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Are There Styles of Music Not Compatible With Objectivism?

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4 hours ago, Nicky said:

Wait what? Surely, you see the difference between the meaning of your fist sentence, and the meaning of your second sentence.

Yes it was meant as a rare exception, and an exception to what Rand stated. I'm pretty sure that excluding sounds that don't even fit the definition of music is just an unstated assumption.

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And how do we know that the new guy is in error, versus that his critics are? By whose interpretation and aesthetic response do we judge? We can all declare that we're guided by Objectivism, and there

Given the complexity of the human mind, the meet-between of theory and concrete with regard to music will be hard to generalize across many people. A personal example: Radiohead. I developed an i

I thought StrictlyLogical wrote something interesting earlier in the thread with regard to "noise." We can agree that not every sound is "music," and thus there are bound to be certain sounds or

6 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Have you considered the possibility that Yaron Brook has something other than an Objectivist sense of life, due to his failure to sufficiently integrate his explicit philosophy?

Sure, I just haven't seen any reason to suspect he has. His public interactions have been evidence of the contrary.

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7 hours ago, Not Lawliet said:

Yes it was meant as a rare exception, and an exception to what Rand stated. I'm pretty sure that excluding sounds that don't even fit the definition of music is just an unstated assumption.

I thought StrictlyLogical wrote something interesting earlier in the thread with regard to "noise."

We can agree that not every sound is "music," and thus there are bound to be certain sounds or noises which people will call music... but strictly are not (whether they are aesthetically pleasing or not, beneficial or otherwise). A separate question is: of those things which are music, can we judge any styles or works as being "incompatible" with Objectivism?

The subject of "compatibility" has been mostly talked around, I think, but it has seemingly resolved into a few distinct questions over the course of the thread.

Question 1.

Can a piece of music be said to express some anti-life premise and thus be incompatible with Objectivism? Certainly lyrically, it can. But tonally? Rand's answer, at least, appeared to be "not yet": we don't yet have the philosophy and/or science worked out such that we can assess this (though epistemologue has claimed to be able to do it; whether this has been done accurately, or whether this should count as "Objectivism," are questions for other minds).

Question 2.

In that music expresses some sense of life, can it be that a piece of music's sense of life contradicts the "Objectivist sense of life" and thus be incompatible with Objectivism? I say no. I say that there is no singular "Objectivist sense of life." Now... every Objectivist (as every individual) will have a sense of life (thus there is no "Objectivist sense of life," but there are Objectivist's senses of life), and a music's sense of life may be incompatible with one's own. It is not surprising when an Objectivist finds great accord with other Objectivists, but neither should it surprise when there is some measure of divergence. Whatever the effect of one's explicitly held beliefs on one's subconscious, over time, I believe that sense of life is yet individual, based if nothing else upon my experiences among Objectivists, and the fact that we do all have varying interests in art.

I do not account this to moral failings or "failure to integrate" (unless we all reject rock music and embrace "tiddlywink music"... or unless there exist no Objectivists), but I suspect that the concept of "sense of life" may be under-explored in general.

Question 3.

Given some work which is said to be anti-life (let us say a song with negative lyrics; or, if epistemologue's approach to music holds, let us say that we know a song to have a "malevolent melody"), is it immoral for a person to enjoy it, or listen to it, and thus incompatible with Objectivism? I say no. Enjoyment, in itself, is strictly beyond one's control, and accounts to one's sense of life. And unless there are demonstrable negative effects in listening to a song with negative lyrics, say, then I see no call to avoid listening to the music that one enjoys.

Beyond this, it has been observed that one's evaluation of the morality of a given work of art is a separate question from one's evaluation of that work's aesthetic value. If there is value to be gained in reading War and Peace and Crime and Punishment, then perhaps there is value to be gained in listening to good music (i.e. well-executed) which is yet deemed malevolent in lyric or tone. And one's enjoyment of a song may account to its aesthetics more than its morality (or there may yet be other options here, I believe).

7 hours ago, Not Lawliet said:

Sure, I just haven't seen any reason to suspect he has. His public interactions have been evidence of the contrary.

My apologies. The smiley face was meant to indicate my "joking" intent. We haven't been formally introduced yet, but as you are Not Lawliet I suppose I should state -- for the record -- that I am absolutely Not Kira. You're welcome here.

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32 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

It is not surprising when an Objectivist finds great accord with other Objectivists, but neither should it surprise when there is some measure of divergence. 

I think even this is granting too much, because it sounds like Objectivists will typically be in some general area within the "sense-of-life" space, even though they vary within their sub-space, and even though there maybe outliers who are in far-flung sub-spaces. (i.e. it is a "clustered-sense-of-life" hypothesis).

A good null-hypothesis is: the variability of sense-of-life among all self-identifying Objectivists is similar to the variability of sense-of-life among the general population.

From my experience, this null-hypothesis appears closer to reality than the "clustered-sense-of-life" hypothesis.

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19 hours ago, Plasmatic said:

You appear to have been infected with the upside down view of philosophy. One does not prove philosophical tenets the same way one does special science theory via "research" or "testing". All the facts necessary to validate a philosophical premise are ubiquitously available to anyone in any age.

