• darthbarracuda
    3.1k
    At least to myself it seems that aesthetic feelings are dependent upon the person. If two people disagree about the status of the aesthetic they are experiencing, then there cannot be one that is right and one that is wrong.

    However, aesthetic objects themselves may actually exist. There may be actual objective aesthetics that invoke a subjective aesthetic experience within someone. But the value of this aesthetic, the identity of the aesthetic, depends upon the individual.

    So the painting in front of me and you is the aesthetic object. It invokes a feeling of sadness to me, and a feeling of hope to you, which are subjective experiences that cannot be right or wrong.
  • Moliere
    1.8k
    I think you're favoring a particular answer in the way you are framing aesthetics -- namely, in terms of aesthetic experiences. Further, I'd push the issue a bit and say that not just any feeling counts as an aesthetic experience -- sometimes you just have an experience, or an emotional experience, but just because there is an art-object which this is directed at or caused by that does not then mean that your emotional reaction is specifically an aesthetic experience. Usually aesthetic experiences are reserved for terms like the beauitful and the sublime, for instance. Feeling anger or humor while watching a drama may be a part of the total aesthetic experience of beauty, sublimity, or whatever, but is not itself the aesthetic experience.

    I think, also, that if aesthetics is objective as usually understood by that term, then an art-object is objectively good or bad -- rather than right or wrong. Your subjective experiences can be neither right nor wrong, but supposing you were to react to the plight of Oedipus with laughter then it might still make sense to say that your taste is bad.
  • Hanover
    6k
    Ok, so I've read these two posts and the discussion is largely over the following terms (in the order these terms appear) (1) right vs. wrong, (2) subjective vs. objective, (3) aesthetic experiences vs. emotional experiences, and (4) good vs. bad.

    Once we break down all these terms, it would seem the real question (if it's ever addressed during the definitional analysis) is "is beauty objective"? To say that it is not suggests I cannot create a coherent argument for why something is beautiful beyond simply saying that it appears that way to me. Yet we do in fact present arguments as to why something is or is not beautiful, as if we're trying to convince the other of our viewpoint. To say that beauty is objective is equally problematic as it suggests that the beauty would exist even if no one thought it beautiful. Such is the quandary I believe, as opposed to the definitional issues that were brought up.
  • Moliere
    1.8k
    If that the question be then I'd say the question is confusing because it's neither.

    But I could see an argument for a particular aesthetic, in the same vein that we might conceive of a particular ethic, counting as "objective", depending on what we mean by the latter term. If we mean that it has some sort of independence then it's a bit harder to push, but if we mean, as you say, that we require others to see things as we do -- then there's a good case, though "objective" is weakened in that case.


    I will say that I don't think aesthetics is the same as ice cream, if that's all that we mean by subjective -- where you may like vanilla and I like chocolate, and there's nothing more to it than that, I'd say that aesthetics is more complicated than whether or not we happen to like this or that composer.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    Aesthetics describes the surface of the world in terms of form and matter. A child knows its teddy, long before it understands the word. The basic structure of a thing must be appreciated as something prior to being known or spoken about. We share the world. What's on the surface is mediated by us as members of a society where these objects have achieved prior normative meanings which we learn.

    I think form is the universal, the limit of a thing, it is the objective, it can be described mathematically. The content--mater is sensible, intuited, in-process, it is subjective & particular. We correlate the pair on a normative basis all the time.
  • Bitter Crank
    9.1k
    Suppose I set up some objective criteria for landscape paintings.
    • A successful landscape can include scenes of rivers, lakes, mountains, prairies, ocean beaches, deserts and hills
    • Adults and children must be included in the picture
    • animals must be appropriate to the scene - cattle can not appear on an ocean beach, polar bears can not appear among palm trees, whales can not be pictured in lakes, swans can not appear in paintings of deserts
    • Green, blue, and yellow must be used prominently, with white, black, orange, pink, purple, and red used sparingly

    We could apply the above criteria (and many additional ones) to any landscape we might find in a gallery, and decide whether it is a good painting or not. If our criteria also specify what is "beautiful", we can determine whether the painting meets the criteria of "beauty".

    In Painting by Numbers Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid surveyed diverse groups of people to determine what they consider "beautiful paintings". They then arranged to produce a series of landscape paintings which did, and did not, meet the criteria.

    The "made to order" paintings were then presented to the same set of diverse groups (but different individuals), who were asked to rate the paintings. Sure enough, people liked the paintings most that corresponded to their group's specifications.

