Wednesday, December 06, 2006

ARCHN Quote of the Week

"If we define philistinism as the incapacity or unwillingness to appreciate and admire great art, then there can be little doubt Ayn Rand was a philistine...Rand only cared for art in the abstract sense. Concrete instances of art she usually disliked. In this sense, she was like those humanitarians who love mankind in the abstract yet never fail to mistreat and oppress actual individuals." - Greg Nyquist, ARCHN, p333

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Notice how Rand's strikers in Atlas Shrugged abandon the nation's museums, symphonies halls and libraries to the looters and the flames, just so they can spite their socialistic neighbors.

Anonymous said...

It was her views on art that led me to examine Rand more critically and eventually reject her philosophy. I can't remember which essay in which book, but she referred to the "irrational" music of the Beatniks, by which she meant Jazz, and more specifically, Bebop. At the time I was studying jazz piano and I knew that Bebop was anything but irrational. It soon became clear that she had elevated her personal preferences for Romantic-ish orchestral music to the level of moral absolutes.

She also confused a work with the artist. If the artist is immoral (and by Objectivist standards, who isn't?), then his work is immoral. Therefore the supremely rational music of Mozart was forbidden among her 1950's - 1960's clique because of his socialist, or subjectivist, or mysticist tendencies. Or maybe it was just because he died poor, ergo, he sucks.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>It was her views on art that led me to examine Rand more critically and eventually reject her philosophy

Hi Anon

Your points are on the money. The ultimate condemnation of Rand's aesthetics is its perennial sterility. The Objectivist movement was founded on two novels, which one would think would give it a head start aesthetically. But in half a century since Atlas Shrugged, what art of any significance has it produced? Nada. It influenced some comic book artists; the lame rock band Rush; a couple of minor novelists; a character in Star Trek. Hardly a fertile theory by any standards.

On the other hand, in classic pedantic style, Objectivists have told us what 'proper' art is and isn't ad nauseum; made speeches at conferences on it; written dull essays; and no doubt there are also 5 hour lecture tapes available from the ARI on the subject, so you can purify your premises properly before risking an aesthetic experience.

Yet despite all the blab they somehow never get around to doing any art- or when they do, it ends up embarrassingly derivative of Rand herself. As Popper said of such scholasticism, they spend all their time sharpening their pencils and never writing anything. In fact, like the postmodernists, art itself is merely beside the point. What's important is the theorising. The classic example is Torres and Kamhi's "What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand" which features one of the most butt ugly covers imaginable:

http://www.amazon.com/What-Art-Esthetic-Theory-Rand/dp/0812693736/sr=8-1/qid=1165525506/ref=sr_1_1/104-8626029-1526303?ie=UTF8&s=books

Imagine getting a lecture in aesthetics from the geniuses who approved that trainwreck!

>She also confused a work with the artist. If the artist is immoral (and by Objectivist standards, who isn't?), then his work is immoral

Hence the Objectivist tendency to officially approved art - towards what is basically an appartchik aesthetic - rather than risk moral denunciation.

ObjectiBlog said...

If man's central problem is philosophical and the central philosophical problem (concept formation) was unsolved until the 1960s, then there wouldn't be much value to any art, history, philosophy or whatever prior that time.

I don't know of any Objectivist who would go that far, but there does seem to be a rather cavalier view toward accurate interpretation of philosophers and other figures by Objectivists. Peikoff is a good example of this.

Dragonfly said...

Rand's esthetic ideals were rather close to those of Nazi art, for example Arno Breker's sculptures would be a perfect model for those of Steven Mallory. People in sculptures and on paintings should have perfect bodies and look heroic or ecstatic, colors in a painting should not be "muddy" (wrong psycho-epistomology!), but pure and bright (others might call them garish). Many objectivists slavishly follow her tastes, and are especially fond of paintings with naked women sitting or standing on a rock against the backdrop of a deep blue see and a bright blue sky, preferably with the New York skyline in the background. Well-known examples are of course the paintings by Capuletti, but I've seen similar paintings by other artists as favorites of Objectivists. And is there any Objectivist who does not like Rachmaninoff and Hugo?

gregnyquist said...

Anon said: "She also confused a work with the artist. If the artist is immoral (and by Objectivist standards, who isn't?), then his work is immoral. Therefore the supremely rational music of Mozart was forbidden among her 1950's - 1960's clique because of his socialist, or subjectivist, or mysticist tendencies."

