Philosophy of Art: Art as Question/Problematic

Featheon

New member
Greetings,

I'd like to say a few words about my general conception of the artwork. I have been studying the history of Western music, philosophy and the specific discourse of "aesthetics" in American universities for about five years. Before I begin let me say that I have no intention of sounding erudite, and any resort to "jargon" should be taken as a failure on my part to put my concerns into every-day language. I mention my background only to give the reader as much perspective as possible in their perception of me, the author. Allow it simply to aid in your critique of the following text.

Proposition:

It seems intuitive to me that the most common result of any artistic experience is that it challenges/questions our own confidence in our perception of reality.

What suggestion is there of this?

I. From the experience of working on the artwork:

What drives the labor of the artist other than the feeling that he is following a yet untraveled path of inquiry? At the very least (and since we must start somewhere) most dead white men of "Classical" Western culture are known for their claim that it is the "unfolding of an idea," the following through of an inquiry, that creates the possibility of entire symphonies, and so on. From at least Beethoven to Schoenberg, those praised by the social elite joined the conception of an artwork as a recorded growth of a singular idea: "motive," "idee fixe," "tone row," etc. But should we accept this conception of the artwork as a growth of idea? Is it true that the creation of art be the best metaphor for "growth" as it is understood in the sciences? It at least seems true that we are not conscious of what the final form of an artwork will be when we first set out to collect our materials (samples, keyboards, subject matter).

II. From the Critique of Art:

We recognize a certain measure of artistic failure, I claim, when the artist was overtly concerned with the final result of the process. If we sense in the artwork an imitation, as if the complete form of the work had been conceived in advance, then we do enjoy it as art, but as entertainment. Yes, I am aware that such an artwork can still be politically provocative (e.g., an appropriation of a famous portrait of Napoleon but with a black man seated on the horse), but I claim that the experience of such a work is not the same as the recognition of "creative expression" in the most naive sense of the phrase. This welcomed if not enjoyed quest to follow through on an unrealized idea is a significant property of the artistic process: that we are not made anxious by what is unfamiliar to us.

III. From the Non-artistic life (Evidence via Negation):

I believe that, if we are honest about it, most of us seek out patterns of familiarity in order to comfort our daily lives. Often, there isn't enough free time to be inquisitive. Our real work, the kind that more assuredly generates money, alienates us from this kind of artistic inquiry. That is: we easily feel guilty when are perceived as "wasting our time" or "playing," since it will not necessarily generate capital. And since more and more of our social activities involve capital exchange, I argue that confronting an unfamiliar social activity always includes a measure of bravery. If what I say is true, how do we come to enjoy the confrontation with the unknown?

IV. From the History of Science:

It is a famous topic of history that Plato and Aristotle held opposed judgements about the moral value of art. Plato suggests in The Republic that the poets (artists) should be cast out of society, for they foster a fascination with the mere imitation of reality, an obsession with delusion, and, in short, an all-around ignorance of what is true about reality. Aristotle opposed this view by arguing that these imperfect imitations of reality called artworks were in fact, on the contrary, the necessary precondition for discovering truth.

In order to Illustrate Aristotle's argument, take the example of a stick that looks bent when submerged in water: Aristotle is arguing that you don't know what kind of theory of light is correct unless you experience this mis-perception of the stick actually being bent. It is only once you have encountered the error that you know what a correct theory of light might be. (This idea that the experience of errors matter more to a hypothesis than the correct method of inquiry would later be echoed by the G.F.W. Hegel, Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, among others.)

This ability to identify "problems" or "mis-perceptions" is part of why Aristotle is indeed known as "the father of empirical science." It is probably true that there are very few people in history that looked at nature the way Galileo and Newton did: identifying problems in nature. For why should one initially think to ask why it is the sun moves across the sky in the way it does? We can present scientific theories in a logical manner (a format called "deduction") but we cannot show how it is that the scientist comes up with the novel hypothesis that he does--this is precisely why Einstein is thought to be a genius: he wasn't even a part of the scientific community when he came up with his relativity papers. Therefore, it has become CONSERVATIVE to see the novel scientific hypothesis as akin to an artistic idea, as more and more alternative theories such as "inductive logic," "positivism" and "falsifiability" have fallen out of favor as means of explaining how scientists come up with the theories that they do. In other words, philosophers of science now argue that the proposition of new scientific hypothesis involves the following through of an unrealized idea the consequences of which cannot be understood using the current preconceptions of regular science (see Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, for example).