    For instance, some people put much more emphasis on animals and children in paintings. Others preferred mountains and water. Most groups strongly disliked abstract paintings. Figurative art was received much more positively. "they discovered that what Americans want in art, regardless of class, race, or gender, is exactly what the art world disdains—a tranquil, realistic, blue landscape"

    If this theory holds water, and I think it does to some extent, then aesthetics can be judged at least somewhat objectively. I also think that what art sellers and art critics say about a work of art should be taken with several grains of salt. They may be lying in order to enhance the value of a canvas.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    I think you would like Kant's third critique. He speaks of these precise issues quite clearly and eloquently.
  • TheMadFool
    8.4k
    Was it Shakespeare or one of the characters in his many plays that said and I quote,

    Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder — Shakespeare

    ?

    That quote endorses the view that beauty is subjective. Such a standpoint, in my humble opinion, has to contend with the fact that some "objects" - beauty pageant participants, supermodels and the like - have an aesthetic appeal that's near universal i.e. many if not all see eye to eye when it comes to certain women and their beauty. This can only be if beauty is objective at some level for it implies that an "object" has the quality of being beautiful that we then perceive. It's not all in the mind so to speak.

    So, two conflicting points of view on the matter of aesthetics. Perhaps it's a bit of both...
  • Antony Nickles
    165

    I would agree with @Thorongil that Kant's description of our judgment of what he terms the Beautiful allows for rational discussion (apart from just personal feelings or value judgments, etc.). Although we are not assured of aesthetic agreement (not just agreement in taste or value), we do have internal criteria (to the art) for what constitutes a beautiful painting or a movie that is well-made, etc.

    But the value of this aesthetic, the identity of the aesthetic, depends upon the individual.darthbarracuda

    There is judgment just based on personal taste, but its existence does not negate the possibility of a different category of aesthetic discussion and agreement (you are entitled to "your" "opinion", but there is also the possibility of "informed judgment").

    Part of the structure of an aesthetic claim to Beauty according to Kant (and drawn out by Cavell in "Aesthetic Problems in Modern Philosophy") is that I am making such a claim in a universal voice. I am making a claim (with rationale) on behalf of everyone for others to accept or discuss even though the outcome is not predetermined to be an absolute, certain conclusion (this is not an "objective" object, to the extent there are any). The art critic does not have better knowledge of the art, so much as a deeper perspective--their goal is to get you to see what they see (as @Moliere points out).

    And I would tweak @Bitter Crank and @TheMadFool's emphasis on popular criteria (or "agreement"), to aspire to judgment based on the terms of that art (photography, modern dance, etc.--each having its own). A disagreement that regresses to simply unsubstantiated agreement (or personal taste) ignores the rational structure and evidence in art (as @Hanover points out).

    It invokes a feeling of sadness to me, and a feeling of hope to you, which are subjective experiences that cannot be right or wrong.darthbarracuda

    We are also not making a judgment of value (as it were, that the critic has better taste; simply the authority to label a work "good" or "bad"). If there is an insightful critique, would we say it was "good" or "bad" (see @Moliere above) or are we more likely to say the critic is, in a sense, "right" or "wrong"? (Of course, these are different senses of the terms than someone solving a math equation.) In other words, if we say they are wrong, we can, for instance, discuss in what way they are not justified based on the entire context of the evidence in the work within the forms and terms and methods for that art, i.e., rationally.

    This is the kind of claim that Wittgenstein is making when he describes the Grammar (criteria) for our ordinary use of concepts (each one, their own). He is postulating something which may be disputed based on the contextual evidence or a misunderstanding of the importance of, and what counts for, a concept (its criteria). The open-ended nature of aesthetic discussion leave some to dismiss it as "subjective" or irrational or emotional, but this may only be the desire for a standard of universal, absolute rationality (or to deny any rationality to art, actions, morality, etc.).
  • Possibility
    1.8k
    Kant refers to aesthetics to explore the faculty of judgement because the aesthetic experience transcends what we judge as ‘beauty’, as well as the concept of ‘beauty’ itself. More than personal preference, more than a universal claim, purposive without purpose and regardless of necessity, pure aesthetics refers to an inter-subjective aspect of experience beyond both morality and logic, where we can delight in ‘free play’ between imagination and understanding before this faculty of judgement.

    The aesthetic experience is ‘objective’ only when we refrain from judgement.
  • Antony Nickles
    165

    I think you might be thinking of the pleasant, not the beautiful. The "concept" of beauty is not determined (not an "object" in Kant's terms), and it is disinterested: not related to any individual "experience".

    “Consequently the judgement [of the beautiful]... must claim validity for every one, without this universality depending on Objects. That is, there must be bound up with it a title to subjective universality” Sec. 6.

    Compared to the pleasant: “As regards the Pleasant every one is content that his judgement, which he bases upon private feeling, and by which he says of an object that it pleases him, should be limited merely to his own person” Sec. 7.

