How Do I Become a Good Objectivist?


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Barbara wrote:

I very well understand why you are upset at being demoted to "consistently anti-Objectivist."

Thanks for your understanding.

As I said in my post which started this thread, I think I've been ~applying~ Objectivism to the discussions on RoR that I've participated in. A common theme among my posts over the years on SOLOYahoo/SOLOHQ/RoR has been to oppose Objectivists judging the psychological health, moral character, and "sense of life" of people based on the art that they create or find value in. If certain Objectivists see a work as glorifying something negative, like, say, hopelessness and failure, they refuse to listen to the reasons behind why others see it differently, and then claim that those people believe that hopelessness and failure are the nature of existence.

A good example is my recent discussion with Joe Rowlands on Marc Quinn's sculpture of Alison Lapper:

http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/NewsDiscussions/1397.shtml

Joe ignored my explanations of what I see and value in the sculpture, and tried to assign me ~his~ view of what the sculpture represents -- he sees it as saying that mankind is horrible, deformed and inadequate, and insists that deformity is therefore ~my view of existence~ despite my statements to the contrary. He believes that he can detect my metaphysical values based on ~his~ view of the sculpture, and then label me "anti-Objectivist."

Kat wrote:

I'll admit I haven't been watching RoR very closely lately, but I am truly confused as to why Jonathan is in the doghouse. There has been nothing posted in the art gallery for over two months and I have never seen Jonathan being offensive over there.

Not everyone shares the same artistic tastes and variety is the spice of life. Considering that Ayn Rand had very limited tastes, one's views in aesthetics as a criteria for being labeled as a dissenter is a pretty lame excuse indeed. Our tastes are very personal and are part of being a true individualist. This whole ordeal is basically a witch hunt.

Thank you, Kat. I agree, and I'd add that I don't expect others, including Joe Rowlands, to share my evaluations of works of art. I think Joe's methods of interpretation are shallow and sloppy, but he has the right to see a work of art any way he wants. What I ~do~ take serious issue with is his (and other Objectivists') desire to tell me, others, and, often, the culture in general what ~we~ think is "metaphysically significant" based on the art that we like, in spite of -- in denial of -- the reasons that we give for liking it. I suppose if I were to say that I like sauerkraut because it tastes good, Joe would tell me that since he thinks it tastes bad, I'm opposed to all culinary values and that I know deep in my heart that it actually tastes bad.

Rich wrote:

As to the art stuff, quite frankly, I've always found the classic O-aesthetic to be narrow, and maybe more importantly, prone to aggressive, nasty misinterpretation.

Exactly. A work of art isn't something to be contemplated, enjoyed and shared with others. It's something to be condemned as part of today's lesson in proper Objectivism. When someone has a different interpretation, the idea isn't to listen to their reasons, but to divine their "true" feelings and assign them a metaphysical point of view.

Brilliant virtuosos like, say, John McLaughlin or Hendrix worked in the rock genre, and whatever Miss Rand thought of them, they were bright, burning musical souls.

I prefer Eric Johnson, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Leo Kottke, therefore you're an anti-life, death-worshiping pomo. Hey, I think I'm getting the hang of this "good Objectivist" thing!

MSK wrote:

In my evaluation, Jonathan has a first-hand mind, he is extremely knowledgeable about Objectivism and art, and he is a wonderful person. I got all that from reading his posts over time since I have not yet met him.

Thank you very much, Michael, I really appreciate that. It means a lot coming from a first-hand mind like yours. OL is a place where I feel very much at home largely due to the fact that you encourage independent thinking. And more than that, you're one of the rare breed which seems to have no qualms at all about recognizing and publicly admitting when you're wrong, or that you don't yet have an answer to a difficult problem. In other words, you're wonderfully "anti-Objectivist." Renegade bastard.

And I even remember a few things that he wrote that I disagreed with (I would have to look them up again to cite them). I also find he can be hilarious, like with the moral sanction of cannibalism lampoon.

Yeah, we've had our differences, but I think they've pretty much been at least civil. I remember that you once groaned about one of my attempts and a little lighthearted humor and perhaps mistook it as completely vicious smart-assery, but we both got over it quickly and were back to friendly discussions in no time.

I'm glad you enjoyed the cannibalism bit. :-)

Dragonfly wrote:

Out of curiosity I've now (re)read all of the posts of Jonathan on RoR and I can only conclude that his banishment there is a prime example of the petty narrowmindedness of the owner of that forum. Nearly all of his posts were about art, and his unforgivable sin was apparently the fact that he took exception to some of Rand's views about art, for example about Rand's silly condemnation of Vermeer's subjects as "kitchen naturalism". BTW Jonathan, I found your posts about Vermeer excellent, couldn't you somehow combine them to write an article on OL?

Thank you. I may take your advice and write an article based on those posts. I think it might be interesting to expand on the theme and explore some other examples of Objectivists' interpretations as well as the consequences of some of their theories. One example: Kamhi and Torres believe that Gerhard Richter's work is not art because he often uses photographic reference as his primary souce material. Their view is that he doesn't recreate ~reality~ but recreates ~images of reality~. What implications does that have for a lot of Vermeer's work, which was created using a camera obscura? Shouldn't Kamhi and Torres categorize Vermeer's work as non-art since he traced ~images of reality~ from a projection?

