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Post 20

Monday, January 5, 2009 - 2:44amSanction this postReply
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Mindy,

I have sanctioned you for writing a rich and satisfying description on your member page. Welcome :-)



Post 21

Monday, January 5, 2009 - 3:05amSanction this postReply
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Ted,

I don't think there's anyone here who doesn't enjoy Stephen's posts, but there so precious few of them!




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Post 22

Monday, January 5, 2009 - 7:38amSanction this postReply
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In #10 I had posed the sort of challenge that Bill Brewer posed in his paper. Taking the three still-life paintings that Harry Binswanger displayed as example of different views of existence: Between these paintings, what are the differences among the metaphysical value-judgments cast in them?

 

Robert asked in #17: “Are these different from the ones postulated by myself and Newberry (independently of each other) regarding the nature of the universe between the walls of the canvas, from a metaphysical valuating standpoint?”

 

What are those postulations? Do they include statements of sample metaphysical value judgments that are more specific than the one’s Rand gave?

 

The examples of metaphysical value judgments that Rand gave in “The Psycho-Epistemology of Art” (1965) were judgments of whether the universe is intelligible, whether man can find happiness on earth, whether man’s power of choice is efficacious, and whether man is to be valued as good. She took these judgments to form the foundation of all ones moral values. She reiterates this view, and sample metaphysical value judgments, in “Philosophy: Who Needs It” (1974).

 

Rand took rational ethical prescriptions to be tied to knowledge of what is the fundamental nature of human beings, including their cognitive powers, and what is the fundamental nature of the world in which humans act. Art brings that knowledge into a form for immediate, perceptual awareness. Art tells one, “in effect, which aspects of his experience are to be regarded as essential, significant, important. In this sense, art teaches man how to use his consciousness. It conditions or stylizes man’s consciousness by conveying to him a certain way of looking at existence” (“Art and Cognition” [1971]).

 

Continuing in that essay, Rand writes that art is produced by a conceptual consciousness and is addressed to a conceptual consciousness. The visual arts make perceptually available entities “convey abstract, conceptual meaning.” The visual arts deal with “the sensory field as perceived by a conceptual consciousness. / . . . The visual arts refine and direct the sensory elements of these integrations. By means of selectivity, of emphasis and omission, these arts lead man’s sight to the conceptual context intended by the artist. They teach man to see more precisely and to find deeper meaning in the field of his vision.” Rand goes on to discuss still-life paintings and their capability for making a painting subject seem “more real than it is in reality.” No subject in real life looks like that. Rather, the artist has created a visual abstraction, which is an isolation of essential, distinguishing characteristics of the subject, characteristics integrated by the artist into a single visual unit. People carry in mind a vague, approximate image of an entity. Then they encounter it displayed in a still life. “The painting concretizes that image by means of visual essentials, which most men have not focused on or identified, but recognize at once.”

 

Rand had remarked in “Art and Sense of Life” (1966) that the entire cohort of elements of painting, “such as theme, subject, and composition, are involved in projecting an artist’s view of existence.” One element is style. She takes the style of Vermeer to project “the psycho-epistemology of a rational mind. It projects clarity, discipline, confidence, purpose, power—a universe open to man.” When Rand comes to “confidence, purpose, power . . .” she has delivered the promised metaphysical value judgments alleged to be contained in paintings that are art.

 

I have seizures (now controlled by medicine) called complex partial seizures. In my episodes, I could not complete a thought—associations lead away and away too fast—and I did not know the names of things. I would tell Walter “I’m not right now.” He would sit me down and bring my Vermeer book and talk to me about details of the pictures as we viewed them. This would calm me and make me less afraid while we waited for the episode to pass.

 

Rand thought that the heightened sense of reality that one can experience in looking at a painting brings order to the visual field of one’s awareness (A&C). Surely a painting can bring me to an order, not only in my dream-like episodes, but in normal intelligent viewing. Brewer’s question goes to the further thesis of Rand’s: a determinate set of metaphysical value judgments are cast in a painting. Rand contrasted “the radiant austerity of Vermeer’s work to the silliness of the dot-and-dashes Impressionists.” Suppose one comes up with metaphysical value judgments cast in the paintings of Seurat, and suppose they are different than those Rand discerned in the paintings of Vermeer. That makes two sets of metaphysical value judgments cast in paintings. Isn’t the pool of possible metaphysical value judgments Rand has articulated too small to provide a distinctive set of metaphysical value judgments for every distinctive type of painting?

