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Music and objectivity

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I think there is a semantic problem with this whole discussion. The word "judge" is I think an improper word in determining objective reality.

Judge - To form an opinion or estimation of after careful consideration: judge heights; judging character.

Source:The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Opinions, in my mind, fall squarely into the realm of the subjective. When an opinion crosses over into the world of something that can be factually proven (or measured), then it is no longer an opinion.

Am I way off on this?

VES

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Opinions, in my mind, fall squarely into the realm of the subjective. When an opinion crosses over into the world of something that can be factually proven (or measured), then it is no longer an opinion.

Am I way off on this?

An opinion is the statement of an evaluative judgement. "The Dodgers are a great baseball team." "Bush is the only decent candidate running." "That's a darn pretty dress." etc. Whether an opinion is subjective depends on how the person making the statement judges and evaluates.

Some people have arbitrary opinions based on nothing more than how they feel or the first thing that pops into their heads. Those people's opinions are subjective.

Objectivists like me have loads and loads of opinions -- Don't get me started! -- and I can justify every single one of them by pointing to the facts and reasoning that led to my evaluation. Try me! My opinions are objective.

When it comes to judging and evaluting, Ayn Rand advocated always doing it in accordance with the facts, she always did so herself, and Objectvism provides a great deal of guidance showing how anyone can do it too.

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Okay, I can understand and agree that opinions can be based on objective data, but the opinions themselves cannot be validated as fact, or reality. I resort to definitions again:

Opinion: A belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

If I understand the concept that A=A, and I know someone will tell me if I'm wrong ;), the piece of music cannot be both great, and not great, in reality, or in a factual sense.

VES

PS: I appreciate any patience given as I stimulate my logic centers of the brain. I'm sure many of you have had much more of a workout than I have had in while. ;)

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Okay, I can understand and agree that opinions can be based on objective data, but the opinions themselves cannot be validated as fact, or reality.  I resort to definitions again:

I am not using that definition, since it involves a self-contradiction. You can't have real confidence in a conclusion "not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof."

Instead, I began my discussion, as Ayn Rand recommended, by defining my term. To repeat, when I say "opinion" I mean "the statement of an evaluative judgement." It demarcates the area of reality I am discussing and is in the proper form of a definition: genus (statement) and differentia (of an evaluative judgement).

I know this is new to you, but Objectivists are sticklers for proper definitions. When you're ready for a really tough (but incredibly enlightening) read, get into Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. After you read the chapter on definitions, you'll have a better understanding of what I just wrote.

If I understand the concept that A=A,
Actually, it is A IS A. It's identity, not equality. Betsy is living in California, but living in California is not the same thing as Betsy.

and I know someone will tell me if I'm wrong :pimp:, the piece of music cannot be both great, and not great, in reality, or in a factual sense.

"Great" is an objective evaluation and evaluations are different from identifications. I can see and identify the letters on my keyboard. I can also evaluate -- i.e., measure the properties of -- my keyboard in various ways after I identify those properties.

I can measure the length of my keyboard by comparing it to a standard measure of length like feet or inches. I can measure the weight by reference to a standard unit of weight such as a pound or ounce. Etc. All evaluations involve comparing the thing being evaluated to a standard. Observe as you read Atlas Shrugged that you will encounter the words, "Good? By what standard?" many times.

Ayn Rand has done an excellent job defining the standards for evaluating literature (See The Romantic Manifesto) and others have done so for the visual arts. Although we all know that some music is better than other music, we can't yet evaluate it by reference to anything other than our own preferences. That's because objective standards for music haven't been defined yet.

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Instead, I began my discussion, as Ayn Rand recommended, by defining my term. To repeat, when I say "opinion" I mean "the statement of an evaluative judgement." It demarcates the area of reality I am discussing and is in the proper form of a definition: genus (statement) and differentia (of an evaluative judgement).

In order for two or more people to communicate effectively, they have to operate under the same definitions. Am I understanding that Objectivists lack a common source of reference for defining words? Is it necessary to define one's terminology throughout any discourse to such that we communicate on the "same sheet of music"? ... pun intended. :pimp: It would seem to me that communication becomes much more difficult (or at least much more lengthy) without having a common reference.

