Rebirth of Reason

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 12:56amSanction this postReply
I should like to add for reference on literary art—continuous with and applying Rand’s views on it—the superb study that is Chapter 5 of The DIM Hypothesis by Leonard Peikoff. What Rand had called literary mood studies likely fit as a species within the genre of what we call Modernist literature. “Instead of imagining some progression of events, many Modernists turn inward to offer unstructured collages of their own or their characters’ mental contents—for example, stream-of-consciousness novels, replete with a flow of moods, memories, literary allusions, dreams, images, and the like” (Peikoff 2012, 97).

I reiterate my disagreement with Rand’s conclusion that such creations cannot be an art form. Whether such works should be put in the same class as novels, should be regarded as prose-poems, or something in between, or as generally of inferior quality whatever their right literary genre, I think they can be counted as literary art as much as poetry. (On stream-of-consciousness literature, see here.)

In the present study, I shall make comparisons of Rand’s esthetics to that of a Thomist, to those of Schopenhauer and Kant, and to those of philosophers today. This summer at OCON 2013, Robert Mayhew* is offering a course on Aristotle’s Poetics with an eye to Rand’s esthetics.*

Bibliography for Rand’s Esthetics &

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 3/20, 6:32am)

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 1:03amSanction this postReply

Beauty, Goodness, Life

I. Literary Arts – Rand*

II. Visual Arts – Rand A

Spatial depth in a scene reflected in lake or mirror is an illusion. Reaching into the mirror for an object is a mistake. Visual arts are generally, perhaps always, crafts of illusion. Drawing and painting of things as if in three-dimensional space with light sources, texture, mass, and force are crafts of illusion (Meredith-Owens and Blumenthal* 1972; Solso 1994; 2003). Sculpture, too, can be craft of illusion. Michelangelo’s Pieta is not a man broken and stilled, nor a tender mother in vast sorrow. It is an illusion of those things. More abstractly, the lines of an automotive style may give an illusion of power or swiftness; the forms of a building’s exterior, an illusion of its loads, their defiance, and the purpose of the building.

The form of a building that is a work of art has a theme that is integral with the building’s purpose and its site (Fountainhead PK I 18, X 127, HR I 544–45, III 568, IX 633). Such a work takes function and site as constituents of its esthetic theme, which theme is the uniting principle of its specific form. The ornamentation of the building is integral with the function and theme of the structure. Ornamentation in the building that is a work of art rides on the method of construction; it is an emphasis of the building’s physical structural principles. Ornamentation must not choke the building’s sense, must not destroy its esthetic integrity (PK XI 141, XII 171, XV 205).

The ornamentation inside the Stoddard Temple of the Human Spirit, designed by Roark, consists of the graded projections of its gray limestone walls and its vast windows. The temple is “open to the earth around it, to the trees, the river, the sun—and to the skyline of the city in the distance” (ET XI 356). Before that skyline, stands one ornament, true to the idea of this temple: one statue of a naked human body. Sculpture can be art, yet ornamentation within architectural art, as in Michelangelo’s Piazza del Campidoglio. Painting too, as in his on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel. (Cf. Vitruvius* and Dewey 1934, 230–31, 241–42.)

Roark’s buildings are characterized by Rand as analogous in their integrity and beauty to that of a living thing and the idea-plan of that living thing. As well, she characterized Roark’s buildings as analogous to a soul with integrity and as statements in form, statements of the life of men in their minds (PK I 18, X 129, XI 140, XV 205, ET X 327, HR II 558; Boydstun 2010*).

The importance to man of a work as art “is not in what he learns from it, but in that he experiences it” (Rand 1963, 41). An art work as such, “an art work, as distinguished from a utilitarian object, serves no practical purpose other than that of contemplation” (37). I should point out that a vase, a chair, or a building can be an artwork alongside its utilitarian function, and any expression of that function in the art is not the same as the function itself. I shall develop this point further when we come to Schopenhauer, Kant, and two estheticians writing today.

Not every possible subject for an artwork is appropriate for contemplation as an end in itself. “Misery, disease, disaster, evil, all the negatives of human existence, . . . are not proper subjects of contemplation for contemplation’s sake. In art, and in literature, these negatives are worth re-creation only in relation to some positive, as a foil, as a contrast, as a means of stressing the positive—but not as an end in themselves” (Rand 1963, 38).

Within Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa, one sees people who have already died, people in despair, and people with hope, waving to get the attention of a very distant ship. This painting fits squarely within what Rand described as having a subject containing negatives of human existence, yet also a positive in contrast, and worthy of contemplation for contemplation’s sake.

When it comes to the great negatives in life, I have some reservations concerning Rand’s idea that negatives are unworthy as whole subjects of a work of art. Sometimes there is widespread common background of the beholders, who know the subject is from a larger story with its road to a positive; such would be a painting showing only that the dead Jesus is being taken down from the cross. War scenes as subjects of artworks, containing no positive aspects in the subject, may have viewers who know some history from which the scene is taken and some evaluation of that history, possibly positive. On the other hand, a war scene—say, a massacre—as subject of a painting, might be effective in inducing the horribleness of such an event to a viewer and nothing more than that horror. I would not want to contemplate it so much that I put it on the living room wall opposite me just now, in place of the triptych of Monet’s water lilies spanning that wall. However, the well-executed massacre painting might be worth my contemplation in a memorial museum of the event or in an art museum, where one passes from one feeling of life to another.

Rand specifies a function of art beyond its beckon of experience and contemplation for its own sake. Art has integral place in the realm of life functions (cf. Greater Hippias 295c–e on the fine). In its selective re-creations of reality, according to Rand, art isolates and integrates aspects of reality to yield a new concrete that can serve certain functions for the human psyche (1965b, 16). From general philosophical knowledge, there branches knowledge of the physical world in abstract science, which leads to applied science and technology, which leads to the production of material goods. From philosophy branches also knowledge of the phenomena of consciousness, which leads to art, “the technology of the soul” (Rand 1963, 41).

The highest goal Rand had in her novels was the portrayal of ideal men. The experience of meeting those characters in the stories is an end in itself. She aimed for a story offering an experience worth living through for its own sake, and she aimed for protagonists to be a pleasure to contemplate for their own sake (Rand 1963, 37). That kind of contemplation, in all art, serves a human need, the need for moments sensing as complete the life-long struggle for achievement of values (41). Notice that the concept of contemplation here is broad enough to include rapture, esthetic rapture (cf. Crowther 2007, 35–36).

There is that Randian integration in the esthetic experience of art. However, there are other kinds of contemplation of art for its own sake besides that one, I would say, important and lovely as that one is. We shall reach them in later installments of this study.

Rand counted as a merit of her esthetics that it could explain why some artwork or other can be of such profound personal concern to many a person. I shall include in this study introduction to an alternative contemporary esthetic theory that also accounts for that intensity, and I shall determine how this more recent theory sits with Rand’s account.

In “Art and Moral Treason,” Rand wrote:
    The process of a child’s development consists of acquiring knowledge, which requires the development of his capacity to grasp and deal with an ever-widening range of abstractions. This involves the growth of two interrelated but different chains of abstractions, two hierarchical structures of concepts, which should be integrated, but seldom are: the cognitive and the normative. The first deals with knowledge of the facts of reality—the second, with the evaluation of these facts. The first forms the epistemological foundation of science—the second, of morality and art. (Rand 1965a, 10)
A year later, Rand penned “Art and Sense of Life.” There she returned to childhood development of those two chains of abstraction, one cognitive, the other normative, the former being more fundamental. The essential is the criterion in the cognitive chain of abstraction. The good is the criterion in the normative chain. Beyond those Rand proposed now a third chain of abstractions, esthetic abstractions. The important is the criterion of abstraction in the esthetic chain. More general criteria for esthetic abstractions would have been the significant or the meaningful.

American Heritage has three definitions for significant. Two of them are (i) having or expressing a meaning; meaningful; and (ii) important; notable; valuable. I am proposing esthetic abstractions need only pick up what is in (i) or the notable in (ii). They can, but need not, include the important. Rand might be thought to have leaned modestly towards my more general criterion of esthetic abstraction in 1971 when she wrote that art “tells man, in effect, which aspects of his experiences are to be regarded as essential, significant, important” (1009). However, when read in the context of her sentence preceding that one, we see there is not really any inclination here towards the more general criterion. “Art fulfills this need: by means of a selective re-creation, it concretizes man’s fundamental view of himself and of existence” (ibid.). There is no shift from the view of the importance-limit of art Rand had set out in “The Goal of My Writing” (1963, 37).

Yet there is an ambiguity in Rand’s 1963 composition. If that ambiguity were there because Rand intended to affirm two meanings under the ambiguity, then she may have been in tension, from beginning to end, between her narrower criterion and my broader criterion for esthetic abstraction. Rand had written, for example, that art gives one “the life-giving fact of experiencing a moment of metaphysical joy—a moment of love for existence” (41). Love of one’s own living existence or love of existence as in “existence exists” or both? The second only as dependent on the first, I would bet, with importance imputed to the second only by the first.

I shall return to the issue of criteria of the esthetic abstraction distinctive of art a number of times in the sequel. Here let me leave the issue by simply reinforcing my bet on Rand’s criterion being more narrow than mine with the following quotation, which touches also on the nature of emotions or feelings in the realm of imagination that is art (see also Moran 1994*).
    The emotion involved in art is not an emotion in the ordinary meaning of the term. It is experienced more as a “sense” or a “feel,” but it has two characteristics pertaining to emotions: it is automatically immediate and it has an intense, profoundly personal (yet undefined) value-meaning to the individual experiencing it. The value involved is life, and the words naming the emotion are: “This is what life means to me.” (Rand 1966a, 34)
(Continued immediately.)

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 1:16amSanction this postReply

Beauty, Goodness, Life

I. Literary Arts – Rand*

II. Visual Arts – Rand A*

II. Visual Arts – Rand B

Rand thought that Romantic art is the main source of a moral sense of life in the child and adolescent (cf. Kant 1788, 5:154–57; 1797, 6:478–84).
    Please note that art is not his only source of morality, but of a moral sense of life. This requires careful differentiation.

    A “sense of life” is a pre-conceptual equivalent of metaphysics—an emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man’s nature and the nature of reality, summing up one’s view of man’s relationship to existence. Morality is an abstract, conceptual code of values and principles. (Rand 1965a, 10)
I can understand what Rand means by a moral sense of life being conveyed to the child or adolescent if I think of the Lone Ranger and Tonto of television and movie in my own childhood (cf. concluding paragraphs of 1965a, 14). It does not detract from Rand’s esthetic theory, but I should note that for many children, there can be another, more important source of a moral sense of life. That is from clergy. The experience of child or adolescent with the manner and behavior of their pastor, priest, rabbi, or iman—especially in the setting of worship ceremony and sermon—is a major source of a moral sense of life.

Rand observed that “every religion has a mythology—a dramatized concretization of its moral code embodied in the figures of men who are its ultimate product” (1965b, 16). Such characters and their associated deeds and ordeals, when visualized in a drawing or painting, I should say and likely Rand would say, do not bring a moral sense of life to the artwork by their iconographical status there. The means of sense of life, including moral sense of life, in a work of art are from other elements in the work, not iconography or, for that matter, biographical circumstances of the artist.

In Rand’s “For the New Intellectual” (1960), she had conceived of human consciousness as preserving some continuity and as demanding “a certain degree of integration, whether a man seeks it or not” (18). Philosophy should formulate “an integrated view of man, of existence, of the universe” (22). “Man needs an integrated view of life, a philosophy, whether he is aware of his need or not” (18). Rand saw art as addressing a related need for integration. “Art is a concretization of metaphysics” (Rand 1965b, 16). It provides the power to summon in a full, perceptually conscious focus, a condensation of the chains of abstract concepts forming man’s “fundamental view of himself and of his relationships to reality” (ibid.).

Rand elaborated further what she meant by a sense of life. It is a person’s “generalized feeling about existence, an implicit metaphysics with the compelling motivational power of a constant, basic emotion—an emotion which is part of all his other emotions and underlies all his experiences” (1966a 17). This generalized feeling she took to be the result of a subconscious integration summing the history of one’s psychological activities, one’s reactions and conclusions. This conception of sense of life is an extension of her earlier notion that human consciousness preserves willy-nilly some continuity and demands a certain degree of integration (1961, 18). “The enormously powerful integrating mechanism of man’s consciousness is there at birth; his only choice is to drive it or be driven by it” (1966a, 18).

As we shall see, Rand was not alone in finding metaphysical, cognitive, and evaluative linkages in art. Her final characterization of their assembly was under her concept of a metaphysical value-judgment.

Rand’s explications of sense of life and metaphysical value-judgments are in terms of metaphysics that bears on human life and the role and character of values in it. She said that a sense of life sums up one’s view of man’s relationship to existence. That suggests that when she said this subconsciously integrated appraisal that is sense of life includes appraisal of the nature of reality, she was confining the metaphysical appraisal to implications for moral, human life. That would include some notion of the intelligibility or lack thereof in existence in general and in living existence in particular.

Rand had used the phrase sense of life once in Fountainhead, twice in Atlas, and evidently routinely in conversation (Branden 1999, 38, 56, 101, 105, 168, 171) before beginning to write about the meaning of the phrase in 1965. The phrase and concept “tragic sense of life” was title of Unamuno’s book of 1913 (Spanish; translated into English 1921; Dover edition 1954).
    There is something which, for lack of a better name, we will call the tragic sense of life, which carries with it a whole conception of life itself and of the universe, a whole philosophy more or less formulated, more or less conscious. And this sense may be possessed, and is possessed, not only by individual men but by whole peoples. And this sense does not so much flow from ideas as determine them, even though afterwards, as is manifest, these ideas react upon it and confirm it. Sometimes it may originate in a chance illness—dyspepsia, for example; but at other times it is constitutional. And it is useless to speak, as we shall see, of men who are healthy and men who are not healthy. Apart from the fact there is no normal standard of health, nobody has proved that man is necessarily cheerful by nature. And further, man, by the very fact of being man, of possessing consciousness, is, in comparison with the ass or the crab, a diseased animal. Consciousness is a disease. (Chap. 1)*
In Atlas Rand once used the phrase sense of life tied to a sense of beauty and to the love of human existence. During Dagny’s tour of Atlantis, she visits the composer Richard Halley, who plays some of his piano pieces for her.
    She was thinking of the years when the works he had just played for her were being written, here, in his small cottage on the ledge of the valley, when all the prodigal magnificence of sound was being shaped by him as a flowing monument to a concept which equates the sense of life with the sense of beauty—while she had walked through the streets of New York in a hopeless quest for some form of enjoyment, with the screeches of a modern symphony running after her, as if spit by the infected throat of a loud-speaker coughing its malicious hatred of existence. (AS 781)
In this passage, beauty and a sense of life saturated with it are aligned with life and the love of it. This is a use of the phrase sense of life consistent with Rand’s later definition of it I quoted above. Notice that Rand’s conception of sense of life fits just as well with my conception significance and meaningfulness as the concern of esthetics in art as it fits with Rand’s conception importance as that concern.

I have said Rand’s theory of esthetics is too restrictive in two ways. Firstly, the cognitive and emotional function of art is, I say, a family of end-in-itself integrations, among which Rand’s function is an important one, but only one. In “The Psycho-Epistemology of Art,” Rand wrote that art fulfils a need for end-in-itself concretization of metaphysical value-judgments. That is consonant with her idea, stated earlier in “The Goal of My Writing,” that the function of art is to supply moments of sensing as complete the life-long struggle for achievement of values. In the later essay “Psycho-Epistemology of Art,” Rand was not broadening her view of what is “the” function of art; she was only articulating more of the means by which it fulfils that function (see also Rand 1966a, 34, 36–37, and 1971, 1009). In Rand’s view, there are other enjoyments in art besides fulfillment of that function, but no other function (1966a, 39).

About psycho-epistemology: Rand and her circle had been using the term to refer to an individual’s characteristic method of awareness. Is the time scope of his outlook brief or long? Is his concern only with what is physically present? Does he recoil into his emotions in the face of his physical life and need for action? How far does he integrate his perceptions into conceptions? Is his thinking a means of perceiving reality or justifying escape from reality? (Rand 1960, 14, 19, 21). Chris Sciabarra reports that Barbara Branden was the one who originated the concept (and, I presume, the word) psycho-epistemology (1995, 194). In her lecture series Principles of Efficient Thinking, Ms. Branden defined psycho-epistemology as “the study of the mental operations that characterize a man’s method of dealing with reality” (1962, 178). Nathaniel Branden further specified the compass of psycho-epistemology in an essay with that title (1964).