~

I recognize that in many ways this is an incomplete essay, but I am already too anxious to receive criticism, and too uncertain about my conclusions to continue. Please destroy this text.
 

mwandishi

New member
And your point is? While I understand the word theory has broad intellectual ramifications, what is your point as it relates to the field of musical theory or art? Your discoursive opening leaves me wondering why? Your raising some onto-epistemological philosophy of science shit, where's the musical link(i understand the artist part, but your argument is far too generic as it relates to art; as your focus is more on people who are not artist rather than artist,, western or not)?
 
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Featheon

New member
Your raising some onto-epistemological philosophy of science shit, where's the musical link

More clearly then:

MY first claim is that listening to and creating music is often recognized as an artistic experience. My question, then, in relation to how the concept of art is understood: Is the recognition of a fissure between appearance and reality a fundamental component of the artistic experience? Indeed, I would resist categorizing this as either a clearly ontological or epistemological question. It a question of perception, as I see no need to try and determine that the artwork exists independently of our perception in this case. Instead I've posed the question of what we consider to be an artistic experience. Whether we have one or not I consider no intrinsic property of the object itself.

i understand the artist part, but your argument is far too generic as it relates to art; as your focus is more on people who are not artist rather than artist,, western or not

I don't understand you on this point. I had attempted to bring together the similarity of perception in both the creation and interpretation of what people have interpreted as art. I only used the term "Western" to reference a body of European artworks that is usually used to formulate theories of art.
 
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bandcoach

Zukatoku - Mod Scientist
pie in the sky thinking and rhetoric do not make an argument for or against artistic endeavour and artistic experience - seriously - the questions you posed were dense, opaque and ill-lit - understanding them did not come easily (I have multiple degrees (composition, production, software engineering, business and education) and have studied the philosophy of the arts and sciences as well).

Whilst the arguments are not new, they were still presented in a dense format rather than clearly as you had intended)) nor did they offer any new insight into why we make the distinction between creation of an object of art or the latterly experience of that object by the artist and others after it is completed.

Yes, we can draw arbitrary lines in the sand and say on this side it is work for hire (the profit motive and expansion of capital) and on that side work as enquiry (exploration of ideas and transformations of the original idea).

However, there is nothing in what we do as artists that limits us to exclusively acting in one mode or the other - your example of Beethoven breaks your argument rather than strengthening it - Beethoven spent his entire adult life in pursuit of both profit and the exploration and transformation of ideas.

That he (Beethoven) achieved both is not in dispute by any one then or now, his notebooks and numerous sketches show us that he was diligent in exploring his ideas before making a final commitment to a version of the concept he had for individual works.

To nutshell it for you - the personal discourse that an artist enters into in the creation of a work is one of self-discovery and self-actualisation, one of intention and intension.

The reconciliation and integration of the two is the ultimate goal of such action (creating a work of art/music/literature/etc), regardless of whether the underlying motive is profit or exploration.

Such a claim can be made because most creators seek to improve their knowledge and skills as they engage in the creative process.

Yes, there are few who would rather that there was a formula they could just read and follow, but as with any artistic endeavour it is the ability to allow yourself to make mistakes and not correct them that separates you from a machine that blindly follows the recipe/program and churns out second rate material, which, at best, is a pale imitation and, at worst, the most dreadful pastiche of clichés imaginable.
 

Featheon

New member
Thank you. I only want to think pie in the sky. My god, it's worth it even to be corrected.

Whilst the arguments are not new, they were still presented in a dense format rather than clearly as you had intended)) nor did they offer any new insight into why we make the distinction between creation of an object of art or the latterly experience of that object by the artist and others after it is completed.

I did not know that I was attempting this distinction. The more I compose, the more I lose track of this distinction between creating and perceiving an art object. Maybe I agree with you that I have trouble distinguishing them (so forget the arbitrary lines). My central point is that it seems common to both these activities that they bring about the same sense of encountering an "unanswered question" (to produce another cleche) and that our enjoyment of this encounter is distinct from the anxiety produced by the unknown in most other circumstances (perhaps you know these arguments in psychology about "the Big Other," "trauma," and so on).

your example of Beethoven breaks your argument rather than strengthening it - Beethoven spent his entire adult life in pursuit of both profit and the exploration and transformation of ideas.