It's possible he meant "what's your evidence?" and not necessarily "what does science say?" But the more I think about it, the more it seems that most claims about a SoL would require psychological research. Some questions are fine, especially about emotional responsibility as you phrased it, but actually making deeper claims probably requires psychology knowledge. A SoL almost reminds me of a Jungian archetype - if we're not careful about how to define SoL and fail to define where psychology is required, it will be quackery.

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6 hours ago, DonAthos said:

A separate question is: of those things which are music, can we judge any styles or works as being "incompatible" with Objectivism?

I would have to say that it's not a definite no, but that we can't know for sure yet. It's like if someone asked if a person's philosophy could be derived from what clothes they wore. What amounts to no clothes at all could be considered bad attire, but other than that there's no philosophical implications of wearing leather jackets - that we can identify with the methods available to us.

 

6 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Enjoyment, in itself, is strictly beyond one's control, and accounts to one's sense of life.

What I would say is that enjoyment can't be morally judged, but rather it's a reflection of what may or may not be good values that they have chosen. A person can possibly enjoy pain, and while that enjoyment in itself is not immoral, the conscious valuation of that pain is. However as far as sensational pleasure goes (opposed to emotion), it may be entirely out of their control.

 

6 hours ago, DonAthos said:

I should state -- for the record -- that I am absolutely Not Kira. You're welcome here.

haha - well, based on your response I can assure you that the possibility of you being Kira is roughly 1%.

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On April 14, 2016 at 11:19 AM, epistemologue said:

Drug use should be legal but that doesn't mean it's moral. There's no rational reason to get righteously indignant about some self-destructive addict unable to legally get high. In no way is that person "persuing values". Objectivists absolutely do not endorse "going vigilante" (and neither do you, apparently) - that's not remotely what Howard Roark did or who he was as a character. Killing cops is not the "retaliation against the initiation of force"; it's criminal.

False. Roark did act as a vigilante. He took matters into his own hands rather than pursuing justice through the justice system. Prior to that, however, he committed the fraud of passing if his work as someone else's, and knowingly and intentionally violated the rights of others not to hire him. He specifically secretly pushed his way onto the project despite stating that he knew that the owners would not want to hire him.

as for your statement about drugs, and police brutality, again, your views are false. Objectivism stands for rights. Period. It doesn't become nonchalant about people's right to put whatever they wish into their own bodies just because you may not like their choices.

You state that retaliating against brutal cops is criminal. Indeed it is, but the issue is not criminality, but morality. In the context of a fictional work, lethal retaliation against an evil cop can be consistent with Objectivism. In a corrupt system in which individuals have no recourse to rational justice, it would be perfectly moral to go vigilante.

It is amusing to me that you seem to belive that taking matters into one's own hands and destroying others' property is acceptable in response to something as minor and harmless as a disagreement over a building's aesthetic design, but people being beaten and murdered under a corrupt system don't have the right to similarly take matters into their own hands.

 

On April 14, 2016 at 11:19 AM, epistemologue said:

There's no reason to "experience a positive aesthetic response" to this as a Romantic, at least not for the reasons you're giving (though I can think of other more Romantic justifications for enjoying some rap or metal music).

On the contrary, the idea of struggling for one's values and being unable to succeed is a demonstration of a Malevolent Universe Premise; it's an anti-volitional aesthetic - it's specifically *not* Romantic by Rand's definition. This goes right into the category Rand outlined with Byron and Shakespeare - heroic characters who are doomed to fail.

False. Remember the novel We The Living? I keep bring it up, but people keep ignoring it or evading it. The characters pursue their values, but nevertheless fail. Being unable to succeed does not logically imply malevolent universe premise or anti volition. Characters are shown choosing and pursuing their values. That's sufficient to demonstrate/express a pro volition vision. And characters ultimately failing doesn't automatically equal malevolent universe. In the vast majority of artworks in which characters struggle their hardest and yet fail, it's not the universe or existence that has defeated them, but usually other people, just as in We The Living.

Your position is too simplistic and one-size-fits-all. Before mistakenly judging art as being "malevolent universe premise," first apply your standards of judgment to We The Living to see if you're applying a double standard which exempts Rand's art from accusations of being "anti volition" or "malevolent universe premise."

J

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On April 15, 2016 at 4:45 PM, Plasmatic said:

You appear to have been infected with the upside down view of philosophy. One does not prove philosophical tenets the same way one does special science theory via "research" or "testing". All the facts necessary to validate a philosophical premise are ubiquitously available to anyone in any age.

False. One DOES prove philiposophical tenets, that is unless one's philosophy has nothing to do with reality! One must first observe the nature of reality and study the entities to which one will be applying philosophy.

Perhaps you're confusing philosophy in general with axiomatic proposals? Axioms, and axioms alone, don't require proof. It does not follow that all of philosophy therefore requires no proof.

