluate her conclusion. But I might stop short of saying that "I don't think she threw out an unconsidered judgement." Such may well have been "out of character"... but that remains a possibility, doesn't it?

Yes, certainly it's a possibility. If I understand correctly, her reply was in a Q&A session after some talk. It was in public. So, given the context and given the type of thinker she was, it just doesn't strike me as likely that she just rashly threw out an unconsidered judgement. My bet would be that she had considered his work, formed her judgement (on some basis unknown to me), and so it was an easy response for her to make.

Although it's been some time since I've read it, I have a book on Maxfield Parrish, and it goes into his methods and process of creating his paintings. From memory, again, I believe that even though both Mr. Parrish and Norman Rockwell (among others, including Andrew Loomis) made use of photography in their work, Mr. Parrish was more of a "slave" to photography compared to Mr. Rockwell and Mr. Loomis. So, in speculating, I wonder if that has anything to do which Miss Rand's assessment of Mr. Parrish's work. (Given what she had to say about photography as an art form.)

My understanding is that Chuck Close, for example, uses photographs to create his large, highly detailed paintings. He creates a grid on the photo and a grid on his large canvas (generically, I'm not certain what he actually paints on), and then, grid-square by grid-square, he copies each grid. When he's done, the photograph has been enlarged to a tremendous size.

That is a different process than what Mr. Rockwell would use with respect to photographs. He would use them, but he would take liberties (guided by his idea for the painting). He would "hire" local townspeople to model for him and he would direct them to get into the pose and the character he was after, and he would take great numbers of photographs. Ultimately, he would create a full-sized charcoal drawing of his planned painting, using the photos as references, taking what he wanted or needed from them, and then he would do several small color studies in paint (not detailed paintings; he was just working out the color composition), and then, with all his problems solved (composition, values, color, etc.), he would paint his pictures. He started with an idea for a painting. Photography was a tool which he used, but again, he wasn't a "slave" to it.

I got to spend a day in Paris at the Louvre many years ago. While there, I noticed that there were several artists with easels set up in front of this or that painting (I believe that the museum actual provides easels for artists who are interested in painting there), and they were working diligently to copy, literally, the paintings. I certainly don't see anything wrong with such study, but I remember thinking, what has that to do with the actual painting that they were copying? Copying is a different process than creating. In a sense, copy is mindless - with respect to certain problems in painting, in creating a painting. It is somewhat like transcribing a photograph.

So, I just speculate along such lines with respect to Miss Rand's remark (assessment) on Mr. Parrish's work. I'd love to know her reasoning, but I don't know if it will ever be known.

What Miss Rand did have was her own theory on art (plus, I think that it's obvious, that she was a great artist herself; she understood art), and I figure that by that standard she concluded that Mr. Parrish's work wasn't good art.

All right, I think I may better understand some of the miscommunication here.

We can imagine two distinct senses of "trash." The first is, as you say, "whatever is loathsome to me is trash." By that standard, I could pronounce Hamlet "trash" if I happened to loathe the Danes for some reason, and my judgement could be considered "objective" in the sense that I'm correctly identifying my own experience of disgust.

The second sense of "trash" is a verdict on the quality of the play, as such, according to whatever objective criteria we'd ultimately agree are relevant to dramatic art.

I believe that both Jonathan and myself have been relying upon this second sense of "trash" -- assuming that Rand's claim must be assessed against objective measures for quality in art. If she was merely saying "I don't like it," then of course there would be nothing wrong about that.

But we don't know which sense she intended.

Yes, her use of "trash" is rather insignificant if she was just saying, "I don't like it." The assumption (which I think is warranted) is that she meant that his work was not good art.

We should be careful of what I believe is the potential for equivocation here. A man can say "Hamlet is an awful play" and mean the sense of "awful as art"; if he does, then he hasn't "correctly identified the facts of reality" even if Hamlet is truly awful for him in the personal sense of bringing back painful memories.

The correct identification of the facts of reality in such a case would be, "Hamlet is a great play (or perhaps even, 'Hamlet may be a great play') but I don't personally enjoy it; it is awful for me." I grant that this sentence could be summarized with, "Hamlet is an awful play." But I think it's important to recognize that this is a different sense than the one I've identified in the previous paragraph. "Hamlet is an awful play" may mean one or the other, but we can't equivocate and insist that it always carries the meaning of both senses in which this phrase may be used.

