#114. Tim Scott quotes from and comments on “But is it Art?” (OUP 2001), by Cynthia Freeland

Tim Scott quotes from and comments on “But is it Art?” (OUP 2001), a book by Cynthia Freeland.

“… Rituals of many world religions involve rich colour, design, and pageantry. But ritual theory does not account for the sometimes strange intense activities of modern artists, as when a performance artist uses blood. For participants in a ritual, clarity and agreement of purpose are central; the ritual reinforces the community’s proper relation to God or nature through gestures that everyone knows and understands. But audiences who see and react to a modern artist do not enter in with shared beliefs and values… Most modern art, in the context of theatre, gallery or concert hall, lacks the background reinforcement of pervasive community belief that provides meaning…”      (P.4) 

I am sure many of us have attended these ‘performance’ ‘artworks’ and  the above strikes me as eminently true.     TS

“… It is likely that Hume would not have approved of blasphemy, immorality, sex, or the use of body fluids as appropriate in art. He felt artists should support Enlightenment values of progress and moral improvement. The writings of Hume and his successor Emmanuel Kant (1724-1804) form the basis of modern aesthetic theory…”              (P8)

“… how can you prove that your taste is better than mine? Hume and Kant both struggled with this problem. Both men believed that some works of art ARE better than others, and that some people have better taste…”

“… Hume emphasised education and experience; men of taste acquire certain abilities that lead to agreement about which authors and artworks are the best… Sceptics now criticise the narrowness of this view, saying that Hume’s taste arbiters only acquired their values through cultural indoctrination…”           (P9 – 10)  

My own emphasis would be on the word “experience”, which I perceive as being imperative to the acquisition of “taste”.     TS

“… Kant too spoke about judgements of TASTE but he was more concerned with explaining judgements of BEAUTY. He aimed to show that good judgements in aesthetics are grounded in features of artworks themselves, not just in us and out preferences….”             (P10)

“… And yet there is SOME sort of basis for claiming that the roses are beautiful. After all there is quite a lot of human agreement that roses are beautiful and that cockroaches are ugly. Hume tried to solve this problem by saying that judgements of taste are ‘intersubjective’; people with taste tend to agree with each other. Kant believed that judgements of beauty were universal and grounded in the real world, even though they were not actually ‘objective’. How could this be? A beautiful rose pleases us, but not because we necessarily want to eat it or even pick it for a flower arrangement. Kant’s way of recognizing this was to say that something beautiful has ‘purposiveness without a purpose’…”               (P11)

I love this invented phrase (of course translated from the German) as being fundamental to art.  TS 

“… The rose might have its own purpose (to reproduce new roses), but that is not why it is beautiful. Something about its array of colours and textures prompts my mental faculties to feel that the object is ‘right’. This rightness is what Kant means by saying that beautiful objects are purposive. We label an object ‘beautiful’ because it promises an internal harmony or ‘free play’ of out mental faculties; we call something beautiful when it elicits this pleasure… Though the label is prompted by a subjective awareness of feeling of pleasure, it supposedly has objective application to the world… Kant worried that enjoyment of beauty was distinct from other sorts of pleasure. If a ripe strawberry… has ruby colour, texture and odour that are so delightful that I pop it into my mouth, then the judgement of beauty has been contaminated… To make beautiful art requires human ‘genius’, the special ability to manipulate materials so that they create a harmony of the faculties, causing viewers to respond with distanced… enjoyment…”           (P10, 11, 12, 14)

I suppose the only thing that we must be aware of in reading this is that Kant himself was experiencing vastly different ‘roses’ to the ones we have today.    TS 

“… Bullough, a literary professor at Cambridge, wrote a famous essay in 1912 that described ‘psychical distance’ as a prerequisite for experiencing art. This was a somewhat updated account of Kant’s notion of beauty as the ‘free play of imagination’. Bullough argued that sexual or political subjects tend to block aesthetic consciousness… ”             (P16)   