Is this to assume some how (and I mean it sincerely) Beethoven approached the creative process differently when he knew he was to be paid? I don't see how to draw this conclusion: I have had plenty of projects that I knew were being produced for profit and this did not seem to lessen the experience that I was struggling with the creative process in the same way as if it had been a spontaneous endeavor. I still sacrificed free time, sustenance, sleep, and so on. Why must my argument assume that all the works of Beethoven be experienced as art? My god, I am not holding up Beethoven as some high culture proof that "ah, you see there really is a distinction between art and entertainment (though it would be more tempting to make that argument with Bach, perhaps). Again, I don't argue that the property of being artistic is intrinsic to the object itself. I understand that this makes it a non-empirical question, but does this in turn render it an arbitrary line?
 

mwandishi

New member
Greetings,

I'd like to say a few words about my general conception of the artwork. I have been studying the history of Western music, philosophy and the specific discourse of "aesthetics" in American universities for about five years. Before I begin let me say that I have no intention of sounding erudite, and any resort to "jargon" should be taken as a failure on my part to put my concerns into every-day language. I mention my background only to give the reader as much perspective as possible in their perception of me, the author. Allow it simply to aid in your critique of the following text.

Proposition:

It seems intuitive to me that the most common result of any artistic experience is that it challenges/questions our own confidence in our perception of reality.

What suggestion is there of this?

I. From the experience of working on the artwork:

What drives the labor of the artist other than the feeling that he is following a yet untraveled path of inquiry? At the very least (and since we must start somewhere) most dead white men of "Classical" Western culture are known for their claim that it is the "unfolding of an idea," the following through of an inquiry, that creates the possibility of entire symphonies, and so on. From at least Beethoven to Schoenberg, those praised by the social elite joined the conception of an artwork as a recorded growth of a singular idea: "motive," "idee fixe," "tone row," etc. But should we accept this conception of the artwork as a growth of idea? Is it true that the creation of art be the best metaphor for "growth" as it is understood in the sciences? It at least seems true that we are not conscious of what the final form of an artwork will be when we first set out to collect our materials (samples, keyboards, subject matter).

II. From the Critique of Art:

We recognize a certain measure of artistic failure, I claim, when the artist was overtly concerned with the final result of the process. If we sense in the artwork an imitation, as if the complete form of the work had been conceived in advance, then we do enjoy it as art, but as entertainment. Yes, I am aware that such an artwork can still be politically provocative (e.g., an appropriation of a famous portrait of Napoleon but with a black man seated on the horse), but I claim that the experience of such a work is not the same as the recognition of "creative expression" in the most naive sense of the phrase. This welcomed if not enjoyed quest to follow through on an unrealized idea is a significant property of the artistic process: that we are not made anxious by what is unfamiliar to us.

III. From the Non-artistic life (Evidence via Negation):

I believe that, if we are honest about it, most of us seek out patterns of familiarity in order to comfort our daily lives. Often, there isn't enough free time to be inquisitive. Our real work, the kind that more assuredly generates money, alienates us from this kind of artistic inquiry. That is: we easily feel guilty when are perceived as "wasting our time" or "playing," since it will not necessarily generate capital. And since more and more of our social activities involve capital exchange, I argue that confronting an unfamiliar social activity always includes a measure of bravery. If what I say is true, how do we come to enjoy the confrontation with the unknown?

IV. From the History of Science:

It is a famous topic of history that Plato and Aristotle held opposed judgements about the moral value of art. Plato suggests in The Republic that the poets (artists) should be cast out of society, for they foster a fascination with the mere imitation of reality, an obsession with delusion, and, in short, an all-around ignorance of what is true about reality. Aristotle opposed this view by arguing that these imperfect imitations of reality called artworks were in fact, on the contrary, the necessary precondition for discovering truth.

In order to Illustrate Aristotle's argument, take the example of a stick that looks bent when submerged in water: Aristotle is arguing that you don't know what kind of theory of light is correct unless you experience this mis-perception of the stick actually being bent. It is only once you have encountered the error that you know what a correct theory of light might be. (This idea that the experience of errors matter more to a hypothesis than the correct method of inquiry would later be echoed by the G.F.W. Hegel, Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, among others.)

This ability to identify "problems" or "mis-perceptions" is part of why Aristotle is indeed known as "the father of empirical science." It is probably true that there are very few people in history that looked at nature the way Galileo and Newton did: identifying problems in nature. For why should one initially think to ask why it is the sun moves across the sky in the way it does? We can present scientific theories in a logical manner (a format called "deduction") but we cannot show how it is that the scientist comes up with the novel hypothesis that he does--this is precisely why Einstein is thought to be a genius: he wasn't even a part of the scientific community when he came up with his relativity papers. Therefore, it has become CONSERVATIVE to see the novel scientific hypothesis as akin to an artistic idea, as more and more alternative theories such as "inductive logic," "positivism" and "falsifiability" have fallen out of favor as means of explaining how scientists come up with the theories that they do. In other words, philosophers of science now argue that the proposition of new scientific hypothesis involves the following through of an unrealized idea the consequences of which cannot be understood using the current preconceptions of regular science (see Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, for example).