 

We should, of course, ramify Rand’s basic set of metaphysical value judgments through the different elements of painting, not only style. Combination multiplies. Moreover, Rand’s basic set does not seem to be a collection of discrete units, and that bodes well for formulating a distinctive set of metaphysical value judgments cast in the work of different painters. Well, enough for gauging possibilities. Better to provide analyzed cases.

 

I expect a really persuasive array analyzed according to Rand’s proposal would have to be constructed somewhat as I constructed the comprehensive Subject Index for Objectivity. I came up with subject categories and subcategories for the first article in the journal. I added to those and revised those as I worked through the second article. And so forth. That is the process pattern I’d expect to follow in analyzing the three still-life paintings selected by Binswanger or in trying for a wider variety of paintings.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Mindy, I hope to follow up for Prof. Green soon.

 

Ted & Teresa & . . .: thanks.




Post 23

Monday, January 5, 2009 - 9:21amSanction this postReply
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This is Michael's version...

http://www.michaelnewberry.com/studioupdate/2002-10/

am presently on Firefox, and cannot paste mine here... :-(
but some can be gleamed from these notes from my blog site...

http://visioneerwindows.blogspot.com/2004/08/nature-of-rendering.html
(Edited by robert malcom on 1/05, 9:38am)




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Post 24

Monday, January 5, 2009 - 11:50amSanction this postReply
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  The task Stephen set, to defend Rand's statement of the need of  "a comprehensive view...metaphysical value-judgments used constantly..." has proved the stimulus to a breakthrough in my thinking on this subject. I'm very excited about it. Can't yet say if I've just re-invented the wheel for myself, but even that is good.

With that proviso in mind:

Stephen observes that Green "denies universal need has been shown." Green is saying that Rand is mistaken in her assertion that that which romantic art expresses is a constant need of man, that he uses metaphysical value-judgments constantly as he goes through his days.
If you re-read Rand's statement, you'll see that it could be abbreviated into: Man knows he needs to know. My argument is that man's every task and activity reflects that he knows he needs to know, and so reflects his use of metaphysical value-judgments.
It is a fact about the species that man lives by his wits, and his level of IQ presents him with choices of action. Those choices require knowledge and information, and they represent to him the need for knowledge and information. This self-awareness is his knowing he needs to know. Merely by facing choices, man realizes his need to act, to act by choice, to choose from knowledge, and to acquire the knowledge that will make his actions successful. The attitude he forms about this, his situation in the world, is his primary metaphysical value-judgment.
  
That man succeeds as a deliberate agent, fitting himself to live, and fitting the world to be liveable, is, I think, the basis of romantic art. Only a self-conscious agent can do what man does, can change himself to better survive, and change the world around him to suit his needs. This requirement of self-conscious action is the requirement for metaphysical value-judgments.

Now, all men are in this situation, and all must exercise that double agency--acting to form or improve themselves, and to form or improve the world. Our everyday activity represents just this project, whether at one point it aims at changing the self, or it works on the world. All our productive activity is an exercise of deliberately relating self to the world.
As such, it absolutely requires a view of man-in-world, and that is Rand's "comprehensive view of existence."

Logically, the overly simple answer to Green is that man lives by choice and thus by some standard. The standard he uses is his view of existence, of what it is to be a man on earth.

edit: I haven't got this right, the emphasis should not be on man's changing both himself and the world, but on his recognition of his being a self-changing entity in a changeable world...
(Edited by Mindy Newton on 1/05, 12:43pm)

(Edited by Mindy Newton on 1/05, 9:15pm)




Post 25

Monday, January 5, 2009 - 11:52amSanction this postReply
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Thank you, Steve. You do realize, though, that you're encouraging an iconoclast in her "mischief?"



Post 26

Monday, January 5, 2009 - 1:09pmSanction this postReply
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I am, for one, glad to see this being so responded to - too long, it seems, anything aesthetical has been relegated to relativistic lingo of hmmmmmmmm's, ahhhhh's, and errrrrr's...it is good seeing some intelligent exploring here on this important subject - all the more so when, in the last analysis, an artist is a 'spiritual visualizer'©, which makes hin/her far more important a person philosophically speaking than generally credited........



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Post 27

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 - 7:11amSanction this postReply
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Mindy, drawing from his paper “Rand, Art, and Metaphysical Mirroring,” I think Prof. Green would respond to #24 and #12 in these ways:

Granted, it does seem plausible that many people seek a comprehensive view of existence. A lot of us would be delighted to find such a comprehensive view. What I doubt is the claim than we need one. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve gone all my life without having such a view, and—although some of you who know me might have some grave doubts—I seem to be doing okay.

