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A question concerning Rand's definition of art

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It wasn't until I began grasping Objectivism that I really developed an interest in other forms of art outside of music, and having read (and returned to) The Romantic Manifesto I thought it was very stimulating as a whole. However, I can't accept Rand's definition of art, which is that "Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments". I would say that it certainly can be that (and it might even be true in general), but why is it that it necessarily has to follow as an absolute? 

Perhaps someone could explain it to me? If I somehow happened to miss the explanation in The Romantic Manifesto, then I'd gladly re-read that part of the book. 

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Welcome to OO, RationalEgoist.

Rand also said "A definition is a statement that identifies the nature of the units subsumed under a concept." As such, a definition captures the essential distinguishing characteristic.

On a different referent, 'man is the rational animal' does not mean that if you encounter an irrational animal, it is not a man.

 

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6 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Welcome to OO, RationalEgoist.

Rand also said "A definition is a statement that identifies the nature of the units subsumed under a concept." As such, a definition captures the essential distinguishing characteristic.

On a different referent, 'man is the rational animal' does not mean that if you encounter an irrational animal, it is not a man.

 

Thank you. 

So, if I understood this correctly (and do let me know if I went astray), it's the equivalent of saying that just because man's rational faculty is his distinguishing characteristic, it doesn't mean that any individual man who is acting irrationally ceases to be a man. I would say this is true. 

Now I'm just trying to apply this same thinking to the definition of art. I'm finding it somewhat difficult, but I actually happen to be reading Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology at the moment, so I'll definitely bear this in mind once I get to the "Definitions" chapter of the book. 

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15 minutes ago, RationalEgoist said:

Now I'm just trying to apply this same thinking to the definition of art.

After the initial reading of your OP, the following excerpt had come to mind.

On 10/20/2020 at 10:07 AM, Boydstun said:

American Heritage Dictionary defines art as “the conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty; specifically, the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium.” The types after the semicolon are the specific types most typically meant when the term is used in the general sense of art preceding the semicolon. This dictionary has nine other senses in which art is used, but the one quoted here is the one pertinent to this discussion.

On Rand’s definition, art is “a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value judgments” (1965a, 16). I am not persuaded that all art under the dictionary definition I just quoted nor that all of what should be grouped under art is captured by Rand’s theoretical explanatory definition. Her definition holds for a major subclass of art.

We are able to sense the feelings indicated in a great variety of created illusions, or re-creations of reality. One would expect the same for artists, and some artists might have considerable success in expressing a sense of life not their own. It is only a slight modification, a slight broadening of Rand’s definition to say art is a selective re-creation of reality according to metaphysical value-judgments, therewith leaving in suspension how much they are favored by the artist, if at all. It is, I think, also overly restrictive to confine the metaphysical in art to man’s relationship to reality, that is, to Rand’s metaphysical value-judgments. That said, Rand’s house of metaphysical value-judgments itself need not be so restrictive as one might first think from her list of metaphysical value-questions. For example, to ask whether the universe is intelligible is also to ask whether existence is one and interconnected within itself and whether a negative judgment on that question-couple leaves existence intelligible and, if so, differently so than were existence truly one and highly interconnected. This would seem to be an expansion of Rand’s list of questions, remaining within her conception, because the judgments the question and its subsidiaries invite are metaphysical and bear on basic human purposes.

There is something else to remember about Rand’s compact definition of art, which is intended to cover arts literary and visual (and more). When she says these works are re-creations of reality, one needs to remember two things implicit in that conception: imagination and stylization. An artist stylizes reality in his re-creations. In that, re-creations are his (his/her) integration of facts and his metaphysical evaluations, and these are set concrete in his selection of theme and subject, brushstroke and word, and indeed in all his craft with elements of the medium (Rand 1966a, 35; 1971, 1011–12).

We should lastly note that one might concur with Rand’s definition of art, yet one might disagree with Rand’s analysis of various artworks within this framework (1966a, 37–39; 1968, 501–3; see also Sures 1969; Peikoff 1982, 173–74; 2012, 84–101).

In the second paragraph, Stephen articulates that Rand's definition seems restrictive and goes on in the remainder of the cited passage to provide some supporting reasoning with which to underscore it.

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17 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

After the initial reading of your OP, the following excerpt had come to mind.

In the second paragraph, Stephen articulates that Rand's definition seems restrictive and goes on in the remainder of the cited passage to provide some supporting reasoning with which to underscore it.

I think this is exactly what I was looking for as it really strikes at what I had pointed out myself. This isn't a very philosophical term, but I do feel much more comfortable defining art as "a selective re-creation of reality according to metaphysical value-judgments". 

I'll read some more from that thread. At first glance it seems like I could find plenty of other gems.

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28 minutes ago, intrinsicist said:

What else would it be? A direct reproduction of reality would be more akin to journalism than art.

I completely agree, and I think that would be more naturalistic. What I'm arguing is that what an artist may decide to re-create in their art could be based upon metaphysical value judgments other than their own. I would say it's plausible to think that the same thing could also apply to an artist who creates their art more spontaneously.

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14 minutes ago, RationalEgoist said:

an artist may decide to re-create in their art could be based upon metaphysical value judgments other than their own

Oh sure, I mean you could interpret Rand's quote about "the artist's" metaphysical value judgments as referencing those judgments which underlie the art they are working on, which may or may not happen to be their personal judgments (though of course generally they are).

