• Brett
    49
    as all acts of the moral being are carried out for some good, and we can produce a more truly objective judgement of morality.Metaphysician Undercover

    Then we see that every human act, to the extent that it is intentional and therefore aims at some "good", is itself good.Metaphysician Undercover

    Then would it be true to say that ‘every human act, to the extent that it is intentional and therefore aims at some ‘good’, is itself good,’ suggests that only those acts that are beneficial to the community would be added to the lexicon of ‘moral’? And that these acts are carried out by a moral being who already carried the idea of a moral act within him.

    I think you're somewhat wrong about Plato here. He was quite exposed to foreign cultures, and that he noticed the differences between them is evident in his moral philosophy.Metaphysician Undercover

    But was he exposed to cultures like those of South America, the Pacific, Australia or New Guinea, and if he was would he have perceived the hidden content of sculpture, song or dance, and if he perceived it would he understand?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k
    Then would it be true to say that ‘every human act, to the extent that it is intentional and therefore aims at some ‘good’, is itself good,’ suggests that only those acts that are beneficial to the community would be added to the lexicon of ‘moral’? And that these acts are carried out by a moral being who already carried the idea of a moral act within him.Brett

    In some moral theory, (and I think this stems from Aristotle), there is a distinction made between the apparent good and the real good. The individual moral subject always apprehends and acts on, an apparent good. Whether the apparent good is consistent with the real good is another question. I've seen this mostly in religious material, like Aquinas, where 'real good" is backed up by God. But "real good" could also be backed up by what you propose, "beneficial to the community".

    The point is that the apparent good, is not always consistent with the real good. So the intent involved in making this distinction, is not to remove acts which are inconsistent with the real good, from lexicon of "moral", but to remove terms like "bad" and "evil" from the lexicon of "moral', just like we would remove "ugly" from the lexicon of "art". Art, being a creative act always has elements of beauty. Now the person who acts on an apparent good which is inconsistent with the real good is not to be called "bad" or "evil", because that person is still acting for a "good". The person is just misguided, uneducated, untrained, or some such thing, with respect to the real good. And, the person who is mentally ill, who is not even capable of apprehending an apparent good, and is acting in a bad or evil way because of this illness, has one's acts thereby removed from the class of "moral acts" due to this illness. Likewise, something which is ugly, like destruction and corruption, we would not be classed as art, being contrary to creativity.

    But was he exposed to cultures like those of South America, the Pacific, Australia or New Guinea, and if he was would he have perceived the hidden content of sculpture, song or dance, and if he perceived it would he understand?Brett

    I don't quite see the point to this line of questioning. I think that the "content" of art is very subjective, such that one interpretation might apprehend a completely different content from another. We can take a piece of art, analyze the form, and be quite in agreement concerning the formal aspects. But when we get to the content, and this is the meaning which we assume that the artist has given to the piece, there is bound to be much disagreement. That is because a person will often be inclined to assign meaning to the piece based on what it means to oneself. It is very difficult to put oneself into the position of the artist, to determine the true content, the meaning which the artist has put into the piece. And, there is a type of inversion which artists are prone to practise, and this is to leave the meaning as ambiguous. This allows that the true meaning, and therefore the content of the art, is not what the artist puts into the art, but what the people who appreciate the art take from it. And being what is intended by the artist, this act of giving such that one can take what one wills from it, then this is the true meaning or content, that various observers may take various different meanings from it.

    So with respect to Plato, I'm sure he was exposed to various different cultures, especially around the Mediterranean, Persia and Asia. He clearly understood how the content of art was important, and also how the content was open to interpretation. Whether or not he could have correctly "perceived the hidden content", I don't think is even a question we can consider, due to the issues stated above. Interpretation of content is fundamentally subjective.
  • Brett
    49
    I don't quite see the point to this line of questioning. I think that the "content" of art is very subjective, such that one interpretation might apprehend a completely different content from another.Metaphysician Undercover

    To tell the truth I wondered myself when you said that. But then I remembered why.

    When you talk about art being very subjective and that it may be interpreted differently from one person to another I think you’re talking about a modern idea of art, where artists do play games of ambiguity, where theory suggests the art doesn’t exist until it’s observed, that art is produced by artists, and what an artists produces is art because they said so.

    But what I’m alluding to in bringing up New Guinea or Australia or the Pacific is that when we use the word art to address objects that have been made, artefacts, we’re referring to objects that carry a particular weight or meaning or even power. By wearing a mask a New Guinea elder becomes a spirit teacher, the Australian Corroboree interacts with the Dreamtime. We lump these things together as art because they have form, colour, repitition, pattern, etc. (The history of modern art could be said to be that of appropriation). These are the originators of art, like the drawings in the caves of Lascaux in France.