“… Francisco Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828), a contemporary of both Hume and Kant, was a supporter of modern democratic values… Goya’s art made people confront the dire possibilities of human nature in moments of extreme crisis… (speaking of himself -… As a subject appropriate to his work, he has selected…. those he has deemed most fit to furnish material for ridicule, and at the same time to exercise the author’s imagination…) … Goya’s sketches seem to reject Enlightenment hopes of progress and human improvement and approach moral nihilism… It is impossible to view

these late works of Goya with aesthetic distance…”             (P24)

As we know, Goya WAS a fantastic painter as painter, whatever else he was. Perhaps, had he lived in our age of horrific photographic imagery, he might have moved his work and medium in other directions?    TS 

“… Plato (427-347 BC) discussed art forms like tragedy, along with sculpture, painting, pottery and architecture, not as ‘art’ but as ‘techne’ or skilled craft. He regarded them as all instances of ‘mimesis’ or imitation… Plato criticised all imitations… for failing to depict the eternal ideal realities (Forms or Ideas). Instead they offered mere imitations of things in our world, which themselves were copies of the Ideas… “

“… Aristotle… did not believe there was a separate higher realm of Ideas, as Plato had…)  

“… The classical Greek account of art as imitation was influential in other areas of art theory… Innovations aimed at more perfect semblances. New theories of perspective in the Renaissance and oil painting… enabled artists to achieve an increasingly convincing ‘copy’ of Nature… But many developments… have made the imitation theory of art seem less plausible… ”    (P 31-32-35)

The Greeks themselves ‘modified’ imitation with theories of proportion and ‘golden’ rules. Perhaps all art has always been subject to ‘modification’ from imitative reality by the artist’s imaginative will and personal vision?    TS 

“… At Chartres famous school of theology, classical authors were studied as part of the ‘liberal arts’. Platonic philosophy guided the aesthetic ideals of Chartres’ builders….”            (P37)

“… Medieval philosophers at either Chartres or Paris did not theorise about ‘art’ as such… Aquinas did not defend an account of art as imitation… the medievals followed three key principles for beautiful creations like cathedrals: ‘proportion’, ‘light’, and ‘allegory’….”        (P38)

“… The result of collaboration in Chartres is an overall harmony serving the three primary Gothic aesthetic principles of proportion…”              (P42)

Interesting that as early as the medieval period (as can also be shown in many other non-European traditions of painting and sculpture), ‘imitation’ was not the prime motivator for creativity, in painting and sculpture.     TS 

“… So Danto concludes that a work of art is an object that embodies a meaning:’ Nothing is an artwork without an interpretation that constitutes it as such’… Danto has criticised earlier views of art… ‘Most philosophies of art have been by and large disguised endorsements of the kind of art the philosophers approved of, or disguised criticism of art the philosopher disapproved, or at any rate theories defined against the historically familiar art of the philosopher’s own time’… This makes the narrow and restricted views of earlier philosophers, who defined art in terms of Beauty, Form etc., seem too rigid… ‘  

“… he must suppose that some works communicate better than others. (Saying that something is art is not at all the same as saying that it is GOOD art) …”             (P57-58)      

I, of course, agree with the last sentence.  It seems a fairly obvious assessment to me and I would have thought undermines a lot of what is mentioned above concerning Danto’s remarks.         TS 

“… Can art break down barriers among culture? John Dewey thought… that art is the best possible window into another culture. Insisting that ‘art is a universal language’… He thought this required an immediate encounter, and not studying ‘external facts about geography, religion and history…”

“… Dewey’s belief that ‘the esthetic quality is the same for Greeks, Chinese and Americans’ suggest that he is mystifying our experience of art as direct, wordless appreciation. This smacks of modernist searches for a universal formal quality of ‘Beauty’… He did not define art as Beauty or Form but said instead that it is ‘the expression of the life of the community’.         (P64)

