[ExI] Rand's esthetics/was Re: Art and myth as systems thinking of a sort

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Wed Jul 15 19:45:30 UTC 2009

--- On Wed, 7/15/09, Natasha Vita-More <natasha at natasha.cc> wrote:
> See below please: 
> Nlogo1.tif Natasha Vita-More
> --- On Wed, 7/15/09, Natasha Vita-More <natasha at natasha.cc>
> wrote:
> > I am not sure when this thread started,
>> Rand is a weak example of scholarly, knowledgeable
>> thinking about art 
>> or the arts.
>> Her rigid interpretation concerning art holds little
>> value, if any at all, in the arts and humanities.
> "That's, of course, a conclusion that would have to be
> proved."
> The fact that she is seldom mentioned within artistic
> discourse is worth
> noting, and that her ideas about art is seldom referenced
> in writings on the arts.

But this proves what? She or her views are unknown, ignored, or unpopular among the places you're looking. Of course, you might say these places are frequented by established experts on this, but this means what? Only that these people either are ignorant of her esthetics, don't find her work in this are of merit, or don't like her. (Remember, too, she is usually rejected by many people who are only exposed to her novels or, worse, to reviews of her novels. I can just imagine the intellectual here who rejects Rand as a hack novelists not even bothering to read any of her other work -- maybe not even knowing that she wrote on esthetics.)

>> Her arguments are weak, at best, and are used to
>> support her philosophical views.
> "Another conclusion that would have to be proved. I will
> say, though, that
> Rand at times appears aware of certain problems and then
> sloppily ignores
> them. Of course, one problem is that she didn't really do a
> book length
> treatment of the subject. Her _The Romantic Manifesto_ is a
> collection of
> essays, some of which treat esthetics on an abstract level,
> but others that
> are more culture criticism and other more focused or timely
> issues, and a
> short story. This is not to escuse her sloppiness or
> inconsistencies here,
> but merely to put them in context -- especially in case
> anyone reads the
> book with the intent to merely find flaws.*"
> I think proving this is easy enough - all it takes is
> looking through
> artistic journals, arts exhibitions, art discourse, art
> critical theory, aesthetic theory, etc.

Again, this is a weak argument. It only shows that she's either unknown or unpopular in these venues.

> Rand was a big-wig in her own
> domain, but she was
> not influential in arts discourse.

And what was this domain? I mean you admit to liking her novels, but you've already seen here (and I know many other places) where people trounce her novels and would likely think of her, at best, as merely a bestselling author, but, otherwise, as a hack and definitely not a "big-wig." If you mean politics or philosophy, you can find her cited from time to time in these areas, but it's an event when she is and not at all typical -- except maybe among libertarians and even there often rarely and sometimes even dismissively.
>> I may not agree with Foucault,
>> Danto, Lyotard, Dickie or Sontag, but they are far
>> better examples of 
>> deep investigations on abstraction, systems, and art.
> "In some of these cases, not to apologize for Rand's
> mistakes or other
> problems here, these thinkers were far more focused on
> esthetics or art,
> whereas, for Rand, it appears that esthetics is merely a
> piece of the
> puzzle. (Granted, this plays into your criticism that she's
> merely using her
> esthetic theory "to support her [broader] philosophical
> views.")"
> Sure, but Rand is not a recognizable voice in the arts.

Do you have anything else to offer -- save for her unpopularity or being relatively unknown? Is this your only or final test of an ideas validity: the number of people who accept it -- even these are people you respect?

>> This not meant to trash, as you say, Rand.  I value
>> her fiction as 
>> being superb.  Yet, this does not excuse her
>> inability to understand 
>> art and the role of the artist.
> "My wonder here is whether she really fails to understand
> these -- or if you merely disagree with her view on both."
> She fails to understand.  

Care to give an example of this?
>> Just read the Romantic Manifesto!
>> Yee gads!  I mean,
>> who cannot understand modern art as it is situated
>> historically.
> "I'm not sure exactly what you mean, but I think there are
> two major
> comments one can make here. One is that her basic theory of
> esthetics could
> be excised from her other views on art. In other words, one
> could look at
> her core view of art, of sense of life, and such and then
> apply this to
> Modern Art, etc. to see if one would arrive at the same
> conclusions as her.
> You might disagree with her core views here, but I hope
> you're willing to
> entertain that she might not be applying her theory
> correctly in all cases."
> She fails to understand.

