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Defining Art

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El Polo
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I have only just begun to read The Romantic Manifesto, but I am still having trouble with the notion of defining art in a concrete manner. I have always thought of art (in all forms) as a very personal thing, so I can't see that it even should be defined like this.

What would you all say to a statement such as this: Rational self expression demands no rationality.

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What would you all say to a statement such as this: Rational self expression demands no rationality.

This is like saying: Pasta salad requires no pasta. Clearly, rational anything requires rationality.

You seem to think that the personal is, by definition, not rational. That, when I look at a painting, or hear a peice of music, I (should) merely feel, not think.

Why do you think this?

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You seem to think that the personal is, by definition, not rational.  That, when I look at a painting, or hear a peice of music, I (should) merely feel, not think.

Ah, sounds very familiar. I knew someone who loved abstract art exactly because it was not a representation reality in any form. I remember her saying, "it's just so free from logic and reality, it's pure emotion." :D She had convinced herself that happiness was only possible outside (the jail of) reality.

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Back to the topic, I agree with Richard Halley, the line "rational self expression demands no rationality" is contradictory. Art is emotional expression, it is a representation of the artists view of reality, but a (for lack of a better word) "mishandling" of emotions will lead you to the problem Richard Halley is hinting at: that to appreciate art, you must feel, not think.

In appreciating art, if one does not think about why one has certain emotional reactions, then one fails to identify their causes (the values one holds). If this escape from "thinking" is done, then it is a reflection of one's (lack of) rationality: that one goes through life never seeking to identify these emotions means that discovery of truth, reality, is never seeked -- only evasion of life.

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  • 1 year later...

Well, the last post has been added almost exactly two years ago, but there is a question on my mind concerning the definition of art.

There are so many issues in man's life which are commonly called "the art of..." and I would like to know if that's really art in the Objectivist sense. What I am talking about is e.g. the art of logic, the art of telling jokes, the art of playing poker...I think you know those sayings from your personal experience.

I ask because I am actually learning to play poker at the moment and now wonder if pokerplaying or more exactly improving my poker skills could correctly be called (learning/achieving) the the art of pokerplaying. If not I would ask what you consider skills like those above or those of a great football player or a gymnist to be.

GP

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  • 1 month later...
There are so many issues in man's life which are commonly called "the art of..." and I would like to know if that's really art in the Objectivist sense. What I am talking about is e.g. the art of logic, the art of telling jokes, the art of playing poker...I think you know those sayings from your personal experience.

This isn't art in the Objectivist usage of the word, which is closer to the traditional "fine art." But the Greeks, or more accurately, the early translators of Greek into English, used the term to mean something closer to "skill." But, specifically, they used it to mean a kind of skill which includes a theoretical knowledge of the causes of the subject matter, rather than simply a skill acquired through mimicry or habit, for example.

Here is an excerpt from Aristotle on "art" in the latter sense, which is what I think you're talking about:

"The animals other than man live by appearances and memories, and have but little of connected experience; but the human race lives also by art and reasonings. Now from memory experience is produced in men; for the several memories of the same thing produce finally the capacity for a single experience. And experience seems pretty much like science and art, but really science and art come to men through experience; for 'experience made art', as Polus says, 'but inexperience luck.' Now art arises when from many notions gained by experience one universal judgement about a class of objects is produced. For to have a judgement that when Callias was ill of this disease this did him good, and similarly in the case of Socrates and in many individual cases, is a matter of experience; but to judge that it has done good to all persons of a certain constitution, marked off in one class, when they were ill of this disease, e.g. to phlegmatic or bilious people when burning with fevers-this is a matter of art.

"With a view to action experience seems in no respect inferior to art, and men of experience succeed even better than those who have theory without experience. (The reason is that experience is knowledge of individuals, art of universals, and actions and productions are all concerned with the individual; for the physician does not cure man, except in an incidental way, but Callias or Socrates or some other called by some such individual name, who happens to be a man. If, then, a man has the theory without the experience, and recognizes the universal but does not know the individual included in this, he will often fail to cure; for it is the individual that is to be cured.) But yet we think that knowledge and understanding belong to art rather than to experience, and we suppose artists to be wiser than men of experience (which implies that Wisdom depends in all cases rather on knowledge); and this because the former know the cause, but the latter do not. For men of experience know that the thing is so, but do not know why, while the others know the 'why' and the cause. Hence we think also that the masterworkers in each craft are more honourable and know in a truer sense and are wiser than the manual workers, because they know the causes of the things that are done (we think the manual workers are like certain lifeless things which act indeed, but act without knowing what they do, as fire burns,-but while the lifeless things perform each of their functions by a natural tendency, the labourers perform them through habit); thus we view them as being wiser not in virtue of being able to act, but of having the theory for themselves and knowing the causes. And in general it is a sign of the man who knows and of the man who does not know, that the former can teach, and therefore we think art more truly knowledge than experience is; for artists can teach, and men of mere experience cannot."

You'll sometimes hear an Objectivist use "art" in this sense, when it's clear from context they're not referring to "a work of art."

Edited by Bold Standard
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This isn't art in the Objectivist usage of the word, which is closer to the traditional "fine art."

Well, Ayn Rand sometimes referred to logic as the "the art of non-contradictory identification". I'd say that there are 2 distinct (but related) meanings of the word 'art', both within Objectivism and common language.

I do think that the English language is poorly equipped here though, the Greek use of "techne/episteme/poiesis" does seem to make finer distinctions than we do.

Edited by Hal
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Well, Ayn Rand sometimes referred to logic as the "the art of non-contradictory identification". I'd say that there are 2 distinct (but related) meanings of the word 'art', both within Objectivism and common language.

Ah, true. Good example.

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  • 1 month later...
Rational self expression demands no rationality.

I don't think this is saying that art is or can be irrational, but rather, if the art is coming from a rational person, then it does not need to be justified any further, because it should already be rational. Similarily, if a rational person constructed a syllogistic argument that was valid and sound, it too would require no further explanation.

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