“… Despite gaps between cultures, intercultural contact is age old… Many tourists who visit Chartres cathedral have little knowledge of or respect for the medieval belief system that gave aesthetic unity. If a Zen garden is art, it is probably not for the reasons that Kant would have said that Versailles was art; and you will not be paying the Zen monks a compliment…”  (P63-77) 

“… Richard Anderson… argues that we CAN find something akin to art in all cultures; certain things are appreciated for their beauty, sensuous form, and skill of creation… Anderson proposes to define art as ‘culturally significant meaning, skilfully encoded in an affecting, sensuous medium…”(P77) 

I can only say, I agree, as I am sure that most artists will have a particular love for other cultures / artefacts / art forms etc., than those of their own territories, that the latter position (Anderson’s, who Freeland quotes), seems to be the most eminently intelligent as a ‘theory’ of aesthetic quality.     TS

“…. Artistic taste has also been studied by artists. Komar and Melamid (the Nation magazine)… Their research reveals surprising similarities: a dislike for abstract art and the colour chartreuse; and a preference for blue and for realistic landscapes…”  .(P94-95)

“… Does the public have no real choice between vulgar kitsch and alienating avant-garde work?…

Museums may not be able to stick either to ‘quality’ Old Masters works or to the newer avant-garde esoteric art, if they must cater to audiences…”     (P96)

“… But for now Corbis offers to put the Hermitage and the Louvre on your desktop in the form of screen savers, backgrounds and electronic postcards…”       (P102)

Do WE have no choice but vulgar kitsch and vulgar avant-garde and vulgar everything?!   TS

“… Tolstoy believed an artist’s chief job is to express and communicate emotions to an audience:

‘To evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced and having evoked it in oneself then by means of movements, lines, colours, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit this feeling that others experience the same feeling – this is the activity of art.’… But criticising Tolstoy…, When music or art expresses something, perhaps this has more to do with how it is arranged than with what the artist was feeling on a given day. The expressiveness is in the WORK, not the artist…”          .(P155-156)

“… a key difference between Freud and Tolstoy was that Freud believed art expresses UNCONSCIOUS feelings – ones the artist might not even admit to having… The artist avoids neurosis by elaborating fantasies or day-dreams, providing a general source of pleasure for other people as well… Freud held that sublimation was of great value, in part because it led humans to produce marvelous things like art and science…”             (P157-158)

“…revised or enhanced version of expression theory was developed by… Benedetto Crice (1866-1952), RG Collingwood (1889-1943),Suzanne Langer (1895-1985)… all three endorsed the view that art can express or convey ideas as well as feelings… Collingwood argued that making art comes, in a sense BEFORE having a feeling…..Until a man has expressed his emotion, he does not yet know what emotion it is…..When viewers follow the artist’s efforts,  we recreate the process of self-discovery, so we too become artists…. As Coleridge puts it, ‘we know a man for a poet when he makes us poets’….”            (P160-161)

Sculpture (at any rate) must surely primarily involve CONSCIOUS physical feeling as a fundamental source for expression (though it might include unconscious elements as a by-product of the mind)?    TS

“.. Neuroscientists have used MRIs to study how the brain activities of artists in performing tasks like drawing portraits or abstract designs. New scientific studies explain how visual perspective works in painting, or why we regard certain patterns and colours as beautiful… Freud’s theory of libido becomes less plausible…               (P169)

“… a phenomenon well known in psychological studies, where a subject trained to recognise and respond to a phenomenon will respond even more strongly to an exaggerated version of it. This might explain the success of caricatures, or of art that shows something recognisable with an extreme and shifted shape or color system….        (P173)

That is of interest because ‘exaggeration’ (i.e. distortion, emphasis, inflation, reduction, etc., etc., are commonplace in our work).             

I have extracted only a very small fraction of quotes from this book that I thought might be interesting for Abcrit commentators. It is NOT a resume of what the author herself says.    