Art performs the psycho-epistemological function, in Rand’s view, of converting metaphysical abstractions “into the equivalent of concretes, into specific entities open to man’s direct perception” (1965b). Rand held art to be a need of human consciousness. So did Kant, and I shall set out in a future installment of this study the relationships between those two needs.

Secondly too restrictive, importance as Rand’s criterion of esthetic abstraction is a salient criterion in such abstraction, but the broader criteria of significance and meaningfulness also sort the esthetic from the purely cognitive and normative types of abstraction. To those two overly narrow restrictions in Rand’s esthetics—function of art and criterion of esthetic abstraction—I should add a third. Rand’s range of philosophical issues going into the makeup of all the facets of one’s sense of life might well be too limited. Moreover, there is no muster of evidence that a sense of life is a singular, well-integrated thing.

Importance is the concept Rand took to be key in formation of a sense of life. She then restricted importance to a fundamental view of human nature. A sense of life becomes an emotional summation reflecting answers on basic questions of human nature read as applying to oneself. Such questions would be whether the universe is knowable, whether man has the power of choice, and whether man can achieve his goals (Rand 1966b, 19). In development of one’s sense of life in childhood and adolescence, Rand was thinking of more particular forms or ramifications of those broad questions in application to oneself. Later the broad questions themselves can be formulated and generalized to human kind, not only oneself.

The fundamental importance-questions whose emotional answers are vested in a sense of life were the same as Rand had listed the previous year in spelling out what are metaphysical value-judgments. Those questions had been:
    Is the universe intelligible to man, or unintelligible and unknowable? Can man find happiness on earth, or is he doomed to frustration and despair? Does man have the power of choice, the power to choose his goals and to achieve them, the power to direct the course of his life—or is he the helpless plaything of forces beyond his control, which determine his fate? Is man, by nature, to be valued as good, or to be despised as evil? (1965b, 16)
That last question would seem at first blush to be a normative question, rather than a metaphysical one. I suggest, however, that it is a question for (i) the metaphysics of life and value in general, to which, as metaphysical fact, man is no alien and (ii) for the metaphysics of mind joining (i) (see also Peikoff 1991, 189–93).

On Rand’s definition, art is “a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value judgments” (1965b, 16). I am not persuaded that all art under the dictionary definition I quoted in the preceding section nor that all of what should be grouped under art is captured by Rand’s theoretical explanatory definition.* Her definition holds for a major subclass of art.

We are able to sense the feelings indicated in a great variety of created illusions, or re-creations of reality. One would expect the same for artists, and some artists might have considerable success in expressing a sense of life not their own. It is only a slight modification, a slight broadening of Rand’s definition to say art is a selective re-creation of reality according to metaphysical value-judgments, leaving in suspension how much they are favored by the artist, if at all. It is, I think, also overly restrictive to confine the metaphysical in art to man’s relationship to reality, that is, to Rand’s metaphysical value-judgments. That said, Rand’s house of metaphysical value-judgments itself need not be so restrictive as one might first think from her list of metaphysical value-questions. For example, to ask whether the universe is intelligible is also to ask whether existence is one and interconnected within itself and whether a negative judgment on that question-couple leaves existence intelligible and, if so, differently so than were existence truly one and highly interconnected. This would seem to be an expansion of Rand’s list of questions, remaining within her conception, because the judgments the question and its subsidiaries invite are metaphysical and bear on basic human purposes.

There is something else to remember about Rand’s compact definition of art, which is intended to cover arts literary and visual (and more). When she says these crafted illusions are re-creations of reality, one needs to remember two things implicit in that conception: imagination and stylization. An artist stylizes reality in his re-creations. In that re-creation are his integration of facts and his metaphysical evaluations, and these are set concrete in his selection of theme and subject, brushstroke and word, and indeed in all his craft with elements of the medium (Rand 1966a, 35; 1971, 1011–12).

One might concur with Rand’s definition of art, and with her further ideas that metaphysics is implicit in the subject of an artwork, psycho-epistemology in its style. Yet one might disagree with Rand’s analysis of various artworks within this framework (1966a, 37–39; 1968, 501–3; see also Sures 1969; Peikoff 1982, 173–74; 2012, 84–101). Those analyses will not be discussed in this essay; they are left to the reader’s own sagacity.

(To be continued.)


Branden, B. 1962. Principles of Efficient Thinking. In The Vision of Ayn Rand. 2009. Cobden.

Branden, N. 1964. Psycho-Epistemology. Objectivist Newsletter 3(10):41, 43–44; 3(11):46–47.
——. 1999. My Years with Ayn Rand. Jossey-Bass.

Crowther, P. 2007. Defining Art, Creating the Canon. Oxford.

Dewey, J. 1934. Art as Experience. Penguin.

Kant 1788. Critique of Practical Reason. M. J. Gregor, translator. In Practical Philosophy. 1996. Cambridge.
——. 1797. The Metaphysics of Morals. M. J. Gregor, translator. In Practical Philosophy. 1996. Cambridge.

Meredith-Owens, H., and J. Mitchell Blumenthal 1972. Robert Beverly Hale Teaches Drawing Methods of the Great Masters. American Artist (Mar):30–37.

Moran, R. 1994. The Expression of Feeling in Imagination. The Philosophical Review 103(1):75–106.

Peikoff, L. 1982. The Ominous Parallels. Stein and Day.
——. 1991. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Dutton.
——. 2012. The DIM Hypothesis. NAL.

Plato c. 428–348 B.C. Plato – Complete Works. J. M. Cooper, editor. 1997. Hackett.

Rand, A. 1943. The Fountainhead. Bobbs-Merrill.
——. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. Random House.
——. 1960. For the New Intellectual. Title essay. Signet.
——. 1961. The Objectivist Ethics. In The Virtue of Selfishness. Signet.
——. 1963. The Goal of My Writing. The Objectivist Newsletter (ON) 2(10):37–40, 2(11):41–42.
——. 1965a. Art and Moral Treason. ON 4(3):9–10, 12–14.
——. 1965b. The Psycho-Epistemology of Art. ON 4(4):15–16, 18.
——. 1966a. Art and Sense of Life. The Objectivist (O) 5(Mar):33–40.
——. 1966b. Philosophy and Sense of Life. O 5(Feb):17–22.
——. 1971. Art and Cognition I. O 10(Apr):1009–17.

Sciabarra, C. M. 1995. Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. Penn State.

Solso, R. L. 1994. Cognition and the Visual Arts. MIT.
——. 2003. The Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious Brain. MIT.

Sures, M. A. 1969. Metaphysics in Marble. O 8(Feb):602–8; 8(Mar):618–24.

Unamuno, M. 1913. The Tragic Sense of Life. J. E. Crawford Fitch, translator. 1921 [1954]. Dover.

In the next section, I shall compare a Scholastic objectivist view of beauty with Rand’s view of beauty, value, cognition, and metaphysics. Thereafter I shall compare Schopenhauer, Kant, and Rand on the contemplative character of engagement with art, on esthetic values such as beauty, and on the function fulfilled by art, especially in application to visual arts. Then I shall compare Rand’s theory of meaning in absolute music with Schopenhauer’s and with a contemporary theory. The issue of representation in art will be taken up along the way. In a further, final section, I shall compare Rand’s views on the function of art and the relation of art to morality with other contemporary views on those issues.

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Friday, March 22, 2013 - 7:37amSanction this postReply

I mentioned at the end of Section II that one might concur with Rand’s definition of art (I do not), yet disagree with Rand’s analysis of various artworks within the framework of that definition. I stated I’ll not be addressing those analyses in this essay. I’ve come across record of a knowledgeable person who was in agreement with Rand’s definition, who knew Rand personally, and who disagreed continually with Rand’s analyses. That person is artist Joan Mitchell Blumenthal, who expressed her differences and agreements with Rand on analyses of various artworks (in conversations with Rand and) in an interview, March 1993, by Karen Reedstrom in Full Context.

Post 4

Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 9:13amSanction this postReply

Beauty, Goodness, Life ||||||||||| I. Literary Arts – Rand* ||||||||||| II. Visual Arts – Rand* ^ |||||||||||

III. Beauty – Kovach and Rand A

Everything guards its unity as it guards its being. –Thomas Aquinas

The paramount grand theme of art is the value beauty, “that which, in sole virtue of a knowledge of it rather than its usefulness, delights its knower” (Philosophy of Beauty [PB], Kovach 1974, 24). What is “that which”? What is beauty?

A sense of beauty can be companion to other feelings engendered in a work of art. “Pure beauty merely delights; the sublime delights and awes; the tragic delights and saddens; the comic delights and makes one laugh; . . .” (PB 29). Michelangelo’s Pieta: pathos with beauty. Bernini’s David: power and determination with beauty. Brancusi’s Bird in Space: suspension and sweep with beauty.

Ugliness crafted in art is craft of the contrary privative of the positive value beauty (PB 250–64). Ugliness has been taken as a privative since Plato, although, since the nineteenth century, there have been dissenters.

One version of a positive interpretation of ugliness
    seems to go back to Winckelmann, who ventured to assert that expressiveness was one of the primary characteristics of classic art, whereas Lessing held the more traditional view, viz., that beauty is the main purpose of classic art. Schlegel, at the end of the eighteenth century (1797) declared that the main concern of modern art is not beauty but the characteristic or the interesting, and the characteristic or the interesting may be, among others, the repulsive or hideous, i.e., the ugly.” (PB 255)
We shall need to see what Rand thought about beauty and ugliness and their place in art, and moreover, what view of them would be consistent with her metaphysics, theory of value, and role of art and integration in human existence.

The author of Philosophy of Beauty was my first philosophy professor Francis Kovach.* His introductory philosophy course I took concluded in spring 1967, just before my first exposure to Rand’s ideas and literature.

The kind of beauty in art is what Kovach called material beauty, “the integral unity of a multitude or variety of proportionate parts” (PB 185). Integral means the capability of the parts to contribute to the whole of the beautiful work, where “these parts, through their presence, actually ensure and constitute the wholeness of the beautiful material being” (185). Proportionate means capability of being put together with the other parts and of being united with them into the whole of the beautiful work of art (185.)

In any “obviously well-arranged whole” there can be found “integrally proportionate and unified parts” (PB 185–86). The integrity of such an orderly material whole is the principle of its order. Integrity is “the property in virtue of which order has all the parts necessary and no parts unnecessary for it” (190). (I notice in passing that having all the parts necessary does not preclude there being alternative necessary parts; necessary part of a piston engine could be spark plug or fuel injector.) Such an artistic whole damaged or never completed, or composed as if those were so, frustrates the viewer. It frustrates fulfillment of the natural cognitive desire for and cognitive delight in the fully knowable. A full integrity renders things fully knowable with the delight that holds, and thereby, integrity is a true principle of beauty (193).

The esthetics of my Prof. Kovach, who was very learned in the history of esthetics, has considerable affinity with that of Rand. In much of her thinking about art, she was not alone. What Kovach says about integrity and integral unity in the work of art fits well with Rand’s writings on esthetics in The Fountainhead and in her nonfiction.

The proportionate “is intuitively intelligible and, thereby, cognitively delightful; whereas that which is disproportionate is, as such, intuitively puzzling, upsetting, disturbing, even displeasing to the beholder” (PB 195). Suppose a man “is listening to a lullaby, and suddenly he hears drums sounding fortissimo. . . . He will instantly intuit the unsuitability of the loud sounds of the drums to the soft sounds of the other musical instruments in the lullaby” (195).

The role of proportion is to render intelligibility and its delight intuitively. Unity in the work of art, or in a machine for that matter, “unity, as such, is intelligible; multitude, the privation of unity, is not. Inasmuch as the unity of a material being is intuitively, effortlessly intelligible, the knowledge of it is delightful, and the thing itself is cognitively delightful and, as such, beautiful” (PB 195). Kovach goes on to argue for the presence of integrity, proportion, and unity in all material things. That we do not encounter beauty in all of them is due to the order in some being not directly perceivable by us or not intuitively knowable by us or relatively inferior or conspicuously defective or so frequent that it cannot delight. The artist aiming to realize beauty, for cognitive delight of the beholder, will be concerned with composing details in right definite relations to the whole she has in mind, or at least selecting among particulars according with a whole emerging in mind. The order in her representation, if beautiful, will be an exemplification of the three principles of order of material being, concretely intelligible and, therewith, immediately delighting (198–208).

Francis Kovach belonged to the Scholastic tradition in philosophy. He took their view that beauty is objective. Beauty is there whether or not it is discerned. He argued for that view and, furthermore, he argued that beauty is a property of being the Scholastics called a transcendental property of being. Such a property is convertible with being and with other such properties.* The distinction between being and its transcendental properties is only ideational; in reality they refer to the self-same thing. (I shall stay a while with the customary name transcendental property, though I think merely cohort is a better name.)

In Rand’s metaphysics, identity is such a transcendental property of being, where being means any and all existence, actual or potential, physical or mental (AS 1016–17, 1035–37, 1040–41, 1054; ITOE 56, 82, App. 240). The oneness or unity of each existent is also a transcendental in Rand’s metaphysics. Or, at least we can say that the oneness or unity of each entity, which is the primary and fundamental category among all existents in Rand’s metaphysics, is also a transcendental in that system (ITOE App. 199). The convertibility of unity with being is from Aristotle (Top. 127a27–28; Metaph. 1003b22–23); cf. Aquinas ST Q.11 A.1). Rand’s convertibility of identity and being was most fully seen before her by Avicenna* with his addition of the transcendentals “thing and something, meaning definiteness and otherness, respectively” (PB 240). Avicenna was adding those specifically to the Plotinian set of transcendentals: unity, truth, goodness, and beauty.

In the thirteenth century, there began efforts to systematically derive the transcendental properties, and those various efforts led to a variety of sets of the transcendentals. The set and derivation of Thomas Aquinas came to be quite influential among modern Scholastics from mid-nineteenth century on. In his early work On Truth, Aquinas set out the following system of transcendental properties, as summarized by Kovach:
    Considering being absolutely, one can pass this affirmative judgment on it, “Every being has an essence,” or “Every being is something definite”—a judgment which leads us to realize the transcendentality of ‘thing’—‘being with a definite essence’, and the abstract transcendental of ‘definiteness’. Next, still considering being absolutely, we can pass a negative judgment on it, “No being is actually divided,” that corresponds to the judgment, “Every being is actually undivided,” and leads the mind to the recognition of the transcendentality of ‘the one’ and its abstract correlative, ‘unity’ or ‘oneness’. In the next steps, one may consider ‘being’ relatively. In so doing, and relating it to non-being, he can realize the truth of this proposition, “Every being is other than non-being,” which is the recognition of the transcendentality of ‘the other’ and the abstract ‘otherness’. If, next, somebody relates being to the first unique power of the human soul, the intellect, he can discover the truth of the following proposition, “Every being is intelligible” or “true,” and thereby the transcendentality of ‘the true’ and of ‘truth’. If, on the other hand, one relates ‘being’ to the second unique power of the human soul, the will, he may recognize that it is true to say, “Every being is desirable,” and, through this judgment, the transcendentality of ‘the good’ and ‘goodness’. Summing up, we may say that there are exactly five transcendental properties of being in such a way that definiteness is an affirmative absolute transcendental; unity, negative absolute; otherness, negative relative; and truth and goodness, affirmative relative. (PB 241)
Aquinas latter expressed his belief that beauty also—in accord with Plato, Plotinus, and others—is convertible with being. Kovach argues for incorporation of beauty into Aquinas’ system of transcendentals. Consider intellect and will not separately, but jointly. Then, affirmatively and relative to that combination, we can say, “Every being is cognitively delightful,” which, according to Kovach, we have reason anyway to think true, outside its consideration in connection with Aquinas’ system. Then beauty is a transcendental property of being, for “we call a thing beautiful precisely if and when it delights upon becoming known to us” (PB 242).

Now Objectivists should be ready to correct and adapt this objectivist theory of beauty and artistic beauty. The Scholastic objectivist is on the right track in taking the intelligible and the good to be affordances of existence for human cognitive and evaluative powers. However, firstly, in Rand’s system, the fundamental affordance for truth is not truth, but fact (cf. Metaph. 993b30; ST Q.16 A.3). Truth is recognition of fact, which latter is a cohort of existence. Secondly, the affordance of goodness in existence is not fundamentally for will or desire, but for life. All occasions of value are confined to relationships of existents to life, including distinctly human forms of life, and to derivatives of life. Value and goodness are not cohorts of existence in Rand’s system (contrast with Aristotle’s NE 1096a23–29). Then beauty is not a cohort of existence; though if a sense of beauty is cognitive delight, sensed beauty is yet a function of the true and the good and can be objective in a new mix of the definite ways in which the true and the good are objective. Then too, whether an artwork crafts an illusion capable, in right conditions of the beholder, of eliciting cognitive delight by its concrete integral unity of held truths and values is an objective matter in an elaborate sense.