Care to give an example of this?

> "The other comment is it does seem to me that she was
> trying to situated
> Modern Art historically and culturally. A lot of her
> criticism of it is
> dedicate to just such, though you might disagree with this.
> And, heck, she
> might be wrong here, but it's not that she was thinking,
> "Modern Art can't
> possibly be placed. It just plopped down from the sky and
> we have to deal
> with it -- specifically by trashing it and anyone who likes
> it.""
> She fails to understand.

Care to give an example of this?
> "(As a side comment, I imagine people who sternly disagree
> with Rand might
> think of this as an example of systems thinking gone amok:
> she has here
> fundamental views of "life, the universe, and everything"
> and systematically
> applies them to art, politics, history, etc. without regard
> to anything but
> preserving her fundamental views. I don't completely agree
> or completely
> disagree with this. The bane of the systems builder is, of
> course, coming up
> with a grand system that shoehorns all reality into the
> system a la
> Procustes. And I do think she does this on occasion.)"
> Yes, true.  But she applies them to life, the
> universe, and everything from
> HER PERSPECTIVE and that is her failure. She cannot see
> outside her narrow-focus, no matter how dense it is.

This sounds to me curiously like "I don't agree with her perspective, therefore her problem is her perspective. Why can't she see things my way, dammit?!" :)

Seriously, though, I think everyone is limited with how far they can see. I don't think Rand is a special case here and I find nothing wrong with someone presenting his or her perspective. It's even better if the perspective appears to be valid or true -- in the sense of cohering or corresponding with reality. Of course, it's better when that perspective is otherwise interesting or useful -- but these are, admittedly relatively and somewhat subjective criteria.

But I'm not sure you'd argue against this. Again, I feel as if you just don't agree with her and the perspective angle is merely a way of rationalizing this disagreement. Naturally, I could be wrong here. After all, if her perspective is really off then her inability to see other perspectives might be a clue to why it's off. But that point -- that she "see outside her narrow-focus" -- remains as well to be proved. I think that's not exactly true -- not from reading her works, including her works on esthetics. That said, I admit she's not as widely read or as cognizant of other views as many other thinkers, especially ones who've focused their whole careers on esthetics. This shouldn't need pointing out, but, still, not being up on all the journal articles, theories, and the like is not the same as being dead wrong.

>> Rand tried
>> to concretize the hell out of everything to suit her
>> point of view, 
>> which she does with amazing articulation that few
>> possess.
>> But that does not
>> excuse her trying to put a label, chain and stamp on
>> everything she 
>> could not grok because she simply did not have the
>> wherewithal to do 
>> so. Maybe it was her upbringing.  Maybe it was
>> because she was a woman in a man's world.
>> Who knows. 
> "Well, where she does this I think it's a matter of her
> being a systems
> builder, so it's a general flaw of system building which
> she suffered from.
> But I also feel there was some personal arrogance on her
> part -- some of
> which drove away any intelligent but sympathetic critics.
> And I also think
> that since she was trying to make her system she was just
> bound to make some
> errors, especially as she tried to have a view on
> everything from ontology
> to pornography."
> Listen, you make good points.  I simply do not find
> her all that interesting
> on this level. I find her interesting on other levels, but
> not this one.
> She simply is not the best source in relation to Emlyn's
> question/concerns/interests.

I'm not sure she's the "best source,"* but her ideas on art -- specifically how people experience art -- do seem relevant to the Emlyn's "question/concerns/interests" on systems thinking. I also think Emlyn and other might consider the work of Arthur Koestler and Susanne Langer in regards to art and systems thinking.

Of course, whether anyone is interesting is, to a large extent, dependent on of interest to whom. It might be simply that since she doesn't address issues you find highly important or doesn't address them in a way you think relevant, that you're just not finding anything of interest because of that.



* Is there a "best source" on this? Is there any reason not to consider views far and wide here?


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