Tim Scott

22 comments

  1. ““… Kant too spoke about judgements of TASTE but he was more concerned with explaining judgements of BEAUTY. He aimed to show that good judgements in aesthetics are grounded in features of artworks themselves, not just in us and out preferences….” (P10)

    A judgment of beauty is one expression of taste, not an alternative to it. Kant was interested in delimiting the kind of judgment we make when we judge something to be beautiful (or ugly, or incoherent, or overstated, etc.). He concluded that the specific type of rightness or wrongness involved in taste is not a matter of fidelity to facts, or personal preferences, or of formal logic. It has to do with the nature of the reality that our concepts capture. Differences in taste are arguable but not subject to proof; this doesn’t imply that taste is irrational but indicates the kind of rationality that is involved in expression of taste. If someone will not or cannot see or hear what I see or hear, this doesn’t mean that this someone is wrong but it may end up altering my relationship to that someone.

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  2. Carl – Does Freeland’s sentence
    : “…He aimed to show that good judgements in aesthetrics are grounded in features of artworks themselves…”
    have the same meaning as your sentence:
    “….It has to do with the nature of the reality that our concepts capture….” ?

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    1. Tim, I don’t agree that Kant was interested in the nature of “good judgments” in aesthetic matters. He was interested in the fact that we make aesthetic judgments at all and how we do it. For instance, why do we say that a work of art is “good” or “not good” or “beautiful”, etc., insisting that others agree with us – arguing passionately in support of the judgment – while knowing that we cannot “prove” it and that the very idea of proving it is nonsensical. Why does doing this seem so important? Although Kant doesn’t say it, it’s important in the way that human relationships are important. Your response to this passage referred to “experience”. I agree, and I think that the implication of Kant’s analysis is that there are necessities in our experience that aren’t like strictly logical necessity (implication, inference, etc.) – necessities that don’t involve the overcoming of subjectivity but rather its cultivation, or education, or civilizing. That’s the “reality” that aesthetic concepts seek to capture.

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  3. Carl – You do not agree with Freeland’s comment on Kant’s “intewrests”. You go on to say that his interest was in the “fact that we make aesthetic judgements at all and how we do it”
    Do you, I am curious again to know, agree that “how we do it” is paralleled by Freeland’s “judgements in aesthetics are grounded in features of the arrfworks themselves ” ?

    I have quoted one or two other passages concerning ‘good’ or not (in art and whether proveable or not). Any further comments on these?

    My use of the word ‘”experience” referred to that of works of art themselves (to acquire aesthetic taste). Would you include other forms of general ‘experience’ as also being essential to the acquisition of aesthetic ‘taste’ ?

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  4. Do you, I am curious again to know, agree that “how we do it” is paralleled by Freeland’s “judgements in aesthetics are grounded in features of the arrfworks themselves ” ?

    –Suppose that I find that a particular work of art is beautiful and you find it repulsive. I present various arguments in support of my claim but you insist on yours, not based on perversity but on conviction.

    Since we are not arguing about personaI preferences (e.g., I like sweet wine whereas you prefer dry), is one of us failing to notice something about the object, some feature of the artwork itself? Maybe, maybe not.

    How about saying that judgments in aesthetics are grounded in features of our lives, in what makes me the person I am and you the person you are? (I am pointing to the fact that I don’t care if most people see what I see, but it matters a great deal that SOME people share my aesthetic experience. Those people are part of my life, just as the art work may be part of my life.)

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  5. Carl – I agree with your last propositions as being eminently common sense.
    However, common sense leaves in abeyance (once more) the vexed question of ‘quality’ (Greenberg), i.e. is it ‘good’\, ‘bad’ , ‘indifferent’, ‘trivial’ etc.
    To return for a moment to Freeland quoting Danto, ” nothing is an artwork without an interpretation that constitutes it as such…” I assume that you in ‘finding a particular work of art beautiful or repulsive (by conviction)’), that judgement of that work is ‘interpretation’ (in Danto’s view) , which avoids (once again) the fact of interpretation being subjective and not
    explainable objectively?
    Could it be that the culture of today, with its mass education, mass communication, mass information, rather than enhancing our ability to define “quality” , actually diminishes it through overkill and constantly providing alternative ‘interpretations’ which deny any clear rational explanation ? Are we less able to make ‘judgements’ of ‘taste’ if we “,,,don’t care if most people see what I see, but it (only ?) matters a great deal that SOME people share my aesthetic experience…” ?