    These art forms have a real purpose and might be regarded as an integral part of that community or culture. They certainly reinforce cultural ideas and history, as well as ideas on moralism. It’s true that in terms of the community or culture they are subjective. But my suggestion is that the moral aspects are universal, appearing again in far off places.
    .
  • Brett
    49
    ‘Morality plays are interesting vehicles for the solution of both social and intrapsychic conflicts among the uneducated or partially-educated bulk of the population.’
    Wertz D. Conflict resolution in the medieval morality plays.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k
    But what I’m alluding to in bringing up New Guinea or Australia or the Pacific is that when we use the word art to address objects that have been made, artefacts, we’re referring to objects that carry a particular weight or meaning or even power. By wearing a mask a New Guinea elder becomes a spirit teacher, the Australian Corroboree interacts with the Dreamtime. We lump these things together as art because they have form, colour, repitition, pattern, etc. (The history of modern art could be said to be that of appropriation). These are the originators of art, like the drawings in the caves of Lascaux in France.

    These art forms have a real purpose and might be regarded as an integral part of that community or culture. They certainly reinforce cultural ideas and history, as well as ideas on moralism. It’s true that in terms of the community or culture they are subjective. But my suggestion is that the moral aspects are universal, appearing again in far off places.
    Brett

    I don't see how this example is substantially different. Exactly what the wearing of the mask means is subjective, even within that particular culture. On one occasion it might mean something different than another occasion. And, it might mean something different to one person than it does to another, even on the same occasion of use. In this way its use, and meaning, is similar to that of a word. You have assigned to it a particular meaning, the "elder becomes a spirit teacher", which though it is particular is very general in nature, and this interpretation is conditioned by your culture. Being very general, and therefore vague, it would be hard to say that your interpretation is wrong, it's just not very informative.

    You declare that the artifact carried a particular weight, or special power, but there were probably many such objects, each with its own special power. Today, the electrical engineer, or physicist, will use the word "electron" , and just knowing the significance of that word, and the proper way to use that word, gives this class of people magnificent powers over a part of the natural world which to the rest of us is essentially unknown. I don't see this as fundamentally different from the person who puts on the mask. The mask, like the word, is a symbol, and it is not the symbol itself which holds the power, it is the knowledge of the natural world, which comes along with knowing how to use that symbol, that holds the power. So you look at the mask as if it carries special power, but really the mask just signifies a special knowledge which the person using the mask has. And the rest of the population has great respect for that person because of this knowledge, and also for the symbol itself, because of the power which the knowledge represented by that symbol, brings to the person.

    These art forms have a real purpose and might be regarded as an integral part of that community or culture. They certainly reinforce cultural ideas and history, as well as ideas on moralism. It’s true that in terms of the community or culture they are subjective. But my suggestion is that the moral aspects are universal, appearing again in far off places.Brett

    I think, that to the extent that the knowledge symbolized by the artifact is real knowledge, i.e. it tells the knower something real and useful in relation to the world, then that particular type of artifact, or aspect of the artifact, will be found in many different cultures, as the knowledge spreads. Different cultures did interact even thousands of years ago. So certain very useful developments, such as the wheel, the circle, and consequently angles and geometry, and also what you suggest moral principles, being very useful, would spread quickly. The moral principles, being the most abstract, would be more difficult to find physical evidence of.
  • Brett
    49
    The moral principles, being the most abstract, would be more difficult to find physical evidence of.Metaphysician Undercover

    Except that they exist today in our culture.
  • Brett
    49
    I don't see how this example is substantially different.Metaphysician Undercover

    This part is not really about morals or subjectivity. I’m trying to establish the way these original ‘artefacts’, as I call them, are the precursors to what we now regard as art. Modern art did not spring fully formed to life. For a long time these artefacts played an important art in culture: telling stories, interpreting, instructing, nurturing, as it did in Western culture with Christianity, possibly up until the Enlightenment.

    When things moved on from the Enlightenment art took on a different purpose. It moved away from God, the Christian message, the bible, the established view of man and his place in the universe, caught up in the idea of reason and science. It began to exist in itself. Eventually we had the idea of the ‘artist’, who produced art expressing his subjective world of feelings, perception, interpretation and so on. It no longer played the same part in society as the ‘artefacts’ did.