 

16 minutes ago, RationalEgoist said:

the same thing could also apply to an artist who creates their art more spontaneously

What do you mean?

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5 minutes ago, intrinsicist said:

Oh sure, I mean you could interpret Rand's quote about "the artist's" metaphysical value judgments as referencing those judgments which underlie the art they are working on, which may or may not happen to be their personal judgments (though of course generally they are).

Would you say that's a widely accepted interpretation of Rand's definition? I was always under the impression that "according to an artist's metaphysical value judgments" implicitly implied that what the artist decides to re-create in their art corresponds to their own personal judgments. 

6 minutes ago, intrinsicist said:

What do you mean?

I'm struggling to word this properly, so I suggest we skip it.

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13 minutes ago, RationalEgoist said:

Would you say that's a widely accepted interpretation of Rand's definition?

I don't see why it would be controversial. There's no reason why one cannot use their imagination and envision the worldview of someone else (how do you think Ayn Rand wrote her villains?), and if you can grasp the worldview of another, then you can create artistic expressions based on that worldview. You probably wouldn't want to, but you certainly could.

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13 minutes ago, intrinsicist said:

I don't see why it would be controversial. There's no reason why one cannot use their imagination and envision the worldview of someone else (how do you think Ayn Rand wrote her villains?), and if you can grasp the worldview of another, then you can create artistic expressions based on that worldview. You probably wouldn't want to, but you certainly could.

Certainly. I mean, this is exactly what I've used as my main argument against Rand's definition. Now, if it actually turns out that it's compatible with the definition (as you say it is), then I'd be delighted. 

I remember listening to an episode of The Leonard Peikoff Show called "What is Art?" and his guest was Mary Ann Sures. When she was asked whether or not it was possible for an artist to essentially negate one's own value judgments while creating a work of art, she answered in the negative. This is what made me think that my own views were incompatible with the Objectivist definition of art. Besides that, I think it was actually a good episode. It's still on YouTube. 

Edited by RationalEgoist
Misspelled the title of the episode
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7 minutes ago, RationalEgoist said:

When she was asked whether or not it was possible for an artist to essentially negate one's own value judgments while creating a work of art, she answered in the negative.

I'd have to hear it in context, but from the way you've written it, it sounds like she's saying that one couldn't possibly create a work of art from the perspective of different value judgments than your own, and that I don't think is true, nor do I think it's intended in Rand's definition.

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1 minute ago, intrinsicist said:

I'd have to hear it in context, but from the way you've written it, it sounds like she's saying that one couldn't possibly create a work of art from the perspective of different value judgments than your own, and that I don't think is true, nor do I think it's intended in Rand's definition.

https://youtu.be/GVvmNYms09o?t=345

I found it. 

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I'm still conflicted, so I would really appreciate any input that anyone else may have in regards to the point that myself and @intrinsicist discussed, namely whether or not "according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments" means what an artist himself values or the values that the artist wanted to show through a particular work of art.

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Consider the medium or the craft. Take the case of a forgery. What level of expertise is required to unmask a fraudulent work? Conversely, what degree of skill is required to bypass the expertise available in the philosophic field of aesthetics? 

In either case, it would be of a higher value to discern the metaphysical value judgments that a particular work represented, with the marginal question left to be discerned when evidence merits addressing.

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On 11/20/2020 at 6:39 PM, RationalEgoist said:

What I'm arguing is that what an artist may decide to re-create in their art could be based upon metaphysical value judgments other than their own.

Can you give an example of where this was ever done? I would bet that if you did come up with an example, it would be some example where the artist is trying to portray the thing they reject for the reasons they reject it. When I write, as a matter of psychology, I can think from the perspective of a nihilist, and through the themes of the story, portray something negative about the person. I'm not sure if I could actually portray a nihilist in a positive light. Even if I wanted to, I don't think I could. It's not just what you portray, but how. 

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36 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Can you give an example of where this was ever done? I would bet that if you did come up with an example, it would be some example where the artist is trying to portray the thing they reject for the reasons they reject it. When I write, as a matter of psychology, I can think from the perspective of a nihilist, and through the themes of the story, portray something negative about the person. I'm not sure if I could actually portray a nihilist in a positive light. Even if I wanted to, I don't think I could. It's not just what you portray, but how. 

I'm not well-versed enough in art to provide you with a specific example of this, but I won't weasel out from the valid point you're making here. In fact, I've thought of it myself, although perhaps not as explicitly as you put it in the very last sentence of your post. You could certainly imagine an artist portraying evil according to their own metaphysical value-judgments (as Rand did in her novels with characters like Ellsworth Toohey or James Taggart) without saying that this is what man should aspire to be.

I suppose one would just hope that the artist clarifies their intentions, so that there isn't any confusion among those who consume their art.

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16 hours ago, RationalEgoist said:

I suppose one would just hope that the artist clarifies their intentions, so that there isn't any confusion among those who consume their art.

I agree with you. One point of clarification, I think Rand would say that there is an objective meaning to the art that people create, regardless of their intention. It's like saying an artist cannot avoid portraying their metaphysical value judgments, even if they intend not to. 

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