In her literature, Rand had bannered an objectivist view of beauty, with ugliness as its antithesis. The range of things she called beautiful was considerable, from the beauty of human face and body to the beauty of countryside and city skyline, to the beauty of an evening of formal debut composed by a mother for her daughter, to the sense of beauty a young woman would have for familiar items in the surroundings of her occasions with her lover, which occasions had carried “a feeling greater than happiness, the feeling of one’s blessing upon the whole of the earth, the feeling of being in love with the fact that one exists and in this kind of world” (AS 108).

The character Lillian Rearden, in a lecture to her husband, says that telling a beautiful woman she is beautiful is a gift of no cost. “But if you tell an ugly woman that she is beautiful, you offer her the great homage of corrupting the concept beauty” (AS 305). In Fountainhead Peter Keating accepts a commission to build a home for the successful writer Lois Cook, who tells him she wants it to be the ugliest house in New York.
    “The . . . ugliest, Miss Cook?” / “Sweetheart, the beautiful is so commonplace!” / . . . / “Keating, where’s your courage? Aren’t you capable of a sublime gesture on occasion? They all work so hard and struggle and suffer, trying to achieve beauty, trying to surpass one another in beauty. Let’s surpass them all! Let’s throw their sweat in their face. Let’s destroy them at one stroke. Let’s be gods. Let’s be ugly!” (ET IV 256)
In oral reply to a question in 1976, Rand maintained that beauty is a sense of harmony. A beautiful face, body, sunset, image, or object will have parts that are harmoniously integrated to the whole unit. “If there are contradictions and clashes, the result is marred or positively ugly.” Consider a face you find beautiful. It is beautiful because all its features “are harmoniously integrated, . . . they all fit your view of the importance of all these features on a human face.” A sunset or landscape will be regarded as beautiful “if all the colors complement each other, or go well together, or are dramatic together.” Rand went on to say that this was an objective definition of beauty (in her particular relational sense of the objective) and that to maintain it as a universal standard of beauty, you need to
    define the terms of the objects you are going to classify as beautiful and what you take as the ideal harmonious relationship of the elements of that particular object. . . . It is true, of course, that if there were no valuers, then nothing could be valued as beautiful or ugly, because values are created by the observing consciousness—but they are created by a standard based on reality. So here the issue is: values, including beauty, have to be judged as objective, not subjective or intrinsic. (Beauty in Binswanger 1986; see also Hospers 2001, 322–23; PB chap. V)
There are some ambiguities in those remarks, but there is clear enough fit with Rand’s writings, and it is a little surprising Rand never committed those remarks on beauty, polished perhaps, to writing. Three observations: She spoke of the harmoniously integrated. Yes, integration is at work in Rand’s analysis of beauty and at work in several ways in her whole theory of esthetics. She spoke of importance (relative importance), and this does have definite work in selections made in composing an artwork, including literary work, but, I say, not in analysis of the integral unity of the parts of a beautiful face. She spoke of harmony. That is a species of proportion, that is, harmony is one of several ways by which parts may be joined with other parts into a whole that is beautiful, a whole whose knowledge delights (PB 207). Notwithstanding that last point, Rand’s view of beauty as a whole had by harmoniously integrated parts is subsumable under my Thomist professor’s wider definition of material beauty: the integral unity of a multitude or variety of proportionate parts.

In those oral remarks, Rand spoke of the positively ugly. I do not take that as an affirmation of the views of some modern estheticians that ugliness is some sort of fundamentally positive antithesis to beauty, another, equally positive reality. (On history, analysis, and resolution of the issue, see PB 250–59.) It would seem most natural in Rand’s philosophy to see ugliness vis-à-vis beauty as parallel evil vis-à-vis goodness (AS 1024). That is, ugliness would be lack of beauty and not equally a positive reality, but a real lack and, moreover, a positive opposition to beauty.

Rand’s principle of the harmonious for the beautiful should be widened to the proportionate. I should note, however, that her conception of the harmonious was not confined to the tranquil, for she spoke of dramatic composition of colors, and her own art form, the novel, required dramatic conflict. Harmony for Rand could not plausibly be confined to accord. Perhaps Rand’s conception of the harmonious was synonymous with the proportionate. Perhaps her definition of beauty did not differ from Kovach’s definition in that element (cf. PB 205).

On the beautiful, I propose a Randian contraction in comparison to the conception of Scholastic objectivists. Unity or oneness of being is not enough to constitute wholeness adequate for beautiful being. Beauty requires a unity presented as reigning over its pluralities. Unity in general need not have that presentation. The sense of beauty we have from grasp of unity in existents cannot stand without apprehension of unity’s reign. Life, with its unity and proportionate integration, is the force of beauty. Even the singular stillness and quiet around thought of a loved one deceased has its faint, shadows-beauty by life and our knowing it. Life is the force of beauty. We may not know how our visual, motor, intelligent, and affective systems have evolved such that we delight in perception of the intense pattern of a butterfly wing, evening soar of swift, or display of fireworks; but that is nothing against the plausible working assumption that it is the biological character of our cognitive systems that yield the delight beauty.

(Continued immediately.)

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Post 5

Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 9:37amSanction this postReply

Beauty, Goodness, Life ||||||||||| I. Literary Arts – Rand* ||||||||||| II. Visual Arts – Rand* ^ |||||||||||

III. Beauty – Kovach and Rand A*

III. Beauty – Kovach and Rand B

Recall the definition of material beauty by Prof. Kovach, which he maintained in full cognizance of over two hundred theories of beauty from the fifth century B.C. to the latter half of the twentieth century: the integral unity of a multitude or variety of proportionate parts. Of unity more generally, Kovach writes “no thing is intelligible or knowable unless it has unity” (PB 197).

Rand defined knowledge as “a mental grasp of a fact(s) of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation” (ITOE 35). In her view, we have in perception direct mental grasp of some entities, grasp of some unities that are entities. That is some knowledge. Then too, concepts in Rand’s view, as in many a view, are unities of classes of particulars grasped notably through similarities of the particulars. Rand can concur that no thing is intelligible or knowable unless it has unity.

Similarly, she is along Kovach’s line of unity in beauty when she thinks of the beautiful, natural or artificial, as consisting in parts that are harmoniously integrated to a whole. Remember always that a part-whole relationship is not the same as an instance-concept relationship. A ramification of that for the present topic is the following: things incommensurable for integration into a concept might nevertheless be integrated together to a beautiful whole. Consider Rand’s example of incommensurables, length and color (ITOE 13). Though length and color share no specific measureable dimension under which concept of a specific common attribute can be obtained, length and colors can be, in a unified artwork, assembled proportionately within their kinds and in their values.

We have seen that in the view of Kovach the role of proportion in beauty is to render intelligibility and its delight intuitively. Is esthetic intuition an exercise of sense perception, imagination, intellect, a combination of them, or another faculty?

Rand thought some similarities are intellectual, but others are given in perception. She conceived the latter as well as the former sorts of similarity to be “the relationship between two or more existents which possess the same characteristic(s), but in different measure or degree” (ITOE 13). I have argued that within her theory of concepts, and the role of similarity in it, her definition of similarity should be amended to read “the relationship between two or more existents possessing the same characteristic(s), but in different measurable degree or in different measureable form” (2004, 284–85*) It remains that some similarities are given in perception. Is the proportionate in sensible beauty given in perception?

There is some scientific evidence that proportions highlighted by increased activity in certain parts of the brain during observation of artworks are correlated with judgments of their beauty accompanying brain activity in another, evaluative part of the brain (Di Dio, Macaluso, and Rizzolatti 2007*). This experiment pertained to experience of proportions in Classical and Renaissance sculpture, and does not establish the much larger speculation that all occasions of the proportionate in sensible beauty are given in perception. Among people who had known that perception is mediated by nerves and brain, the larger proposal has been around as far back as Ibn al-Haytham, known in the West as Alhacen.* He thought that similarity and difference, and beauty too, were recognized at a high stage of processing by the visual system, but did not require any reasoning to their recognition (Smith 2001). The main correction to his picture we can make these thirteen centuries later is that the pleasure associated with sensed beauty comes from another part of the brain, though its activation, like perceptual activation, is automatic.

Kovach had it that experience of material beauty, whether in nature or artifact, is an occasion of the intelligible grasped intuitively, rather than discursively. That is the knowledge component of the experience on which the appetitive (emotional) component depends. An esthetic experience, like any experience, has preconditions, essential parts, and consequences. The essential parts of esthetic experience are “recognition of beauty and delight caused by that recognition” (PB 294).

The preconditions of the esthetic experience, both the cognitive preconditions and their appetitive attendants, divide into (i) conditions without which the aesthetic experience cannot easily take place or (ii) more proximate conditions without which it will not take place at all (PB 293). The experience will not take place at all without sensory perception and, according to Kovach, without sensory pleasure, a pleasing of the senses by the perceived object being proportionate to their sensitivities in the delivery of its beauty (294–95, 303–4). Sometimes the sensory perception requires also imagination to reach the esthetic object, such as when a person become blind touches sculpture to arrive at its shape, the esthetic object (298).

A natural question: If beauty is an integral unity of a multitude or variety of proportionate parts, how is it that a single color or a single tone can be beautiful? “Even such pure ‘sensations’ as that of a single tone or even color, despite its seeming simplicity, is in fact a composite, composed of static and/or dynamic, qualitative or quantitative parts and, as such, constitute a more or less well-organized whole, thus fulfilling the requirements of beauty, viz., unity in multitude (if not in variety)” (PB 302).

Kovach’s view of the distinction between sensation and perception coincides with that of Lee 1938. Sensation is “the conscious response to the stimulation of a sense organ or nerve receptor,” whereas perception includes “selection among sensations, combination, organization, and sometimes supplementations from the imagination” (PB 301–2). My professor in the lineage of Aristotle and Aquinas saw perception as made from sensation by an internal sense, the common sense (see Stein and Meredith 1993).

As mentioned lately, there is an appetitive reaction to sensory cognition. This appetitive reaction is itself “a specifically sensory pleasure flowing from the attainment by the external and internal senses [internal, the common sense and imagination] of their proper, connatural object” (PB 303). The perception of the beautiful causes some sensory pleasure because in such perception there is cognitive fulfillment of the proper (the system-dedicated) and proportionate object. Esthetic pleasure begins with the common sense, where sense data have been unified “into some definite units and wholes” (303).

Unified sense data are passed on to “imagination” or “phantasy” for storage and recall. The latter operation can be creative, and that is the recall esthetically significant, for it can alter the original image with connection to other images. “It is at this point that the personality of the beholder has the greatest impact on the manner in which the beholder actually sees and/or hears the perceived esthetic object, altering, enriching or impoverishing it according to his cognitive and/or emotional habits, etc.” (PB 303).

These sensory and perceptual experiences, cognitive and appetitive, are still at the involuntary level. Though rising to esthetic pleasure (or displeasure), they are not the esthetic delight (or revulsion) that may obtain in the beholder’s rational will. That is to be found in the esthetic experience itself. I shall turn in §C to the experience itself and to its consequences (e.g. esthetic judgment). There too I shall begin to analyze what has been called intuition in esthetic discernment.

I should like to supplement Kovach’s example of a person become blind combining touch of a sculpture with imagination to perceive shape. In beholding all the crafts of illusion that are art, we use imagination. I do not mean imagining various meanings of a work. I mean the automatic imagination such as is required for seeing figures in a perspective drawing as situated coherently in a three-dimensional space.

Scientific research since the writing of PB has corroborated and elaborated what Kovach wrote about perceptual imagination and its partial dependence on personal traits of the beholder in the necessary and proximate preconditions of esthetic experience. At the stage of immediate perception, normal viewers of The Raft of the Medusa (a realistic and romantic craft of illusion) experience brightness variations, forms, figure-ground, colors, and gestalt organization. We see familiar objects in the scene. Robert Solso points out that when we view Raft we “see” not only the raft, the people, the sail, the ocean, and other objects. In seeing this scene, we may also “hear” the wind flap the sail or “feel” the coolness of the seawater spraying over the raft (2003, 4). I never heard the flap of the sail. Probably that is because I have little experience with sailing. That is a variation among normal perceivers. Furthermore, we can have somewhat different imagistic prototypes of objects (cf. Rand on “visual abstractions” in 1971, 1010–11) and somewhat different schemata of the overt human expressions of feelings. We can have different feelings evoked by given combination of colors. And what we see immediately in a painting can change as we get more experience and training in viewing (Solso 1994, 116–22, 140–55; 2003, 230–33). Such variations mean that not every particular in perception and its appetitions is needed without alternative in the automatically formed necessary and proximate preconditions of esthetic experience.

Kovach’s contingent and more remote preconditions for esthetic experience are esthetic attention (cognitive) and esthetic expectation (appetitive). These facilitate esthetic experience, but are not strictly necessary, for sometimes one is struck unexpectedly by the beauty of something.

Esthetic attention is a cognitive openness with an interest “in whatever the aesthetic object has to offer to the rational mind,” a deliberate set of mind to recognize the beauty of the object “as fully as possible and thereby, to enjoy it as much as possible” (PB 297). In that way, esthetic attention is an interested attitude. It is, however, also a restriction on cognitive openness because we try to turn away from any other objects that might interfere with our esthetic experience. In this way, esthetic attention is a disinterested attitude; it is disinterested in the non-esthetic.

In Rand’s conception of esthetics, I should say disinterest in the non-esthetic includes not only setting aside such things as whether one can lift a particular statue and whether one can afford to buy it. Appropriate disinterest in the non-esthetic includes also setting aside Rand’s ultimate function of art, its provision of regeneration for pursuing one’s life projects. What remains not set aside is interest in experience that is means to that ultimate function of art. One does not set aside that more immediate psychological function of art, which is end-in-itself engagement with concretized value-metaphysics (Rand 1965, 16, 18; 1966, 36–37).
    There are certain flaws in Siegfried [Fritz Lang 1924], particularly in the nature of the story which is a tragic, “malevolent universe” legend—but this is a metaphysical, not an esthetic, issue. From the aspect of the director’s creative task, this film is an example of the kind of visual stylization that makes the difference between a work of art and a glorified newsreel. (Rand 1971, 1042)
Set aside the fact that the work does not show the efficacy of the good on earth and urge one forward in one’s life projects. The esthetic occasion remains.

Kovach argues “the primary aesthetic senses are those of vision and hearing; the secondary aesthetic sense is touch . . .” (PB 298). Vision and hearing afford cognitive distance, cognition not bound immediately to biological usefulness, which enables disinterestedness and a delightfulness entirely of cognition (299–301). Moreover, the proper objects of vision and hearing—colors, shapes, and tones—are amenable to organization for expression of human ideas and thoughts, in particular for the orderly, for the well-arranged, for the properly structured whole that is beauty.

Rand allows, of course, that music is a bearer of beauty, indeed it is an art. However, she takes its psycho-epistemological function to be different than those of the graphic and plastic arts such as painting, sculpture, and architecture (1971, 1009–10). In Rand’s metaphysics, entities are the primary form of existents, the one on which depend all others such as action, attributes, relationships, and all systems of relations such as knowledge. The graphic and plastic arts employ sight and touch, which are the principal senses for discerning entities, therefore, for full re-creations of reality by the artist.

Rand missed the neat point that Kovach recognized, the fact, and reasons for the fact, that vision and hearing are the most ample senses for beauty. The high rank of vision and hearing and lower rank of touch for esthetic experience weighs against Rand’s priority of sight and touch for art, including beautiful art, as re-creations of reality. It suggests that Rand’s conception of re-creation of reality is too narrow.

It is ordinary usage to sometimes mean only the graphic and plastic arts when speaking of art. I doubt that is because of some psychological function served by those arts, where that function is paramount to functions served by other arts. People do not usually first think of music, architecture, or literature on hearing the term art. Rand knew she needed to underscore for the reader the inclusion of literature as art: “. . . bear in mind only two characteristics of art (and of literature) . . .” (1963, 37). Literature is obviously a suitable medium for re-creations of reality. It might be thought the underlying reason literature is not first thought of as art is because its re-creations are via concepts and imagined concretes, whereas in the graphic and plastic arts, the re-creations can be directly presented to perception. It might be thought music and architecture are not first thought of as art because they are not obviously re-creations of reality in which the primacy of entities is imported.