Yes, I think we are in basic agreement on this issue. And as Miss Rand said (Esthetic Judgment):

"Since art is a philosophical composite, it is not a contradiction to say: “This is a great work of art, but I don’t like it,” provided one defines the exact meaning of that statement: the first part refers to a purely esthetic appraisal, the second to a deeper philosophical level which includes more than esthetic values." "Art and Sense of Life," The Romantic Manifesto, 42

Windy McElroy? Lol, I know -- that essay went on forever, right?! (I only kid because I'm at least twice as verbose as she...)

Ah, yes, "Wendy." My mistake. You may be verbose, Tyler, but your writing is typically thoughtful and clear.

Actually, I thought that McElroy was very fair and evenhanded in her discussion of the material, especially in light of the personal history she related in her conclusion. I just -- as you well know -- disagree with her conclusions. And since I'm trying to get some separation from that topic even in the thread dedicated to it, I hope you'll forgive me if that's all I say about that particular scene here. (Though I will say with regards to the film clips you embedded that I thought the panda bear a nice touch... ;) )

Yes, I agree. I enjoyed Miss McElroy's discussion. I understand your desire to separate this thread from the other, but as to art, if you don't mind giving a simple answer, relevant to this topic, which of the two better dramatizes the actual part of story? No need to get involved in it, but since I knew of the two clips (on YouTube), I thought it would be interesting to see the difference.

Yes, Miss Rand forgot to mention Dominique's teddy bear, plus just how attractive she really is.

Edited by Trebor
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By inability I mean a lack of knowledge by the individuals who spread ideas(intellectuals,gallery owners,etc.) and by hell I mean individuals setting the context for a state of "what is"(art considered as "subjective") as opposed to "what ought to be."(art considered as objective)

...snip...

Yes, bad ideas and bad philosophy have bad consequences. As Miss Rand said, it is philosophy that has gotten us into this state, and it's only philosophy that will get us out of it.

As to the "hell," Roark faced great opposition. I do not see him as suffering in the face of it, which is what was so very alluring about him when I first read The Fountainhead. It's that thing about pain only going down so far.

The difference between Roark and Dominique was that Dominique viewed evil as important, more important than the good, more potent.

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I've posted this before, but given this topic and my having mention Norman Rockwell's approach to painting, I thought I'd post it again:

The Idea--Backbone of Story-Telling Pictures

In a picture which tells a story, the idea itself probably is the most important element of the entire illustration. Certainly if the idea is not good and if it does not interest and intrigue people, any other good qualities which the picture may possess will be lost because they will not be seen. It is an utter waste of effort to paint a beautiful, story-telling picture unless it is based on a good central idea — one which can be readily understood. I will now explain just how I develop a magazine cover idea. Whether you follow my method or not is up to you. I suggest that you try it at the start. Later you will probably develop a method of your own. In all my years as an illustrator, sudden inspiration has never been the source of a single idea. I have had to "beat my brains out" for each one. And each time I go through the same preliminaries.

I know of no painless process for giving birth to a picture idea. When I must produce one, I retire to a quiet room with a supply of cheap paper and sharp pencils. My brain is going to take a beating — and knows it.

First, I invariably draw a lamp post. I have found that I must start somewhere and if I did not start with the lamp post or something else, I would spend the day looking at the blank paper. So I start with hope and prayer — and a lamp post.

Next I draw a drunken sailor clinging to my lamp post. Now I have an object and a person. Then I give my brain a little exercise. Through association of ideas, I am reminded that sailors must do their own mending, so I put that down. That reminds me of a mother sewing up Junior's trousers with Junior in them, and I draw that.

At last I am on my way, but where I will end I never know. I keep hoping and praying for a knockout idea. And I keep on making sketches. Usually the first session gets me nowhere. Most authors, composers, playwrights and other creative people seem to have the same experience. Somehow you must condition your brain to think creatively. So I generally end this first session of two hours or more completely discouraged. I feel that I never will develop another idea as long as I live.

Then, perhaps next day, I go at it again. By this time my poor brain seems to be beaten into shape to develop ideas. I keep making sketches which no one but me could understand. I throw them down beside me as I work but I do not discard them. Often, by going over these sketches later, one of them will suggest something which escaped me at the time but which may be the very germ of the idea I am seeking.

One thing I know. When I do get a really good idea — the idea — I will have no doubt about it. When that time comes bells ring and lights flash! Then I get all excited. I do not want to try other ideas. I want to try out this one on my wife, my neighbors and — if they like it — I want to get to work on this one — the bell ringer.