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  6. ““… And yet there is SOME sort of basis for claiming that the roses are beautiful. After all there is quite a lot of human agreement that roses are beautiful and that cockroaches are ugly. Hume tried to solve this problem by saying that judgements of taste are ‘intersubjective’; people with taste tend to agree with each other. Kant believed that judgements of beauty were universal and grounded in the real world, even though they were not actually ‘objective’. How could this be?”

    I see someone whose child has died; she is sobbing and grieving her loss.

    People tend to agree with each other that she is sad, although someone may disagree, and the mother may be feigning sorrow to cover up a crime (infanticide). Our judgment that she is sad is grounded in the real world and it is for all practical purposes “universal”, even though it is not actually “objective”. (It is not universal and objective in the way that a proposition of formal logic may be, yet it has its own kind of logic.) Do we find this phenomenon so extraordinary that we ask “how could this be?” (It really IS extraordinary, yet perfectly common and ordinary at the same time.)

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  7. Carl -Your example is extracted from human ’emotion’.(tragedy) not from aesthetic judgement.

    Do we then to assume that aesthetic judgement is only an affair of ’emotion’; and that therefore estimating the aesthetic value of a ‘r’ose’ is the same as that of estimating a human tragedy even though both are grounded in the real world ?

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  8. The following remarks are adapted from notes I was making towards an essay on truth in art.
    I´m posting them here because the themes of truth, quality and objectivity seem to me to be all closely connected. And it also saves me somewhat from having to think this through more rigorously…

    To Tim´s last remark:
    These are the kinds of judgements that we make all the time – not only about emotions and aesthetics but about past events too.

    Specific events in the past are concealed from us by time´s arrow just as the subjective feelings of others are concealed by the impossibility of direct third-person awareness of another’s consciousness.
    Science can sometimes help us to establish their occurrence “beyond reasonable doubt”, but we are dependent on persistent consequences of the event – documents, photos, fingerprints, geological strata etc. to reconstruct a plausible account. Where these are thin or non-existent (“You didn´t tell me you were going to do that”; “It was a blackbird, not a thrush”) we still do not doubt that there is a “truth of the matter”.
    Where it is important to us, such as in a criminal trial, we will almost always rely on the subjective experience of others (memories, eye-witness accounts, identity parades etc.) alongside the forensic science. And our judgement of these cannot have the same objectivity as scientific theory.

    We tend to use scientific theory as the universal paradigm of truth and interpersonality, but scientific theories are timeless generalisations available (at least theoretically) to every person at every moment for testing/confirmation/falsification etc. We are never “cut off” from scientific theories. Their truth conditions involve their efficacy in predicting and manipulating phenomena everywhere, for everyone and at all times. Their acceptance is institutionally systematized through mechanisms such as journal publication and peer review.

    Our aesthetic judgements are much more like our judgements of the feelings of others and, I would add, our judgements about a great many past events. There is nothing to stop them being just as valid as these except maybe for the fact that there is less importance and therefore less “pressure of conformity” to aesthetic judgements. Our judgement of feelings is extremely important to our private lives. Our judgement of past events is extremely important to the functioning of society. Any attack on its norms – “That was the biggest inauguration crowd in history.” – is an attack on the stability of society.