    I hope my (Kant's) point is clear about the nature of the claim here. “[ B ]ut if he gives out anything as beautiful, he supposes in others the same satisfaction—he judges not merely for himself, but for every one... which can make a rightful claim upon every one’s assent. ...the beautiful undertakes or lays claim to [the universal].” Id.

    As to the criteria of our art forms: “It is not what gratifies in sensation but what pleases by means of its form... [that] is... the only [element] of these representations which admits with certainty of universal communicability” Sec. 10.
  • Possibility
    1.8k
    Sure, but my point was that aesthetics extend beyond this universally valid ‘judgement of the beautiful’ that rests on an indeterminate concept, towards a purposive relation to or apodictic delight in the beautiful/sublime, regardless of judgement.

    Universal validity/communicability is not objectivity.
  • Tom1352
    16
    All physical objects have some kind of aesthetic value no matter if it is positive or negative or the object is intended to be an artform or not. An objective object can clearly invoke subjective experiences however it is difficult to see how there could be anything beyond this to make a subject experience 'right or 'wrong' with reference to an objective value. I don't think it is possible to make an argument for why something is beautiful other than merely describing the object, feeling beauty needs first hand experience.
  • Mijin
    123
    Speaking from a more neuroscientific point of view, there are of course aesthetic qualities to things for the vast majority of people. And not just "fire hurts", but studies have shown that young infants can be afraid (or at least pay extra attention to) images of snakes or spiders.

    And while it's fashionable to try to define standards of human beauty as arbitrary cultural creations, a lot of factors are cross cultural, for example good luck finding a culture that prizes acne over smooth skin.

    There are similar fundamental instincts that drive us to like clear water, green grass and even some architectural features. The more specific we get, the more subjective it gets though. And of course most of us value novelty. So even if, let's say, the letter "X" presses our innate hard-wired desires better than any other letter of the alphabet, if we were surrounded by "X", then "S" might become the most desired letter, or whatever.
  • Antony Nickles
    165

    Well, I understand the part about the sublime delight in art's transcendence, but the Sublime does not negate the Beautiful. The Beautiful is still a rational discussion of claims to (for) everyone about what is correct/felicitous ("right") about an art's relation to its art form.

    Universal validity/communicability is not objectivity.Possibility

    So if we agree on the first part, how is it "not objective"? I (and Kant) have already granted that it does not have an "object"--which I take in Kantian terms to mean there is no absolute, certain, pre-determined "right"--but does not having a final fixed point obviscate our ability to rationally discuss art? Maybe if we let go of the "objective"/"subjective" dichotomy, we can allow ourselves the grey areas (Witt. post-Tractatus). In other words, does the possibility of failure make discussion impossible/hopeless?

    An objective object can clearly invoke subjective experiences however it is difficult to see how there could be anything beyond this to make a subject experience 'right or 'wrong' with reference to an objective value. I don't think it is possible to make an argument for why something is beautiful other than merely describing the object, feeling beauty needs first hand experience.Tom1352

    Yes, an art "object" can invoke "subjective [first-hand] experiences." Categorically, this is what Kant calls, the Pleasant--an experience that it is nice (say when you look at it), or whatever personal "feelings" you have . And Kant also allows that an art "object" can have good/bad "value" for us (@Tom1352)(although, again, "object-ive" is not a possibility there either). These two categories of the possibility of art do not wipe out the third means of addressing art, which is called the Beautiful (don't get caught up in the ordinary words--focus on the distinctions). It is not the "experience" of right or wrong, it is the rational discussion that is right/wrong (this is a rational category; not the kind of fixed Right!/Wrong! you may be thinking of); this is not in reference to the object, or its "objective" or "subjective" value. The thing to focus on is the form of the art--the way in which a story is told (think Northrup Frye's Modes and Genres); or the possibilities of the camera, the method, processes, framing, etc. in photography. These are the tools that a critic rationally uses to get us to try to see his insight into a work of art. For example, Cavell claims that the "modern" is now the discussion of the form through the work of art. The rest follows from my arguments above.