"Existence is identity. Consciousness is identification." One must actually observe entities in order to identify their natures. One can't just start with the axioms and then, without observing either humans or giraffes, reason one's way to what type of entities humans or giraffes are or should be. Just like science, philosophy obeys reality, and must be shown to conform to it.

You seem to think that philosophy trumps everything and that reality conforms to it. That's false, and highly anti-Objectivist as well. That's what would be an "upside down view of philosophy."

 

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 Listen, if you want to debate the Oist conception of objectivity, start a thread on it. As it stands you don't appear familiar with it. Again there are no "philosophical theories" because the facts that are the domain of philosophy are ubiquitous and timeless. If your notion of objectivity regarding philosophy entails the above, you are certainly not accepting the Oist view on this (as your straw man below pretends to). I'd expect more of an "informed criticism" given your premises which lead to this thread. Nothing in the comment you quoted of me is remotely an instance of what you are describing, whatever.

The above is all bluff and bluster. Instead of addressing substance, you're attacking the person opposing you.

As for your false assertion that I don't appear to be familiar with the Objectivist concept of objectivity, my earlier formulation of the concept was taken from Peikoff' OPAR. So, you're saying that Peikoff doesn't understand the Objectivist concept of objectivity, but you do?

Instead of just bluffing and emptily asserting that I'm wrong and uniformed, you might consider backing up your attacks and accusations with some reasoning and proof. You say that I don't understand the Objectivist concept of objectivity. Well, I've defined it here by giving Peikoff's summation of Rand's views on the subject (I'd give Rand's instead if she had ever offered her typical, direct, concise definition of "objectivity," but she neglected to do so, but instead left only rather dispersed comments on the specific concept). But you apparently know Objectivism better than Peikoff and Rand, so, back it up: identify the Objectivist concept of "objectivity" and demonstrate how I (and Peikoff and Rand) have gotten it all wrong! Prove it! And, yes, you do have to prove it. You can't get out of proving it by falsely asserting again that philosophy isn't like science and doesn't have to prove anything.

 

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Nonsense! I have in fact expressed the opposite of "I've previously integrated all of my explicit philosophy, so now my emotions count as being objective". I described the process of challenging ones emotional states in this very thread and called it "emotional responsibility". What you describe above is a strawman that is impossible anyway. Emotional states are indicators of value judgments in relation to particular contexts, so no such passivity regarding justifying emotional states is rational.

No need to get so worked up and huffy! Have I misunderstood you? If so, I apologize.

Please help me to understand your position. In the context of the discussion at hand -- music and the inability to judge it objectively, and also Rand's hope and expectation that one day we would find a means of judging music objectively -- what relevance does integrating one's sense of life with one's explicit philosophy have to the discussion? 

And I do sincerely apologize if I've misunderstood, but let me explain. I've experienced this same discussion multiple times in the past. In my experience, students of Objectivism are usually unaware of Rand's position on music's not having a means of being judged objectively. They tend to find that fact disappointing, if not dismaying, and then they usually begin to ponder ways by which to make musical responses objective. One of the standard tacks that they take is to assert that they have rigorously reprogrammed and fully integrated all of their emotions with their explicitly held philosophical beliefs, and have succeeded to the point of no longer having subjective emotions, but of having reached the ideal state of being purely objective, including in sense of life, and therefore also in their ability to judge music objectively.

I took you, and others here, to be heading down that worn out old dead end road. If I was mistaken, then, again, I apologize.

 

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If you want to continue having a exchange with folks who are sincere in their intent to understand and be understood, you had better make a better effort to represent their positions as stated by them.

Indeed, but discussions always potentially involve some misunderstanding or confusion. It's a two-way street. You want to be better understood? Great, then make better arguments, make them more clearly, and, most important of all, provide proof to back them up. Not to keep harping on it, but philosophical arguments do require proof, just like science. 

 

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Edit:

Jonathan asked:

Another strawman! I said nothing of the sort. The question doesn't even make sense to me. Again, nothing I said can be construed as such a non sequitur.

Are you proposing that a sense of live is disconnected from ones values?

Please, try to calm yourself. I wasn't building strawmen or proposing anything. I was ASKING QUESTIONS in order to clarify my understanding of what you're saying. See, questions are not statements. They are inquiries.

Anyway, you seem to have a thing for accusing others of making "strawmen," but you don't seem to understand what the term means. It means to assign to your opponent a position that they don't hold, and then to beat up on that position. Asking someone to clarify his position doesn't qualify. To ask a question is not to assign a person a position. Besides, after asking the questions, I made no attempt to beat up on any of the potential answers that you might give, so my inquiries don't qualify as strawmen on either of the two criteria: I did not assign a position to you, and I did not beat up on a position that I assigned to you.

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By observing their actions in relation to their premises and whether they correspond to one another.