    And yet it seems possible that instinctively we still turn to these things for some inspiration, just as they did with the ‘artefacts’: the masks, chants and dances. But art is no longer like that. Commercial interests now drive art: film, television, novels, plays. The content is inspirational but in a form that does not contribute to our lives or society as a whole, it targets our narcissism and encourages the worst aspects of our nature.
  • Terrapin Station
    6.8k
    For a long time these artefacts played an important art in culture: telling stories, interpreting, instructing, nurturing,Brett

    Seeing a bifurcation there seems like oversimplifying and cherry-picking to me. Not all art was focused on telling stories, etc. prior to the Enlightenment, and those things also didn't disappear in modern art. You could say something like "There was no non-representational painting prior to the modern era" and that might be correct (although I'm not 100% sure it is--it's kind of weird that it would be, because there was certainly other abstract visual art, exemplified in decorative arts, architecture, etc., as far back as we know about), but that doesn't amount to a dichotomy re instructing, nurturing, etc.

    That's not to say that there haven't been various shifts in focus a la trends--no set of aims was ever universal, the best we could do would be to talk about trends, but that has to do with many different factors, including what artists could do and had to do in order to make a living in various eras, including technological developments, including developments of technique, etc.
  • Brett
    49
    Seeing a bifurcation there seems like oversimplifying and cherry-picking to me.Terrapin Station

    But it would be fair to say that the Enlightenment was exactly that; a bifurcation.

    No, not all art was about telling stories, But it was the primary means of transmission and modern art has moved away from playing that part, because modern art became more about personal expression, about the ‘artist’. It’s true the some modern artist: writers and visual artist, might produce works that focus on the dilemma of morality, but what’s relevant in terms of this discussion is how many people they reach; nothing in comparison to television.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k
    This part is not really about morals or subjectivity. I’m trying to establish the way these original ‘artefacts’, as I call them, are the precursors to what we now regard as art. Modern art did not spring fully formed to life. For a long time these artefacts played an important art in culture: telling stories, interpreting, instructing, nurturing, as it did in Western culture with Christianity, possibly up until the Enlightenment.Brett

    If you're talking about telling stories, then I think that you have to take into account the historical limitations on written language. Prior to the enlightenment, writing was pretty much confined to those educated within the structure of the Church. And if you go back three thousand years, written language was almost non-existent. At this time, "story telling", verbally, would have been the only means for passing knowledge, information, from one generation to the next. So I think it's important to distinguish between modern times, when there is so much written material, information, everywhere, and ancient times when written material was very limited.

    When things moved on from the Enlightenment art took on a different purpose. It moved away from God, the Christian message, the bible, the established view of man and his place in the universe, caught up in the idea of reason and science. It began to exist in itself. Eventually we had the idea of the ‘artist’, who produced art expressing his subjective world of feelings, perception, interpretation and so on. It no longer played the same part in society as the ‘artefacts’ did.Brett

    So I think that this movement of art away from God and the Christian message, is a reflection of the Church's release of control over written expression. Changes in artful expression coincide with the Church's relinquished control over publication.

    And yet it seems possible that instinctively we still turn to these things for some inspiration, just as they did with the ‘artefacts’: the masks, chants and dances. But art is no longer like that. Commercial interests now drive art: film, television, novels, plays. The content is inspirational but in a form that does not contribute to our lives or society as a whole, it targets our narcissism and encourages the worst aspects of our nature.Brett

    When there are severe limitations in relation to what can be put on hard copy, then only what is deemed as the most important will get that privilege. But when there is much freedom and the restrictions are far less significant, we'll get a much wider variety of "artefacts".
  • Brett
    49
    If you're talking about telling stories, then I think that you have to take into account the historical limitations on written language.Metaphysician Undercover

    In this conversation I have being trying to refer back to earlier times where most stories were passed on verbaly or visually. But what I’m exploring is the idea that, being the creatures we are, we regard the written work, and the visual work that we see today, as a continuation of that telling, we respond instinctively to it, maybe not so consciously as our forebears, but it’s still there. Language and the telling of stories, from the Indians of the Amazon, to Sophocles ‘Antigone’, to Shakespeare’s ‘ King Lear’, carry this message that I’m calling our morality.
    This morality presented in the form of tales, myths, or plays and then the written form, would have reached a wide audience, which was its purpose, done in such a way so as not to be elitist, performed in special institutions, separated from the people, as Shakespeare is today for instance, compared to its origins.

    There are always a few writer who still do this, but how big is their audience? How many people can they turn away from the television that people watch, seeking instinctively the message and receiving instead the narcissistic morality of modern times.

    So I think that this movement of art away from God and the Christian message, is a reflection of the Church's release of control over written expression. Changes in artful expression coincide with the Church's relinquished control over publication.Metaphysician Undercover

    I tend to think the control over expression was taken from them rather than relinquishing it.