Btw, you probably haven't read ~all~ of my posts on SOLOHQ/RoR since I was posting there before individual user accounts had been established. Back then I think I posted under a variety of names -- Jonathan, Jon, JR, JS, JRS, Anonymous User (or whatever the default may have been), etc. But the flavor of those old posts was pretty much the same as what you've read.

MSK's assignment:

Please tell us whose appraisal of this painting you adopt and why you adopt the view of that person.

I adopt my own appraisal, and I think that each viewer should do the same.

My view has been that a person should consider the evidence contained in the work and any relevant historical, mythological or other "outside considerations" (as Rand called them) to which the art refers. (As Kamhi and Torres have observed, visual art has a long history of making extra-pictorial references. Such information shouldn't be dismissed or avoided just because Objectivists might want to apply Rand's theories of literature to visual art.) All of the information should be considered as a whole. Vital aspects of it shouldn't be ignored or contradicted in the way that Rand ignored, or for some reason wasn't able to see, the obvious visual information in Vermeer's work, or in the way that Joe Rowlands imagines that Marc Quinn's sculpture of Alison Lapper shows suffering and misery when it doesn't. The viewer should then contemplate his or her response to the art.

But, then again, that's the view that I've held as an evil, pomo, anti-Objectivist dissenter, so obviously that's the wrong answer. So, to try to answer your question correctly, Michael, I guess I'd have to say that a good Objectivist would parrot Joe's views, because Rand is dead and can no longer tell us her opinion, and, therefore, can't be in charge of the Objectivist Department of Divining Other People's Senses of Life Based on the Art That They Like. That's now Joe's job.

J

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Jonathan,

For the sake of pristine clarity, when I said, "Please tell us whose appraisal of this painting you adopt and why you adopt the view of that person," I do hope you were able to see in your mind's eye my tongue planted very firmly in my cheek, this being a philosophy of individualism for independent minds and all.

Michael

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"I do hope you were able to see in your mind's eye my tongue planted very firmly in my cheek..."

Yup, that's how I saw it. I just thought I'd give a serious answer along with the "good Objectivist" one.

J

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*sigh*

The whole art thing vis-a-vis O-world. The only saving grace of it all is that, really, none of these folks that try to lay restrictions/judgments, whatever you want to call their nasty funk, on art/music will ever be able to do so. Expression is just way too big and strong for that, it will never tolerate their shit.

I got a real good feel for how snarky and inept it could get during a thread I hung in on over at the old SOLO, which started out with some "here's good, here's bad" examples that included a piece by Frida Kahlo. It's probably around to see, I'm not even interested enough to track down the link. So, it went Frida Kahlo=bad, along with some others, I forget who the artists were. It went that these artists were presenting a non-noble, non-heroic, disfigured view of Man<tm>. Hey-Zeus effin' Christo. The Frida Kahlo got to me, though. She's not even one of my total faves, but there are some things, oh, yes! And, I happened to know a bit about her life. The particular painting that was presented as disfiguring, non-heroic, yadda, happened to be one that was in context to a very particular, painful part of her life, and I knew that. It got pulled out of the entire body of her work (that's frequently the m.o.).

Apparently there are some who are not content with finding things that please their own pallettes- they feel some need to administrate the pallettes of others.

It's entirely possible to apply Objectivist aesthetics to art, and, depending upon how Objectivist you are, that will determine how much and what you keep, enjoy, or discard/reject. But, oh no... gotta lay the moral judgment down on the artists.

Here's a news flash: artists don't give a flying fuck about that . And they never will. If you don't like what they do, there's plenty else for you-- go look for something else . Spend your time doing that, rather than ranking out the ones you don't care for-- it's a waste of your energy, the artist will not care. The burden of learning is on the artist, not on you . You want to discuss aesthetic, go right ahead. You want to lay the big bad O-judgment down, again, take note: you might as well go spit in the ocean .

If you feel some kind of burden to create "proper" standards of art/music/etc., for society, for Man, I would say that you are outside of Objectivism, because you are putting the interests of others in front of your own. Gotta wonder if any of these art-Nazis ever looked at it that way. And you gotta wonder why they're spending so much time acting outside of their own self-interest, if that is the guiding principle, as advertised.

EDIT: I never even like to get started on this, because it hacks me off so #$%@ much. It's a song that never ends. I should have added: not only does the artist likely not care about the, er, "judgment," but neither do the people that are enjoying the art upon which the(fill in blank of aesthetic Nazi) has laid down with their scary-bad Kung Fu.

Life is beautiful, but it is also very, very tough, and scary, and painful along the way. It is beyond my ken why someone would want to piss all over someone's enjoyment of the act of artistic creation, or the act of appreciating, getting a little bit of pause for joy out of someone's work. There's another psychological question- why would you do that? I'm waiting for the next innovation to birth out of one of these freakazoids- you know, somehow there will be an O-aesthetics-based argument as to why blue is more moral than red, or one texture of a fabric over another. Am I off-the-hook? I don't think so- it's been done in music, for one, many times over. It's already gone to the textural level (as in rants about noisy, screaming, electric guitars, say).