How I Make A Picture by Norman Rockwell p. 28; Chp 1. "Getting the Picture Idea"

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Why do you prefer heat from a fireplace as opposed to heat from a furnace?

With respect to a fireplace versus a furnace, what standard are you referring to? In what sense is your preference objective?

I see how I may have "muddied the waters" by writing about "objective" outside the context of "For" and "OF".

What if an individual had pleasant memories accompanied by a fireplace, like reading books, that another individual who has never had a fireplace doesn't? So there are memories that go together with perception that are a packaged deal, experienced only by those with certain knowledge. Is this an "objective fact"/personal preference?(For the sake of discussion, sure.) All the while the other guy may have knowledge of repairing heaters, and marvels at their usefulness. This is why he has a different personal preference. Can an individual say, "my preference is better than yours?" Nope.

The actual sensation? What's the sensation of outdoors? What's the sensation of a gym?

For clarity,the actual sensation I was mentioning was "muscle fatigue"(when lactic acid builds up). So this sensation can be had at differing locations, gym,outdoors,home,etc. but the differing environments all add to the experience. Since context is so important some individuals go to a gym for socializing, while others want to be left alone to concentrate, while some others prefer the environment outdoors. These differing areas have differing meanings to each individual, as personal preferences.("objective facts" for the sake of this discussion,sure.)

If you're drawing the conclusion that any preference that anyone holds is objective (in any other sense than that it is a fact that they hold it), then preferences for representational art, romantic or naturalistic, are just as objective as are preferences for non-representational or abstract art.

Correct, that's not the picture that I will be drawing.

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Correct, that's not the picture that I will be drawing.

Okay, I think we're in agreement.

As to any preference, the question to ask is, why? Why do I prefer this over that. If the "reason" (cause) is simply on the level of pleasure and pain, then there's nothing else to say. I don't like having a headache because it's painful, and so I prefer not to have them. Pleasure and pain are self-evident evaluations. As far as they go, pleasure is good, pain is bad. That is determined by reality, by our nature and the nature of all that we interact with.

Any other kind of preference (a selection of one thing over another), which has some conceptual component (evaluation), given that we are not automatically right on the conceptual level of evaluation (or identification), are open to challenge, in need of validation beyond "I like" or "I don't like." The validation of pleasure and pain is self-evident. The validation for other values requires reasoning.

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In the first place, I have to say that I'm very appreciative of your selecting Parish (for Parrish) -- well done.

I couldn't resist. ;)

I know that you think a claim like Breuer over Parish is so absurd on its face as to guarantee that it sources from some individual history which is inapplicable to determining objective "greatness." But the truth is -- and so far as I can tell, I mean this, and am not merely speaking rhetorically or out of fidelity to "my side of the debate" -- if you were to make those very claims regarding Breuer and Parish, I would immediately ask you to explain your rationale. Maybe you don't have one, and sputter in the face of my question? Maybe you start talking about your childhood in Minnesota, which gives me an idea as to where your opinions really come from. But I would want to hear you out as a part of my process of evaluation. I would want to feel like I understood you.

I would love to hear why Rand rated Parrish's work as trash. I'm interested. But my point still stands that hearing her reasoning would have no bearing on whether or not her judgment was based in subjective tastes, since there are no objective grounds on which to judge Parrish's work as trash, just as there are no objective grounds for me to judge Breuer as the greatest player to have ever played basketball or to judge Robert Parish's abilites as crap.

As has been discussed here, there are grounds for someone to say "I dislike Parrish's work" (personally, I like some of his work and dislike some of it despite how masterful it is), and there are grounds for someone to say "I liked watching Breuer play, and was very inspired by him." My point is that it is a mistake to confuse "I dislike Parrish" with "Parrish is trash," or to say, "Breuer was the greatest player ever" when one actually means "It was thrilling for me to watch Breuer play."

Oh, to be sure, I'd be immediately suspect, and it would certainly occur to me that you might be speaking out of some kind of ignorance or fan's passion. Depending on the context, I would also believe that you're seeking controversy in your claim, which can cut a couple of different ways. But often when someone says something apparently outrageous, they do have some point that they're trying to convey. This again reminds me of Rand and her intentionally provocative title "The Virtue of Selfishness." How many people in my life have dismissed Rand on that, or a similar, basis? So if you were to make a seemingly preposterous observation regarding basketball, I would be prepared to reject your claim... but in some respects, I would also initially take the very absurdity of your claim as a challenge, and as a suggestion that you might have some hidden perspective. And so I'd demand your reasoning.