    When there are severe limitations in relation to what can be put on hard copy, then only what is deemed as the most important will get that privilege. But when there is much freedom and the restrictions are far less significant, we'll get a much wider variety of "artefacts".Metaphysician Undercover

    My feeling is that it’s the opposite. The tales of the past were not privileged by their importance but by their ability to reach out directly to the people. The ‘artefacts’ of today are homogenised and lacking in the sense of morality that was inherent in the tales and plays of the past, and virtually owned by institutions, who then ultimately own the message.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k
    In this conversation I have being trying to refer back to earlier times where most stories were passed on verbaly or visually. But what I’m exploring is the idea that, being the creatures we are, we regard the written work, and the visual work that we see today, as a continuation of that telling, we respond instinctively to it, maybe not so consciously as our forebears, but it’s still there. Language and the telling of stories, from the Indians of the Amazon, to Sophocles ‘Antigone’, to Shakespeare’s ‘ King Lear’, carry this message that I’m calling our morality.
    This morality presented in the form of tales, myths, or plays and then the written form, would have reached a wide audience, which was its purpose, done in such a way so as not to be elitist, performed in special institutions, separated from the people, as Shakespeare is today for instance, compared to its origins.
    Brett

    I think that the main issue here is "importance" and it seems like you and I may somewhat disagree on the method of importance, how importance is important. What an individual values will be important to that person, and the person will act to bring into one's own life, and to the lives of others around them, those valued things. So I think it is important to recognize that a wide audience is a product of many individuals holding value in the artistic expression (seeing it as important). This means that we cannot approach the art, or the artists directly, to see what it is about their material which attracts a wide audience, without first understanding the audience itself. For instance, if we looked at the explosion of rock and roll music in the sixties, and the creation of a wide audience (notice that I say a wide audience is created) by bands like The Beatles, we'd be acting in an "appellative" way, seeking a common feature in that audience, a common principle of value within every member of the audience, which was appealed to by the band, and could be named. The problem is the ambiguity factor that artists use, which I described earlier. The important thing which is valued by a member of the audience, may vary from one individual to another, so there can be no such appellation. Then we see that the perception of "importance" within the audience is actually created by the artists through the use of mechanisms like ambiguity, which we might not even understand.

    I tend to think the control over expression was taken from them rather than relinquishing it.Brett

    For the sake of argument, let's assume that they lost the capacity to create the perception of importance. Let's say that they could no longer keep a captive audience. With methods like "The Inquisition", the Church actually suppressed its own capacity to create importance by denying ambiguous or alternative interpretations of scripture. So if the Church was the purveyor of art, and it lost the capacity to create a wide audience, then the hole created, the need for something important, would have to be filled by other sources.

    My feeling is that it’s the opposite. The tales of the past were not privileged by their importance but by their ability to reach out directly to the people. The ‘artefacts’ of today are homogenised and lacking in the sense of morality that was inherent in the tales and plays of the past, and virtually owned by institutions, who then ultimately own the message.Brett

    Right, but we need to understand exactly what this "ability to reach out directly to the people is". The "audience" cannot be taken for granted. It must be created, because you might put on a show and have no one come. So the individuals who will form 'the audience" need to perceive importance. Therefore importance is key, because without the sense of importance, there is no audience. When we approach "morality" from this perspective, art, I think it is necessary to understand these concepts of "importance", and "value" before we can even introduce "morality" into the discussion.

    As you say here, modern artists may create an audience without any appeal to morality. The money-making machines produce the perception of importance, creating massive audiences, through much simpler, and very efficient means, because the end goal, making money, is much more easily obtained than the end goal of making morality. So we've come full circle now. The artist creates the audience through an appeal to the individual members' of the potential audience sense of value, by creating the appearance of importance. Now the issue is the individual's sense of value. Where does "morality" stand in the individual's sense of value, and how does this relate to the artist's capacity to create an audience?
  • Brett
    49
    I’m trying to keep in the air three different cultures and ages here. 1) a small tribe, 2) Christianity, and 3) let’s say post enlightenment or today.

    The tribe and Christianity are similar in terms of the audience and the level of importance. In both of them the people are raised within the confines of a particularly confined culture.

    The church has no need of ambiguity to reach a wider audience (except as missionaries, maybe, so I see what you mean about creating a wider audience, and that’s another interesting subject; converting) or to create an audience. Each member is raised to be a member of the audience, they’re believers. As are members of the tribe.

    The values and morals are instilled in them on a regular basis by, priests, elders or shamans. These values hold the community together.

