Jörg Rhiemeier, On 19/07/2012 22:20:
> Hallo conlangers!
> On Thursday 19 July 2012 20:48:40 And Rosta wrote:
>> Jörg Rhiemeier, On 19/07/2012 17:29:
>>> On Wednesday 18 July 2012 21:13:57 And Rosta wrote:
>>>> I myself would go further, and argue that patterns of intersubjective
>>>> aesthetic agreement can be translated into an approximation of absolute
>>>> value.
>>> I doubt that.  Seriously.  Beauty is a subjective notion; it
>>> lies in the eyes of the beholder, as it is said so often.
>>> Sure, there are things that people *tend to* consider
>>> beautiful more often than others, such as symmetric shapes;
>>> but the variation is sufficient to doubt that anything like
>>> "absolute beauty" exists.  Some people consider luxurious
>>> gold embroiderings on clothes beautiful; others (including
>>> me) consider them pompous and ugly.
>> But my argument is that this datum is of only small evidential value,
>> insufficient to falsify a claim that gold embroiderings are beautiful. (By
>> "absolute" in my original "absolute value", I meant value to mankind in
>> general rather than relative value to different individuals.) To ascertain
>> whether gold embroiderings are beautiful, canvas the views of mankind in
>> general, and make due allowance for the distortions of fads and fashions.
> How do you canvas the "views of mankind in general"?

Details of empirical methodology are outside my sphere of interest, but I presume some kind of sampling method would need to be used, and the closer that method approximates to the views of mankind in general, the closer you get to ascertaining whether gold embroiderings are beautiful.

>>>>         For example, _Sight and Sound_ has periodically published
>>>> collections of film critics' ten favourite films. There's a very large
>>>> amount of agreement between them. There are individual oddities -- for
>>>> example, Citizen Kane is in almost all top tens, but not mine, whereas
>>>> Scaramouche is in my top ten but in nobody else's I've ever seen, but
>>>> overall there is huge overlap -- e.g. Bicycle Thieves and Seven Samurai
>>>> are in my top ten and most others.
>>> There are certain conventions in the western world concerning
>>> what makes a good film and what not, and it is these conventions
>>> that show in such lists to a large degree.  Especially among film
>>> critics, who are accustomed to these conventions as they have
>>> studied them professionally.  This explains why the film critics
>>> agree most of the time.
>> Whereas I think that the proof of the sagacity of the critics is that I
>> tend to agree with them...
> *You* tend to agree with them.  Fine.  But are you "mankind in
> general"?  Are you better disposed to speak for "mankind in
> general" than other people?  What kind of crystal ball enables
> you to see the views of "mankind in general"?  You sound quite
> hubristic here.

That "..." at the end of my sentence is the closest I am willing to go towards using a smiley (it would be a winky in this instance).

Let me readdress less flippantly your previous point about the reasons for consensus among critics. First of all, my main point is that large-scale consensuses are (in the theory I was sketching) a major factor in measuring absolute aesthetic value. Between consensuses among critics and the public in general there is a lot of overlap, but with an obvious bias in the public consensus towards films that are more recent and better known. With due adjustments for that bias, the differences between consensuses are smaller. As for whether the views of critics carry greater weight, this goes beyond my original contention that a rational theory of aesthetic value is possible, but I think the formula for calculating total aesthetic value should weight the values attributed by individuals attribute to films according to how great a number and variety of films they've seen, and how much and how profoundly they've reflected on them.

>> Note that I was talking about lists of best films of all time; the more
>> contemporaneous the artwork is, the more that ostensibly aesthetic
>> judgements are distorted by extraneous factors such as fashion, the allure
>> of the new, the pleasure of mere novelty, and so forth.
> Yes.
>>> There are similar conventions in many other bodies of artistic
>>> criticism, and sometimes the conventions change radically.  One
>>> example of such a sudden reversal was in 1977 when progressive
>>> rock music was suddenly declared gauche and pompous with the
>>> advent of punk rock.  So who was right, the pre-1977 critics
>>> who hailed progressive rock as the "classical music of the
>>> future", or the post-1977 critics who condemned it as "not
>>> true to the proletarian spirit of rock'n'roll"?
>> A certain amount of time has to pass before one can answer this. From the
>> vantage point of 2012, it looks as tho neither was right, both because
>> neither movement yielded much of value and because works of greatest value
>> rise above any movement they belong to, and, on the whole, there is little
>> aesthetic value to movements per se. (I haven't bothered checking this,
>> but I reckon that if you consulted lists of top hundred albums or top
>> hundred songs, neither prog rock nor high punk would figure prominently.)
> Depends on who compiles the list on which criteria.

Everybody's lists of their own favourites.
>> It's called _Fahrraddiebe_ in Germany
>> (<
>> =sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1342722120&sr=1-1>). _Ladri di Biciclette_ is the
>> original title.
> OK.  Rings no bell in me.

Do you tingle with excitement at discovering that you might have an opportunity to see a film better than any film you ever seen before? (I say that in a spirit of levity, but I would be tingling with excitement in such a situation. Regarding _Ladri di biciclette_ in particular, it is a great film, but it will resonate strongest with fathers of sons.)
>> The point I'd been trying to make is that a rational theory of aesthetic
>> value is possible without it being based merely on an assertion that my
>> taste is better than theirs. Rather, it's a Utilitarian theory.
> How do you measure the utilitarian value of a work of fine art
> (if there is one)?How is it different from the amount of money
> made with it (a very poor gauge for artistic quality, if you ask
> me)?

Ascertain how much it has enriched the lives of the people who've seen it, e.g. by asking them, apply various weightings for various reasons such as to compensate for the biases of recency, novelty and fashion, and then calculate the average enrichment value. And Bingo!, now you know that, say, the Venus of Milo has an aesthetic value of 587.23 or thereabouts.

> Aesthetic prescriptivism is just a practical consequence
> of your kind of reasoning.  If there is absolute beauty that
> can somehow be measured, why not weed out all ugliness as
> defined by that measure, for the good of mankind?

Can you really not answer that question yourself?

I assume that by "beauty" you mean "aesthetic value", since I hadn't spoken of "beauty". The existence of positive aesthetic value, i.e. what enriches the world, your "beauty", doesn't entail the existence of negative aesthetic value, i.e. what impoverishes the world, your "ugliness". Even the existence of things with only small aesthetic value still contribute to the aggregate richness of the world. Furthermore, the world is enriched not only by beauty but by freedom, so to reduce the aesthetic range of what people have access to, i.e. to reduce freedom of consumption, is to impoverish the world.

>> All the same, I am happy to advocate aesthetic prescriptivism in
>> situations where it is better than the absence of it (e.g. educational
>> curriculums, public architecture, public art galleries). It is a slippery
>> slope from government to totalitarianism, but lover of liberty tho I am,
>> that does not make me embrace anarchism.
> Government is a necessary framework without which no freedom is
> possible (without government, there would not be total freedom,
> but rule of brute force).  I don't see how aesthetic
> prescriptivism is necessary for the functioning of a free
> society.

No, the point about government and free society was an example to show that the mere slipperiness of a slope is not a sufficient argument for there being no appropriate point on that slope to take one's position. Rather, one takes the correct position and seeks principles sufficient to anchor oneself there.