~

I recognize that in many ways this is an incomplete essay, but I am already too anxious to receive criticism, and too uncertain about my conclusions to continue. Please destroy this text.
Despite your disclaimers, I think your contentions are unnecessarily wordy while barely highlight your central thesis.
I believe you want to claim that art challenges and/or questions our notion of reality. My quick response is no. It can represent a broader range of experiences that may be viewed in a + or - light. Beyond that there are always epistemological questions when investigating the conceptional undertones of this thing we call art.
"What is art and how doe we know its art?" This has be conceptualized on a certain level for the discussion we're having.
Who are these artists that you speak of: John Coltrane, Kenny G, Nas, Riff Raff, Pink Floyd, Trinidad James?
Can you truly say the general music listener shares the same 'experiences" the art creator?
Whose aesthetics, which are fundamentally normative, are you referencing: high culture critics or the metrics of popular culture consumption?
I have no problem with your reflections, I just think you can trim them down some and focus precisely, in simpler terms, on your argument (particularly for the audience you choose to engage with; i mean this is a music site and your argument is very light in terms of a specific music related focus).
 

Featheon

New member
"What is art and how doe we know its art?" This has be conceptualized on a certain level for the discussion we're having.

Why not art as an experience that challenges perception and not an object, in the way Dewey, in Art as Experience shifted emphasis from product to process? I agree with his claim that we reify processes into objects. I don't want an art object, but an art experience that obtains in the relationship between a representatin and an interpreter.

Who are these artists that you speak of: John Coltrane, Kenny G, Nas, Riff Raff, Pink Floyd, Trinidad James?

I could not claim to know if their work ever challenged their perception of reality.

Can you truly say the general music listener shares the same 'experiences" the art creator?

There is no necessity to have an artistic experience on this account when encountering an object, especially if you are relatively familiar with it, how it works. This would make its ability to challenge your assumptions less likely. Does the general listener share in this experience? Depends on his presuppositions about reality: fore example, how time appears to him will matter a great deal when hearing a new rhythm or spectralist composition.

Whose aesthetics, which are fundamentally normative, are you referencing: high culture critics or the metrics of popular culture consumption?

I don't know where you are being confused on this point:
At the very least (and since we must start somewhere) most dead white men of "Classical" Western culture are known for their claim that it is the "unfolding of an idea,"
I referenced the high culture tradition, but I then attempted to form an aesthetic proposition based on personal experience in both creation and interpretation. Yes, it is intentionally normative. I call no experience of an object artistic if it does not challenge my perception of reality, which most often involves the conception of spacial or temporal relations, since these are the fundamental metrics to music and the plastic arts respectively.

No need to slim down or revise yet, since I can't see a way of doing so without incorporating the criticism of an audience. But for any misspelled words, I have no excuse.
 

bandcoach

Zukatoku - Mod Scientist
Thank you. I only want to think pie in the sky. My god, it's worth it even to be corrected.

Whilst the arguments are not new, they were still presented in a dense format rather than clearly as you had intended)) nor did they offer any new insight into why we make the distinction between creation of an object of art or the latterly experience of that object by the artist and others after it is completed.

I did not know that I was attempting this distinction. The more I compose, the more I lose track of this distinction between creating and perceiving an art object. Maybe I agree with you that I have trouble distinguishing them (so forget the arbitrary lines). My central point is that it seems common to both these activities that they bring about the same sense of encountering an "unanswered question" (to produce another cleche) and that our enjoyment of this encounter is distinct from the anxiety produced by the unknown in most other circumstances (perhaps you know these arguments in psychology about "the Big Other," "trauma," and so on).

Your initial questions were is there a divide between the experience of creation and the subsequent (re-)experience of an object of art, and, if so, what is it? if not, why?

To me this beggars the basic question of what is the experience of the maker vs the experience of the observer and can they in fact be the same experience albeit one as first hand and the second, as it were, second hand or voyeuristic; on the "gripping hand", it is, in fact, more likely to be an inferred experience rather than a true experience had by the observer after the act of creation - the act of creation is an entirely different experience to the act of observing, at once more visceral and teasingly, more cerebral than the the act of observing the completed work at some point in the future.

your example of Beethoven breaks your argument rather than strengthening it - Beethoven spent his entire adult life in pursuit of both profit and the exploration and transformation of ideas.