I was not aware that Rand disliked Mozart for those reasons. Her usual reason for disliking great art was that it had a "malevolent sense of life" and, for this reason, projected emotions which no rational, psychologically healthy person would want to experience. Of course this is a very dubious theory on a number of levels. In the first place, most people's musical tastes are formed in adolescence and are based on what their friends like. It has nothing to do with the emotive contents of the music. Secondly, except for extreme cases, music is emotionally ambiguous. Atonal music, gangster rap, punk rock can all seem malevolent, particularly to those of us who don't care for that sort of thing, but I doubt that partisans of these forms of music regard them as malevolent. So when Rand says she regards a work of art malevolent, that's just a roundabout way of saying she doesn't like it and that she doesn't approve of people who don't share her tastes.

Mike Hardesty said...

You might want to read the five page review on Amazon of Greg's work by A Person. It's pretty devastating.
A Person also totally tears a new
one for Scott Ryan's Objectivism
and Corruption of Rationality on Amazon. The main difference is that
Scotty is much more pretentious and
unreadable.
Still can't locate the identity of the character assassin who calls itself randzapper. I'd be ashamed to put my name to that garbage too.

Angry_Beaver said...

What's your philosophical persuasion, then, Mike?

Daniel Barnes said...

MH:
>You might want to read the five page review on Amazon of Greg's work by A Person. It's pretty devastating.

Hardly. 'A Person' made a series of lengthy yet typically inane comments about ARCHN's introduction, then declared that he was not going to bother to read the book!

>Still can't locate the identity of the character assassin who calls itself randzapper. I'd be ashamed to put my name to that garbage too.

That's rich coming from you, given your trolling on this site under a variety of assumed names.

Michael Hardesty said...

randzapper doesn't even use a pseudonym. And I had several people use my computer to respond to your silly stuff. So your wrong
again. And unlike the coward randzapper people had the ability
to respond to me or my friends, something that doesn't exist on the zapper's site. Quite a difference, Barnes.If you read A Person's review you can see he debunked the essence of it from reading the first 31 pages. Why waste more time like I did in reading the rest of the book ?
Far from being "inane" A Person's
comments are quite lucid & devastating as to the premise of
ARCHN.
It's a vanity press operation anyway, they only print up a copy when you order, same as with Ryan's book. Rand didn't have to pay to get published and her works sell in the tens of millions, not in the low tens.
I basically agree with bjectivism, beaver. I have problems with her statist politics though and even more more problems with the genocidal crazies who run ARI, SOLO, RoR, ad nauseum. Peikoff's brilliance in his extensive audio history of western philosophy turns to rank neocon stupidity when he discusses politics.

Daniel Barnes said...

MH:
>And I had several people use my computer to respond to your silly stuff.

Hilarious! I bust you posting random abuse under several assumed names - all of whom were highly complimentary about each others posts too - and this is your feeble excuse.

You were also trolling over under a false name at Rebirth of Reason until they sussed you out too. Tsk tsk. What a timewaster you are.

Daniel Barnes said...

MH:
>Rand didn't have to pay to get published and her works sell in the tens of millions, not in the low tens.

Oh, BTW, there's nothing quite so sad as a Randian resorting to the appoval of the masses for validation...;-)

Michael Hardesty said...

I was only at RoR ONCE in the spring of this year and when they
started censoring & deleting my posts after the resident warriors there lost the debate, I told them to remove my name from their list.
They have routinely censored other people I've known and many I haven't. So again your "facts" are
wrong, no surprise.
I only posted here again under my name. I invited several people to respond to you and they did with gusto. You never "busted" me, I
frankly got tired of your tedious,
boring rants.
Finally, I never craved approval from anyone but merely commented
on the salient fact that Rand's great works do sell in the tens of millions and she does not have to pay to get published, she gets paid.
Unlike some other folks we know.

Daniel Barnes said...

MH:
>I invited several people to respond to you and they did with gusto....

Yes, several "people", all using your computer. Unfortunately those people are all in your mind. Anyway, looks like Randzapper has all anyone need to know about this fellow:

"...Hardesty likes to barge in on newsgroups and other semi-civilized forums spouting his trademark brand of barely literate lunacy..."

http://randzapper.blogspot.com/2006/11/denial-aint-just-river-in-auschwitz.html

And don't we know it. See ya, MH.

Michael Hardesty said...

I'm part of a writing team, moron.
When I write from here at work, there are lots of like minded people around. It's a collective computer, doesn't belong to any one person.
And don't we know that you are the little coward behind "randzapper"
Danny boy !
Frankly I won't be seeing you, after reading A Person I realize I
never have to take you & the Nyquist-Ryan axis seriously.