By what objective, scientific means do you propose to observe their emotional states? The question was not whether or not their actions matched their explicitly held philosophy, but how you would propose to objectively measure how well their emotions and philosophy were integrated. See, what I'm asking is how you expect to be able to objectively, scientifically identify which emotions others are experiencing. It would not be objective or scientific to rely on their self-reporting of their emotions, and emotions cannot be reliably observed through others' actions. For example, a person might hold the explicit philosophical view that stealing even the smallest amount of anything is immoral, but yet he is tempted to steal a piece of cake that he hasn't paid for at a buffet's desert cart, and, although emotionally he feels some anger and resentment about his philosophy instructing him not to steal it, he ultimately decides to follow his philosophy rather than his emotions. Outwardly, he hasn't expressed his emotions, and his actions don't reveal his emotions: he felt the emotion of resentment, but all you see is that his actions show that he has complied with his stated beliefs, and you conclude, falsely, that his emotions and philosophy are properly integrated. Therefore, you cannot objectively measure, or even infer, another person's emotions by his actions.

J

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20 hours ago, Not Lawliet said:

I would have to say that it's not a definite no, but that we can't know for sure yet. It's like if someone asked if a person's philosophy could be derived from what clothes they wore. What amounts to no clothes at all could be considered bad attire, but other than that there's no philosophical implications of wearing leather jackets - that we can identify with the methods available to us.

I think the example you provide here is interesting, and possibly comments back on our discussion of music. Suppose that I claimed that a person's philosophy could be derived from the clothes they wore -- how would you receive that claim?

When a man wears a leather jacket, is there one certain reason why, such that we can infer certain things about their character or philosophy from this solitary choice? (Apart from very basic things, such as, "This person believes in wearing clothing in certain circumstances.") It's doubtlessly true that one's choices in fashion do reflect on their character in some way, but I would be highly dubious of any person's claim to be able to assess a character based upon their fashion. (There could be some broad inferences, perhaps, in extreme scenarios; if a person shows up to the opera in a leather jacket, for instance, that seems telling. And outside of a very specific set of circumstances, wearing a Nazi uniform or a Klansmen's hood must provoke a negative reaction.)

I think that if I were to approach the wearing of a leather jacket fairly, and its relationship to character, I would have to know a lot more about the individual circumstances and context than I am likely to do in all but a few cases. I would have to understand why the person was wearing the jacket, which could potentially be quite an endeavor. And so, too, in assessing one's tastes in art.

Maybe I'm mistaken here -- and especially because I mean to go past "music" -- but if I know that someone enjoys War and Peace, I'm not yet prepared to draw any conclusions about their character. What we enjoy relates to our character, but I do not believe that it is some function -- that there is a one-to-one relationship, such that I know specific things about the person who enjoys War and Peace (again, beyond items like: "a willingness to read long works," "to engage with classics," and etc).

There are philosophical implications in every choice we make, but proposing that we have a science to divine a person's character or philosophy on the basis of their aesthetic choices or interests is a much larger claim which requires its own support. And since I believe that there may be multiple reasons to like or dislike leather jackets or War and Peace, I am immediately hostile to any proposal which would hold one stance or the other "good" or "bad" as an absolute. More context, individual context, is necessary for any sound judgement.

20 hours ago, Not Lawliet said:

What I would say is that enjoyment can't be morally judged, but rather it's a reflection of what may or may not be good values that they have chosen. A person can possibly enjoy pain, and while that enjoyment in itself is not immoral, the conscious valuation of that pain is.

Broadly, I agree. But when we encounter specific cases, I'm not sure that it resolves quite as neatly as perhaps is implied. But let me try to explain what I mean.

Earlier in the thread, JASKN relayed his own experience in enjoying art he deems to be "malevolent." Elsewhere I mentioned the fact that I like the musical Hair. Does that mean that I'm a hippie, that I take drugs (or advocate them), or etc.? Far from it. Can I explain to you why I like that musical (especially in light of the fact that I remember Rand disliking it)? I'm not entirely sure that I can. I can point out some features that I enjoy, perhaps (my technical understanding of art is quite limited; mostly I would say "this sounds nice," or similar), but I don't believe that I could make an argument as to why I like what I like, or dislike what I do not, or that you should follow my lead. As you have some sense of life particular to yourself, I respect that you will have your own reaction.

With Hair, specifically, there is a complicating factor of which I have long been aware: one of my first official dates was to a high school production of Hair. I don't know that I can untangle these highly charged and emotional memories with assessment of the musical or its soundtrack. And there is more to it than that -- a personal history, a wealth of experience.

While I don't mean to argue that what I enjoy has no relationship to my explicit philosophy, neither do I expect that people who take on Objectivism (to whatever degree that they do) will immediately or automatically find their aesthetic interests changing or grouping together or becoming the same. Again: I don't believe that this is borne out by experience/reality. Rand and Brook have different tastes in music, and in our "theorizing" we should strive to incorporate that sort of seemingly relevant information. But beyond that, I believe that there is potentially more to "sense of life" than simply some emotional reflection of one's explicit philosophy. For any given individual, there is an entire history, dating back to earliest experiences (i.e. the pre-conceptual, and that which has fallen out of memory). And even if one's explicit philosophy works to change a person's sense of life, to the extent that one "integrates," I certainly wouldn't expect this to happen immediately, but over time.