Is this to assume some how (and I mean it sincerely) Beethoven approached the creative process differently when he knew he was to be paid?

No, it is not; by leaving out the next short paragraph, you misconstrue what was written. If you re-read the passage, including the next paragraph, you will see that it does not even begin to assert that - Beethoven sought to explore at every turn not just when he was creating for himself.
 

mwandishi

New member
Why not art as an experience that challenges perception and not an object, in the way Dewey, in Art as Experience shifted emphasis from product to process? I agree with his claim that we reify processes into objects. I don't want an art object, but an art experience that obtains in the relationship between a representatin and an interpreter.



I could not claim to know if their work ever challenged their perception of reality.



There is no necessity to have an artistic experience on this account when encountering an object, especially if you are relatively familiar with it, how it works. This would make its ability to challenge your assumptions less likely. Does the general listener share in this experience? Depends on his presuppositions about reality: fore example, how time appears to him will matter a great deal when hearing a new rhythm or spectralist composition.



I don't know where you are being confused on this point: I referenced the high culture tradition, but I then attempted to form an aesthetic proposition based on personal experience in both creation and interpretation. Yes, it is intentionally normative. I call no experience of an object artistic if it does not challenge my perception of reality, which most often involves the conception of spacial or temporal relations, since these are the fundamental metrics to music and the plastic arts respectively.

No need to slim down or revise yet, since I can't see a way of doing so without incorporating the criticism of an audience. But for any misspelled words, I have no excuse.

I still think your avoiding key elements in your thesis. I'm not clear about whether your thesis is about a general interpretation of art or your own personal one, your answers waver between both. I think if you are limiting art to merely "challenging our reality" you exclude a largely functional and pragmatic arena of art, which may be not considered art in your view. For example, would you consider most popular music to challenge your reality? I mean is that what Justin Bieber does for you?
Music can serve a very practical role, that has little to do with introspection on the part of the producer or creator. I make music to make money or I listen to music to dance, that's all. Sure you can deconstruct these practices to imply a deeper meaning, but at the core is a very non-complex justification. I think you are engaging in very elite exploration of cultural aesthetics (its not even critical, maybe a little Walter Benjamin or Marcuse would help), that minimizes the significances of the forms of art that don't meet your criteria.

The ability to slim down has nothing to with the audience, rather to effectively communicate your point to a group of non-practioners where you can maximize the audience's feedback(you sound like a grad student). I really do not understand why you engaging in this exercise here?
 

Featheon

New member
would you consider most popular music to challenge your reality? I mean is that what Justin Bieber does for you?

Some popular music induces an artistic experience and some does not, but wouldn't this just make the distinction between what experience as art and what I experience as entertainment? I don't see the need to single out a particular domain of music, or even a particular form of cultural production. Most of the time, Bieber doesn't challenge my perception of reality, so it doesn't cause an artistic experience. In such cases there isn't anything mysterious or difficult to interpret, like observing a coffee cup on the table). What's the confusion with that? Any artifact, or product of human labor, if you like, can bring about the artistic experience if it challenges the perception of reality held by the interpreter. Is this not similar to Heidegger's notion that only when the familiarity of an object breaks down does it "gives up its meaning"? He even wrote that a new artwork changes the meaning of what it is to exist for that culture which produces it.

Music can serve a very practical role, that has little to do with introspection on the part of the producer or creator. I make music to make money or I listen to music to dance, that's all. Sure you can deconstruct these practices to imply a deeper meaning, but at the core is a very non-complex justification.

No problem. Not all music will be deemed artistic, and you are no doubt are that something having a practical or utilitarian purpose has been a common way that "formalism" has excluding certain objects from being art since Kant's concept of the "disinterested aesthetic". So I don't see anything radical about taking up this claim, but I won't yet defend this since you haven't asked me to.

I think you are engaging in very elite exploration of cultural aesthetics (its not even critical, maybe a little Walter Benjamin or Marcuse would help), that minimizes the significances of the forms of art that don't meet your criteria.

I've lost interest in the Marxist materialist approach, although I'm actually attempting to include some of Adorno's insights in my own thought, but it's very difficult to know if I'm interpreting him correctly. For example: I think I am agreeing with Adorno when I say that there is no such thing as "failed art"; the condition of being artistic would have to do with how the work challenges the historically particular ideology of the culture in which it was produces. This, in fact, is precisely why Adorno championed the difficult and opaque music of the Modernists.

I really do not understand why you engaging in this exercise here?

It challenges my own self-image and knowledge. Now I await your answer to this question.
 
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