Typicality of the visual and plastic varieties for the concept art is not, I think, a mark of blessing for Rand’s placement of those varieties as central among the non-literary arts. I say central for her because music fits poorly, to say the least, under her definition of art by lack of re-created entities and because she took architecture (in 1971) as not re-creating reality. The latter was likely a careless overstatement. I think it fairest to interpret her as meaning in 1971 only that in architecture the artist does not control so many facets of re-creation as an artist making something entirely non-utilitarian (cf. Seddon 1984, 34; Ust 1995; Enright 2001, 343–53). This would be in keeping, up to a point, with Rand’s thought that sculpture, though an art form, is a form more limited than painting because (mistakenly, due to her overly restrictive definition of art) she confined sculpture as art to human figures (Rand 1971, 1012).

Estheticians can be roughly ordered right to left on a scale of how they resolve tension between the disinterestedness of esthetic attitude and the potential of some artifact to have not only esthetic interest, but utilitarian interest as well. The non-esthetic disinterest of the esthetic attitude tugs against the utilitarian interest we have in some beautiful artifacts. In Kovach’s theory, his definition of material beauty, the integral unity of a multitude or variety of proportionate parts, does not rule out beauty in utilitarian objects. Neither does Rand’s conception of beauty, which as we have seen, is a subsidiary of Kovach’s. However, awareness of an object’s use can interfere with confining attention to respects for which knowledge itself issues in pleasure. I locate Kovach in the center of the scale. His conception of esthetic disinterest does not rule beauty of utilitarian works out of court or inferior to beauty in works we call fine art. So I put him at center, rather than to the right.

Rand 1971 is off to the right concerning architecture, off there with Schopenhauer and Kant, though her reasons for landing there depended on peculiarities of her own definition of art and on a shaky argument from her metaphysical and epistemological primacy of entities over other existents. In The Fountainhead (1943), Rand was left of those viewpoints on beautiful utilitarian works, indeed she was left of center. In step with the author of that novel, I say function and site are perfectly good realities to be re-created in the esthetics of the building, and with expression of metaphysical value-judgments, and notwithstanding the circumstance that actual function of the building is not at distant remove from the artistic expressions of that function (and of that function’s devolution into various building systems).

Louis Torres and Michelle Kamhi note that Rand’s “fictional treatment of architecture in The Fountainhead cannot take the place of a formal philosophical consideration of the subject” (1992, 7n30). I concur, but would point out that Rand’s literature from beginning to end is peppered every other page with express philosophical views. Considerable philosophy is presented. In Fountainhead one is left in little doubt whether the author’s estimations of those views —on morality, politics, and architecture—are positive or negative (see further, Gillis 1992; Enright 2001, 348–49).

(Continued immediately.)

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Post 6

Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 9:52amSanction this postReply

Beauty, Goodness, Life ||||||||||| I. Literary Arts – Rand* ||||||||||| II. Visual Arts – Rand* ^ |||||||||||

III. Beauty – Kovach and Rand A*

III. Beauty – Kovach and Rand B*

III. Beauty – Kovach and Rand C

It remains to set out Kovach’s essence of esthetic experience itself and its consequences. Within those districts are esthetic intuition and esthetic judgment.

Let us call the cognitive component of the essence of esthetic experience itself esthetic cognition. Clearly, esthetic cognition in literature is partly suprasensory. The meanings of words and sentences are conceptual. Esthetic cognition in literature is at least partly intellectual. “The full beauty of the poetic work is knowable only by the intellect in cooperation with some external and some internal senses” (PB 305).

Similarly it goes for songs that have words and librettos of operas. Intellect is engaged in the discernment of this beauty. What of the beauty of nature, city skyline, or nonliterary art? Is suprasensory intellect, such as the conceptual faculty, required to discern their beauty?

The senses can reveal the multitude or variety of parts composing the beautiful object, natural or artificial. In the view of Kovach, the directly perceivable colors, shapes, movements, and tones are principles and terms of relations between their multitudes and varieties, but they are not such relations themselves. In particular they are not the unity of proportionate components in the beautiful object arising from the relations all those directly perceivable elements have to each other and to the whole. Material beauty is a unity that is sensorily incognoscible; it requires an act of suprasensory intellect to be recognized.

In further support of that conclusion, consider that not only literary arts, but nonliterary ones have a theme, an artistic idea “manifested, expressed, or symbolized by the artwork in such a way that the entire arrangement of all its parts is made according to the idea as the exemplary cause of the artistic order” (PB 306). This consideration lends some support to Kovach’s conclusion that the unity that is material beauty of art requires suprasensory intellect for its recognition. But I think the strength of this consideration’s support is only about half what my Prof. Kovach gauged for it. To bring this consideration to bear, he uses the following premise: “To recognize an order or arrangement without recognizing the principle of that order is certainly impossible” (306). I reject that premise.

One can find a literary passage beautiful, state some of the reasons for that, yet realize that there are some other reason(s) it is beautiful that one has yet to formulate. Similarly, one child may have become able to arrange sticks of varying length parallel each other in strict order of increasing lengths, made plain by aligning one end of each stick flush along a base line. A somewhat younger child not yet able to do that might come along and take pleasure in the final arrangement, I’m pretty sure. She could recognize the arrangement, she could respond to the order, yet not recognize the principle of the arrangement or order and not yet be able to make such an arrangement herself. Rand thought, and I concur, that we can perceive some similarities without yet understanding the bases of those similarities. Surely that is so for some beauty as well.

I shall grant Kovach that whenever beauty is discerned some principle of unity made of proportionate parts has been registered. Sometimes that registration cannot obtain without intellect, even if only imagistic and schematic intellect. It seems unlikely intellect is required in other cases, as in cognition of a beautiful tone.

In the case of artistic beauty, I shall grant Kovach that some intellectual cognition has occurred if one has glimpsed something of the artist’s idea. I’ll take visual art minimally to be a craft of illusion having an idea or theme, composed of parts integral to that theme and contrived to occasion contemplation of the work as an end in itself. Beauty has been the main way of winning that aim, and if one has glimpsed something of an artwork’s idea, experience of the work’s beauty has likely engaged intellect even if only schematically and nondiscursively. Watch Gimbologna’s Mercury as you walk around him. Ignorant of who was Mercury, the meaning of the iconography in the statue, and the circumstances of the artist, what Mercury does before you and in you is lift off the earth (and your mind has been touched by a mind like yours across 400 years). This is only one idea for a sense of human body lifting off earth. Mercury’s forms and configuration had to be tuned to this idea to realize the idea, its parts proportionate in making this unity and joy.

So I shall not go along with Kovach on the proposition that all material beauty is sensorily incognoscible. Some unities of proportionate parts of a beautiful scene or object might be recognized with automatic imagination and connection to prototypes, short of any schematic intellection. However, Kovach’s proposition can pass with me for all cases of artistic beauty, whether in literature, painting, sculpture, architecture, or music. Art in the intended sense is a making of embodied meaning that will require intellect to discern. The beholder may find some of the meaning beyond his ken, but should expect it right alongside his anticipation of beauty.

Let Kovach now guide us further into the nature of the intellect’s portion of the esthetic experience itself. In beholding the beautiful object, the distinctive cognition is not the formation of the concept of beautiful object in general. It is not the cognition that is abstractive induction, and our cognition distinctive of the esthetic experience itself is not a coming to know how to define beauty. Rather, “by coming to know and enjoy the beauty of this object, . . . . we recognize the object in its intelligibility, i.e., as a concrete unity in the concrete multitude or, simply, as a concrete” (PB 307). At the end of §A, I contracted the Kovach view that unity or oneness of being is enough to constitute wholeness adequate for beautiful being (which for most of its occasions, we do not apprehend). I maintain here as there that beauty requires more than the unity or oneness of being. Beauty requires a unity presented as reigning over its pluralities. Kovach’s point that esthetic cognition is intellectual, though not abstractive stands fine all the same. That is, it stands fine for those cases of esthetic experience that require intellect come into play, another contraction of Kovach’s scope.

It is implausible, I should add, that discernment of the reign of a unity over its pluralities does not require intellect. Reign of unity is sensorily incognoscible. Similarly, a child noticing and pleased by the results of an older child’s seriation according to length, while the younger child is yet incapable of that feat, likely has some grasp of a ruling unity, which feeble grasp would be by intellect.

The esthetic cognition enlisting intellect is not abstractive, neither does it consist in application of a concept to the singular case beheld. Such esthetic cognition does not consist in “this beauty.” That concept has its place in the later stage, in the judgment “This is beautiful,” a consequence of the esthetic cognition. Recognition of beauty in the esthetic experience is neither abstractive of concepts nor applicative of them. It is not conceptual, yet intellectual. Then too, the intellectual esthetic cognition is not a judgment (PB 307).

In beholding the beautiful object, one is turned to contemplation of the object. In this contemplation, one’s mind “notices or discovers in its own light the integral parts with their relations to each other and the whole; and this contemplation . . . does nothing with the blissful vision of the beautiful object in a discursive manner” (PB 309). In this cognition, we know beauty. It is not speculative or scientific knowledge. It is not the esthetic knowledge of the art critic or the philosopher of beauty. It is not the technical knowledge of the artist. It is not knowing by faith or mystic reception. It is only our natural knowing of the beauty of the object, not our consequent knowing that the contemplated object is beautiful (309).

The esthetic cognition enlisting intellect is “an immediate, yet full grasp by the intellect of the beauty of the contemplated object,” not a conclusion of logical inference (PB 309). That is to say, such esthetic cognition is intuitive and nondiscursive. Esthetic cognition of a graphic or plastic artwork may envelope across time as one is seeing more and more of the object. Literature and music require substantial duration of apprehension. All through such spans of apprehension, it remains that the dawn of beauty is coming immediately and not as conclusion of reasoning. One’s difficulty in giving complete reasons for the experienced beauty is not merely difficulty in verbalizing one’s reasoning. One had never adduced reasons to deliver the beauty.

I hesitate to agree with Kovach on that point in the case of literature. Conceptual meanings are factors in the beauty of a poem. Here is the first verse of my poem Lifehold.
    No council, no say.
    All earth turn, night trail day.
    Unceasing sea tease land away
    to watery deep stage lay,
    dark, for none.
It is not reasoning that delivers beauty from the meaning component. It is delivery of meaning that makes that beauty. I’ll stay with Kovach on nondiscursivity in the case of a novel as well. The beauty of fit between plot and theme or the beauty in the conclusion of a story given what had gone before are beauties of fitness in conceptual meaning, but it is not reasoning that has made that fitness into beauty. Hesitation ended.

The intuitiveness of esthetic cognition enlisting intellect is like the intuitiveness in the grasp of first principles of being and of thought. The difference lies in the categories of object in the two kinds of intuition. Materially beautiful objects are concretes perceived or imagined. First principles are suprasensory objects of apprehension. “Sensory perception is an intuition with a sensory subject and object, . . . the grasp of self-evident principles is an intuition with suprasensory subject and object, [and] aesthetic cognition is an intuition sensory in its object and supersensory in its subject” (PB 310).

In that usage, intuition means only a natural, immediate, and non-discursive apprehension. Paul Crowther mentions that the content of art is experienced mainly in psychologically intuitive terms, without us being explicitly aware of the factors making the experience. “By ‘intuitive’ here, I do not mean anything strange or mysterious. Most of our perceptual knowledge has this character. . . . / Intuitions are explicable in principle, even though they may turn out to involve issues of great complexity which do not allow a definitive analysis” (Crowther 2007, 8). I would add that analysis without sufficient scientific information on the process is greatly impaired analysis.

Esthetic knowing is per se delightful. It is delightful in itself, not on account of some further manifest end imputing the delight that is esthetic delight. The per se delightfulness of esthetic knowing is “delightful at the sensory level in terms of its object, the beautiful, but delightful at the suprasensory level in terms of its subject, the rational will as it rests in the mental possession of the intuited beauty” (PB 311).

Among the cognitive consequences of the esthetic cognition and delight, is the esthetic judgment “This is beautiful.” Kovach rates this as a necessary consequence. I think it is not necessary during early childhood. For adults, it seems to be necessary at least in this way: the knowing of anything necessarily entails ability to know the correctness of the proposition “Such is so” or, in Rand’s words, “It is.”

Kovach lists numerous contingent effects of esthetic experience, particularly experience of fine art, that have been claimed, combining lists of D. W. Gotshalk and Monroe Beardsley. It is among these contingent and more remote effects that one will find external purposes served by fine art, overarching purposes cognitive, appetitive, social, or moral (PB 316–17).

As for the necessary appetitive effect of the esthetic experience, focally the experience of beautiful fine art, it is a desire flowing directly from the esthetic judgment and its keep in knowledge and flowing indirectly from the esthetic intuition and delight. For the moment the beholder intuits the beauty of an object, an esthetic love is born, one assuming the specific character of esthetic joy or delight possessed in that moment of beholding. The object of this desire is not only or firstly the enjoyment of the previously beheld beauty. Rather, it is the desire to face that particular beauty again (PB 315–16). So I long to again walk around Mercury in Firenze and to again stand gazing a long while into On the Terrace in Chicago. Face to face.

(To be continued.)


Aquinas, T. c. 1265–73. Basic Writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas. A. C. Pegis, editor. 1997 [1945]. Hackett.

Aristotle . c. 348–322 B.C. The Complete Works of Aristotle. J. Barnes, editor. 1984. Princeton.

Binswanger, H. 1986. The Ayn Rand Lexicon. NAL.

Boydstun, S. 2004. Universals and Measurement. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (JARS) 5(2):271–305.

Crowther, P. 2007. Defining Art, Creating the Canon. Oxford.

Di Dio, C., Macaluso, E., and G. Rizzolatti 2007. The Golden Beauty: Brain Response to Classical and Renaissance Sculptures. PLoS ONE 2(11):e1201.

Enright, J. 2001. Art: What a Concept. JARS 2(2):341–59.

Hospers, J. 2001. Rand’s Aesthetics: A Personal View. JARS 2(2):311–34.

Kovach, F. J. 2012 (1974). Philosophy of Beauty. Oklahoma.

Lee, H. N. 1938. Perception and Aesthetic Value. Prentice-Hall.

Rand, A. 1943. The Fountainhead. Bobbs-Merrill.
——. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. Random House.
——. 1963. The Goal of My Writing I. The Objectivist Newsletter (ON) 2(10):37–40.
——. 1965. The Psycho-Epistemology of Art. ON 4(4):15–16, 18.
——. 1966. Art and Sense of Life. The Objectivist (O) 5(Mar):33–40.
——. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Expanded 2nd edition. 1990. Meridian.
——. 1971. Art and Cognition I. O 10(Apr):1009–17.

Seddon, F. A. 1984. On the Randian Definition of Art. The Free Philosopher Quarterly 2(2):33–37.

Smith, A. M. 2001. Alhacen’s Theory of Vision. Two volumes. American Philosophical Society.

Solso, R. L. 1994. Cognition and the Visual Arts. MIT.
——. 2003. The Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious Brain. MIT.

Stein, B. E., and M. A. Meredith 1993. The Merging of the Senses. MIT.

Torres, L., and M. M. Kamhi 1992. Ayn Rand’s Philosophy of Art V. Aristos 5(4):1–8.

Ust, D. 1995. Architecture: The Missing Art Form. Full Context (Dec.*).

In the next sections, with Kovach ever on hand, I shall compare Schopenhauer, Kant, and Rand on the contemplative character of engagement with art, on esthetic values such as beauty, and on the functions fulfilled by art, especially in application to visual arts. Then I shall compare Rand’s theory of meaning in absolute music with Schopenhauer’s and with a contemporary theory. The issue of representation in art will be taken up along the way. In a further, final section, I shall compare Rand’s views on the function of art and the relation of art to morality with other contemporary views on those issues.

Post 7

Monday, April 1, 2013 - 5:20amSanction this postReply
Way more than I can digest...  You write faster and deeper than I can read, certainly in this medium.  Got any books?

Material beauty is a unity that is sensorily incognoscible; it requires an act of suprasensory intellect to be recognized.

One way to test that would be to offer caged birds two environments, one pretty (by our standards), the other chaotic.  Then we could argue the intellectual capacity of birds. 

 More abstractly, the lines of an automotive style may give an illusion of power or swiftness; the forms of a building’s exterior, an illusion of its loads, their defiance, and the purpose of the building.

I just watched the beginning of The Genius of Design for the second time (4 hours of viewing and I watched once through about a year ago). Ford Motor's Jay Mays said just that, that the new designs are intended to make the car look like it is moving even when it is not.  He did not mean an actual illusion, of course, but that the lines and spaces convey the intention of motion.