So I don't know -- maybe you do? -- but perhaps I am on some path to eventually untangle all of my feelings about Hair, such that, in a thousand years, I would somehow come to "properly" dislike it (if such a thing even makes sense; though as I've expressed elsewhere, I am dubious of this claim). Or perhaps not. But in the meantime, in this lifetime, what do I do with the fact that I like it?

20 hours ago, Not Lawliet said:

However as far as sensational pleasure goes (opposed to emotion), it may be entirely out of their control.

I think that this is right, that we turn our attention to that which is under our control -- the realm of choice (which I hold to be the realm of ethics, accordingly). If we describe physical pleasure as being entirely out of our control, then perhaps emotion is not quite the same. Yet emotion is not under our direct control, either; I do not "choose" to feel sad when I do; I choose what I do in response to how I feel.

As has been quoted elsewhere in this thread, Rand warned against trying to judge another person's sense of life (calling that "psychologizing"), and counseled that we ought, instead, judge their philosophical convictions. I am frankly wary of any call to judge sense of life, as such, and even one's own: if I like something or dislike something, such as a musical, where Ayn Rand may have had a different reaction, what ought I do about it, if anything? I acknowledge the fact and take such actions as seem best to me, to aid in support of my life and flourishing, just as always. Apart from this, where is the call to feel guilt (or pride) in the fact of my emotional reactions? And what good would that do me?

If there is not a conceivable plan of action to do better, to live better (if we can even say for certain that it would be better for me to feel other than I do, which I do not grant), then I see no reason to concern myself with the question of my enjoying some work of art, or account it any kind of "fault" or "success."

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On April 14, 2016 at 11:41 AM, epistemologue said:

Secondly is the question of whether or not it does actually display a malevolent sense of life or not. Where Jonathan quotes Ayn Rand talking skeptically about evaluating sense of life, she actually names exactly the method to do so: "Judge their philosophical convictions."

No, that's mistaken. Rand was not identifying a means by which to judge someone else's sense of life. Rather, she was saying DO NOT JUDGE IT, and INSTEAD judge their phiosophical convictions.

On April 14, 2016 at 11:41 AM, epistemologue said:

By evaluating the philosophical premises of the music and whether they are adhering to a Benevelont Universe Premise / Benevolent People Premise (or malevolent on the contrary), you can judge the music's sense of life philosophically and objectively. So for example if the heavy metal music is presenting a deep, rich character of man's mind, but this character is reduced to incoherent screaming in pain and horror at the world, we can conclude it's contrary to the Objectivist sense of life by virtue of its Malevolent Universe Premise.

There is no philosophical premise of the music until there is first an objective "conceptual vocabulary." Your interpretations of music via believing that you're objectively identifying it's sense of life contradicts Objectivism on at least a couple levels. First, Rand explicitly stated that our musical tastes are a subjective matter. That includes you. You don't get to exempt yourself. Second, regardless of whatever "sense of life" you may believe that you're detecting in a work of music, Rand explicitly stated that sense of life is not a valid criterion of objective aesthetic judgment! Thirdly, your, or anyone else's interpretation of a work of art are not the final say. There is the possibility that you or any other listener or viewer may be mistaken in his interpretation. Anyone might be aesthetically inept in regard to certain works or genres of art. True objectivity would require us to not only judge that artist's abilities, but to first find a means of judging the judges' fitness to judge. We're not all aesthetically equal and competent. We're not all equally observant, experienced and technically knowledgeable of all of the arts.

Art is not a simplistic math formula. It didn't automatically earn a "malevolent" rating simply because it might include what you personally interpret to be horror or pain. People can scream for many reasons other than horror or pain, including heroic reasons. So, again, in order to be truly objective, we'd have to rely on something other than your subjective interpretation when attempting to judge how well the artist performed his task of expressing his views: we would need the elusive "conceptual vocabulary," but we'd also need an objective standard of judging hoe well he artistically used that vocabulary, which woul mean that we'd need to have acces to knowing his intentions in creating the art by some means outside of the art.

On April 14, 2016 at 11:41 AM, epistemologue said:

Such an objective analysis based on a "conceptual vocabulary" is exactly what I'm doing here, based on the foundation Rand laid for it in The Romantic Manifesto.

No, you're not. Rather, what you're trying to do is to find a work-around which skips the "conceptual vocabulary." You're trying to smuggle in your personal subjective interpretations of music as objective interpretations. You're just arbitrarily ignoring Rand's explicit statement that your musical tastes and responses must be treated as a subjective matter. That doesn't work. Anyone with differing tastes could do the same. Then it just becomes a meaningless shouting match, with each person asserting that his own musical responses are truly proper objective ones, when none of the are. No ones musical tastes and interpretations become objective simply because they assert that they are. Actual proof would be required. That would mean the identification of a "conceptual vocabulary," which would include its being demonstrated in action: one would have to show people reliably "reading" the conceptual content of music using the explicitly identified method of vocabulary. There are no work-a rounds.

J

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On April 16, 2016 at 8:54 PM, Nicky said:

That directly contradicts the rest of your post, which leaves open the possibility that there answer is "Yes.". You are, at the same time, answering "No." and "Maybe." to the same question. Obvious contradiction.

