|I'm going to respond briefly to Michael and Adam---because, well: here it is I'm talking about contributions to THE JOURNAL OF AYN RAND STUDIES, and lo and behold... both of them are contributors! Michael was a contributor to our aesthetics symposium (Spring 2001), and Adam is going to be published in our forthcoming Spring 2003 issue. He has written a provocative article entitled: "Object-Oriented Programming and Objectivist Epistemology: Parallels and Implications." And if I don't actually get back to editing and preparing final proofs for the Spring 2003 issue, it will not be published. :) [Okay: end commercial break...]|
Yes, of course, you, Michael, have a serious disagreement with T&K on the issue of metaphysical value-judgments and its breadth of application. But my point is that T&K don't dismiss MVJ in their book and that the ambiguities you and others have criticized are typically an outgrowth of the ambiguities in Rand's own work. For ~those~ ambiguities in Rand have led to all of the debates over the "aesthetic" nature of architecture and photography, and so forth.
Addressing one of the ambiguities, Michael says that Rand "explicitly refers to the Fountainhead as the place to go for her discussion of architecture, if one drops that context…well, what can one say?" Yes, you are right; but she also makes formal statements that seem to contradict that suggestion, and in the light of what she apparently told Binswanger (that architecture was more 'utilitarian' and not categorized formally as art), I don't think the issue is so clear-cut.
Yes, I was your editor, Michael---but I ~know~ you can be polite. :) (And just so we're clear: Politeness is not exactly the credo of scholars... ) I do not believe your objections are "frivolous" or "uninformed". If I thought that, your piece would not have appeared in the symposium.
I do think Adam is right to say that "Rand had the foundations of a theory of aesthetics; she did not have a completed theory comparable to her theories of epistemology or of ethics." The key word here is "comparable," however---because, I don't think she had completed theories of epistemology or ethics either. For example, her INTRODUCTION TO OBJECTIVIST EPISTEMOLOGY is precisely that: an introduction. It provides no discussion of induction, no theory of propositions, no formal theory of perception (Kelley's EVIDENCE OF THE SENSES tries to fill those gaps), and so forth. Furthermore, I think that Objectivists who focus ~only~ on that introduction without examining many of the other relevant things Rand said about the complexities of mind are necessarily working with a one-dimensional view of Rand's epistemic insights. I'm thinking specifically about propositions one can glean from her lectures on fiction-writing and nonfiction-writing, and even from her essays on aesthetics---almost all of which pertain to what Hayek and Polanyi called the "tacit dimensions" of consciousness... so clearly relevant to our discussions of her aesthetic theory.
I do disagree with Adam that T&K have not progressed toward a "systematic, objective aesthetics built on Rand's foundations" if only because they are, to my knowledge, the first writers to address precisely what Adam---and all Objectivists---should be concerned with: the facts of reality. Their chapter on "Scientific Support for Rand's Theory" at least ~begins~ the discussion about the evolutionary, archaeological, anthropological, cognitive, psychological, physiological, and neurological evidence in support of Rand's basic aesthetic insights. As they state there: "... the basic principles of her theory are not only internally coherent but objectively valid as well." And that's why they focus, in that chapter, on "the relevant scientific disciplines"---though they readily admit that "a comprehensive examination of such material" is beyond the scope of their book.
This said, I think Adam is surely right that Rand did not have recourse to "the requisite foundation in scientific psychology"---but I do think that T&K's criticisms of architecture and photography grow out of Rand's own statements, which are not always consistent. (Rand was much clearer about "photography" than, say, architecture, however.)
(As an aside: I don't think that T&K, in their book, endorse imprisonment or censorship---though I do recall pointing out some possible implications of their argument that I, myself, found problematic from my own strict libertarian perspective. I do know that they are against government funding and support of the arts.)
In any event, I stand by my initial comments here: You have to start someplace. I do not view T&K's book as the ~culmination~ of discussion on Rand's aesthetics. But I do regard it as a fine beginning. In addition to the scientific discussion they offer in a single chapter, they go a long way toward situating Rand's theory in a wider historical context. This is a valid exercise insofar as it helps to bring her aesthetics into a larger conversation. Even Aristotle, whom Rand saw as the fountainhead of a "primacy of existence" approach to philosophy, began most of his discussions by presenting and debunking the arguments of those who came before him as a way of clearing the path for his own enunciation of valid theoretical principles. (In one instance, near and dear to me, Aristotle enunciated the theoretical principles of dialectical argumentation in a way that separated them from a faulty Platonist ontology---no small achievement.)
Adam doesn't know this, but one of the things that has long endeared him to me is that he usually ends all of his posts with the following signature (absent here): "Context matters. There is seldom only one cause for *anything*."
One of the criticisms leveled at my AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL, was that I priviledged non-essentials (technique) over essentials (function, or final cause) in my discussion of Rand's system as a dialectical project. But I was working through a trilogy of books (of which RUSSIAN RADICAL was the second of three) on dialectical method and social theory, and my view of dialectics as the "art of context-keeping" can be practically summarized by Adam's signature. From my perspective, context-keeping is as relevant to historical investigation as it is to scientific inquiry.
No one book can speak to ~all~ contexts. Not even a trilogy can do that. But as I have said repeatedly: Even if one disagrees with aspects of T&K's book or aspects of Rand's aesthetic theory, you have to start someplace. And it is my hope that the conversation that T&K have jump-started will succeed---in the long-run---in bringing long overdue attention to Rand's aesthetic theory and to the further development of a full-fledged systematic aesthetics based on an objective foundation.
Now, I gotta get back to work... for your sake, Adam, as well as for my own! :)