    They hold the community together because it was those values that formed the tribe. The values came before the tribe because it was the values that, in evolutionary terms, “cultivated and regulated complex interactions within social groups (Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce), enabled their successful development, growth and survival.

    The ‘artists’ of these communities created work that contained and expressed these values. The so called art or ‘artefacts’ they created served the purpose of expressing through myths, legends or tales the importance of living those values, and never forgetting them.

    But then we get the enlightenment as my bifurcation. The tribe remains untouched, lost in the jungle. But in the Western world the church is challenged; God is dead. Now the audience of the church, the priests, the bible, no longer have the same audience sharing the same sense of importance. The church can never work with ambiguity; you believe in God or you don’t.

    However, the values and morals are still there among the potential audience because it’s those values that successfully formed the society. The church didn’t create them, it only institutionalised them. As did the Shamans and elders of the tribe.

    So, who are to be the new priests, the new Shamans, the new storytellers that the audience seek?
    My position, which I hope I’ve been able to make clear, is that our morality is innate. And we once were part of an audience that responded to the artist/Shaman/priest and their artefacts. The relationship was unambiguous.

    The artist/priest/Shaman would create an audience by creating a sense of importance about those morals that the audience already held. But the potential audience is lost, they can’t find the artist who connects. Where is he today? The connection is gone, the inspiration, the tales are gone. There’s a vacuum. The vacuum must be filled. Now there’s room for real ambiguity, and only ambiguity can appeal to a wide audience.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k
    The church has no need of ambiguity to reach a wider audience (except as missionaries, maybe, so I see what you mean about creating a wider audience, and that’s another interesting subject; converting) or to create an audience. Each member is raised to be a member of the audience, they’re believers. As are members of the tribe.

    The values and morals are instilled in them on a regular basis by, priests, elders or shamans. These values hold the community together.
    Brett

    This is the difficult part to understand, what constitutes being "raised to be a member of the audience"? This is the act of creating the audience, and holding the attention of the audience. The artist must create within each individual the perception that the art is important. Within the individual member is a sense of value. Do you agree with this? Let's start with the very basic assumption that this is all that is innate, just a sense of value. Let's suppose that the person is born like the blank slate with respect to what that person will value. The person will learn to value particular things, but at birth there is just a general capacity to value, and this capacity will be directed in various ways, depending on what grabs one's attention, as one grows. Therefore the artist must grab one's attention, and cultivate within each individual an apprehension of the art as something important, and the individual's sense of value will be directed in this way.

    Now, let's widen the assumption of what is innate. Let's say that some people naturally look this way, and some people naturally look that way, according to some sort of natural interest, depending on the sharpness of the various senses. Each person has a slightly different physical constitution, forming a different composition, and therefore a different natural disposition. Of the senses, one person might see better than another, who might hear better than another, and so on; and then there are tastes, which influence what we eat, and this affects our internal organs which have a great influence on how we apprehend things. So I think that each person's innate disposition toward "value" is very different, depending on these physical factors.

    This is why it is not a simple task to raise an audience. Yes, each person must be raised to be a member of the audience, but each person is different in one's disposition toward value. The artist cannot produce a different message for each different person because this would create contradiction in the artist's overall "message", so the artist's recourse is ambiguity. This is why you should not underestimate the importance of ambiguity. Raising children to be a member of an audience is an act of creating an audience. So in the case of the Church, you cannot take the audience for granted, just assuming that the children are naturally raised to be the audience. The act of raising the children to be the audience is a continuous act of creating an audience, which requires working with ambiguities.

    The values and morals are instilled in them on a regular basis by, priests, elders or shamans. These values hold the community together.

    They hold the community together because it was those values that formed the tribe. The values came before the tribe because it was the values that, in evolutionary terms, “cultivated and regulated complex interactions within social groups (Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce), enabled their successful development, growth and survival.
    Brett

    You appear to be claiming that there are communal values, which hold the community together. But the innate disposition to value, is not necessarily directed toward any particular common value. So I do not think that the claim that the values came before the tribe is justified. This all depends on the role of ambiguity. Imagine a group of people together, as group. Each has one's own intentions, and therefore one's own values, yet they are together, as a group, a tribe. Suppose these people are working together on a project, like members of a group in an employment setting. That common project they are working on justifies the claim of "communal value". Now suppose the people are just living in proximity to each other, but need to interact on a day to day basis, like a small community. Each person has one's own values, and they manage to live side by side without any overall project that they're working on. They're just living in some sort harmony without interfering with each other, and there is no "communal values". Well, we could say that there is "communal values" if we allow a significant amount of ambiguity. The people are not fighting with each other, they are not stealing from each other, raping and killing each other, I've described the situation as "harmony", so there must be some sort of communal value. But if we were to define, or describe those particular values, we'd be lost in ambiguity. Perhaps what is valued is the sense of communion itself.