Sorry that you misunderstood, but in the full context of the discussion, I thought it was clear that I don't think that there will be a "conceptual vocabulary" for music. It's not possible. That's not how it works. Such vocabularies aren't discovered to already exist. Rather, they are created, and the used, not the other way around. Music affects us without having an objective vocabulary.

J

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On April 14, 2016 at 0:54 PM, epistemologue said:

Yes. See my original post in this thread where my example was the genre of vocal trance in general:

As for a style with an incompatible sense of life with Objectivism, take for example vocal trance. The breathy, elongated tones of the woman singing expresses a futility or helplessness, like things are happening and you have no influence over them. This is a prototypical example of a malevolent universe premise style opposed to the romantic Objectivist style.

 

That's only your subjective interpretation of the piece of music, and it's by no means the only possible interpretation. Breathy, elongated tones could also be taken to be expressions of yearning and desire, among many other possibilities.

Besides, even if such a musical style were intended to be an expression of sighs or frustration, it doesn't logically follow that the artist who created the piece views all of existence as helplessness and futility. Art is not anywhere near to being that simplistic. A sigh might express disappointment at something stupid or painful that happened, but it does not logically follow that because an artist addressed such content in his work then he therefore has that view as the essence of existence, and he has a horrible "sense of life."

I think you're demonstrating the reality of what Rand said about our inability to know others' senses of life based on such limited information. To repeat, she quite rationally stated that you can't know the senses of life of fictional characters, and most likely not even of your best friend; you might know the sense of life of a long-term romantic partner, but no one beyond that. She also said that sense of life is not a valid criterion of objective aesthetic judgment. You don't know musicians' senses of life based on your subjective interpretations of their art, and your sense of life responses are indeed still not a valid criterion of objective aesthetic judgment.

J

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On April 15, 2016 at 5:50 PM, Not Lawliet said:

*shrug* Rand said herself that musical taste can only be viewed as "subjective", until scientific knowledge expands.

 

And upon what did she base that opinion?

Anyone could assert that anything will one day be found to be objective once scientific knowledge expands! Why socialists and communists could say that socialism and communism will one day have objective proof which will prove that those systems are right.

But that's not the way that philosophy works. Objectivist philosophy in particular deals with reality, and with actuals and not potentials. It is supposed to be based only on what exists, not what is hoped to one day exist.

J

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On April 16, 2016 at 9:56 AM, DonAthos said:

In that music expresses some sense of life, can it be that a piece of music's sense of life contradicts the "Objectivist sense of life" and thus be incompatible with Objectivism? I say no. I say that there is no singular "Objectivist sense of life." Now... every Objectivist (as every individual) will have a sense of life (thus there is no "Objectivist sense of life," but there are Objectivist's senses of life), and a music's sense of life may be incompatible with one's own. It is not surprising when an Objectivist finds great accord with other Objectivists, but neither should it surprise when there is some measure of divergence. Whatever the effect of one's explicitly held beliefs on one's subconscious, over time, I believe that sense of life is yet individual, based if nothing else upon my experiences among Objectivists, and the fact that we do all have varying interests in art.

Indeed! Objectivism stands for individuality, so it's often disturbing to me to see Objectivists looking to conform to an alleged "Objectivist Sense of Life," and to imply or outright state that other individuals aren't quite up to par and Objectivist enough, or fully "integrated," if they have differing tastes, interpretations and preferences in music.

An additional factor that Objectivists rarely address is knowledge and experience with the various arts. I've worked professionally as a visual artist for over four decades. Might it be possible that I have some knowledge and experience in regard to visual art that others lack? Might it be reasonable to expect that I can observe more in a painting than people who have practically no knowledge or and experience with the art of painting?

I have very little exposure to the medium of dance. I have friends who are very into dance, and very knowledgeable and experienced. I don't take it as an insult that they observe and understand much more than I do in a dance performance.

So, again, when discussing judging art, we have to take into account the viewer's or listener's level of competence at judging art. Art is like a transmission. The artist is is a transmitter who is sending a message via his art, and consumers are the receivers. Rand only addressed the notion of judging the transmitter and his message, but neglected to recognize the need to also judge the receivers. The fact that a message is misunderstood by a receiver doesn't necessarily mean that the transmitter or transmission is at fault. There is also the possibility that the receiver failed. It is not logical to assume that all receivers are of equal ability to receive transmissions clearly.

On April 16, 2016 at 9:56 AM, DonAthos said:

I do not account this to moral failings or "failure to integrate" (unless we all reject rock music and embrace "tiddlywink music"... or unless there exist no Objectivists), but I suspect that the concept of "sense of life" may be under-explored in general.

 

Yes, the concept of sense of life is under explored, not to mention under developed. Philosophically, it the equivalent of a strong hunch. It needs more work. It needs some science and proof to back it up, rather than mere introspection.

And don't get me wrong. I like the concept, or at least most of it.