Literature and music require substantial duration of apprehension.

We seem to have more patience for fat books than for long symphonies. Perhaps we do not like being captive to the experience. Before The Genius of Design, I played How to Listen to and Understand Great Music by Robert Greenberg. My interest was the "moderns" Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenberg. I always found them difficult to like.  However, having the theory explained opened my understanding of what I was hearing.  A few months ago, I read a bit about In C by Terry Riley and I listened to three different (very different) performances.  Again, knowing the intention helped, but that begs the question.  If it has to be explained in another medium, has the artist actually achieved their goal?

With a painting or sculpture, you can shift your view. Even with a novel or poem, you can re-read passages, compare and contrast passages. The temporality of music places a heavy burden on the listener. More than enjoying the moment, you have to keep all the moments in your awareness at the same time.

It is easy to condemn the negative sense of life in Schoenberg scoring the music of a heart attack -- he suffered from a heart condition and knew it - but reading also in The Science of Liberty by Timothy Ferris we have praise for George Washington as a citizen-scientist who was taking his own pulse when he passed. 

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 4/01, 5:53am)

Post 8

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 9:04amSanction this postReply

Thanks for the reflections, Michael.

I’d like to add some on the esthetic means of architecture. I had written, as Michael quoted, “the forms of a building’s exterior [may give] an illusion of its loads, their defiance, and the purpose of the building.” Addition: Colors and textures are part of the esthetic play in architecture. Manipulation of natural light’s reception, reflection, and shadows are also part of the esthetic repertoire. The interior’s confines of space are a major esthetic instrument, affecting a person’s visual and motor senses of space. The join of spaces and masses in successfully artistic architecture attain a unified composition, with proportions and rhythms (repetitions) among its play. (Check out Gardiner NY Deck House, J. Gillis, architect, here.)

I’ll use this post also to make a modest retrenchment. Others have criticized Rand’s definition of art along with appreciating some of the currents of her thought on esthetics. Torres and Kamhi have proposed that metaphysical value-judgments in Rand’s definition be replaced with fundamental values, and J. Enright has proposed the replacement of metaphysical value-judgments in the definition with sense of life. So we have “a selective re-creation of reality in accordance with an artist’s fundamental values” or “a selective re-creation of reality in accordance with an artist’s sense of life” as definitions of art, related to Rand’s, but seriously revising hers for specific reasons. I have expressed thus far in “Beauty, Goodness, Life” some of my own criticisms of Rand’s conception of art and esthetics more generally, and in the sequel I’ll put together an alternative definition of art, some of which has been indicated already.

I want to pull back by a quarter on one of my departures from Rand thus far. In §IIB I mentioned that Rand’s range of philosophic issues going into the makeup of all the facets of one’s sense of life might well be too limited. I let that stand for now. I continued “moreover, there is no muster of evidence that a sense of life is a singular, well-integrated thing.” Evidence has occurred to me that I and others have a sense of life that, though it may not be well-integrated by its involuntary formation process, is a single enduring one and may in an individual predominate over other senses of life, if not totally exclude them altogether. This evidence is not dispositive of the question, but it is some evidence: my own poetry from four decades ago in comparison to today. Much varies in the different verses, but that is the same person, some sameness in psycho-epistemology and in sense of life.

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 4/02, 9:10am)

Post 9

Sunday, April 7, 2013 - 7:38pmSanction this postReply

I'd like to scotch the specific conjecture I made in the last paragraph of the first section on Kovach and Rand. I doubt it was correct. I should replace that paragraph now with the following one, reasoning more securely.
    On the beautiful, I propose a Randian contraction in comparison to the conception of Scholastic objectivists. Similarities given in perception are there whether or not this were a world in which sentient life such as we had arisen. Integral unities of multitudes or varieties of proportionate parts are not something that exists outside the context of life. Only with the entry of life into the world is there entry of the proportionate. Life is the force of beauty. Even the singular stillness and quiet around thought of a loved one deceased has its faint, shadows-beauty by life and our knowing it. We may not know how our visual, motor, intelligent, and affective systems have evolved such that we delight in perception of the intense pattern of a butterfly wing, evening soar of swift, or display of fireworks. But we know life is the force of beauty, if, as I accept, beauty is integral unity of multitudes or varieties of proportionate parts.
In the second section, I wrote of perception of proportions, and in light of the revision just made, I should add a clarification concerning proportions and the proportionate. Magnitude structures are in the world. Ratios are in the world without our putting numbers on them. Proportions are in the world and can be an element of the proportionate. Proportions, however, are not enough to constitute an occasion of the proportionate said of a multitude or variety of parts forming an integral unity, which type of unity is beauty.

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 4/08, 4:12am)

Post 10

Monday, April 8, 2013 - 10:45amSanction this postReply

SB:  I'd like to scotch the specific conjecture ...

Would ye care to rephrase that, laddie? 

Roark’s buildings are characterized by Rand as analogous in their integrity and beauty to that of a living thing and the idea-plan of that living thing. As well, she characterized Roark’s buildings as analogous to a soul with integrity and as statements in form, statements of the life of men in their minds (PK I 18, X 129, XI 140, XV 205, ET X 327, HR II 558; Boydstun 2010*).
Rand specifies a function of art beyond its beckon of experience and contemplation for its own sake. Art has integral place in the realm of life functions (cf. Greater Hippias 295c–e on the fine). In its selective re-creations of reality, according to Rand, art isolates and integrates aspects of reality to yield a new concrete that can serve certain functions for the human psyche (1965b, 16).
What we call "Art" with a capital-A is only a refinement of decoration. Why humans took to collecting shells and stringing them is not clear, but it happend perhaps a hundred thousand years after proto-humans tossed flowers into graves.  In that early event is the seed of Art, the need for Beauty, of which Decoration was a step along the way.  I think that they all answer the same need.  By direct analogy, even though "number" was invented only about 5000 BCE at the earliest, we know paleolithic tallies which most likely count a lunar cycle. To jump into a discussion of Mathematics at the same level at which Rand discusses Art is to miss much about human cognition. As I understand this, the need for Beauty is antecedant to the creation of Art.

What Rand called "“the life-giving fact of experiencing a moment of metaphysical joy—a moment of love for existence”  can be "found" in nature if it exists within the viewer.  Google recently celebrated Maria Sybilla Merien whose beautful and accurate depictions of spiders, insects, bugs, and caterpillers could have been done by anyone, but were the work of a perceptive and feeling artist.

  And much as beauty is important to your life and mine,  I am not clear on why you say: "Life, with its unity and proportionate integration, is the force of beauty. " Beauty is where you find it.


SB: However, the well-executed massacre painting might be worth my contemplation in a memorial museum of the event or in an art museum, where one passes from one feeling of life to another.
Gericault's Raft of the Medusa comes to mind as an example of a Romantic presentation of a horrible event.

Post 11

Monday, April 8, 2013 - 2:11pmSanction this postReply

Michael, concerning my statement “Life, with its unity and its proportionate integration is the force of beauty” in the last paragraph of #4 is part of what I excluded in the replacement for that paragraph in #9. My conjecture had been that all beauty, whether in nature or decoration or art, goes back somehow to a sort of master mold that is the sort of unity and integral suited parts and actions of life. So it was a sort of stamp already in the living perceiver of beauty, wherever the beauty might be found, whether in living objects or in inanimate ones.

But I came to think that to be very speculative, and anyway in that first version of that final paragraph of #9, I later saw, I was missing something very important that falls out of Rand’s conception that it is only the concept life that makes the concept value possible. You know the way in which the concept problem is made possible by the concept life, if you think about it. There are no problems on a life-free planet. Similarly, my thought now, as in the replacement paragraph, is that there is nothing proportionate or disproportionate in a life-free world. To be extra clear, I'm not talking about the possibility of finding beauty in the inanimate; we do, and we can under this picture. I'm saying only that it is only the concept life that makes the concept proportionate possible. And that is enough to contract the Kovach view that everything is beautiful, though by contingencies of our minds, we do not always experience the beauty there. This is one of the ways in which his is an intrinsicist tradition, and by contrast, one of the ways in which a Randian beauty should be classed as within her special sense of the objective.

Thanks for the reflections.


Following on the last paragraph in #9, I ought to mention a complication of expression. The noun correlate of the adjective proportionate is proportionateness. That is ugly, and one seldom sees it used. One sees instead proportion used as the noun correlate of proportionate, and I have done that in §IIA and §IIB, following the usage of Kovach. That is a broader sense of proportion than I mean in saying proportions are an element of the proportionate, and in such cases, one could substitute the proportionate for proportion. For example, instead of saying harmony is a species of proportion, I would better say harmony is a species of the proportionate.

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 4/09, 5:48am)

Post 12

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 2:03pmSanction this postReply
Beauty, Goodness, Life

Arts – Rand * ^ °
Beauty – Kovach * ^ °

Esthetics and Life – Schopenhauer

Life is never beautiful, but only its images are, namely in the transfiguring mirror of art or poetry. –Arthur Schopenhauer

The following, too, is from that philosopher, from The World as Will and Presentation (W1 – 1819; W2 – 1844):
    The aesthetic satisfaction is essentially one and the same, be it called forth by a work of art or immediately through perception of nature and of life. The work of art is merely a means for facilitating the cognizance in which that satisfaction consists. That Ideas confront us more easily through works of art than immediately through nature and actual reality is due to the fact that the artist, who is cognizant only of Ideas, no longer of actual reality, has also purely replicated only its Idea in his work, separated it out from actual reality, omitting all disturbingly contingent factors. The artist lets us look into the world through his eyes. (W1 §37, 229–30)

    [Art] replicates the eternal Ideas that are apprehended through pure contemplation, that which is essential and enduring in all the world’s phenomena, and depending on the material in which it replicates them, it is plastic or pictorial art, poetry, or music. Its single origin is cognizance of Ideas, its simple goal communication of this cognizance.

    While science, following the unresting and insubstantial stream of quadruply configured grounds and consequences [Schopenhauer’s four-fold root of sufficient ground or sufficient reason (1813)], is always, with the achievement of each goal, directed to something else—and can as little find an ultimate goal or full satisfaction as one could reach the point where the clouds touch the horizon by walking—art, to the contrary, is always at its goal. For it tears the object of its contemplation out of the stream of the world’s course and holds it isolated before itself. And the individual thing, which was a vanishingly small part of that stream, becomes for it a representative of the whole, equivalent to infinitely many things in space and time. It stays, therefore, with the individual thing, it stops the wheel of time, relations vanish for it; only that which is essential, the Idea, is an object for it. (W1 §36, 217–18)

    Any sort of cognizance, rational as well as merely perceptual . . . proceeds originally from will itself . . . just as means for maintaining the individual and the species as any of the body’s organs. Originally determined for service of its will, for the accomplishment of its purposes, it also remains throughout almost entirely in its service: so it is in all animals and in nearly all human beings. And yet . . . in individual human beings, cognizance is able to withdraw from this subservience, throw off its yoke and stand purely on its own, free from all the purposes involved in willing, as the bare clear mirror of the world from which art proceeds. . . . Finally we will see . . . when this mode of cognition works back on the will, self-nullification of the latter can take place, i.e., resignation, which is the ultimate goal, indeed the innermost essence of all virtue and saintliness, and redemption from the world. (W1 §27, 181)
In this block quotation, Schopenhauer included music as art that replicates Ideas (W1 §36, 217). I do not know why he did not omit music from this list in light of his contrary and elaborate treatment of music at the end of the third book of volume 1. There he argues that music is an art and replicates something, but it does not replicate Ideas (W1 §52, 302–4). We should take his considered thesis to be that all arts save music are replications of Ideas, that is, the arts poetic, dramatic, pictorial, and plastic.

In true contemplativeness, according to Schopenhauer, a person sustains a regard for things in an entirely disinterested way. The artistic genius is capable of true contemplation of objects, of reaching their Platonic Idea, then representing the object’s Idea more perfectly than is likely in particular occasions in nature. Dropping orientation to his own person, entirely losing sight of his interests, his willing, and his purposes, the artistic genius attains objectivity (W1 §36, 219–20). He makes himself pure subject of cognition. Similarly it goes with the beholder of art receiving esthetic satisfaction, though cognizing the Idea of the object has been made easier for the beholder by the artist (W1 §37, 229–30).

Schopenhauer was in step with the German idealists and their disciples in the general view, after Plotinus, that Idea shining through matter is the cause of esthetic satisfaction (PB 153–54). Schopenhauer’s construction of what this amounts to is integral with his metaphysics and is as distinctive as the distinctiveness of that metaphysics.

It was his predecessor Kant who made popular the idea that disinterestedness is the differentia of esthetic delight from other delight. Kant had the idea before his eyes in the writings of Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Kames, Burke, Moses Mendelssohn, and Karl Philipp Moritz (PB 281–82; Cassirer 1981, 326; Guyer 2005, 7–12, 22, 168, 191–92, 307). The related idea that esthetic delight is delightful of and by itself can be found in Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Philo, Plotinus, Augustine, John Scotus Erigena, William of Auvergne, Alexander of Hales, Bonaventure, Albert the Great, and Aquinas (PB 282–83).

“The world as presentation” means the world presented to a cognizant subject. In Schopenhauer’s conception, it does not mean the world presented for that cognizing subject. To this general situation, Schopenhauer’s ultra disinterestedness in the esthetic mode of consciousness joins smoothly. But that general situation does not necessitate his radical disinterestedness in esthetic consciousness. His is even more radical than Kant’s 1790 (204–10, 221–26, 242–44, 257–60, 267, 270–73, 292).

Rand confines the end-in-itself contemplation of art to rest from, and emotional fuel for, achievement of one’s ongoing purposeful struggle of life. Schopenhauer takes end-in-itself contemplation of art to have more thorough disconnection from those strivings of life. In art we stop all looking at things in their temporal, causal, and useful relations. We see the eternal Ideas of things, which is to say their eternal Ideas are present to us (Schopenhauer 1813, 41–42; W1 §17, 114).

I mentioned earlier that esthetic attention in Rand’s esthetics should include a turning away from not only utilitarian, moral, and other non-esthetic functions insofar as they interfere with the esthetic interest; one should set aside also Rand’s ultimate function of art, its provision of regeneration for pursuing one’s life projects. What remains not set aside then, within Rand’s structure, is the means to that ultimate function, namely the more immediate psychological function of art, which by her is end-in-itself engagement with concretized value-metaphysics. This remainder is the specifically Randian character of Kovach’s general form of esthetic attention, the Randian specific form of the cognitive openness with interest “in whatever the esthetic object has to offer the rational mind,” a deliberate set of mind to recognize the beauty of the object “as fully as possible and thereby, to enjoy it as much as possible” (PB 297).

My own view, as I stated earlier, is that beauty is particularly suited to winning end-in-itself contemplation of an artwork, leaving open the possibility of other appetitive preconditions besides anticipation of beauty joining the precondition esthetic attention,. That apparent difference from Kovach’s frame makes no difference to the feature I am bringing forth just now, which is specification of esthetic attention in Rand and in Schopenhauer.

The parallel in Schopenhauer of what I said paragraph before last for Rand is as follows. Among disinterests for the sake of esthetic attention would be Schopenhauer’s ultimate function of art (aside from music), rest from the strivings of will, from concern with one’s situation and struggles. What remains in esthetic interest is interest in Idea with its eternity. Being fully absorbed in perception of the art object so as to be pure mirror of Idea presented in that concrete object, this is the mode of esthetic attention for Schopenhauer. “Rid of the suffering self, we become utterly one with those objects as pure subject of cognition, and as foreign as our hardship is to them, so foreign is it in such moments to ourselves. The world as presentation alone is then still there, and the world as will has vanished” (W1 §38, 234).

Rand observed “there are many different aspects from which one may enjoy a work of art—other than sense-of-life affinity” (1966, 39). Even if one does not enjoy it at all, and finds its theme and style aberrant, one can yet discern the artist’s technical mastery and how well he has projected sense of life and metaphysical value-judgments (39). One can discern how well the artist has concretized a fundamental human consciousness and conveys a certain way of looking at existence (Rand 1971, 1009). Then Randian esthetic attention and its appetition, readiness for end-in-itself engagement with concretized value-metaphysics, can include anticipation of delight in “many different aspects” of the artwork, including delight in skill and the delight that is beauty. Notice that “visual harmony is a sensory experience and is determined primarily by physiological causes” (1044).