    Art has many dimensions along which its quality may be judged. It may be decorative, demonstrative, illustrative, therapeutic, didactic, impressive, etc. etc. Truth emerges as a factor in an artwork’s quality when it comes to the dimension of expression – “the communication of the soul”. The communication of subjective experience is cut off from any strict, institutional, scientific concept of truth. We only have the tears and agitation of the grieving woman to persuade us of her state of mind. A painting, sculpture, piece of music, dance etc. can be as authentic or manipulative (and therefore as truthful or otherwise) as the tears and agitation, and though they are not states of mind in themselves, they might still serve to communicate something about states of mind in general, just as the tears and agitation communicate something about a state of mind in particular.

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  9. “,,,,because the themes of truth, quality and subjectivity seem to me to be all closely connected….there are all kinds of judgements that we make all the time….not only about emotions and aesthetics but about past events….”

    I do not suggest that aesthetic judgements can be demonstrated to be ‘true’ like a scientific revelation of ‘truth’, which can be proven to be so as a result of factual evidence, (until new facts and new evidence come along). But I understand (correct me if erroneous) that the ‘Kantian’ position is that aesthetic judgements DIFFER from other kinds and occupy a special area of the mind’s reasoning. This, because aesthetic judgements not ONLY involve “taste” (like or dislike); “quality” (good, bad, indifferent etc.) and “purpose” (useful or useless), as well as “….communication of the soul….serving to communicate something about a state of mind in particular….”

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    1. Yes, aesthetic judgements are different from scientific judgements, but so are judgements about the feelings of others (as Carl has pointed out) and so are many of our judgements about past events.
      The starting point for these thoughts was the commonly held (particularly by artists) belief that an artwork can be truthful or otherwise. This obviously isn´t any kind of scientific truth, but I believe firstly that there is nothing wrong with that – that we are often dealing with truth that is not scientific – and secondly that the truth of an artwork is mainly dependent on its expressive dimension and involves the kind of authenticity that we already associate with non-artistic expression.

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    2. Further to that, the kind of authenticity required for an artwork or an expression of emotion to be true is also related to the kind of authenticity we hope for in an eye-witness account that helps us to determine the truth about a past event. The most trustworthy witnesses in a trial are those who are uninvolved, have no axe to grind. Authenticity is a kind of transparency to the world and passivity within it. Its opposite is manipulativeness (if that´s a word).

      Maybe it is the manipulation that we sense in a work of art that seems false, and the lack of it, a kind of transparency, that we sense in a truthful work. Maybe that is why an artist should rightly, in Fry´s words (I don´t have the exact quote to hand), “be trying terribly hard to do something that has no connection to that which they achieve.”

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  10. Richard – Does your “authenticity” also involve thew way an art work is constructed ?

    IF the “….kind of authenticity that we associate with non artistic expression….” i.e. “….the kind of authenticity we hope for in an eye witness account that helps us to determine the truth about a past event….” is essential to an art work’s ‘truth’, doers this mean that REFERENCE to this ‘authenticity’ has to be VISUALLY apparent, (which, of course, in abstract work, it is no) ?

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    1. Tim.
      I’m looking at it like this at the moment: A document (let’s say an entry in a diary) and the expressive content of an artwork both organize, make at least partially communicable and give persistence through time to elements of otherwise ephemeral experience.

      The question of whether authenticity lies in the work or in its making is easier to visualise in the case of the diary.
      On the whole, we don’t need to know anything about the diarist in order to form an opinion about the diary’s authenticity. We’re quick to sense self-aggrandizement, slanderous intent, ideological evangelism etc. etc. – all motivations for distortion of the account.
      On the positive side, we sense authenticity in surprising and enlightening moments that relate directly to our own experience without the mediation of cliche.
      It’s not about the diarist per se. We might tread carefully with the diaries of someone we know to be self-aggrandizing, slanderous and ideologically fanatical, but we can nevertheless imagine recognizing their diaries ultimately as being uncharacteristically enlightening and authentic.

      I think this maybe all boils down to the furthest possible exclusion of a manipulative ego in the making of (including the selection of / release of) the work, resulting in the greatest possible transparency/fidelity to lived experience.