J

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On April 16, 2016 at 10:27 AM, softwareNerd said:

I think even this is granting too much, because it sounds like Objectivists will typically be in some general area within the "sense-of-life" space, even though they vary within their sub-space, and even though there maybe outliers who are in far-flung sub-spaces. (i.e. it is a "clustered-sense-of-life" hypothesis).

A good null-hypothesis is: the variability of sense-of-life among all self-identifying Objectivists is similar to the variability of sense-of-life among the general population.

From my experience, this null-hypothesis appears closer to reality than the "clustered-sense-of-life" hypothesis.

As Rand said, you can't know the sense of life of other people, including your best friend.

So all of this is subjective speculation about something that you can't objectively measure or know.

J

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On April 14, 2016 at 0:44 PM, Plasmatic said:

My frustration with WTL has always been related to this. If art is about "what might be and ought to be" then doesn't WTL fail to express these artistic virtues?

Of course it fails to project those virtues by the standard that you mention.

So, what can we logically conclude?

We have two options: 1) Rand's novel, We The Living, according to her own stated theory, reveals that she held a "malevolent universe premise," or 2) the aesthetic theory which misdiagnoses artists such as her as having a "malevolent universe premise" must be flawed and is need of revision.

So, how do we decide. Rand wrote quite a lot on her views of man and existence, including the fact that she held the same basic views and sense of life since as far back as should could remember. From all of her many writings, it's clear that she did not have a "malevolent universe premise." She explicitly told us so herself. Many times!

So, should we believe her, or should we believe that we can know her own mind better than she knew it herself based on our aesthetically Rorschaching one of her novels? Which is more likely true? Was her theory about novels and happy endings true without exception, or was everything she said about her own metaphysical view of existence true?

Occam's Razor again: the idea that her theory needs some corrections requires the fewest assumptions.

J

Edited by Jonathan13
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In the light of what I’ve said, it is of course impossible to name the sense of life of fiction characters. You might name the sense of life of your closest friend-though I doubt it. You may, after some years, know approximately the sense of life of the person you love, but nobody beyond that. You cannot judge the sense of life of another person; that would be psychologizing. Judge their philosophical convictions, not whether their feelings match their ideas. That’s not for you to judge; it’s of no relevance to you.”

 

How the hell can she say this and this:

Quote

What is the specifically American sense of life?

A sense of life is so complex an integration that the best way to identify it is by means of concrete examples and by contrast with the manifestations of a different sense of life.

The emotional keynote of most Europeans is the feeling that man belongs to the State, as a property to be used and disposed of, in compliance with his natural, metaphysically determined fate. A typical European may disapprove of a <arl_17> given State and may rebel, seeking to establish what he regards as a better one, like a slave who might seek a better master to serve—but the idea that he is the sovereign and the government is his servant, has no emotional reality in his consciousness. He regards service to the State as an ultimate moral sanction, as an honor, and if you told him that his life is an end in itself, he would feel insulted or rejected or lost. Generations brought up on statist philosophy and acting accordingly, have implanted this in his mind from the earliest, formative years of his childhood.

A typical American can never fully grasp that kind of feeling. An American is an independent entity. The popular expression of protest against "being pushed around," is emotionally unintelligible to Europeans, who believe that to be pushed around is their natural condition. Emotionally, an American has no concept of service (or of servitude) to anyone. Even if he enlists in the Army and hears it called "service to his country," his feeling is that of a generous aristocrat who chose to do a dangerous task. A European soldier feels that he is doing his duty.[...]

If America drags on in her present state for a few more generations (which is unlikely), dictatorship will become possible. A sense of life is not a permanent endowment. The characteristically American one is being eroded daily all around us. Large numbers of Americans have lost it (or have never developed it) and are collapsing to the psychological level of Europe's worst rabble.

Ayn Rand Letter Don't Let It GO 1 and 2

I can quote several more instances of her expressing her estimation of whole groups of people's sense of life and emotional/psychological states.....

 

For the record, I agree with the latter and not the former.

 

Jonathan, I will address you in a bit.

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

A) Changed her mind

B ) Contradicted herself

C) It's possible to identify -parts- of a person's SoL but not a person's whole SoL

Additional options are that she exempted herself from her own statement about not being able to identify others' senses of life (SHE could identify others' senses of life, but no one else could rise to that ability); or she used the term with different meanings (when she spoke of the American sense of life, she was talking about an overall impression or vibe that she felt rather than something that she could state with objective certainty -- she was generalizing, of perhaps even expressing her hope or expectation of what Americans might or ought to be).

J

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It has been a little while, and I was wondering whether any of the folks advancing the "Objectivist sense of life" theory would care to address the idea that (apparently*) Ayn Rand did not like rock music while Yaron Brook does. Where does this leave the idea that integrated Objectivists are expected to share a sense of life (which is the basis for one's taste in music)?

One possible out is that Yaron Brook is insufficiently integrated, or that Ayn Rand was, or both, but I don't expect that argument to be taken up (though it would be fascinating if it were). Doesn't the likelier answer seem to be that Objectivists may vary in their appreciation for music, and thus in their sense of life, without implicating their degree of "integration"?