    Speaking from a more neuroscientific point of view, there are of course aesthetic qualities to things for the vast majority of people. * * * And while it's fashionable to try to define standards of human beauty as arbitrary cultural creations... The more specific we get, the more subjective it gets though.Mijin

    We are bumping up against the limits of neuroscience (and sociology) here; and there is a categorical confusion here. What we can say about art through science refers either to the sensations of the Pleasant, or the value of the Good (popularity--@TheMadFool @Bitter Crank). What I am discussing is not a standard to judge the object, it is the ways a type of art has as its means. This is not a standard or "cultural creation" (as opposed to some "thing" created outside of culture?). And the more "specific" the claim gets, usually the better its argument--the more evidence it incorporates, the deeper the insight, etc. The Weltanschauung Wittgenstein would say, the comprehensive view. Of course, you may mean the more specific as the more personal (merely pleasant or good), and I would agree, but let's not mash everything together.
  • Mijin
    123
    What we can say about art through science refers either to the sensations of the Pleasant, or the value of the Good (popularity). What I am discussing is not a standard to judge the object, it is the way in which a type of art has as its means. This is not a standard or "cultural creation" (as opposed to some "thing" created outside of culture?). And the more "specific" the claim gets, usually the better its argument--the more evidence it incorporates, the deeper the insight, etc.Antony Nickles

    I don't understand any of that.
    Can you give an example of the distinction(s)?
  • Possibility
    1.8k
    So if we agree on the first part, how is it "not objective"? I (and Kant) have already granted that it does not have an "object"--which I take in Kantian terms to mean there is no absolute, certain, pre-determined "right"--but does not having a final fixed point obviscate our ability to rationally discuss art? Maybe if we let go of the "objective"/"subjective" dichotomy, we can allow ourselves the grey areas (Witt. post-tractates). In other words, is the possibility of failure make discussion impossible/hopeless?Antony Nickles

    The ability to discuss anything rationally is not necessarily objective. When we render aesthetics in discussion, reduced to a particular language structure, objectivity often defers to certainty.

    Still, rational is not always logical. I don’t believe the possibility of failure makes discussion hopeless, only uncertain. When we allow for this uncertainty - acknowledging purposiveness without agreeing on a stated end or purpose, or exemplary beauty/sublimity without agreeing on what is correct about its relation to form - the discussion itself allows for a relation between perspectives to approach objectivity in meaning beyond inter-subjective significance. This aspect of the discussion is irreducible, however.
  • Antony Nickles
    165

    I don't understand any of that.
    Can you give an example of the distinction(s)?
    Mijin

    I'm not quite sure it's unfair (or even rude) to say you're going to have to try harder. First, you say that you "don't understand any of that", which is grammatically referred to as a "naked this". What is the referent? Everything? The Pleasant and the Good? And so I'm not sure as well the distinction(s) to which you are referring? Also, do you mean you would like a scenario which better explains the distinction(s)? Or examples of (maybe?) judgments of each type? It might help to read my last threeposts, the first with quotes from Kant.
  • Antony Nickles
    165

    The ability to discuss anything rationally is not necessarily objective. When we render aesthetics in discussion, reduced to a particular language structure, objectivity often defers to certainty. Still, rational is not always logical. I don’t believe the possibility of failure makes discussion hopeless, only uncertain.Possibility

    I concede that aesthetic rationality is not "objective" (another post I think to argue that standard is based on Kant's desire to empower some judgment to be, say, irrefutable, but not based on a "real" "universal" object; however, I don't need agreement on either of those contentions to make my point here.

    And I do allow for uncertainty, but only in the sense that it is uncertain that you will see what I see. I do claim that aesthetic rationale has a logic to it, though not a logic that ensures agreement or certainty in conclusions (not the logic you may want). This is an internal logic to the form of the art, the terms and means and structure--what makes a difference in sculpture compared to dance. Wittgenstein and Emerson inherit Kant but make every concept (here every form of art) categorical; each with its own class and criteria.

    When we allow for this uncertainty - acknowledging purposiveness without agreeing on a stated end or purpose, or exemplary beauty/sublimity without agreeing on what is correct about its relation to form - the discussion itself allows for a relation between perspectives to approach objectivity in meaning beyond inter-subjective significance. This aspect of the discussion is irreducible, however.Possibility

    And I allow that we might not agree (on the end of purposiveness--though I'd want to re-read my Kant--or exemplariness of the art form) but the "uncertainty" of agreement here is not corrosive to the possibility of agreement (or even just "approaching" agreement), it does not make the discussion of art irrational or illogical. We do not "agree" on the terms and forms of art (though we may disagree about one criteria's "significance" over another in a certain work). Our "perspective" is not something personal (the art's "significance" to us) so much as seeing the art, for example, thoroughly, within the history of its form, taking in all available evidence, etc. It's not what matters to me, it's what matters in, say, making that art--what is meaningful to the art form. I'm not sure this reduces anything so much as broadens our stifled philosophical terms and conditions.
  • Mijin
    123
    I'm not quite sure it's unfair (or even rude) to say you're going to have to try harder.Antony Nickles

    I would say so.

    My post gave multiple examples illustrating exactly what I was talking about.