The thing with intentional provocations is that they involve a little bait and switch for the purpose of seeking controversy: One makes an outrageous claim so as to attract attention, but then one eventually backs away from one's statement and reveals one's ploy: One starts out saying that Breuer was the greatest ever, implying that one is judging by commonly known, objective standards, but then one redefines "greatest ever" by a very limited, special set of criteria, such as, say, what a kind and gentle person Breuer was, or how hard he worked to gain muscle strength, thus using the controversy as a device to praise a rightfully overlooked player by highlighting something that was virtuous about him.

Such a ploy is a bit dishonest -- kind of a white lie or a Romantic exaggeration/tease -- and thus it is not the objective truth. It is a way of disguising a subjective evaluation as an objective one for the purpose of stimulating interest.

Now, may have Rand called Parrish's work "trash" as a device to hammer home a point? It's quite possible. My understanding is that many of her fans had believed that Parrish's work was exactly the type of art that she was describing in the Romantic Manifesto and elsewhere. They saw his work as representing heroism, a "sunlit universe," bright colors, Romantic contrasts, dramatic content, clean, precise brushwork, clarity of mind, idealized visions of mankind as volitional and capable, and as portraying what Rand often praised as "childlike innocence" and a "benevolent universe." It's also my understanding that fans often enthusiastically shared their passion for Parrish with Rand, which may have annoyed her since she didn't like his work. Perhaps she saw the question during the FHF Q&A session as an opportunity to end the annoyance, and to really put an exclamation point on it.

If so, her judgment of Parrish's work as "trash" would still not be an objective appraisal. It would be an act of saying that the art was bad when she meant that she didn't like it.

With this as background, what more would I accord Bill Simmons if he were to make that same claim? Now ultimately, I don't care who Bill Simmons is; his opinions on basketball will stand or fall on their own merit, and without respect to the "authorities" which hold to them. But so long as he generally strikes me as intelligent and knowledgeable regarding basketball -- which he does -- I would want to give even his outrageous basketball claims a full hearing.

I'd love to hear Rand elaborate on Parrish. Her doing so would be interesting, but it would not change the fact that Parrish's work is not trash by any objective standard.

Trust me, I get it. You've seen Parrish's artwork, and it's not trash. So anyone who claims that it is must be wrong, and of course Ayn Rand is not exempt from "anyone." Come to this, we're agreed. Even though I'm a novice where painting is concerned, I feel that I know enough to say that Parrish's artwork isn't trash at all. And I think that when we say these things, we are probably in basic concord; while I'll stipulate that you know much more than I about art, I'd bet that we have a similar understanding of what "trash" means...

I'd also like to know what she meant. Did she mean that she didn't like Parrish's work because she felt that it was too happy and untouched by tragedy? Did she dislike the fact that his paintings were often set in historical or mythical times rather than the present or future? Did she dislike the costumes, hairstyles or architecture? Either way, it would indeed be interesting to hear which of her subjective preferences Parrish had violated.

(though I look forward greatly to one day engaging you on the subject of abstract art; I miss your conversation with Brian).

I'd enjoy hearing your thoughts on that subject as well.

However, Ayn Rand was a philosopher by trade and one of great experience and insight.

I disagree. She was a novelist by trade, one with great experience and insight. Her philosophy proper hasn't been professionally completed, nor has it invited or faced rigorous criticism. It's been self-graded by Rand and her fans. In many ways, I think that those who have set up organizations to promote it have done a disservice to Rand by avoiding letting it face informed criticism. Academically, it's a ship in a harbor being protected from its "enemy" the sea.

J

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I’m also in disagreement with personal preferences at the sensory level being ascribed as “subjective” when I do think they’re none other than “objective.” This important area of disagreement is the crux of the argument. This inability to decide on “objective” and “subjective” can make the world a living hell for some.

So, by your reasoning, I am being objective in identifying the fact that one abstract painting by Kandinsky represents warmth and chaotic, energetic playfulness to me, and that another represents precise control, where another represents the sacred, and therefore my judgments and evaluations of their meaning and the view of existence that they project are objective. Kandinsky's art is therefore very effective, and should easily qualify as art according to your criteria.

The painter is fallible when trying to recreate in paint what he sees in reality.

The viewer is also fallible. And that gets us back, as always, to the questions of Objectivism's requirements of art "communicating" and being "intelligible": Communicating to whom, and being intelligible to whom? Is art universally and "objectively" unintelligible or bad if Ayn Rand or you experienced nothing in it? What objective means would you propose to determine that the art failed versus that the viewer did?