. . .

There are all sorts of things I do that implicate me in “local” views only: brushing my teeth suggests that I care about having good teeth, and avoiding collisions while driving suggests that I want to prolong my life. However, these sorts of things vastly underdetermine other questions: how in my behavior, other than an overt utterance, do I commit myself to a broad position on the role of our species in the universe, the range of autonomy, the prospects for genuine self-knowledge, and the like? (2–3)

Green affirms that he lives his life with an aim and purpose, that it is not complete chaos, and that he has long-term goals and plans. But he does not think that those facts show he lives by “such a comprehensive view.”

 

I would point out that the issues Green has taken as falling under “a comprehensive view of existence” are rather different than what Rand was taking under that phrase. Rand specified what she meant by turning to a list of metaphysical value judgments.

 

In testing the further thesis that works of art show a comprehensive view of existence, I think that for Rand’s theory, one should work from her specific list of metaphysical value judgments, not the broader notion “comprehensive view of existence.” Test the proposition that works of art cast metaphysical value judgments, rather than the easier, but less substantive, proposition that works of art cast a comprehensive view of existence.

 

Green maintains that the onus of proof is on the Randian to show that only creations manifesting metaphysical value judgments of the creator should be counted as art. I agree, for Rand is advancing a theoretical, explicative definition. I incline to think the most persuasive way to argue for this definition in application to painting is to (i) provide an analysis, exhibiting Rand’s definition, of numerous paintings spanning a wide variety and (ii) show that paintings not satisfying this definition are importantly a different class of creations.

 

Analysis of what is creatively manifest in a painting needs to be appropriately constrained. My bad back is manifest to others by the way I get up after stooping, but I’m not expressing my bad back or its consequences. We’re looking not just for indications, in the painting, of the psychology of the painter. I was told many years ago of a book titled How a Poem Means. Before undertaking analysis of paintings, I would get myself versed in how a painting means.




Post 28

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 - 8:01amSanction this postReply
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Ted,
What sort of books are you interested in?

To readers here:
I'd like to discuss specific art works as to the issues of romantic content and metaphysical value-judgments, in a very exploratory, spontaneous way. I'm looking at the three still lives of the article, above, and at Vermeer's The Milkmaid. I want to brainstorm what they mean. I don't want to distract from this thread, if another place is better...anybody want to join me in this?
Mindy

(Edited by Mindy Newton on 1/06, 8:09am)




Post 29

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 - 8:53amSanction this postReply
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Have you read Michael's short assessment of The Milkmaid, in the link I listed? does that give any of a start for you?

http://www.michaelnewberry.com/studioupdate/2002-10/
(Edited by robert malcom on 1/06, 8:55am)




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Post 30

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 - 11:59amSanction this postReply
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Robert,
Yes, I did, thanks. And that is like what I'd like to do, but in greater depth.
I muse about things like this, regarding that picture:
The scene is calm, the woman comfortable, at peace, content.
There is a large quantity of broken bread, and there is also a whole loaf on the table--there is plenty. There is also another pitcher, suggesting still more in the larder...
The way she stands and the way the milk pours into the bowl are gravitationally parallel--imagine her righting the pitcher, and you "see" her also righting her upper body into a balanced position...
The pitcher is held easily, comfortably--her hands don't grip it tightly. There is nothing awkward for her in her task...
The folds in her apron sleeves, which are pushed up for work, and the cloth of the blue rag on the table, and the apron she wears show deep folds, and relative disarray, while her bodice, her collar, and the tablecloth are all smooth and well-fitted. (Also, those "work" fabrics are dark blue.)
The light, more than ample, flows into the room and over her "like" the milk pours into the bowl...
This picture speaks of labor and its fruits, of assuredness of the process of supplying one's needs. It seems to say that labor is natural for man, and not all-consuming, (because her clothes, etc., are smooth, and only the work-related fabrics are bunched and folded, put into disarray, because her hands are relaxed, her face calm...) AND...I don't know what else.

Michael notes that the picture is a realistic view of a woman, space, and light, with the woman physically dominating and centered in the picture. The colors are clear. His conclusion is that "it projects a marketly intelligible view of humanity and its enviornment."
I certainly don't disagree with any of this, but I think there is more to be said, more specifics of the painting, and more concrete an interpretation about the deep values it expresses

Well, that's the sort of thing I'm talking about. Anybody want to join in? 