Edited by Rich Engle
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Rich:

The whole art thing vis-a-vis O-world. The only saving grace of it all is that, really, none of these folks that try to lay restrictions/judgments, whatever you want to call their nasty funk, on art/music will ever be able to do so. Expression is just way too big and strong for that, it will never tolerate their shit.

Imagine a radically original artistic genius, a real-life Howard Roark or Richard Halley, working on commission for a committee made up of Objectivists. Is it your impression that his masterly independent vision would be respected by the committee, or would he receive considerably more demands and advice on how to "improve" his creation than what Roark received in The Fountainhead?

J

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"Imagine a radically original artistic genius, a real-life Howard Roark or Richard Halley, working on commission for a committee made up of Objectivists. Is it your impression that his masterly independent vision would be respected by the committee, or would he receive considerably more demands and advice on how to "improve" his creation than what Roark received in The Fountainhead?"

J

BWAH HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!

Or would they be too busy arguing with each other to really eff with him?

But, no, it could not be- they would of course recognize his prime-mover-ness, right?

Eh..I can't help it, sorry, MSK... but I'm thinking of Perigo on a committee like that, evaluating John Mclaughlin playing screaming guitar cuts off his "The Inner Mounting Flame" album.

"NOT KASS NOT KASS NOT KASS!!!! NOT THE LANZA NOT THE LANZA!!!!"

Whoa...I think I'm all better now. I've been good for so long ... and there goes Satan entering my bah-dee, again.

rde

distortion, dischmortion.

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Jonathan,

Dayaamm!

That was so funny I am still laughing. A committee of Objectivists? Like the ones who habitually post on forums? Advising/controlling a real creative genius? Roark level?

Dayaamm! Dayaamm! Dayaamm!

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL...

That old joke about a camel being a horse designed and built by a committee comes to mind, but I am afraid our poor creative genius would end up blowing the poor animal to smithereens...

Can you imagine the new Atlas Shrugged movie under such control? You can't? Why? Because there has been no movie?

Maybe that's because there has been a such committee in control all these years?...

How about if Rand came back from the dead, but under another name? And she could only write her next masterpiece under the control of a committee like that? The poor woman wouoldn't stand a chance...

(I can't stop laughing... Oh the pain...)

Michael

Edit (later) - Of course, I don't mean ALL Objectivists. You guys know what I mean...

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MSK- I know, I couldn't get enough of that... the mental picture. I even imagined the committee (it just depends how big, but up to about twenty or so I still wasn't running out).

I happen to have spent the last year at the mercy of several "committees," involved in totally fucking up large, sensible business deals.

It would be middle management at its absolute finest. Middle management has several purposes... I tend to switch their order of priorities around, but currently I use this one:

1. To continue to remain in place. To survive, just like the virus it is. This involves very facile, creative moves, because they rarely serve any actual purpose. Corporate America figured this out some time ago, and started hacking away. Now, we have lean management. Committees=sure business death, through drain, and slowdown.

2. To bog down, stall, reject, and maybe even flat out stop anything at their door. There is a side strategy- a smart committee, by default, rotates around the position where one person automatically rejects anything. This is an insurance policy and career builder, because, if something that went through the committee actually fails later, there is always one person that can say "see, I tried to tell you." Freaking ingenious.

3. To enjoy a venue for holding forth, grandstanding, blowbagging, kibbitzing, and other narcissistic social delights. A playground for pseudo self-esteem professionals.

These are the main purposes of most committees.

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OH MY EFFFIN' GAWD!!!

I am humbled by your prime-mover-like lampooning power. I don't know whether to hit the floor, or just cry humble tears of joy.

You are one of the Great Ones. Enough said. This might be the greatest thing you have ever done- savor the glory.

Edited by Rich Engle
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I'm just waiting for more, as the occasions allow. Imagine the greeting card line!

MSK- I think you might be looking at your first product possibility...

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I'm back, but barely. "...trailing clouds of glory [as well as of jet lag and other effects of transatlantic flight] do we come" from Budapest and Vienna. I only just registered before I left home, and had no time then to comment on the news, that Jonathan, too, along with Dragonfly, had been sequestered in "Siberia" on RoR. What a dismal development.

Ellen

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I look forward to any tales (and photos) of your travels that you'd be willing to share with us.

We have some super photos. Larry is good at the "composition" of a photo. What would be an excellent development (as contrasted to the dismal one of all the interesting, IMO, people from RoR being "exiled" to the fringes) would be for L. to get his website functional. He does have a website, provided through the university; but he's never gotten the time to post photos there.

I expect tales of travels will emerge in the course of events. It was so wonderful an excursion, I'll be remembering for as long as I live. And you, with your love of real art, would have been ecstatic, I think, could you have accompanied us.

Ellen

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And you, with your love of real art, would have been ecstatic, I think, could you have accompanied us.

I'm sure I would have loved the art, and the science and the traveling companions might have been somewhat interesting too. ;-)

J

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