    Asking for one example of what you mean by "sensations of the Pleasant, or the value of the Good" is not unreasonable.
  • Antony Nickles
    165

    ...one example of what you mean by "sensations of the Pleasant, or the value of the Good"....Mijin

    It's not that there needed to be a reason; just some specificity--which you have now provided. I did suggest reviewing Kant's description of the Pleasant: "As regards the Pleasant every one is content that his judgement, which he bases upon private feeling, and by which he says of an object that it pleases him, should be limited merely to his own person” Sec. 7. As I noted above, this would be that you have a sensation, say, feeling sad or pleased by an object of art, that you may feel without anyone disagreeing.

    The Good (taste) is “that which is ESTEEMED [or approved] by him, i.e. that to which he accords an objective worth, is good." Sec. 7. It is the value of the art or of its purpose, assigned by the individual based on their approval of an object, say, one with an exemplar, which others can agree regarding its worth, or interest.

    They are both similar categorically, only to say your experience of art (it's pleasantness) may lead to the judgment that it has value (or good). The Pleasant would be the sensation, and the Good would be its popularity. Both are in consideration of the artwork (as an object), and both are attributable in their same manner to any object (a flower, a horse, a painting, etc.).

    Of course, my point in beginning my remarks only concerned these concepts in contrast to the disinterested, impersonal, intelligible rationality that the judgement of the Beautiful has.
  • Possibility
    1.8k
    I concede that aesthetic rationality is not "objective" (another post I think to argue that standard is based on Kant's desire to empower some judgment to be, say, irrefutable, but not based on a "real" "universal" object; however, I don't need agreement on either of those contentions to make my point here.Antony Nickles

    I would argue that Kant is referring here not to some judgement, but to the self-conscious faculty of judgement as apodictic. Pure aesthetic judgement seems to me a deliberate refrain.

    And I do allow for uncertainty, but only in the sense that it is uncertain that you will see what I see. I do claim that aesthetic rationale has a logic to it, though not a logic that ensures agreement or certainty in conclusions (not the logic you may want). This is an internal logic to the form of the art, the terms and means and structure--what makes a difference in sculpture compared to dance. Wittgenstein and Emerson inherit Kant but make every concept (here every form of art) categorical; each with its own class and criteria.Antony Nickles

    I do agree that aesthetic rationale applies an internal logic to the form, terms, means and structure in talking about art. But this logic serves to constrain the aesthetic in art, as it does in nature - there remains an aspect that transcends and even dissolves these categories of sculpture, dance, visual art, language or music. I think Kant refers to this as ‘the aesthetic idea’ - in relation to which all concepts, all thoughts and indeed all art, is but a rational approximation.

    And I allow that we might not agree (on the end of purposiveness--though I'd want to re-read my Kant--or exemplariness of the art form) but the "uncertainty" of agreement here is not corrosive to the possibility of agreement (or even just "approaching" agreement), it does not make the discussion of art irrational or illogical. We do not "agree" on the terms and forms of art (though we may disagree about one criteria's "significance" over another in a certain work). Our "perspective" is not something personal (the art's "significance" to us) so much as seeing the art, for example, thoroughly, within the history of its form, taking in all available evidence, etc. It's not what matters to me, it's what matters in, say, making that art--what is meaningful to the art form.Antony Nickles

    I agree with all of this - but a rational discussion of art is still not objective. However, it is not ‘rational discussion of art’ that this thread refers to, but aesthetics in general - and it’s about this subtle distinction that I’m continuing to quibble with you. I think that aesthetics could be objective - but any discussion of it can only approach this possibility through uncertainty and a self-conscious capacity to transcend the laws of logic.
  • Antony Nickles
    165
    I do agree that aesthetic rationale applies an internal logic to the form, terms, means and structure in talking about art. But this logic serves to constrain the aesthetic in art, as it does in nature - there remains an aspect that transcends and even dissolves these categories of sculpture, dance, visual art, language or music. I think Kant refers to this as ‘the aesthetic idea’ - in relation to which all concepts, all thoughts and indeed all art, is but a rational approximation.Possibility

    I agree if this is to say not everything about the aesthetic can by captured in critique (or even words), i.e., the Sublime, but I think it's a scapegoat to throw the baby out with the bathwater to say that we are only "approximating" an idea (as it were, that taking the same unknowable place of the "object"--except if you only want to accept a certain type of rationality, logic, or end-place). Also, I'm not sure what "constrain" accomplishes other than to also say it does not meet a particular standard--one which changes nothing about our ability to discuss the aesthetic for everyone to see the public criteria of the form we have pointed out in a universal voice. It is not up to us to assent to the criteria, or an ultimate "idea", only to the critique--only that is subject to agreement.