    The ‘artists’ of these communities created work that contained and expressed these values. The so called art or ‘artefacts’ they created served the purpose of expressing through myths, legends or tales the importance of living those values, and never forgetting them.Brett

    So I don't think these artists of the ancient and prehistoric tribes are expressing any particular values at all. They are just expressing some kind of ambiguity. The potential audience sees the expression, and its repetition (and repetition is probably very important here), and perceives importance. The very existence of the "audience" creates a togetherness of the people, and this is a sense of communion. You'll notice that in ancient tribes, ceremonies and celebrations were very important. This is carried on and increased in Christianity and all religions. The sense of communion is not created by common values, it is created by ceremonies and celebrations which bring people together. When it is experienced, it is valued. The being together is apprehended as important, and therefore valued, because it is enjoyable and fulfilling in many ways. And from the being together there develops the ability to communicate, resolve ambiguities and produce joint projects, common values.

    But then we get the enlightenment as my bifurcation. The tribe remains untouched, lost in the jungle. But in the Western world the church is challenged; God is dead. Now the audience of the church, the priests, the bible, no longer have the same audience sharing the same sense of importance. The church can never work with ambiguity; you believe in God or you don’t.

    However, the values and morals are still there among the potential audience because it’s those values that successfully formed the society. The church didn’t create them, it only institutionalised them. As did the Shamans and elders of the tribe.
    Brett

    You'll see that I have a different perspective on this now. From my perspective, the artists did create the common values, or at least created the conditions from which the common values followed. The artists created the audience, and creating the audience was a bringing together of people. This was not done through any common values, but with an ambiguity of values. The being together in ceremony and celebration is enjoyed, therefore apprehended as important, and becomes a common value. Other common values follow from this.

    So, who are to be the new priests, the new Shamans, the new storytellers that the audience seek?
    My position, which I hope I’ve been able to make clear, is that our morality is innate. And we once were part of an audience that responded to the artist/Shaman/priest and their artefacts. The relationship was unambiguous.

    The artist/priest/Shaman would create an audience by creating a sense of importance about those morals that the audience already held. But the potential audience is lost, they can’t find the artist who connects. Where is he today? The connection is gone, the inspiration, the tales are gone. There’s a vacuum. The vacuum must be filled. Now there’s room for real ambiguity, and only ambiguity can appeal to a wide audience.
    Brett

    As you can see, I disagree with this. I don't know how you would support or justify "our morality is innate". It seems quite evident that morality is learned. It is what we are taught when we are young. What I think is innate, is some sense of value, but our values naturally vary widely, and this is not naturally conducive to morality. I think morality comes about, is created by communion, not vise versa. The "vacuum" you talk about here is the self. The self is a void, and overindulgence of communal activity creates a need to retreat into the void. The need for privacy becomes more important than the need to be part of a group when overindulge in communal activity continues unabated. At this point, the feeling of togetherness, as more important than privacy, needs to be rekindled, and that's the work of the artist.
  • wax
    6
    when I think of art, I think about the context it is made in.
    If made by humans, you have an artist who is a product of his upbring, his physiology, who is a member of a species which evolved from single cell organisms a billion/s of years ago. And then you have the question of how those cells came into being. I believe in a supernatural origin for those first cells, so then the history of the artist goes further back, perhaps indefinitely...back to God, and I tthink God does not have an objective perspective, how could he when he really can't be sure what it would be like to be born in Africa with HIV and end up as a drug addict, or be born into a rich familiy in some part of the world.

    I think God is in the process of evolving, evolving his ideas perspective, and it is a story that has no beginning, as far as I can see.

    So I think an artist is in quite a situation....he/she paints, writes, sculpts etc what the will, and to whose end, how can anyone be sure?

    Can an artist really create what they want? Are there consequences? Can an artist go into Hyde Park at midnight, and say, or paint what they want? Will there be drunks, will their art be mocked, will they be attacked?
    Safe to paint away in their room//studio, but then if they show their stuff to the world, will there be consequences..will the alpha male progeny not approve? Could they become social outcasts?

    What is at stake when you make art? Can moral insight come unhindered in such a complex situation.

    I think art which gets people to feel what some things are like, the reality of some situations....morality then might spring from that in the viewers mind. I don't really think complex morality can be taught; people have to come to their own conclusions.