Yes, eventually I will read more of her works, including Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. And thanks for clarifying A is A for me.

VES

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A person's philosophical views don't shape their artistic taste in as simple as sense as "Objectivists like triumphant music whereas socialists like depressing music."
No, but a persons VALUES do... assuming they are judging Objectively.

Wagner was an anti-semite nationalist-collectivist, but he wrote some of the most heroic, majestic music ever. Liszt was extremely religious, but his music is powerful and uplifting (les preludes anyone?).

There are two possible explanations for this (and your socialist aquantinces)....

1.) These two composers--among others--had certian political/philosophic views and different values. Rand suggests such a situation with regards to Victor Hugo, if I recall...

2.) Either you or they (or both) are not judging objectively. This is very likely since, as mentioned earlier, there has yet to be an objective criteria for judging music.

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I did? I don’t remember that, but I do remember that Ayn Rand covered the evaluation of music in _The Romantic Manifesto_, though I forget what she said exactly.

My “opinion” is that music should be evaluated on both objective and subjective criteria. There are objective criteria like melody, tone, and subject matter and subjective criteria like the particular artist or genre that are hard or impossible to provide objective criteria for. Note that “subjective” does not mean arbitrary – there is a particular kind of music that I like based on my personal tastes. It is subjective because it is determined by my particular nature, rather than something common to all men.

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In order for two or more people to communicate effectively, they have to operate under the same definitions.  [...]  Is it necessary to define one's terminology throughout any discourse to such that we communicate on the "same sheet of music"?  ... pun intended. :)  It would seem to me that communication becomes much more difficult (or at least much more lengthy) without having a common reference.

I agree 100%.

Am I understanding that Objectivists lack a common source of reference for defining words?

Ultimately, the source of reference for definitions is reality which is common to us all, but when it comes to forming concepts and word usage, there are often options. Just to make it clear to yourself and others which things you mean when you use a word, you should be able to define it.

Whether you actually do explicitly, depends on the context. Most times, you can assume that people who speak English know what you're talking about. When I am discussing Objectivism with non-Objectivists, I often have to define key terms whose usage in Objectivism differs from the common usage. (For the "Objectivist usage" there are references such as the Binswanger's Lexicon or the Glossary of Objectivist Definitions http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com/store/pro...p?number=CK58E)

When it becomes apparent that I am using a term differently than someone I am trying to communicate with -- such as our recent issue over the word "opinion" -- I need to make my definition explicit.

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GC, you said bad spelling was fair game; I hope grammatical corrections are not off limits.

Also, this might have gotten obscured, but objective criteria for judging music have yet to be known; they exist, but nobody to my knowledge has discovered them yet. I'm sure RH meant to say that, so I lumped that in with the singular/plural corrections.

I just checked M-W; it says "The plural criteria has been used as a singular for half a century." Apparently it's not the best but it is accepted, so I take back the phrase "grammatical correction". My comment, then, is a "style suggestion" and need not by any means be heeded.

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When it becomes apparent that I am using a term differently than someone I am trying to communicate with -- such as our recent issue over the word "opinion" -- I need to make my definition explicit.

Thanks for clarifying Betsy. It does take quite a different way of looking at things when one has engaged in debating for so long, and now has to reconsider each word to insure that it's definition makes sense. :)

VES

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I'm sure RH meant to say that, so I lumped that in with the singular/plural corrections.
Yes, feldblum... I thought that had been clear in previous postings or I would have worded my statement more carefully.

Thanks for the correction.

There are objective criteria like melody, tone, and subject matter and subjective criteria like the particular artist or genre that are hard or impossible to provide objective criteria for.

Why do we need to judge music based on artist or genre? What may we pick up from these that we may not pick up from our objective criteria?

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Slightly off topic, but at the beginning of part IV of the Fountainhead, Roark encounters a young musician, who in his inner monologue mentions two pieces that to him express joy in life. I believe one is Rachmaninoff, but I don't have a copy of the book on me. Could anyone check and let me know what the two pieces are? I'm tempted to say the other one is Tchaikovsky... Also, if anyone who can think of other classical pieces mentioned by Rand herself, I'd be curious to know. Thanks a lot.