      It comes from the making but it’s in the work. Tony Smart talked about “believability” in recent Brancaster discussions. I think this might be the same sort of thing.

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  11. Tim: “Carl -Your example is extracted from human ’emotion’.(tragedy) not from aesthetic judgement.

    Do we then to assume that aesthetic judgement is only an affair of ’emotion’; and that therefore estimating the aesthetic value of a ‘r’ose’ is the same as that of estimating a human tragedy even though both are grounded in the real world ?”

    After I posted that thing about a mother’s sadness, I had second thoughts that I have not resolved. However, I did not mean to imply that aesthetic judgment is an affair of “emotion”. What I meant (as Richard Ward noticed) is that aesthetic judgments differ from judgments that are considered “objective” and “universal”, just as they differ from expressions of personal preferences (I like sweet wine; you don’t). Per Kant, we “demand” that others agree with our aesthetic judgments even when we know that others will disagree and not (usually) be judged insane or perverse or unqualified. How is this possible?

    When we “like” a painting or a sculpture, it’s not at all like enjoying a glass of wine because we care about it and in ways that are generally associated with other people, not objects. We say that a painting is “eloquent” or “effusive” or “taciturn” or “courageous”, “honest” or not, etc. When we say these things about people, we aren’t making inferences from empirical evidence; we are reading expressions, seeing the person him- or herself at a particular time and place in the world.

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  12. Carl and Richard – We seem to have some accord on the proposition that aesthetic taste (and judgement of its human emotional origins), differ significantly from other forms of human emotional judgement created by the circumstances of ‘life’.
    Even though you say, Carl, that Kant was NOT interested in the NATURE of good judgements, and we also are in accord that there are no objective ‘scientific’ bases for it (even though according to Freeland neuroscientists may well arrive at one); as a sculptor,not a philosopher,I am still interested in the HOW rather than the WHY.
    We feel that there is something in aesthetic taste which is more subtle, and emotionally deeper, than “enjoying a glass of wine”, or appreciating the beauty of a ‘rose’ (whose prime purpose is botanical rather than aesthetic); but what are the factors that generate this ‘superior’ emotional response (other than biological ones and what we have been calling ‘experience’?
    Richard, you mention ‘authenticity’ as being essential, and Freeland’s “grounded in features of the artworks themselves”, to which, Carl, you respond “grounded in features of our lives, in what makes me the person I am…”
    I return to the word ‘reference’, and add ‘illustration’ (in art) as being part of the ‘means’ used by artists in the past to induce emotional aesthetic reactions to their works, (as well as the way they are ‘made); Freeland’s “features”) But, as we know, these are not necessarily the ones that we find pertinent.to our ‘taste’ today, What is it about these ‘features’ that distinguishes them from the ‘features’ of other subjects in the world, and in ‘life’, that create quite different emotional aesthetic responses, and how can they be transferred from one set of ‘features’ to another ?

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  13. “Even though you say, Carl, that Kant was NOT interested in the NATURE of good judgements, and we also are in accord that there are no objective ‘scientific’ bases for it (even though according to Freeland neuroscientists may well arrive at one); as a sculptor,not a philosopher,I am still interested in the HOW rather than the WHY.”

    Kant’s primary interest was in the nature or modality of aesthetic judgments, the conditions that make such judgments possible. (In the Critique of Pure Reason, he asked this question about “scientific” judgments, and in the Critique of Practice Reason, about moral judgments.)

    Some people – like good art critics for example, and good artists as well – make “good judgments”. These are not people who overcome their subjectivity (reaching the objectivity of science) but people who are able, based on experience, and cultivation and character (honesty, ease of expression, etc.) to delve into or deepen their subjectivity, making it exemplary for others. Clement Greenberg, for example, is misunderstood if he is read as laying out a set of rules for good art; rather, he shows by example (e.g., in his essay on Paul Klee) how to discover the grounds of his taste and describe them in prose.