In his metaphysically based analysis of art, Schopenhauer did not overlook adjuncts of art’s interest and operation.
    Although . . . the real purpose of painting, as of art in general, is to facilitate our apprehension of the (Platonic) Ideas pertaining to the beings of this world, whereby we are simultaneously put into the state of pure, i.e., will-less cognition, it is additionally characterized by an independent and self-sufficient beauty, which is produced by mere harmony of colors, pleasing groupings, favorable distribution of light and shade, and the tone of the picture as a whole. This adjunct, subordinate kind of beauty promotes the state of pure cognition, and is in painting what diction, meter, and rhyme are in poetry; both, namely, are not what is essential, but what is initially and immediately effectual. (W2 §36, 480)
For Kovach, in contrast to Schopenhauer and Rand, it is the taking up of beauty to the intellect that is the core, not an adjunct, of esthetic experience in art. Where I have placed sheltered openness for end-in-itself perception of concretized value-metaphysics and will-free perception of embodied Idea as the basic readiness proper to esthetic attention in the esthetics of Rand and Schopenhauer, Kovach would place readiness for intuition of and for delight in beauty as the basic readiness. I think Kovach has the better phenomenology, though I should generalize beauty to some genus of which it is paragon species (cf. PB 29–30) and though I should allow that the cores proposed by Rand and Schopenhauer should inform the formula of that genus.

I think Schopenhauer’s rendition of end-in-itself contemplation is too restrictive by way of leaving out the sort in Rand’s rendition. And vice versa: Rand’s is too restrictive by leaving out the sort in Schopenhauer’s rendition. I do not mean to credit Platonic Ideas expressed in art, but to credit schematized conceptions of what is, expressed in art, where esthetic cognizance of what is is sufficient unto itself. (On schemata in Kant, see W1 App. 532–35; in development, CQ 2; as kin of condensation: a, b.)

By esthetic cognizance of what is, I mean in the particular esthetic subject. Rand included the nature of reality in its intelligibility and affordance of valuable action as within the scope of sense of life and metaphysical value-judgments concretized in art. Those pleasures and self-satisfactions can be there, I say, yet another one too: concrete expression of some schemata of what is the individual subject, stressing some of its specific identity and some of its particular identity. That might be all there is to the subject. It need not be amalgamated as a subsidiary of Rand’s sense-of-life questions or her metaphysical-value questions. It can stand alone as an esthetic subject, and when it is joined with expressions of answers to those questions, it need not get its interest from their presence alone.

Consciousness is in a living being, but at least in the human case, consciousness can set itself to take in the world or to re-imagine the world simply because it is interesting. Some of our interests are seeded by the merely interesting (cf. Kant 1790, 224, 271–73; Allison 2001, 92–97, 221–35; Crowther 2007, 68–69, 83; Crowther 2010, 70–72, 117–23, 128–35, 170–71; Guyer 1997, 148–83; Stroud 2011).

Whether scope of art subject is rightly confined to the scope Rand gave it or rightly expanded with my addition, particular subjects of an artwork need to be objects of consciousness, but need not be only those objects. Subjects can be consciousness itself with respect to objects. That is, subjects can stress elements of particular and specific identification. Baumgarten was not out of court to say that art perfects perception. It would be an error, however, to conclude the earlier view that art perfects objects is not also true. Both of those views can be found in Rand’s writings on esthetics, including Fountainhead. (Another connection between Rand and Baumgarten is noticed in Bissell 2001, 305–6.)

The Ideas Schopenhauer sees expressed in art are like Platonic Ideas, but importantly different. Plato sometimes conflates Ideas with concepts, according to Schopenhauer, and that is a serious mistake. Ideas, in Schopenhauer’s sense, are like concepts in that they represent a multitude of individual things. Unlike concepts, Ideas are not expressible in words, and they have no definition exhausting their meaning. Ideas are determinate completely and perceptible only (cf. Baumgarten in Guyer 2005, 268–69). They do not receive their unity by abstraction from plurality, as do concepts, but are a unity “broken up into plurality by virtue of temporal and spatial forms of our intuitive apprehension” (W1 §49, 277). In addition, in Schopenhauer’s view, Ideas are fecund, unlike concepts.

In Schopenhauer’s understanding, concepts are useful for life and science, but they are unfruitful for art. Apprehended Idea is the source of art. By the true artist, Idea is “drawn in its primal force only from life itself, from nature, from the world . . . . Precisely because the Idea is and remains perceptual, the artist is not conscious in abstracto of the intention and goal of his work; he has not a concept, but rather an Idea in mind” (W1 §49, 278). Idea in this role is parallel the role of sense of life in Rand’s theory of art.

Twenty-five years later, Schopenhauer wrote a second volume to The World as Will and Presentation. Here one finds him moving a bit closer to what would become Rand’s view in the next century.

Once a mind ever “devotes itself to regarding the world purely objectively, a striving has been aroused, as concealed and unconscious as it may be, to grasp the true essence of things, of life, of existence . . . . The result of every purely objective, thus also of every artistic apprehension of things, is an expression . . . of the essence of life and existence, . . . an answer to the question ‘What is life?’” (W2 §34, 461–62). Art says in a perceptual image “Look here, this is life!” So thought Schopenhauer and this too: It remains for philosophy to address the question in reflection, in abstraction, in concepts. Art and philosophy have the same root (462).

Schopenhauer had also clarified in W2, closer to Rand, that the artist is indeed thinking of the arrangement of his work. The thought content, the stimulating force, was perceived before its enlistment of thought for its embodiment (W2 §34, 465). However, to arbitrarily play with the means of art, “without true cognizance of its end, is in every art the fundamental characteristic of dilettantism. That sort of thing shows itself in the nonbearing columns, purposeless volutes, arches and jutties of bad architecture, in the meaningless runs and figures, along with the purposeless noise, of bad music, in the jingle-jangle rhythms of poems destitute of meaning, etc.” (464).

It might seem Schopenhauer has gotten his view around to Rand’s limits on what makes art, specified by what can make a sense of life or a metaphysical value-judgment. This is incorrect. What is life in terms of the fundamental ingredients of being, according to Schopenhauer, and his dissolution of individual personality of the artist in accessing Idea are in much contrast to Rand’s conception of life in the cosmos and to her conception of creative cognition in human life.

(Continued immediately.)

Post 13

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 2:09pmSanction this postReply
Beauty, Goodness, Life

Arts – Rand * ^ °
Beauty – Kovach * ^ °

Esthetics and Life – Schopenhauer*

Esthetics and Life – Schopenhauer

Let us see how Schopenhauer’s esthetics plays out for architecture. Kant had rightly thought of architecture as having its esthetic ideas confined by the use to be made of the building. Unlike sculpture, architecture is not only an esthetic expression, an object made only to be looked at and liked on its own account (Kant 1790 §51, 322). A building’s beauty is adherent to, and encumbered by, the concept of the building’s purpose (§16, 230). Unlike Rand 1943, and many of her century (see Parsons and Carlson 2008 [FB], 43–44), Kant does not locate distinctively esthetic satisfaction in conformance of the building’s form to its function, though he notes the conformance as salutary (see further, Allison 2001, 290–98; Guyer 2005, chap. 5; Crowther 2010, chap. 5). He does not mention positive potentials from interplay of building form and materials with the building’s site, such as one finds in Rand 1943.*

Schopenhauer’s view on the esthetics of architecture is more highly developed than Kant’s. Schopenhauer has it that the practical purposes of a building pertain to its service to will, not to pure cognizance, so not to the building’s form as esthetic. In its aspect as esthetic, removed beyond utility, the building architecture makes distinctly perceptible the Ideas of gravity, cohesion, solidity, and hardness on the one hand and the Idea of light on the other.

We construct and use a building in space and time, thinking upon material capabilities and principles. Kant would say all those forms, relations, and identities are the stuff of the phenomenal world and phenomenal mind, not the stuff of things as they are in themselves. Kant’s phenomenal world is Schopenhauer’s world of presentation. Although, we should keep in mind that Schopenhauer takes issue with Kant on what are our theoretical faculties and their overbearing in Kant on our perceptual world, and he takes issue with Kant’s system of categories.

Schopenhauer objects to Kant speaking of things in themselves being potential objects of presentation knowable for what they are in themselves by god-like minds, minds not finite and not confined to our forms of cognition. In Schopenhauer’s view, things in themselves, things as they are apart from their presentations to us, are not objects of presentation at all. Let us drop talk of their plurality as well, which belongs to presentation.

Moreover, our presentations do not directly issue from thing in itself. Platonic Ideas issue from thing in itself, they are generic presentations, objectifications of thing in itself. Platonic Ideas are in turn objectified into the particular presentations of our world and thought. Atheists might hold up Schopenhauer as their Plotinus.*

In our world, it is the human will that is most like thing in itself. Will is, but is not presentation. Schopenhauer’s thing in itself, he calls Will. Its objectification in Ideas is hierarchical. Architecture in its artistic presentations replicates Ideas from the base level of that hierarchy—Ideas of matter and light—to minds released from time and space and their individual will, which is to say from all the objectifications of Will beyond Ideas. In art we rest in and enjoy pure presentation as such (W1 §§30–35, 38; Guyer 2005, 281–85).

A boulder resting on the ground is ordinarily no perceptual show of the Ideas of matter, such as gravity, cohesion, solidity, and hardness. These Ideas are displayed and displayed as objectifications of Will when material of a building is disposed to display the battle of gravity and rigidity. The essence of Will is conflict. By the detours of weight in architectural form, purposive to the whole in all its features, “the battle between rigidity and gravity which constitutes the life, the expression of [W]ill in the stone” unfolds in complete visibility, revealing those Ideas, those objectifications of Will (W1 §43, 253; also W2 §35).

Like Kant, Schopenhauer registered genuine appreciation for the ability to create the art in architecture in a way suited to the utility of the building. However, like Kant, he erred in not embracing that suit as part of the building’s esthetics. Schopenhauer bumps his head on the doorway of truth more than once (Metaph. 993a30–b7), but does not rethink his scheme. He holds that esthetic correctness of parts in architecture entails consideration of their structural role. The shape of column, frieze, beam, arch, and dome “has to be determined purely by its purpose and its relation to the whole, not arbitrarily” (W1 §43, 253). Bump. He finds analogy with life in the struggle between gravity and rigidity (see also Aquila 2008, xxxvii, and Guyer 2005, 272–73). Bump. Why is a building raised? Could not that be the deepest ground of its peculiar statics and any artistic eloquence given them? Could not its form and other artistic elements express evocatively simply our life and intelligence and will in a world open to our view and celebration?

Schopenhauer was correct to think architecture can make perceptible the ideas—schematic ideas, I say—of gravity, cohesion, solidity, and hardness, and light too. Concerning that last, I think Schopenhauer would agree if we add that colors and textures as well as the manipulation of natural light’s reception, reflection, and shadows are part of the architectural esthetic means. He would also not frown at notice that a building’s interior confines of space are a major esthetic instrument, affecting a person’s visual and motor senses of space. The join of spaces and masses in successfully artistic architecture attain a unified composition, with proportions and rhythms (repetitions) among its play (W1 §43, 254–55).

Schopenhauer understood that beauty in a building may be not only mathematical, but dynamical. What speaks to us through architecture in its aspect as fine art “is not anything like mere form and symmetry, but those fundamental forces of nature, those primary Ideas, those lowest levels of the objectification of [W]ill” (W1 §43, 254).

The role of Platonic Ideas in art is better given to schematic ideas, schematized concepts, or Rand’s concretized abstractions. Ideas without platonic capitalization are identifications. Identity of a thing includes some potential relationships to other things (ITOE 39). Ideas include that. Schopenhauer writes that in esthetic cognition one “no longer considers the Where, the When, the Why, and the Whither of things, but simply and solely the What” (W1 §34, 210). But part of the What of a thing, even the essential What, consists of specific external relations. He was in error to think that in esthetic contemplation we apprehend things lifted from all their static, kinetic, and causal relationships to other things. He was in error to sweep all function and purpose out of ideas intuited in the esthetic experience of nature or art.

Schopenhauer erred in not recognizing functional beauty as an elementary form of material beauty, available to intuition in the end-in-itself contemplation that is esthetic experience. Beauty had been seen as fitness in some Greek thought (FB 2–5). They often went too far by supposing all beauty to have its source in some fitness for function, or anyway in some look of such fitness. They were correct in thinking look of fitness for function sometimes a source for material beauty. The dominate Western tradition of thought on the nature of beauty has taken proportion among parts to be key. Let us have also the key of function, another key to beauty, esthetic value, esthetic quality. Alongside relations of proportion, let relations of function be a source of the proportionate relations in our definition of material beauty.

The hefty objection to the notion of fitness for function as a basis of material beauty is the proposition that function cannot be perceived. I decline the idea that causality is never grasped perceptually or schematically.* I decline also the idea that function is only grasped by cognition beyond perception and schemata. What is early by thought, prelinguistic thought especially, can be later by perception, due to the process of automatization in the cumulative campaign of identification.

Rationalists of the seventeenth century conceived of perception as a low grade of thought. Like Rand, I reject that view. Rationalist continuity by model of thought should be replaced by continuity of identification. Given the graduated commonality of perception and thought in the rationalist view, look of fitness for function could be countenanced fairly comfortably. “For British empiricists that followed them, however, this connection was more problematic. Their struggles with Functional Beauty are particularly important since it was their work, in large part, that ultimately established aesthetics as a distinct discipline in the eighteenth century” (FB 7). Notwithstanding the difficulty for empiricists, beauty by fitness and even by utility, not only beauty by proportion, can be found in the esthetics of Berkeley, Hume, Hogarth, Alexander Gerard, Adam Smith, and Archibald Alison (6–12).

Burke and Hutcheson adduced counterexamples against the propositions that fitness for function or its look could be a ground of beauty. Some of their counterexamples are weak, and against the stronger ones, it can be replied that there are esthetic aspects in the examples arising from fitness, though these aspects are “not enough to merit the overall assessment ‘beautiful’” (FB 16). Furthermore, as Alison observed, there are unpleasant features in the stronger examples that undermine the overall verdict “beautiful.” Moreover, in eighteenth-century esthetics, focus was shifting away from beauty to the broader category of the esthetically pleasurable. Looking fit might fund esthetic qualities other than beauty (12–20).

I note that what is isolated under our definition of material beauty may be better called consummate esthetic quality, or consummate esthetic value, with beauty as its premier variety. That definition—to say now by heart—is integral unity of a multitude or variety of proportionate parts.

(Continued immediately.)

Post 14

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 2:17pmSanction this postReply
Beauty, Goodness, Life

Arts – Rand * ^ °
Beauty – Kovach * ^ °

Esthetics and Life – Schopenhauer* ^

Esthetics and Life – Schopenhauer

Kant’s Critique of Judgment is partitioned into a Critique of Aesthetic Judgment and a Critique of Teleological Judgment (1790). The latter is the locus of Kant’s philosophy of biology, the former his esthetics (Analytic of the Beautiful; Analytic of the Sublime; Dialectic of Aesthetic Judgment). In the sequel, we shall examine the connection between those two subdivisions of experience and cognition as well as their relation to Kant’s conception of empirical knowledge. Our present concern is Schopenhauer’s view of Kant’s esthetics.

In Schopenhauer’s view, Kant’s philosophical consideration of art and the beautiful had some merit. Prior to Kant, according to Schopenhauer, those subjects had been almost always undertaken in an empirical way, inquiring into the bases for the features of objects that distinguish beautiful ones. Estheticians looked for rules of what to strive for or avoid if one’s creative aim were esthetic satisfaction. “Aristotle had broken this path, and upon it we still find in most recent times Home [Kames], Burke, Winkelmann, Lessing, Herder, et al.” (W1 App. 628).

Example of such a feature of beautiful objects, at a high level of generality, would be the Kovach definition of beauty: integral unity of a multitude or variety of proportionate parts. Schopenhauer realized that some writers had discussed psychology of esthetics, and he saw that as a natural impulse to complete the circle of the topic, an impulse strong when reaching esthetic principles at a high level of generality.

Schopenhauer allowed that in his general esthetics of the beautiful Baumgarten had proceeded from “the concept of perfection in sensory, thus perceptual, cognizance” (W1 App. 628). Kant’s merit lay in staking an entirely subjective esthetics, by which Schopenhauer did not mean an approach arbitrary, capricious, or attaching to idiosyncrasies. By subjective he meant only, as we say, “to the side of the subject.” Kant inquired “seriously and deeply into the very excitation in consequence of which we call the occasioning object beautiful, in order, so far as possible, to discover its constituents and conditions within our spirit” (628).