    The law is there to keep some semblance of order, quality of life; it is better than the alternative I assume, most of the time.

    If you tell someone that murder is wrong, is that moral teaching? Does it naturally lead to the person believing that murder is wrong?

    As for beauty, comedy etc...it's a sort of whatever gets you through the night, and on a planet like this, that isn't trivial, and doesn't exclude things from being art, or developing as a person.
  • Brett
    49
    As you can see, I disagree with this. I don't know how you would support or justify "our morality is innate". It seems quite evident that morality is learned. It is what we are taught when we are young.Metaphysician Undercover

    This is why we differ so much on the artist and the audience.

    If you were to agree with me on morality (and I’m not asking you to) would you then agree with my views on audience and artist, would that then make sense?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k

    You'd have to explain to me what you mean by "our morality is innate". I find this statement to be very vague, ambiguous, and actually not representative of empirical evidence. Let's start with a definition of "morality" as the capacity to distinguish bad from good, and let's assume that this capacity is innate. How is it that we are sometimes wrong in distinguishing bad from good? And why are we taught, as children, to distinguish bad from good, if we already innately know this?

    Furthermore, if morality was truly innate, wouldn't all this work by the artists, putting forth the material, and creating an audience, all be for nothing? Isn't the moral message, within the art, there for the purpose of teaching morality? This would be unnecessary if morality was innate.
  • Terrapin Station
    6.8k
    Your posts keep reading to me, without you saying as much explicitly, like you're really just wanting to express that you're relatively "conservative" when it comes to morality, and you're doing to ol' "Look at how awful this modern culture is" (a la an old man yelling at people to get off of his lawn) thing, where you want or think we need it to change or we're going to hell in a handbasket . . . which I don't empathize with at all--because I'm basically the complete opposite. I'm extremely libertine/freewheeling/laissez faire in disposition. I strongly dislike people wanting to control others (aside from prohibiting things like murder).
  • Brett
    49
    You'd have to explain to me what you mean by "our morality is innate". I find this statement to be very vague, ambiguous, and actually not representative of empirical evidence. Let's start with a definition of "morality" as the capacity to distinguish bad from good, and let's assume that this capacity is innate. How is it that we are sometimes wrong in distinguishing bad from good? And why are we taught, as children, to distinguish bad from good, if we already innately know this?Metaphysician Undercover

    People are always making the wrong moral decisions in life, despite being instructed in what is right and wrong. Why is this? It’s because it’s a continuous necessity to address it in ourselves, to consider our decisions and consequences, to look at the problem we’re confronted with by addressing previous concerns and experience and weighing up our choices. That’s who we are.

    We are not taught as children to distinguish between right and wrong. What parents, teachers and society does is remind us of what we already know when we do something wrong. It does not have to be explained to us from scratch every time we confront a moral dilemma. There is plenty of research out there demonstrating the sense of empathy among young children as young as 12 months. Behaviour also observed in primates. If the answer is that it is something learned then it has to have existed prior to learning, it had to exist to enable small communities to form and thrive.

    Furthermore, if morality was truly innate, wouldn't all this work by the artists, putting forth the material, and creating an audience, all be for nothing? Isn't the moral message, within the art, there for the purpose of teaching morality? This would be unnecessary if morality was innate.Metaphysician Undercover

    It’s not there to teach morality, it’s to demonstrate the continuous endeavour required by people to be moral, that the problems people may face in themselves have been around a long time and that people overcome their doubts and eventually take the moral position, or they refuse to and pay the price.
  • Brett
    49
    Your posts keep reading to me, without you saying as much explicitly, like you're really just wanting to express that you're relatively "conservative" when it comes to morality, and you're doing to ol' "Look at how awful this modern culture is" (a la an old man yelling at people to get off of his lawn) thing, where you want or think we need it to change or we're going to hell in a handbasket . . . which I don't empathize with at all--because I'm basically the complete opposite. I'm extremely libertine/freewheeling/laissez faire in disposition. I strongly dislike people wanting to control others (aside from prohibiting things like murder).Terrapin Station

    You raise an interesting point here.

    It seems to me that you would be more likely to agree with me, because you are born with a set of morals for living in this world, you possess them, as opposed to having them imposed on you.
  • Terrapin Station
    6.8k
    It seems to me that you would be more likely to agree with me, because you are born with a set of morals for living in this world,Brett

    I think it's more that individuals develop moral stances, though I'd agree that they're born with preconditions or dispositions that make it more likely they'll develop one moral stance rather than another, and then of course there are significant environmental influences, too.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k
    People are always making the wrong moral decisions in life, despite being instructed in what is right and wrong. Why is this? It’s because it’s a continuous necessity to address it in ourselves, to consider our decisions and consequences, to look at the problem we’re confronted with by addressing previous concerns and experience and weighing up our choices. That’s who we are.Brett

    Plato demonstrated that morality is not simply a matter of knowledge, when he argues against the sophists who claimed to teach virtue. It is often the case that we know what is right yet we do what is wrong.