    I agree with all of this - but a rational discussion of art is still not objective. However, it is not ‘rational discussion of art’ that this thread refers to, but aesthetics in general - and it’s about this subtle distinction that I’m continuing to quibble with you. I think that aesthetics could be objective - but any discussion of it can only approach this possibility through uncertainty and a self-conscious capacity to transcend the laws of logic.Possibility

    Well if we have to discuss the hangup with "objectivity"/("subjectivity") we must--I believe Kant starts the death-nell (started by the idea of the metaphysical "object" with Plato) for "objectivity" by shriveling its application to only certain standards (self-contained, impersonal, certain, universal, pre-determined, having moral force, etc.) I get his desire to distinguish out the "subjective", as feeling, inclination, and all the other failings of the particular human; but, in doing so, he entirely removed the human voice and the natural human condition dictated by the limits of knowledge, our separateness from each other (which I discuss in my post about Wittgenstein's lion quote), and the powerlessness of rules/logic/rationality. Modern philosophy (Wittgenstein, Emerson, Heidegger, Nietzsche) puts a nail in the coffin by making the "object", "reality", etc. obsolete, and dialectically filling the object/subject distinction in with our ordinary criteria.

    With the judgement of the Beautiful to aesthetics, however, Kant claims the standard of "objectivity" is not even used--we are not discussing the "object" (or the "idea"), we are not applying criteria for its identity or its certainty, universality, its "existence" apart from us. My whole point is that we give up "objectivity" but still have a logical rational discussion--we have everything else except the certainty that we will agree (or force to make us). Who needs the approximation other than to ignore the possibility of the voice of the other to speak for all of us, and to make us responsible for a cogent, rational response--we are answerable to each other; what are we missing?
  • hans solace
    4
    I think it's impossible for beauty to be objective. But as the same humans, we have a tendency to like the same things. So I think 'majority subjectivity' is the closest thing we can get to objective beauty. It's the phenomenon where most people like the same green/blue painting about nature. Or the phenomenon where certain individual are regarded as beautiful by most people in a given society (it involve symmetry, biological make up, and social hierarcy as far as I know).
    But I guess beauty for other creature like animals or aliens would be very different from our definition of beauty.
  • Mijin
    123
    Of course, my point in beginning my remarks only concerned these concepts in contrast to the disinterested, impersonal, intelligible rationality that the judgement of the Beautiful has.Antony Nickles

    I'm still not sure I entirely follow, as you still have not provided a concrete example.
    When people talk about a beautiful face, and we can point to features of our neurology that make humans basically hard-wired to like certain aspects of a face, like symmetry, is your view that that is not *true* beauty? That true beauty has to be based on rationality?

    And bear in mind that for the question of the OP, I do not need to show that all aesthetics can be shown to be objective. Merely that any can.
  • Possibility
    1.8k
    I agree if this is to say not everything about the aesthetic can by captured in critique (or even words), i.e., the Sublime, but I think it's a scapegoat to throw the baby out with the bathwater to say that we are only "approximating" an idea (as it were, that taking the same unknowable place of the "object"--except if you only want to accept a certain type of rationality, logic, or end-place). Also, I'm not sure what "constrain" accomplishes other than to also say it does not meet a particular standard--one which changes nothing about our ability to discuss the aesthetic for everyone to see the public criteria of the form we have pointed out in a universal voice. It is not up to us to assent to the criteria, or an ultimate "idea", only to the critique--only that is subject to agreement.Antony Nickles

    I hear what you’re saying - but I don’t believe I’m throwing anything out. Incidentally, if I reveal that my position in this discussion is as an artist, not a critic, would that change how you perceive my argument?

    Well if we have to discuss the hangup with "objectivity"/("subjectivity") we must--I believe Kant starts the death-nell (started by the idea of the metaphysical "object" with Plato) for "objectivity" by shriveling its application to only certain standards (self-contained, impersonal, certain, universal, pre-determined, having moral force, etc.) I get his desire to distinguish out the "subjective", as feeling, inclination, and all the other failings of the particular human; but, in doing so, he entirely removed the human voice and the natural human condition dictated by the limits of knowledge, our separateness from each other (which I discuss in my post about Wittgenstein's lion quote), and the powerlessness of rules/logic/rationality. Modern philosophy (Wittgenstein, Emerson, Heidegger, Nietzsche) puts a nail in the coffin by making the "object", "reality", etc. obsolete, and dialectically filling the object/subject distinction in with our ordinary criteria.