The method of proceeding from the effect to the cause was the better method, in Schopenhauer’s view, but in Kant’s case, it attained little. For Kant proceeds “not from the beautiful itself, from the perceptual, immediately beautiful, but from judgments of the beautiful” (W1 App. 629). Kant did not center with examination of the right subjectivity, the right phenomenon to be analyzed. Kant works with subjectivity at a step removed, at the stage of esthetic judgment; rather like a blind man who reflects on colors without experience of them, with only reports of them (629). Schopenhauer thought Kant got closer to truth in his inquiry into the sublime than in his inquiry into beauty (630).

We have seen that Schopenhauer took the esthetic experience to consist of inseparable partners, two: “cognizance of the object not as an individual thing, but as a Platonic Idea, i.e., as the persisting form of this entire species of things, and self-consciousness on the part of one who is cognizant not as an individual, but as pure will-less subject of cognition” (W1 §38, 230). He called the latter partner the subjective side of the esthetic experience. In experience of beauty, both sides are maintained, but in experience of the sublime, certain challenges for the subjective side are key. Feeling of the sublime comes in degrees and in various experiences of nature and art (W1 §39, 239–44), but the common essence of its occasions are as follows.

The opposite of the sublime in art are stimulants to the return of will to the beholder, such as a still life of fruit that gets one salivating, sculpture that excites sexually, or a work displaying the disgusting. (The ugly has its place in art, but not the disgusting, according to Schopenhauer.) Such stimulants destroy the esthetic contemplation. The stimulating in this sense is to be avoided in art (W1 §40).

There are objects that not only invite and facilitate esthetic contemplation. There are objects inviting that state, yet inherently challenging human will, thereby requiring struggle by the beholder to remain in esthetic contemplation. This challenge to human will is not some challenge to the particular beholder, such as putting her in physical danger; it is challenge to human will in general. Witness a superabundance of power, say, the endless prairies in the interior of North America, naked cliffs, black thunderclouds, roaring waterfalls, or wailing of the wind sweeping through gorges.
    Our dependency, our battle with a hostile nature, our will as broken in the latter is now made perceptibly evident to us. But so long as our personal distress does not win the upper hand, but we remain in aesthetic contemplation, the pure subject of cognition looks through that battle with nature, through that image of a broken will, and—apprehends the Ideas attaching to the very objects that are threatening and frightful to the will. In precisely this contrast lies the feeling of the sublime. (W1 §39, 241)
In his later volume, Schopenhauer takes highest degree of the sublime to be occasioned in tragic catastrophe. Tragic drama urges the turn of our will “away from life, to give up willing and loving life. . . . What gives to everything tragic, in whatever form it may appear, its peculiar impetus toward elevation, is the dawning of cognizance that the world, life, can afford us no true satisfaction, hence is not worthy of our attachment to it: herein lies the tragic spirit; it leads, accordingly, to resignation” (W2 §37, 493–94).

I do not square with that picture. La Traviata is sublime largely along Schopenhauer’s lines, but though it is my favorite opera, I do not think its climax a finer sublimity than Dominique on the platform, rising above the city to her man, her god.

For ancient or medieval thinkers, beauty had been the central esthetic value. They defined other esthetic notions in terms of their relations to beauty. The sublime had been regarded variously as identical with beauty, similar to it, or as species to genus in relation to it. In the modern era, the sublime is treated more as something standing alongside beauty. Such of this modern cast are Joseph Addison, Alexander Gerard, Hugh Blair, Thomas Reid, Archibald Alison, and Kant. Edmund Burke, and others too, treated beauty and sublimity as radically different, even opposed (PB 18–19, 233).

Beauty in the narrow sense is that which simply and solely delights, Kovach says, but in a broad sense “the beautiful is anything that both delights and causes some other, mostly unpleasant, emotion in the beholder’s mind” (PB 29). Certain songs of Schubert or paintings of Renoir or Mozart’s Magic Flute “can profoundly delight the beholder without eliciting any other emotional reaction in him” (29). Those are occasions of beauty in the narrow sense. Tragedies, some parts of modern music, some paintings of Rubens or Tintoretto, these are occasions of beauty in the broad sense. It is in this broad sense of the beautiful that Kovach characterizes esthetics as “a generic field of many specific sciences, all dealing in some manner with beautiful things” (23). As an esthetic value, the sublime would fall under beauty in the broad sense (cf. FB xii–xiii, 17–18).

I have a reservation about the scope of that broad sense of beauty. What if some conception of the sublime singled out something definitely more similar to ugliness than it is similar to beauty? Perhaps there have been no credible conceptions of the sublime definitely that way.

Kovach provides ample evidence “that sublimity or the sublime is the most important and most characteristic single aesthetic category in modern aesthetics, and yet the variety and arbitrariness of opinions and definitions are nowhere so great and obvious as in regard to this aesthetic category” (PB 232). He charts the various views on the sublime of thirty-one thinkers from the seventeenth century to the mid-twentieth. The views are all over the map. A few do not seem sensible, but many have some sense notwithstanding the circumstance that they are at odds with each other in one way or another.

Leibniz had held that if some knowledge is clear, rather than obscure, then it is either distinct or confused. Our knowledge in sensory perception is clear—we can tell colors apart—but it is not distinct, for we cannot enumerate at the perceptual level the marks that are sufficient for expressly distinguishing the items of perception (Leibniz 1684, 290).

Leibniz and Wolff appealed to the je ne sais quoi in matters of taste to illustrate the clear but confused nature of sensory perception. Paul Guyer reports “they saw even such a confused form of thought . . . as a source of pleasure, insofar as it is the way, imperfect as it may be, in which the objective perception of the world can be communicated to us. Thus Wolff offered the famous definition of pleasure as the sensory perception of perfection” (2005, 267). Pleasure was the form taken by the recognition of objective perfection. “The pleasureability of sensory experience in general or aesthetic experience in particular was not associated with the form or vehicle of perception as much as with its content or object” (267–68).

A. G. Baumgarten (c. 1750), in collaboration with his student G. F. Meier, transformed the Leibniz-Wolffian conception of esthetic experience. He explained esthetic pleasure
    as not due to the sensory perception of perfection but rather to the perfection of sensory perception. . . . He held that the special nature of sensory perception as clear but confused . . . offers unique opportunities for cognition, and that in aesthetic experience we enjoy the exercise of that unique form of cognition in its own right and not merely because of some valuable content it may happen to convey. . . . The particular feature of sensory perception that is exploited for the unique pleasure of aesthetic experience, he held, is its richness, the possibility of conveying a lot of information through a single pregnant image, a possibility sacrificed by logical or conceptual cognition for the sake of greater clarity. (Guyer 2005, 268)
I think that last word should have been distinctness, keeping to the general Leibniz-Wolffian philosophy within which Baumgarten worked.

Richness, in Baumgarten’s view, is one source of the perfection in every sort of cognition. Richness of conceptual cognition arises from the applicability of concepts to many particulars; richness of the esthetic object arises from its suggestion of “an inexhaustible wealth of information and ideas that cannot be reduced to any single concept” (Guyer 2005, 269). Richness in an image or idea of the esthetic particular “is called its ‘extensive’ clarity, as distinguished from the clarity, now called ‘intensive’ clarity, of Descartes, Leibniz, and Wolff” (Pluhar 1987, xlix–l).

According to Baumgarten and Meier, when our sense perception has this perfection peculiar to it, this perfected perception allows us to perceive perfection in the world (all perfection is multiplicity in unity): the perfection of things, but above all the moral perfection of persons. To perceive beauty is to perceive such perfection by sense (as itself perfected by being made extensively clear); beauty is perfection insofar as we cognize this perfection not rationally and hence distinctly, but by taste, i.e., extensively clear sense perception. Aesthetic pleasure is the result of cognizing perfection by sense as perfected by being made extensively clear. (Pluhar 1987, l)

Leibniz had upheld the notion of intuitive knowledge. He took it as a species of distinct knowledge, which is to say, species of knowledge clear and distinct. Its contrast is the other species of such knowledge: symbolic knowledge. Intuitive knowledge for Leibniz would have to be intellectual, not perceptual; in the latter, we do not know things distinctly. Our knowledge of primitive concepts is intuitive. Generally, our knowledge of composite concepts is merely symbolic, for we cannot generally think simultaneously all the concepts that compose a composite concept (Leibniz 1684, 291–92).

Baumgarten associated distinctly esthetic experience, within perceptual experience, with “unique formal features of intuition” (Guyer 2005, 269). Kant would instead put such features to work as forms of all sensory experience. Prof. Guyer suggests this is what underlies Kant’s rejection of Baumgarten’s conception of esthetics as a special discipline concerning the beautiful (269n10; KrV A21n B35–36n).

(To be continued.)


Allison, H. E. 2001. Kant’s Theory of Taste. Cambridge.

Aquila, R. E. 2008. Translator’s Introduction to Schopenhauer 1819.

Aristotle c. 348–322 B.C. The Complete Works of Aristotle. J. Barnes, editor. 1984. Princeton.

Bissell, R. E. 2001. Critical Misinterpretations and Missed Opportunities: Errors and Omissions by Kamhi and Torres. JARS 2(2):299–310.

Cassirer, E. 1981 [1918]. Kant’s Life and Thought. J. Haden, translator. Yale.

Crowther, P. 2007. Defining Art, Creating the Canon. Oxford.
——. 2010. The Kantian Aesthetic. Oxford.

Guyer, P. 1997. Kant and the Claims of Taste. 2nd ed. Cambridge.
——. 2005. Values of Beauty – Historical Essays in Aesthetics. Cambridge.

Kant, I. 1781, 1787. Critique of Pure Reason. W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1996. Hackett.
——. 1790. Critique of Judgment. W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1987. Hackett.

Kovach, F. 2012. Philosophy of Beauty. Oklahoma.

Leibniz, G. W. 1684. Meditations on Knowledge, Truth, and Ideas. In Philosophical Papers and Letters. L. E. Loemker, editor. 1989 (1956). Kluwer.

Parsons, G., and A. Carlson 2008. Functional Beauty. Oxford.

Pluhar, W. S. 1987. Introduction to Kant 1790.

Rand, A. 1943. The Fountainhead. Bobbs-Merrill.
——. 1966. Art and Sense of Life. The Objectivist (O) 5(Mar):33–40.
——. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Expanded 2nd edition. 1990. Meridian.
——. 1971. Art and Cognition I, III. O 10(Apr):1009–17, 10(Jun):1041–47.

Schopenhauer, A. 1813 [1847]. On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. E. F. J. Payne, translator. 1974. Open Court.
——. 1819 [1859]. The World as Will and Presentation, Volume 1. R. E. Aquila, translator. 2008. Pearson Longman.
——. 1844 [1859]. The World as Will and Presentation, Volume 2. D. Carus and R. E. Aquila, translators. 2011. Pearson Longman.

Singer, A. 2003. Aesthetic Reason: Artworks and the Deliberative Ethos. Penn State.

Stroud, S. R. 2011. John Dewey and the Artful Life. Penn State.

Post 15

Monday, October 7, 2013 - 9:32amSanction this postReply
Newly issued:

The Ways and Means of Painting
by Joan Mitchell Blumenthal

Post 16

Monday, December 30, 2013 - 4:03amSanction this postReply
Beauty, Goodness, Life

Arts – Rand * ^ °
Beauty – Kovach * ^ °
Esthetics and Life – Schopenhauer * ^ °

Purpose, Life, Beauty – Kant

In Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant offered a conception of what is experience and how experience is related both to sensory stimulation and to thinking. Experience has form. How is it that the spatial form found in perception is the same as the spatial form about which we reason in geometry, where reasoning yields new absolute truth not by generalizing over passively received forms or by experimental investigation, but by active mental constructions? Because spatial form is not in the world at all apart from our mind putting it there in every encounter. We cannot help putting it there unawares, then cannot help finding it there with all the necessity of geometry (Bxii, A20 B34, A28 B44, A46–49 B63–66, A87–88 B119–20, B154–55, B161n, A163 B204, A166 B209).

How is it that temporal sequences experienced in the world are experienced as necessary in one order rather than its reverse? Because necessary causal structure has been put into the world of our experience by our minds, structure conceptually held in our minds a priori, structure not derived from experience, rather, conceptual structure making experience possible (A30–41 B46–58, A92–94 B125–27, A99–103, B154–56, B162–63, A144–46 B183–85, A189–211 B232–56).

According to Kant, no objects could be presented in experience, no human experience worth the name would be possible, were it not for its formal aspects contributed by human mind. The formal aspects of experience are objectifying, in concert with sensory intuitions, though it remains that there is—beyond all objects in appearance—a transcendental, utterly opaque object underlying registration of objects as experienced (A46 B63, A50 B74, A92 B125, A102–10, B137–38, B154–55, A247–48 B304, A249–53, A277–78 B333–34, A288–89 B344–45, A358–59, A379–80, A391, A393, A494–95 B522–23, A538–39 B566–67).

One example of a transcendental object in our thinking is the idea God as “something that is distinct from the world and contains the basis of the world order and of the coherence thereof according to universal laws” (A696 B724). The world as a sum of appearances must have such a basis “that is transcendental, i.e., thinkable only for the pure understanding” (ibid.). Such an idea is barely thinkable, for Kant’s fundamental categories of the understanding, essential for any experience of objects in appearance such that concepts and judgments can be made over them, cannot be applicable to such a thing that is basis of the sum of appearance and its orderly, lawful organization into a united single whole. The understanding’s categories of substance and causality are meaningless in application to such an idea as God and the principle warranting that idea in our consideration just now, namely, that there is all-pervasive coherence in the world according to universal laws.

To think of God in this context as intelligence is also off the mark. Intelligence is an empirical concept and cannot be applied to a thing beyond sensory experience (A698 B726).

Then too, the categories of the understanding in application to objects “have only an empirical use, and have no meaning whatsoever unless they are applied to objects of possible experience, i.e., to the world of sense” (A696 B724). The intentional object God is not to be taken for an object given in the world and amenable to experience, not to be taken with conceivability in terms of the object-framing categories of the understanding. Transcendental ideas, such as God, are “never of constitutive use, i.e., a use whereby concepts of certain objects would be given” (A644 B673; also, A305–7 B362–64, A647 B675). Moreover, the principle of order giving rise to the idea God is not among those object-framing principles nor a logical consequence of them (A648 B676). Those principles, from earlier in the first Critique (A80 B106, A159–226 B198–273), are for objective use of the categories of quantity, of quality, of relation (including causation), and of modality (possibility, actuality, necessity).

The systematic unity of nature is a principle necessary not objectively, but subjectively and logically (A648 B676). Only four paragraphs later, Kant argues that this principle is “objectively valid and necessary” (A651 B679). Necessary in the latter passage means necessary in order for us to have reason, without which we “would have no coherent use of the understanding, and in the absence of such use would have no sufficient mark of empirical truth” (ibid.) Kant’s apparent contradiction, it seems to me, is resolvable by treating his denial of the objective necessity of the principle as denying any element of real objectification, any giving of basic constitution to objects in experience, such as happens with the categories and principles of the understanding. In a less direct way, and not at all a really objectifying or constituting way, the principle of the systematic unity of nature is necessary to the understanding and its winnings of empirical truth. In this less direct and non-objectifying way, the principle of systematic unity, whose ground is only the interest of reason, can be said to be objectively valid and necessary. There are at least two senses of objective validity in Kant and in some contexts, one of them, the thinner one, he calls subjective validity (cf. Grier 2001, 268–78, 284–88).

Kant at least once says the principle of the unity of nature and its forms in practice have “objective but indeterminate validity” (A663 B691). I take indeterminate to mean not only open for specification by experience, but not determinative of formal character in the way of the fundamental principles of the understanding.
    In the Transcendental Analytic we made a distinction among the principles of understanding: we distinguished the dynamical principles {comprising principles for objective use of the categories of relation and of modality}, as merely regulative principles of intuition, from the mathematical {comprising principles for objective use of the categories of quantity and quality}, which are constitutive as regards intuition. Nonetheless, those dynamical laws are indeed constitutive as regards experience, inasmuch as they make possible a priori the concepts without which no experience takes place. Principles of pure reason, on the other hand, cannot be constitutive even as regards empirical concepts; for since no corresponding schema of sensibility can be given for them, they cannot have an object in concreto. (A664 B692)

    Concepts of reason . . . are mere ideas and have indeed no object to be encountered in any experience; yet they do not therefore designate objects that are invented and simultaneously also assumed as possible. [The objects of] such concepts are thought only problematically, in order that by reference to them (as heuristic fictions), we can provide a basis for regulative principles governing the systematic use of the understanding in the realm of experience. If we deviate from this [construal of such objects], then they are mere thought-entities. The possibility of such entities cannot be proved, and hence such entities also cannot be used as a basis for explaining actual appearances through a hypothesis. (A771 B800)
It is legitimate to think the transcendental, problematic idea God “on an analogy with objects of experience, . . . but only as object in our idea and not in reality. I.e., we may do so only insofar as this being is a substratum, unknown to us, of systematic unity, order, and purposiveness of the world’s arrangement—[an idea] which reason must turn into the regulative principle of its investigation of nature” (A696–97 B724–25).