__________________

* "Apparently" because I don't have a source on this apart from what's been provided in this thread; if it turns out that she did enjoy rock music, then I guess this specific line of argument is moot... though more generally, I believe it stands that Objectivists do not all share the same interests in/evaluations of music or other art.

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DonAthos,

After recently listen to her wax eloquently on "sense of life" in the last or next to the last Q & A period of the '76 lectures, she described "sense of life" as an emotional sum of an individual's metaphysics. Emotion, as such, is not a tool of cognition. An emotion is experienced as a "what I feel", but not a "why I feel thus".

From a philosophical standpoint, value is identified in the broadest sense of the term, outlining what is universal or applicable to all. While it is universal that food sustains life, it doesn't follow that all men like carrots. Miss Rand's claim is that music first stirs the emotions which, in turn, then may bring up concrete recollection that relate to the emotion. Putting aside what genuinely qualifies as music, it still doesn't follow that all men appreciate carrots.

"Sense of Life" as she described it, is universal. How one assesses a "sense of life", either their own or the nearly impossible task assessing one belonging to another, is where objectivity gets exercised.

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2 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

While it is universal that food sustains life, it doesn't follow that all men like carrots.

I quite agree.

The post of mine you're responding to must be taken in context -- the context of this thread. There has been a claim advocated throughout this thread which contends that there are some styles of music which are "incompatible" with Objectivism because they conflict with the "Objectivist sense of life."

I am asking those who support this claim to address the fact that Objectivists appear to enjoy different kinds of music. It was suggested earlier that this is because not all Objectivists are equally "integrated"; the implication being that, as Objectivists more-thoroughly integrate their explicit philosophy, their sense of life will accordingly evolve into the "Objectivist sense of life." Thus their tastes in music will approach one another, and then we can see that, yes, there are some styles of music "incompatible with Objectivism" (because "sufficiently integrated Objectivists" will not respond well to it).

Yet I do not expect these same people to hold that Yaron Brook (or Ayn Rand) is "insufficiently integrated." Perhaps they will surprise me, but I do not expect it. Therefore the reasoning which holds that "integrated Objectivists" will share a sense of life seems challenged by the information that Yaron Brook and Ayn Rand have different tastes in music (because the theory as I understand it is that one's emotional response to music depends upon one's sense of life; I would thus expect two people with the "same" sense of life to respond to some given music in similar fashion). This is why I would like those advocating the "Objectivist sense of life" to try to address this, and how it impacts their theory.

I'm not expressing my own beliefs -- which are that sense of life is individual, and that there is no such thing as an "Objectivist sense of life" or "Objectivist taste in music" (Objectivists will vary in this, having different backgrounds and different senses of life accordingly) -- but I mean to challenge the ideas advocated in this thread, such as I understand them.

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There are a few things to say about this.

At least by Rand's meaning, SoL is an emotional sum that is related in part to one's philosophical beliefs. Any particular philosophy or outlook would have a corresponding SoL. Any two people at different levels of integration will therefore have different SoL. But we'd then need to ask: does SoL include things in addition to philosophical views? I don't think so. Rand spoke of SoL as a "merciless recorder" akin to a god watching and remembering what you do. Your unique and individual experiences add to your SoL. I agree with this, and I truly see people respond to art in ways related to SoL. I don't see why, as I said earlier, there can't be multiple SoLs that stem from philosophical beliefs - even if people are equally integrated.

Different styles evoke different emotions. Some emotions are pretty common for certain styles. Your SoL will impact your emotional response. Yet how you cope with and work through emotions is probably underappreciated, so the emotional consequences are richer than initial response. The only thing to even call "Objectivist" is what you do in response, or your interpretation of the emotions -you- feel. Take a song like this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_2GlKk08xQ I like listening to it. But does it mean deep down I see life as a struggle so I should be violent or destructive? If I -said- that, it's totally plausible. I don't see life that way, I like it as a song because it gets me to think about how anger can be controlled.

 

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On April 23, 2016 at 2:09 AM, DonAthos said:

It has been a little while, and I was wondering whether any of the folks advancing the "Objectivist sense of life" theory would care to address the idea that (apparently*) Ayn Rand did not like rock music while Yaron Brook does. Where does this leave the idea that integrated Objectivists are expected to share a sense of life (which is the basis for one's taste in music)?

One possible out is that Yaron Brook is insufficiently integrated, or that Ayn Rand was, or both, but I don't expect that argument to be taken up (though it would be fascinating if it were). Doesn't the likelier answer seem to be that Objectivists may vary in their appreciation for music, and thus in their sense of life, without implicating their degree of "integration"?

Another possible explanation is that musical interpretations and tastes are subjective, and two different people who have very similar outlooks on life, similar "senses of life," and identical philosophical beliefs can interpret musical styles very differently due to each person necessarily having very different -- individual -- life experiences: they each relate any piece of music to their own personal experiences, as opposed to the idea that the same experiences should be communicated via an objective "conceptual vocabulary."

The same is true of the other abstract art forms, such as architecture, dance, abstract painting, etc.

J

 

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