Daniel Barnes said...

No, I know nothing about the Randzapper. He sure knows you tho...;-)

Anonymous said...

Jumpin' Jesus on a Pogo-Cross! I thought the topic was Ayn Rand's aesthetics? Restraint people! Focus! Ad hominem attacks only prove that you're not serious about discussing the issue at hand.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>Ad hominem attacks only prove that you're not serious about discussing the issue at hand.

Hi Anon,

This thread is the exception rather than the rule. Michael Hardesty has been a troll on this site, and many others, posting under multiple sockpuppets and generally just being an abusive nuisance. He's got quite a rep out there and has now shown up again like the proverbial bad penny. I've published his comments to date on this thread just to bend over backwards, as of course he will cry censorship (he always does). But henceforth he will be moderated until the unlikely event he says something worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Rand (quoted by Nyquist): ... he [Shakespeare] was a detached Olympian who takes no sides. When we were taught in classes that Shakespeare holds a mirror up to human nature, that set me even more against him ... I have no admiration for any of his characters. Caesar and Mark Antony are stock, cardboard characters, they are official bromides, they are what you are historically supposed to admire, but they are no alive; there is nothing individual about them. I refuse to believe that Lear and Macbeth represent what man really is.

Me: Where to begin? Where to begin? First of all, if Shakespeare is a "detached Olympian who takes no sides," how are we then "supposed to admire" certain characters? So we have a logical contradiction. Either Shakespeare takes sides, in which case whom we are supposed to admire should be plain, or he takes no sides, in which case we admire those characters who appeal to us for whatever reason.

As for "Tragedy of Julius Caesar" ... it's not at all clear that we're supposed to admire Caesar. In the speech just before his murder in Act III, Scene 1, starting at roughly line 42 going right up to his death, Caesar basically confirms all of Cassius' complaint and Brutus' concerns about his lust for power. Furthermore, he dies at that base of a statue of Pompey, the Roman general and hero who was Caesar's rival and whom Caesar killed, suggesting that Caesar's assassination was justified.

As for Mark Antony - he sucks up to Caesar in Act I, Scene 2, sucks up to the assassins in Act III, Scenes 2 and 3, promises them his obediance, vows just the opposite over Caesar's corpse, and then breaks his promises once he sees that he has won the mob, proving himself to be a sycophant and a demagogue. Once he has secured his position in the new triumvirate, he goes about ordering the execution of all his political rivals, not just those involved in Caesar's death. Not exactly admirable. Not exactly a "cardboard cutout" either, as his words over Caesar's corpse in Act III show that he genuinely loved the man, just as his words over Brutus' corpse at the play's end show that he respected the assassin.

As for "The Tragedy of King Lear" and "Macbeth" - those plays are called tragedies, and the character's called tragic heroes, for a reason. They start out as noble, good men, but due so character flaws and personal weaknesses, they lose everyone they hold dear, and in the end, lose their own lives. We're not supposed to admire them; we're supposed to pity them and learn from their errors, and through the purgative experience of catharsis, we are then supposed to be emotionally and intellectual uplifted.

You'd think one who claimed such admiratoin for Aristotle would understand the nature of tragedy, tragic heroism, and catharsis.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>Me: Where to begin?

Hi Anon

Your criticism is excellent. As I recall, as per usual Rand is notoriously short on specifics in her aesthetic opinions (exceptions are her writings on Thomas Wolfe and Mickey Spillane). One can't help but wonder whether she really is attacking what Shakespeare wrote, or merely what she vaguely recalls her tutors said about him. After all, she happily 'reviewed' John Rawls without reading the book. And Nathaniel Branden claimed she never actually read Kant, which explains the near-zero amount of verbatim Kantian quotations in her oeuvre. So it would not at all suprise me.

Neil Parille said...

Rand says in her recently published Question & Answer that her two favorite poets are Blok and Swinburne, even though she strongly disagrees with their "sense of life."

I think her analysis of literature and music is a bit more sophisticated than some give her credit for. Her Q&A provides evidence of this.

Daniel Barnes said...

Neil:
>I think her analysis of literature and music is a bit more sophisticated than some give her credit for.