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  14. I have argued (a long time ago) that of the three types of delight Kant identifies, the ‘agreeable’, the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘good’, the agreeable is of most use to practitioners. Considering the beautiful involves the notion of disinterest, which sets up the possibility of universal endorsement. But this disinterest is radical. It amounts to being indifferent to the existence of the objects of aesthetic appreciation. (It doesn’t matter if it’s a rose or Lamborghini.) This produces a distance in the encounter.

    But we have an interest in the existence of things we find ‘agreeable’ or ‘good’. If we like canary wine we are committed to its presence in our lives. We would miss it. Disinterest is replaced by enthusiasm. We are connected to the world of sensual experience that the wine offers. We are also connected to others in a community of shared interest. This does not rule out a critical attitude. To those who have developed their taste for the stuff it’s perfectly possible to distinguish between good and not so good examples. If you don’t happen to like drinking Madeira such judgements may seem trivial.

    If, for instance, you practice painting you have to ‘like’ it as an art form, you have to be an enthusiast and like looking at paintings, even if you can be highly critical of their merit. If you like canary wine you will have memories of individual experiences tasting very particular examples. There will be times when the one you’re drinking perhaps may seem ‘disappointing’ or ‘reasonable’ by comparison with all the others.

    When you make a painting, at some point it begins to look like something you can compare to other paintings you’ve seen. You won’t be measuring it, against an ideal painting, from a distance.

    [See ‘Please Please me: Scepticism and the Agreeable’ in ‘Art in the Making; Aesthetics Historicity and Practice’, Kirsten May, (Ed). Bern 2005]

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  15. “Considering the beautiful involves the notion of disinterest, which sets up the possibility of universal endorsement. But this disinterest is radical. It amounts to being indifferent to the existence of the objects of aesthetic appreciation. (It doesn’t matter if it’s a rose or Lamborghini.) This produces a distance in the encounter.”

    I think there’s something wrong with the logic here. “Disinterest” seems to suggest that the thing has or need not have any particular use or practical value. (This is the “distance” you attribute to the encounter, but it could also be called “intimacy” or closeness – in experiencing beauty, we feel connected to the world, we have access to things that is not the kind of access provided by knowledge or satisfaction of appetite.) But that doesn’t imply that we are indifferent to the existence of the thing that is beautiful (whether it be a flower or a painting). A rose or a Lamborghini may be beautiful; it doesn’t matter which we find beautiful, or both, but it does matter than the beautiful thing exist because without it, we wouldn’t have the disinterested experience of beauty.

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  16. Carl – Unfortunately I do not have my Greenberg to hand, and so cannot refer to the Klee article as I would like to at this point. However, I have to say that, personally, I have never been a huge Klee fan, finding him too much of a ‘jeweler’, a sort of Western Indian miniaturist; (but I am no doubt missing something).

    Carl – Richard – David – (and others ?) – Any comments on my query as to whether aesthetic judgements, ‘(in art, not roses or Lamborghinis), are perceived not only through ‘authenticity’, and ‘experience of human emotional life’, as well as ‘ grounded in features’; but also a necessary ‘referential’ and / or ‘illustrative’ content. Or can they rely,(exempting these latter features), purely on ’emotional feeling (as in music|) to create the conditions that make such (qualitative) judgements possible ?

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  17. To answer your question Tim, I´d have thought that if music can do this without reference or illustration, then some other kind of sensory input could do the same.

    I sometimes think that the ease with which music can arouse emotion can get in the way of its evoking/communicating more subtle, less culturally and linguistically embedded feelings – that happy, sad, longing, lively, humorous, angry aspects of the music might end up masking something ineffable and perhaps more valuable.

    There´s maybe a parallel here to the way that nymphs and shepherds, apostles and infantas can mask other, more abstract content in a painting, so you can come away from a museum (having studiously read the labels) thinking you are only meant to have learnt something about ancient mythology, or court life in 17th century Spain.

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