[ExI] Rand's esthetics

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Thu Jul 16 14:14:22 UTC 2009

--- On Wed, 7/15/09, natasha at natasha.cc <natasha at natasha.cc> wrote:
> Dan, I'll make this short because I'm preparing to leave town.

No big deal. This discussion can wait and have a good trip. I'll make a few comments here.
> Artistic projects are re-creations of real-time, synthetic
> reality, and concept-experiences (mental processes). Artists
> apply their unique sense of life and fundamental values into
> their works.
> [This is not my personal view, but the accessed knowledge
> of experts in the field of art and sciences, art theory and
> aesthetics.]

I'm not sure about all the features of this definition, but it's not objectionable to me as a whole. The thing that I'm not sure about is what would a re-creation of non-real-time, synthetic reality be like and why would that not be art? This is a minor quibble, but it sounds like there's too much verbiage in there.
> Rand agrees with this and made "metaphysical
> value-judgment" her well-known phrase.
> [This is common knowledge of objectivists, Randians and
> others who have read Rand.]

For the benefit of those not familiar with her definition, according to her, art is "the selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments." (The Romantic Manifesto, p19) And I agree that this doesn't clash to much with the above view.
> Nonetheless, because her own metaphysical value-judgment
> conflicted with contemporary art, she was at a loss in
> understanding the era because she could not *experience*
> it.  And, since she could not *experience* it, her view
> of aesthetics is incomplete and lacks a full understanding
> "art".

I'm not so sure, but I'd say it was probably also her psychology too that influenced what she dismissed here.

> [This has been expressed by those close to her, including
> Nathanial Brandon, and by critics of her dislike of
> contemporary art. (No references included because they are
> too many to list and I do not have the time.  Just
> Google it.)]
> Since systems thinking is inclusive of all areas, Rand is
> not the most appropriate thinker to draw from.

I disagree. One can separate her core views -- such as the definition above or her other views on art -- while rejecting a lot of the specifics. This is no different that something Roderick Long recently pointed out on another list:

"If we were to reject Rand's aesthetics just because of the cranky or goofball things she said in _The Romantic Manifesto_, we'd likewise have to reject all those 18th-century aestheticians like Hutcheson, Smith, Burke, and Kant, who, in the course of developing some really ground-breaking ideas that are still central in philosophy of art today, also tossed off such nonsense as that the Alps are ugly and that Voltaire is a better dramatist than Shakespeare.  More broadly, most good philosophers have said loads and loads of stupid things, not just in aesthetics but generally.  If we judged Kant solely by what he said about blacks, or Nietzsche solely by what he said about women, or Berkeley solely by what he said about tar-water, or Wittgenstein solely by what he said about Stalin, we'd have to dump the lot.  One needs to sift carefully.

"In the past few years there's been a lot of interesting work on Rand's theory of art published in the _Journal of Ayn Rand Studies_; I'd urge critics to read through some of it before dismissing her contributions as worthless."
> [This above-sentence is my personal view based on 40 years
> in the wide field of the arts and sciences and 15 years
> immersed in the academic study of art practice and art
> theory.]
> That's all Dan.

All for now, but not the last word in this discussion -- I hope!




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