Well, I actually enjoyed her deflation of the gaseous Thomas Wolfe, and her insouciant promotion of Mickey Spillane to literary respectability. That sort of thing is the side of Rand that appeals to me actually - goosing received opinion with her particular brand of pincers. It reminds me of Kingsley Amis' defence of Ian Fleming or of clever Sunday columnists like Julie Burchill. It's very modern; almost Pop. I think Rand's most successful mode is the freewheeling short polemic, that splash of ice water in the face that shocks you but freshens you up at the same time. Reviewing a review of Rawls was a similar stroke of Wildean chutzpah.

But ultimately it's short-run flash, that seems much less bright once your eyes get used to it. When she attempts to tackle bigger subjects, like Shakespeare or Tolstoy it becomes obvious her critical tools (essentially her categories of subjectivist vs intrinsicist) are just too hopelessly crude to deal with significant artists. (It's no suprise that the art form that seems to get discussed most on Randian fora is comic books) The original spark that lit up Spillane fades, and it just becomes the recitation of standard Objectivist anathema. (She quite has a nerve calling Shakespeare's characters "cardboard" or "offical bromides"!).

Do you have any particular pieces in mind, Neil? I haven't read her Q&A.

Dragonfly said...

Neil: "I think her analysis of literature and music is a bit more sophisticated than some give her credit for. Her Q&A provides evidence of this."

Sorry, but someone who maintained that Beethoven had a malevolent sense of life and that Mozart was "pre-music", and who apparently thought that Rachmaninoff was the greatest composer ever, is not someone I can take seriously in matters of music.

Neil Parille said...

Daniel,

Literature and art isn't my strong suit, but I was simply trying to point out that Rand was able to appreciate art even if it advocated values she considered immoral (such as Swinburne and Blok). In her Q&A there is 2 page discussion of playwright Terence Rattigan which strikes me as interesting, although I haven't read Rattigan.

And with respect to Rawls, I believe she made it clear that her essay was a "review of review" and not a review of Rawls' book. OK, she should have read the book, but she was focusing on its cultural relevance, which she though could be divined from the review.

gregnyquist said...

Neill: "I think her analysis of literature and music is a bit more sophisticated than some give her credit for. Her Q&A provides evidence of this."

I don't really think that lack of sophistication is the main problem with Rand's aesthetics. The real question is whether someone whose aesthetic tastes are so narrow as Rand's has anything to offer on the subject, particularly when those narrow tastes are rationalized as "objective" and "benevolent."

Neil: "Rand says in her recently published Question & Answer that her two favorite poets are Blok and Swinburne, even though she strongly disagrees with their 'sense of life.' "

I regard this as further evidence that Rand's aesthetics is a little more than an exercise in clever rationalization, because she doesn't apply her theory consistently. She would disapprove of people who liked Beethoven, Wagner, Richard Strauss because those composers are, allegedly "malevolent," in their sense of life, but Swinburne, Blok, Vermeer and even Spillane, though they also (allegedly) have a malevolent sense of life, are not a problem. Again, we're right back to the issue of Rand identifying her own personal tastes with being objectively right, and everyone else's, to the extent that they differed from Rand's, as objectively wrong. When people rationalize, they often put forth very weak arguments and, for that reason, don't really have anything of value to say on the subject.

Daniel Barnes said...

Neil:
>In her Q&A there is 2 page discussion of playwright Terence Rattigan which strikes me as interesting, although I haven't read Rattigan.

Thanks, Neil, I'll take a look. As I say, I actually like iconoclastic flair with which she endorsed Spillane over Thomas Wolfe. Reminds me of movie critic Pauline Kael's fearlessness in puncturing received opinion. Would that Rand's followers had that originality of mind!

>And with respect to Rawls, I believe she made it clear that her essay was a "review of review"

Yes, as above, I actually quite liked her chutzpah there...;-)

Red Grant said...

____________________________

Rand's esthetic ideals were rather close to those of Nazi art, .... - dragonfly
____________________________


...and what about Socialist Realism?


____________________________

People in sculptures and on paintings should have perfect bodies and look heroic and ecstatic, colors in a painting should not be "muddy" (wrong psychoepistomology!) - dragonfly
____________________________


Indeed, and I kinda dig it.

In fact, what's wrong with that?

Aren't Arts supposed to inspire men to be as best as they can be?


____________________________

,but pure and bright (others might call them garish) - dragonfly
____________________________


Kinda like technicolor from 40's?

I kinda dig that, too.


Here's an example of painting with (what I think is a "Randian theme").

Riangina's "Ever higher and higher" (1934), one of the finest example of Stalinist Socialist Realism.


http://www.recherches-slaves.paris4.Sorbonne.fr/Cahier8/Pichon_Bonin.htm