Post 31

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 - 12:40pmSanction this postReply
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Sometimes it is useful to ask what isn't in the picture.

There is a marked absence of anger, fear, hurt, confusion, chaos, sadness, danger, scarcity, or anxiety. Nothing clashes or threatens. There is also an absence of excitement, daring, adventure or challenge and no sense of wonder or awe.

There is neither poverty nor great wealth - there is enough. There is comfort and the familiar. There is neither an indication of genius or greatness, that is of boldly man mastering his universe - that task she performs is to mundane, nor is there any sense that man's natural state is stupidity or ignorance - we see her as competent at a normal daily task.

The colors don't clash, don't create a cognitive dissonance, don't detract by being the 'wrong' colors for things as they are in real life. The lightness and warmth of the sunlight invokes a sense of a world made to be seen - and friendly (as opposed to what fog or dark or cold might convey).

The composition does not make her small in her world, nor does it make her world immaterial by focusing just on her. It is a picture of a person in their world and there is nothing to say that isn't our world as well (had we lived then and there, the style of dress and all would have seemed normal).

It is a picture that says man is a comfortable inhabitant of a benevolent, knowable universe. I get a sense of nothing changing very fast and that living in the present is the norm.



Post 32

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 - 12:48pmSanction this postReply
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One thing ye not mentioned is the implicit recognition that everything in the painting is purposefully there - where, size, angle, quality, etc. in that all 'speak' what the artist wishes to say[or show, rather]...

as a parallel, Tyler Cowen [in, I believe, In Praise of Commercial Culture]details a couple of Renaissance paintings, pointing out the items therein displayed the shifting of wealth, and the influx of commerce in bringing items previously rare, impossible to get, or completely unknown - in short, the earthiness of life, and that it was good...



Post 33

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 - 4:10pmSanction this postReply
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I glad you said that, Robert. What the devil is that little box on the floor behind her, next to the wall?



Post 34

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 - 4:14pmSanction this postReply
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Interesting way to go about it, Steve. Do you think your "deep value" conclusion fits with and accounts for the emotion/pleasure/satisfaction you obtain in viewing the picture?



Post 35

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 - 4:36pmSanction this postReply
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That is a footwarmer...

http://www.essentialvermeer.com/catalogue/milkmaid.html



Post 36

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 - 5:40pmSanction this postReply
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This might help. It is the most color neutral of the web images I could find, others are warmer or cooler.





Post 37

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 - 5:52pmSanction this postReply
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Note the dramatic contrast of yellow and blue, and the more subtle contrast of red and green.
Look at the texture of the wicker basket and the copper strainer hanging on the wall.
What does she see outside the window?
What is she pouring cream into? What is she making? It will obviously serve more than one. And she is not cooking in a kitchen, but pouring at a small serving table.
Steve's sense of adventure is a very masculine one. No, there are no starscapes or swordfights.
What is her inner adventure?
Is there no adventure for us in exploring the colors, forms and textures?
Who would buy this painting?
Where would it be hung?
Is the bread like cake, or italian rolls?
Why does the pitcher face us? What is hidden in its depths?
Lord, I could go for some fresh bread.



Post 38

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 - 7:26pmSanction this postReply
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That's a great version, thanks, Ted. I don't get any sense of adventure, none at all...What is your response to the picture, what does it make you feel?



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Post 39

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 - 10:06pmSanction this postReply
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Sorry people, my wording wasn't clear. What I said is the painting does NOT have adventure in it - there is no challenge, no excitement, no statement about taking a chance or presentation of difficult mastery or problems.

I wasn't referring to swordfights :-), since adventure or excitement can be conveyed with a look on the face, a gaze, or the contrast between the person and their surroundings.

That isn't bad. I'm just saying those things aren't there. If they were, it would be a different picture and one where it would be harder to feel the sense of relaxation. Those things would dominate and give it a different theme.

There is something of a V formed by the light coming in from high and slanting down to the top of her arms and the pitcher. Our eyes go to the source of light, but there is nothing to be seen out that window. On the right the V is the brighter yellow and the power of her glance to pull our eyes down. The bottom of the V is the stream of pouring milk. We always look at a face, we might look over at the window, but we will follow the light back to her face, and then we will end up looking where her eyes are looking. We always end up looking at the stream of milk. I don't know why this all adds up to a pleasing picture.




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