    With the judgement of the Beautiful to aesthetics, however, Kant claims the standard of "objectivity" is not even used--we are not discussing the "object" (or the "idea"), we are not applying criteria for its identity or its certainty, universality, its "existence" apart from us. My whole point is that we give up "objectivity" but still have a logical rational discussion--we have everything else except the certainty that we will agree (or force to make us). Who needs the approximation other than to ignore the possibility of the voice of the other to speak for all of us, and to make us responsible for a cogent, rational response--we are answerable to each other; what are we missing?
    Antony Nickles

    My understanding of objectivity is not in dichotomous relation to subjectivity, so your interpretation of a ‘subject-object distinction’ is quite different to mine. When I argue that a logical, rational discussion of art is not ‘objective’, I’m not arguing that it is instead ‘subjective’, only that its claim to objectivity is limited. This is due in part to Thomas Nagel, and in part to my examining Kant in the ‘wrong’ order. Inter-subjectivity, for me, constructs the dimensional aspects of our reality, so my view of Kant’s aesthetics abandons no ‘standards of objectivity’ to begin with, but rather strives towards the possibility of a more complete objectivity.

    This approximation, therefore, is more than just “an exhibition of rational ideas” - it’s a call not to agree so much as to engage in a shared relational ‘space’, in which differing systems and structures of rationality, logic or end-place can be understood and restructured in relation to others without consolidation or conflict based on significance. Without this approximation, which expresses an awareness of its incompleteness through aesthetics (whether intentional or not), how do we acknowledge and respond to the call in the first place?
  • Antony Nickles
    165

    I'm still not sure I entirely follow, as you still have not provided a concrete example.... Is it your view that true beauty has to be based on rationality?Mijin

    Yes, Kant's judgement of the Beautiful is rational, and universal, in a sense. And I wanted to make clear that, according to Kant, any "object" can be an example for the judgement of the Pleasant (a pleasing feeling) or the Good (popular), so we could pick literally any thing. You've chosen a face. As an object it is categorically not a subject for Kant's judgement of the Beautiful--he uses ordinary words as terms, I know, it's annoying; let's call it pretty or attractive to make it easier. You say everyone is hard-wired to "like" symmetric faces, sure, fine. We could say it's the pleasing feeling of it ("oh, pretty!" the brain says), and we could try to call the feeling the "reason" we find it pretty, but, just as one point, is there any space for that reason/feeling to be mine? other than it is my body, or is the "reason" in the face?

    Now we can judge a face (or faces) to be attractive ("I like that!"), but my valuing that face over another is my choice, i.e., any rationale would be "my" reasons, not universal, external (objective?) rationale. Even if we all value that face, does popularity lead to rationality? We could all have different reasons, or the exact same (say, the same feeling).

    Now Kant's idea of the Beautiful is judged by the criteria of the form not the object, for example, an art form, say, literature. Above I explain and quote Kant's process and basis for the rationality of the Beautiful, but, roughly, I make a universal claim for all of us based on the external criteria of the form, though your assent to that claim is uncertain. Here, imagine literary criticism that rises above what is pleasant or popular to use the criteria of written story to try to get you to accept what I see is correct based on the textual evidence and ways in which stories work.

    Again, above I argue against the popular but outdated objective/subjective distinction: is the feeling of the pleasant more, or less "objective" than the use of public criteria to reach agreement that I am right in what I see and say about the aesthetic? But if we will only accept certain, determined, necessary solutions beyond the human voice, then we could call the feeling of pleasure an "objective" judgment of the aesthetic--Oh, pretty! Yay!
  • Philosophim
    529
    My apologies if this has already been covered, but have you heard of the Golden Ratio? It is a ratio of the distances between geometric objects that artists have used for thousands of years to make pleasing architecture and objects.

    https://mathworld.wolfram.com/GoldenRatio.html

    What's interesting is its an irrational number, which means it technically can be approached, but not truly obtained.
  • Mijin
    123
    Now Kant's idea of the Beautiful is judged by the criteria of the form not the object, for example, the art form, say, literature.Antony Nickles

    It sounds a bit like true scotsman. You or I might consider something beautiful, but it's not true beauty, according to the conceptions of Kant. Well, I have no reason to suppose these conceptions are the correct framing; it's just a proposition that I either accept or reject. It can't be used as an argument to convince anyone of anything.
  • Antony Nickles
    165

    You or I might consider something beautiful, but it's not true beauty, according to the conceptions of Kant.Mijin

    I get what you're saying; Kant can be esoteric. I usually work from ordinary language (its ordinary criteria), but, if you let go of the personal use of the words as terms, the categories of judgement themselves regarding aesthetics are part of our world, just the names don't line up. In other words, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. The criteria aren't Kant's opinions or "conceptions", these are categories he is observing; he isn't making this stuff up (except, of course, that is, the names).