How can a painter, one that seeks truth and beauty, attain a profit from his creation if what he creates as beautiful is actually only beautiful to himself and to no customers?

Artists like Parrish and Kandinsky (and many others whom Rand disliked) had customers on a level that Capuletti only dreamed of attaining.

I can judge, say, a landscape painting, scrutinize it and say perhaps “look here at this near mountain how it was painted with less contrast than this furthest mountain in the background, and why is it that yellow being the first color to fade through the “veils of atmosphere”was applied to the farthest mountain, while blue, the last color to fade is applied to this one in the foreground? With this knowledge I can then say that I don’t like the painting, due to this lack of “truth”. What is the concept “veils of atmosphere”, what is “truth”? Without defining my terms my assessments are baseless to others, no matter how real it is to me, in order for others to understand then standards must be explicitly defined. If an individual wants others to understand then clarity is key correct? By clarity I mean simply stating terms, giving definitions, examples. How I would have loved to listen to Miss Rand and Mr. Parrish have a discussion.

By all objective standards, Parrish was not trash and Capuletti was not sheer perfection of workmanship.

You can only judge something based on your current level of knowledge correct? I don’t know what knowledge Miss Rand had in regards to her assessment of Mr. Parrish’s painting, nor do I know the definition of "trash" in the context of Miss Rand judging Mr. Parrish's paintings, as has already been stated in this thread.

By any objective standard used to judge Capuletti's work as a tour de force and sheer perfection of workmanship, Parrish's work cannot be trash.

J

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As usual, there is a lot that I could respond to -- a lot I'd like to say, for love of my own "voice" if nothing else... But what strikes me about the recent replies is how very close I think we are to a central resolution (more or less). So I'll cut this short to highlight what's important.

But my point still stands that hearing her reasoning would have no bearing on whether or not her judgment was based in subjective tastes, since there are no objective grounds on which to judge Parrish's work as trash...

[...]

I'd love to hear Rand elaborate on Parrish. Her doing so would be interesting, but it would not change the fact that Parrish's work is not trash by any objective standard.

What Miss Rand did have was her own theory on art (plus, I think that it's obvious, that she was a great artist herself; she understood art), and I figure that by that standard she concluded that Mr. Parrish's work wasn't good art.

[...]

Yes, her use of "trash" is rather insignificant if she was just saying, "I don't like it." The assumption (which I think is warranted) is that she meant that his work was not good art.

If it is the case (bolded, underlined, and italicized to draw attention to the fact that it may not be the case, as I believe we've already agreed*) that Rand's use of "trash" was that by some objective standard (presumably by Objectivist Esthetics, which to an Objectivist would represent "the objective standard") Parrish's artwork "[is] not good art," then I believe that Jonathan is correct: We** should be able to examine Parrish's artwork for ourselves, apply the relevant philosophy, and determine whether Rand was right or wrong. After all, by an objective standard Parrish's artwork is either good art or it is not.

*In other scenarios, where Rand's use of "trash" may simply have signified her personal distaste apart from an objective standard (which is not to revisit the controversy of personal preference, but just to refer to the distinction we've recognized between "I like this" and "this is good"), or where she may have been using this language to make another point as Jonathan has suggested/identified in his latest response to me, this is not necessarily the case. Without knowing definitively one way or another which scenario we're dealing with, I still consider Rand's claim essentially arbitrary, and cannot claim to know that she was either right or wrong overall.

**By "we" I do not mean "me" at this present time and place. In recognizing that where Rand claims "bad" and Jonathan claims "good" by appealing to the same standard, it should be possible to judge between them, I'm not simultaneously pronouncing myself fit to do so. At present, taking Rand in this sense -- that Parrish's artwork is "not good" -- I must declare myself an agnostic between them, except to say that I lean towards Jonathan due to what I've already explained in how I react to the art when I view it; it does not look like "trash" to me.

I am, however, saying that if I studied and applied myself to answering this question, I believe that I ultimately could answer with confidence and either say that Rand was right regarding Parrish, or wrong. And again, and importantly, this is only true if we agree that Rand was saying that Parrish's art is not good, per an objective standard. Or at the least, and whatever Rand's views may or may not have been, it should be possible for me to ultimately come to a conclusion with respect to Parrish's artwork as against an objective standard for art. It's either treasure or trash (or somewhere between), but not both.

Edited by DonAthos
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