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Slightly off topic, but at the beginning of part IV of the Fountainhead, Roark encounters a young musician, who in his inner monologue mentions two pieces that to him express joy in life. I believe one is Rachmaninoff, but I don't have a copy of the book on me. Could anyone check and let me know what the two pieces are? I'm tempted to say the other one is Tchaikovsky... Also, if anyone who can think of other classical pieces mentioned by Rand herself, I'd be curious to know. Thanks a lot.

"...the first phrases of Tchaikovsky's First Concerto - or the last movement of Rachmaninoff's Second..."

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Am I understanding that Objectivists lack a common source of reference for defining words?  Is it necessary to define one's terminology throughout any discourse to such that we communicate on the "same sheet of music"?  ... pun intended. :D  It would seem to me that communication becomes much more difficult (or at least much more lengthy) without having a common reference.

If you haven't figured it out yet, the common source of reference objectivists use for defining terms is any and all of Ayn Rand's works. I strongly suggest you get on with reading them as I experienced the same lengthy discourse as a result of my lack of exposure to Rand.

Funnily enough, that's probably why it's such a headache (For both parties) when an objectivist discusses an issue with a non-objectivist as the non-objectivist has made the careless mistake of assuming that dictionary definitions apply to whatever they may be debating.

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As for the original question,

I'm going to agree with some, disagree with others and say that no piece of music can objectively be critiqued as good or bad. While objective criteria exist that may have logical progression towards either conclusion, good or bad, the conclusion itself would always be subjective.

Saying that Bach produced more meaningful works than Britney may be socially accepted by pretty much everybody, save preteen girls, god bless em, but it is nevertheless a subjective judgement of the two based on value systems. Context is also a matter of concern for such a sweeping statement, but for all intents and purposes, it seems that we can ignore that.

One thing that I am confused by. How does anyone (feldblum) know that objective criteria exist for judging music when they haven't been discovered. Seems like a non-objectivist ideal to me, more to the side of mysticism.

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How does anyone (feldblum) know that objective criteria exist for judging music when they haven't been discovered.
Because the music itself exists, it must exist as something--i.e. it follows the law of identity. The objective criteria we speak of is the way of identifying the identity of a peice of music, outside of what our own interpretations add to it.

Using this (unknown, as yet) criteria, we may identify what the music is, not if it is good or bad, just what it is. Then, using our values, we decide whether it is good.

Saying that Bach produced more meaningful works than Britney may be socially accepted by pretty much everybody.

It may be objectivly proven that Bach produced more meaningful works than Britney (assuming he did), when our objective criteria is identified. It may not be objectively said that "more meaningful" = "better." That is a value judgment.

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Because the music itself exists, it must exist as something--i.e. it follows the law of identity.  The objective criteria we speak of is the way of identifying the identity of a peice of music, outside of what our own interpretations add to it.

Must it exist as anything other than simply "music" though (Whatever that can be defined as)? If so, what then.

Most things that exist currently have an identity that can be objectively decided, but to say that anything currently lacking that identity (as a result of missing objective criteria) must also have some ability to be objectively judged is naive. Obviously I can't prove the negative (that this objectivity does not exist), but I feel I'm still lacking any proof that it does.

What about other things that currently exist primarily on a subjective level? Can you say that something like love will eventually be broken down into objective properties simply because it exists and therefore has identity?

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Must it exist as anything other than simply "music" though (Whatever that can be defined as)? If so, what then.
Of course it must. Otherwise, we would simply hear all music as the same. There are qualities which seperate one peice from another. We know those qualities to be identifiable because we routinely identify them--on some level or another--when comparing two peices.

Most things that exist currently have an identity that can be objectively decided, but to say that anything currently lacking that identity (as a result of missing objective criteria) must also have some ability to be objectively judged is naive.

All things which exist have an identity. The only question is whether or not we have identified that identity, not whether it exists. Nothing "currently lacks identity," and thus your point is invalid.

As for your question about emotions, you should look around the forum for discussions about that, and, if you can't find an answer to your question, ask it again in one of those discussions. Short answer: yes.

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