    That is to say, you can consider something whatever you want ("beautiful"), but it's just your feeling or opinion until we have some external criteria to agree or disagree about it over. And we are not discussing whether something is actually beautiful, but discussing the categories of judging (say, how it is determined to be beautiful). And true and false do not come into an aesthetic discussion, i.e., "true" beauty (the claims aren't propositional statements).

    Well, I have no reason to suppose these conceptions are the correct framing; it's just a proposition that I either accept or reject. It can't be used as an argument to convince anyone of anything.Mijin

    I just gave a ton of reasons! Throughout this thread! And yes, just as with most claims to our shared criteria, you can, of course, reject my (Kant's) claim (again, not a proposition). You are, however, answerable for that rejection, the lack of depth of it**, the refusal to address the distinctions, the impatience with any standard/terms but your own, etc. Maybe you no longer care, maybe you're attacking the method because you don't want to accept the conclusions, I don't know (maybe I'm not sure I care anymore.) And here is where we may be at the end of the rope with any claim about our shared criteria (as Wittgenstein says), which is the same failure that can happen with an aesthetic claim of the judgement of the beautiful. But this end is our failure more than just the possibility for it in the nature of the judgement of the aesthetic (or the philosophical).

    **I'm not sure it makes sense to say I "can't" use whatever it is you're saying; maybe you mean that Kant's argument is not going to convince "anyone" (no one? harsh) of "anything" (wow, none of it?); or maybe you mean necessarily convince, say, everyone--and when is that possible? / if ever a requirement? Ooooohhhh, wait! are we doing science?!
  • Antony Nickles
    165

    If I reveal that my position in this discussion is as an artist, not a critic, would that change how you perceive my argument?"Possibility

    I can only say for sure that although the artist may understand the workings of the form as well or better than the critic, I would say the critic understands the explicit criteria, the history of the art form, and is more deliberate, thoughtful, and comprehensive in his investigation into a work (though of course the artist could do this too, but then: is he an artist? or a critic?). That's not to say there aren't sensationalist, or populist, or just bad critics, or that the good ones aren't sometimes wrong. But I don't put any stock necessarily in the artist's position--his goal or intention, etc.

    When I argue that a logical, rational discussion of art is not ‘objective’, [I'm only saying] its claim to objectivity is limited. ...my view of Kant’s aesthetics abandons no ‘standards of objectivity’ to begin with, but rather strives towards the possibility of a more complete objectivity.Possibility

    Well "objective" gets used a lot without it being clear why. The "claim" of the discussion of art is not "limited" (it is, say, unguarded to the Other's rejection); it is not making a claim "to objectivity". Also not sure what a "standard of objectivity" is--certain, predictable, enforceable? Here Kant is saying we have a universal claim (acceptable by anyone) and impersonal criteria (though not certainty of agreement). How can we approach? Towards what? What would make this "more complete"? I would point out that the "more complete" a critique of art (the more evidence used, the more implications followed through, the more questions/objections addressed, etc.) its possible the more people may see it the same way, agree that all those determinations, the critique, are right/correct. Now, could we also deepen/broaden our criteria of a form? sure. Stanley Cavell's observations in "The World Viewed" about the nature of film bring to light criteria I don't think film critics even considered before; and Northrup Frye's "Anatomy of Criticism" is such a fundamental framework of the structure of literature, people call it the bible. (I will note that both of these works investigate the "forms" of these arts.)

    This approximation...is a call...to engage in a shared relational ‘space’, in which differing systems and structures of rationality, logic or end-place can be understood and restructured in relation to others without consolidation or conflict based on significance. Without this approximation, which expresses an awareness of its incompleteness through aesthetics (whether intentional or not), how do we acknowledge and respond to the call in the first place?Possibility

    I like the idea of a call: the work draws us in, it speaks to us through the criteria of its form, and our critique beckons the Other for their assent. Are these all not "space" enough? A discussion of the form of art does not require or allow for "differing systems and structures of rationality", as in, different rationality than: criteria of a form. But we also don't create the criteria nor change them (arbitrarily; say, without the art form changing). Where is the need for an "end-place"? Modern art expands and re-examines its own rational criteria in the making of the art--it's become its own critic. The criteria are not "incomplete", or unfinished, or, as of yet, only of a lower order (only an approximation?). A discussion of them need not end or be resolved or bettered for the rational conversation of art to begin--the one is the means to the other. We will have no other, better ("objective"?) means, to, say, have a particular, better ("objective"?) end. The frailty of the possibility of agreement in a discussion of art is its triumph, not its lack.

    [claiming objectivity is limited] is due in part to Thomas Nagel, and in part to my examining Kant in the ‘wrong’ order.Possibility

    Yes, we'll need a full accounting of this.
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