    It’s not there to teach morality, it’s to demonstrate the continuous endeavour required by people to be moral, that the problems people may face in themselves have been around a long time and that people overcome their doubts and eventually take the moral position, or they refuse to and pay the price.Brett

    If it is an endeavour, requiring effort, to be moral, then this is inconsistent with morality is innate. I think that morality involves developing good habits and breaking bad habits. I also think that sometimes innate features will incline one toward some bad habits, and this is why it is an endeavour, requiring effort, to be moral. It is also why it is impossible that morality is innate. Morality often involves resisting desires derived from innate features.

    When I say that morality is not innate, and that it is learned, I do not mean that it is "imposed" on us. I think it is learned, and learning is a product of the will to learn. So morality must come from within, as the desire to be moral, and that must be an innate tendency, but the desire to be moral is not the same as actually being moral. And this is what Plato demonstrated, one can have the desire to be moral, and learn moral principles, but still behave in an immoral way. So moral behaviour is something which needs to be cultivated, learned, but it is a distinct form of knowledge in the sense that it is a learning-how as distinct from learning-that. There is a sort of separation between what we know, and how we behave. We develop our habits of how we do things, prior to actually understanding exactly what we are doing with those methods; in many cases forms of behaviour are learned at a very young age. So when we learn a different, better way, of doing things, we may not have the will power to break the old habits and follow the new way. That is why it is important to show individuals good behaviour from a very young age.

    There is plenty of research out there demonstrating the sense of empathy among young children as young as 12 months. Behaviour also observed in primates. If the answer is that it is something learned then it has to have existed prior to learning, it had to exist to enable small communities to form and thrive.Brett

    The sense of empathy may be innate, but it needs to be cultivated in order to produce morality. That is what I described in the artist's work of creating an audience. Creating an audience brings people together, and the togetherness which is created by the artist, and enjoyed by the audience, allows for morality to be produced through the cultivation of emotions like empathy which are conducive to morality.

    So it's not like morality itself must have existed prior to learning, it is these emotive features, like empathy, which are conducive to morality which existed prior to social structure. The problem is that these innate tendencies toward various emotions are very difficult to describe, and they vary greatly from one person to the other, and also they are prone to develop in different directions in the very young child, depending on how the child is cared for. So to create morality the emotions must be directed. The act which directs them toward morality must be capable of grabbing the attention of (entertaining), multiple different children with various different emotional capacities. This is why there is a need for ambiguity, and the art, as well as the moral story, is presented in a general way rather than in a particular way.
  • Brett
    49
    it is these emotive features, like empathy, which are conducive to morality which existed prior to social structure. The problem is that these innate tendencies toward various emotions are very difficult to describe,Metaphysician Undercover


    Is it your thought that empathy has contributed to morality? That feelings come before morality?
  • Brett
    49
    Is the desire to be moral itself moral?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.2k
    Is it your thought that empathy has contributed to morality?Brett

    Yes, I would agree that empathy contributes to morality, but in itself as an emotion, it is neither moral nor immoral. And I believe that feelings, emotions in general, are prior to morality. Perhaps non-human animals demonstrate emotions. But one might also argue that training house pets is a form of morality.

    Is the desire to be moral itself moral?Brett

    No, the desire to be moral is definitely not the same as being moral. This is demonstrated by those who desire to be good, and learn what is good, but cannot resist the temptation to do what is bad, despite knowing that it is bad. The desire to be moral would have to be classified with the other emotions, like love and empathy, which are likely necessary for morality, but do not necessarily produce morality. These emotions which are conducive to morality, because they co-exist with other unwanted emotions like frustration and hate and they feedback in a sort of bipolar way, need to be cultivated to actually bring about a moral being

    This is why I think that the concept of innate morality is fundamentally inconsistent with the concept that art is important to morality. Art is a form of communication, and communication is the way that we learn things from others which we do not know innately. So if morality were innate, there would be no reason for art to express morality, and artwork could not be important to morality. But if we separate the desire to be moral, from actually being moral, then the desire to be moral may be innate, and art may help us to satisfy that desire.
  • Terrapin Station
    6.8k
    Is the desire to be moral itself moral?Brett

    I wouldn't say that any desire has anything to do with morality.
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