Kant is pretty serious about that must. Our best knowledge of the world so far is held as an integrated whole, unified so far as possible at this stage of our knowledge. To add more, such as by extensions of our species-genus classifications or by learning new lawful connections, especially with mathematical characterization, we must proceed in our investigations as if there were a completed systematically unified whole world, lawfully interconnected as if by a cosmic intelligence, a unified world awaiting an endless process of discovery by us (A644 B672, A651–68 B679–96).

In my view, and in Rand’s theoretical philosophy, Kant’s must is not so squarely serious as it ought to be in full truth. If one were to ask Kant “Isn’t it a little odd that your categories and principles of the understanding should be dictating various types of form to the world?” he would reply “Not to worry; the dictation is not to the world as it is in itself, only as it is in appearance to finite, sensing, thinking beings.” No. We say: “‘Things as they are’ are things as perceived by your mind” (AS 1036), where mind is married to reason and where perceived is used in the broader sense expressed by Aristotle: “Thinking and understanding are regarded as akin to a form of perceiving; for in the one as well as the other the soul discriminates and is cognizant of something which is” (de An. 427a20–22).

Objects as existing and as with their own characters had been perceived by us and effectively acted upon by us prior to acquisition of a first word or first pronounced judgment. No right concepts or judgments about the world are possible without continual and proper support from and integration with our prelinguistic perceptions and image- and action-schemata of the world as it is in its own quantities, qualities, relations, modalities, and lawful unities, the world of which we are a part standing in specific objective relations to other parts.
    All things are ordered together somehow, but not all alike—both fishes and fowls and plants; and the world is not such that one thing has nothing to do with another but they are all connected. (Metaph. 1075a15–17)

    Measurement is the identification of a relationship in numerical terms—and the complexity of the science of measurement indicates the complexity of the relationships which exist in the universe, which man has barely begun to investigate. . . . If anything were actually “immeasurable,” it would bear no relationship of any kind to the universe, it would not affect nor be affected by anything else in any manner whatever, it would enact no causes and bear no consequences—in short it would not exist. (ITOE 39)
Kant errs in the deep divide he makes between (i) the relations he designates as the “systematic unity, order and purposiveness of the world’s arrangement,” regulation issuing from reason, by nature of reason, to activities of understanding and (ii) the categorical relations of the understanding. These latter consist of the relation of inherence and subsistence (substance and accident), of cause and effect, and of coexistent dynamical interaction. He errs in the differences he divines between manners of object-subject relations for (i) and for (ii). He errs in the deep divide he makes between the activities of what he calls understanding and what he calls reason.

Rand’s definition of reason is the faculty that “perceives, identifies and integrates the material provided by [the] senses” (AS 1016), where perceives is here used in the broader sense we saw with Aristotle and where it is understood that automatic brain process delivers percepts of some existent objects, qualities, relations, and actions as base of our conceptualization, measurement, and scientific discovery. Whether at the level of percepts and preconceptual schemata or the level of concepts and judgments—judgments everyday, mathematical, philosophic, or scientific—our cognition is capable of and rightly directed to grasping differences and unities in the world and to sifting out characters in our awareness of the world arising from that part of the world that is human consciousness. An example of the latter would be the membership relations of sets, including the dimensioned sets that are concepts. The membership relation has its object-sided objectivity in the given features and relations, such as magnitudes and similarities, of perceptual concretes. The membership relation has its subject-sided objectivity in the creative generation of categories true to given natures and relations in the world, in effecting economies of thought, and in extending scope of understanding.

In contrast to that modern Randian view of mine, Kant had required all levels of cognition under reign of the understanding to have a subject-sided objectivity through form in which content of sensory intuition (or pure intuition for pure mathematics) yields the obverse, the object-sided objectivity. Often Kant would call the former subject-sided objectivity simply subjectivity. That can be misleading, for Kant never means forms we are free to confer or not, to mix up, or to recompose in our warranted, truth-tracking perceptions, conceptions, mathematizations, and judgments of the world given in experience. By saying subject-sided objectivity is subjectivity, Kant is saying it lies to the side of the subject, but not that it is an idiosyncratic, merely associative, error-producing sort of subjectivity, which I have called bumbling subjectivity (2013, IIIE*). Kant is not saying that. He is saying such forms are to the side of the subject in determinate, given ways apposite to their objects in any possible experience. This is an apposite subjectivity, or as I have said here, a subject-sided objectivity.

With Rand I should replace the sides of Kant’s coin of objectivity that is under reign of the understanding, I should replace those sides with the couple identity-identification. That is the couple for relations such as causality, which Kant viewed as a conceptual condition of possible experience issuing a priori from his faculty of understanding, as well as the couple for the relation of “systematic unity, order, and [alleged] purposiveness of the world’s arrangement,” a subject-sided objectivity, which Kant viewed is issued determinately from his faculty of reason, a side whose obverse is a real but shear blank. This, Kant’s principle of unity, he informs us, has no basis in intuition, empirical or pure. When Kant calls this sort of form from his faculty of reason subjective, he means it is to the side of the subject and he still means it is not bumbling subjectivity. But the grade of subjectivity in this principle of unity, this guidance for the expansion of insight into the world, is lower in objectivity, stuck merely to the side of the determinate subject, notwithstanding all its object-givenness (perfectly illusory), determinateness, and fruitfulness. From the Randian perspective, any such principle of lawful unity, so far as it is legitimate, is of the very same grade of apposite subjectivity as in, for example, conceptual comprehension of causal relations. Both such apposite subjectivities are backed by character of objects as they are, which is to say, by their identity.

What are the genres of Kant’s “subjective” principles of “systematic unity, order, and purposiveness of the world’s arrangement”? They are regulative principles of empirical judgment and physical science; regulative principles of judgment concerning biology; and regulative principles of judgment concerning beauty.

(To be continued.)


Aristotle c. 348–322 B.C. The Complete Works of Aristotle. J. Barnes, editor. 1984. Princeton.

Boydstun, S. 2013. Perception and Truth – Kant and Rand. Objectivist Living.

Grier, M. 2001. Kant’s Doctrine of Transcendental Illusion. Cambridge.

Kant, I. 1781, 1787. Critique of Pure Reason. W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1996. Hackett.

Rand, A. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. Random House.
——. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. 2nd ed. Meridian.

Post 17

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 7:49amSanction this postReply
Beauty, Goodness, Life

Arts – Rand * ^ °
Beauty – Kovach * ^ °
Esthetics and Life – Schopenhauer * ^ °

Purpose, Life, Beauty – Kant*

Purpose, Life, Beauty – Kant

Intelligent consciousness is intelligent identification, which is intelligent awareness of existents in their identities. If there is intelligence, then necessarily there is identity of existents amenable to intelligent identification. It is not sensible to ask: Given that we have intelligence, how is it that the world has structure suited to our intelligent grasp of it? This stricture goes for all of our levels of intelligence. In particular it goes for all of our levels of empirical intelligence, from prelinguistic schemata to concepts, to predication and genus-species organization, to measurement, testable conjecture, and science.

It is not sensible to ask: How is it even possible that the world is one perceivable by our senses, affecting of and susceptible to being affected by our bodies, and comprehensible under abstractions in language? To ask the following, on the other hand, is sensible: How did life and mind come to be in the world? Kant asks all of these questions, the two not sensible and the one sensible. We have a great advantage over Kant’s intellectual situation because we know, by modern science, more of the answer to the sensible question.

Another sensible question, ancient for Kant as for us, would be: How should we think to best grasp the world? Again sensible, and magnified since Descartes’ introduction and exploitation of the powerful idea of an equation of a curve: Given such and such form of our intelligent comprehension of the world, what in that vista is abstract rigging and what are the concrete characters over which that rigging ranges? The language with which we count the number of our fingers or spaces between them is rigging to those numbers. The units with which we weigh our gold pieces are rigging to their weight. The plethora of coordinate systems that render possible and convenient the exact solution of various fundamental partial differential equations of physics in a plethora of specific physical settings are rigging to the physics.

I alluded to Kant’s intellectual disadvantage in lacking the evolutionary biology and cognitive developmental psychology available for our understanding of life and mind today. He lacked also the advances in geometry and logic made in the nineteenth century. We are in position to give a far more informed and elaborate answer to Kant’s question of how knowledge of Euclid’s geometry is possible using the constructive and deductive method of Euclid and how it is that theorems of geometry have application to physical space. Kant’s question of how the “synthetic a priori” knowledge we enjoy in geometry is possible has its sensible side. But in grappling with that question, as well as with his more general question How are synthetic a priori true judgments possible? Kant intertwined a sensible strand of the question with a strand not sensible, these components not sensible: Given that we have intelligence, how is it that the world has structure suited to our intelligent grasp of it? How is it even possible that the world is one perceivable by our senses, affecting of and susceptible to being affected by our bodies, and comprehensible under abstractions in language?

We should dispute Kant’s particular way of characterizing the a priori and the synthetic (the not analytic). Notwithstanding those faults, a sensible strand in Kant’s question of how synthetic a priori judgment is possible consists in these: Which forms, unities, and diversities are in the concrete world, and which aspects of the forms, unities, and diversities in our perception or in our conceptual understanding are from our own sensitive organism and mind? Which aspects of our concepts and judgments in their form and in the unities and diversities they organize are from the world apart from our living abstract thought, and which aspects are from abstract thinking about and round about the concrete world?

Kant was mistaken in thinking the kind of constructions we do in synthetic geometry, such as in high school geometry, are also performed by the mind in an alleged constitution of physical space (A163 B203, B153–54). Our minds do not originally constitute the spatial form we experience or scientifically discover in the world. Our perceptual systems have evolved in the species and developed in individual infancy to deliver some of the spatial form in the world to us as it is and automatically so. The configuration of one’s surroundings and the situation of one’s body in them are discernible as they are independently of one’s discernment. Our visual system does not compose spatial form, rather it responds to given form and is guided by given form both in its own early development and in its service to life thereafter.

Then again, Kant’s categorical principle that all “appearances” as given in empirical, perceptual intuition, are extensive magnitudes—magnitudes such as can be gauged by ratio scales, such as the scales appropriate for length or weight—is not as Kant would have it (A162–66 B202–7). His argument for this categorical principle rests on his erroneous premise, previously argued erroneously, that spatial form is given a priori to experience by us and on his erroneous premise, presently argued erroneously, that spatial magnitudes are determined a priori to be measureable by extensive scales. We have the advantage of modern measurement theory, and we know there is no a priori guarantee, nor cognitive necessity, that all magnitude structures in the world outside ourselves as subjects afford ratio scaling (see e.g., Skow 2011). This categorical principle of Kant’s he thought to be constituted by our minds. Rather it is the case that our magnitude principles of the outside world, as well as of the realm of psychophysics, must be guided, must be regulated, by the magnitude character given to the mind for match with the appropriate synthetic geometry and for scaling suitable to that magnitude character.

Kant thought of his categorical principles of the understanding as a priori principles of the form of experience (A156–57 B195–96; A180 B222–23; A664 B692). These principles are the ways in which our perceptions “fit together in any context conforming to rules of a thoroughly connected (possible) consciousness, and hence . . . fit together to agree with the transcendental and necessary unity of apperception. . . . These principles are universal rules of unity in the synthesis of appearances . . .” (ibid.).

The unity of apperception is the basis of the unity of synthetic judgments, the unity by which one goes outside a given concept and connects it with a different concept in a synthetic judgment (A155 B194). Then Kant’s categorical principles such as that all appearances, in their intuition, are extensive magnitudes or that all changes occur according to the law of the connection of cause and effect are principles of the a priori forms of experience and are a priori forms under which synthetic judgments enjoy their unity of subject and predicate, their unity based on the unity of apperception.

The predicative unity of judgments in a Randian metaphysics and epistemology is under the general form Existence is identity (Boydstun 1991;* 2013;* Kelley 1996). But neither that principle for “synthetic” judgments nor the principles of Kant’s “analytic” judgments—identity and noncontradiction—are a priori in the Objectivist philosophy. The axioms that existence is identity, like the Randian principle that dimensions for perceptual similarities and conceptual classifications are dimensions having magnitude structure, is learned by experience and reflection on the world gotten through experience (Machan 1992, 50–52;* 1999, 49–50; Lennox 2005*). The unity of synthetic predication is from the unity that is identity in the world. The unity of magnitude structure and the unity of causal relations are unities in the world’s identities as they are, which is to say, as they are found by the concerted power of the human mind. The unity of apperception is a unity of our form of consciousness that is derived from and adapted to interaction with the world in its identities.

Judgments such as are affirmative of Kant’s categorical principles can be guiding background for our empirical judgments and science without being taken as Kant took them, as subject-original constitutional form for empirical judgments and science. Should we take such principles as not constitutive, but as regulative in the way Kant took his principle of “the systematic unity, order, and purposiveness of the world’s arrangement”? No. For Kant that regulative structure is structure from the subject entirely. It is all rigging, and any objectifying of it is only a strongly attractive transcendental illusion, however apposite the subjectivity of such structure.

Our searching for ever greater unity of the laws of nature by the subsumption of laws under more general laws is of a piece, in Kant’s view—and largely correct he is—with our subsumption of species under genus and subsumption of subspecies under species in all our empirical concepts (A650–51 B678–79; A662–63 B690–91). Kant had before him Newton’s subsumption of Kepler’s laws of planetary orbits under the universal law of gravitation, together with general laws of mechanics (see further, Friedman 1992, 44–45, 168–82, 188–96, 202–6, 232–38, 318–21; 2013, 246–49, 558–62, 591–92). Kant knew the subsumption was accomplished through mathematical formulation of the laws and through measurements in observations. He did not have before him Rand’s mensural and objective model of concepts and perceptual similarities, with their implicit application of the distinction between the rigging in analytic geometry (gift of Descartes) and underlying, given, synthetic geometry on which we lay that rigging as tool. I shall argue that, contrary the views of Kant, the unity and hierarchy of our concepts and laws of inorganic physical science, the teleological organizations in biology, and the character of beauty at the perceptual and intellectual levels consist not only in apposite subjective rigging, but rather, these each have objects, objectively given unrigged structures, with which our apprehension and comprehension can come to agree.

Suppose (a case that is readily thinkable) that among the appearances offering themselves to us there were so great a diversity—I will not say in the form (for in that regard {i.e., in spatial, temporal, and categorical form} appearances may be similar to one another), but in content, i.e., in the manifoldness of existing beings—that even the very keenest human understanding could not by comparing appearances with one another discover the slightest similarity. If that were so, then the logical law of genera would have no place at all; and even a concept of genus, or any general concept whatsoever, would have no place—nor, indeed, would even an understanding, which deals solely with such concepts. Hence the logical principle of genera, if it is to be applied to nature (by which I here mean only those objects that are given to us), then it presupposes a transcendental one. According to this transcendental principle, homogeneity is necessarily presupposed in the manifold of a possible experience (although we cannot a priori determine the degree of this homogeneity): for without homogeneity no empirical concepts and hence no experience would be possible. (A653–54 B681–82 ~ Text in parentheses is Kant’s; in square brackets, the translator’s; in curly braces, mine.) 

That is incorrect. If things necessarily are of some specific kinds—which I have proven for things entity and things action, and expect to prove for things attribute soon (2010*)—then things bear similarities and comparative similarities to other things, and they stand in species-predicative relations with other things. Necessity of kind and similarity does not imply that things necessarily have magnitude structures among their dimensions of similarity and their dimensions of species-predication. That, hence susceptibility of all the world to mensural genus-species organization, is a further postulate, beyond what I have demonstrated to be axiomatically so in my 2010, contrary Rand’s presumption on this point (Boydstun 2004, 295n3*). Mensural genus-species relations are partly rigging from economy of mind, like the membership relation of magnitude-dimensioned sets is partly rigging from economy of mind. The dimensions and any magnitude character of those dimensions are, however, in the world apart from our scalings, our making sets with members, and our measurement omissions.

So Kant’s paragraph just quoted is partly sensible in the suppose it invites and partly not sensible. It is not the case that we should imagine possible the world in any sector as without kinds. That would be in the league of imagining it possible that the world contains contradictions or that it could lack my principle of substantive propagation, which is the principle that things as they are have grown from the ways things have been (1991, 40–43*).

Under the postulate that all concretes that can be stood under genus-species relations can be stood under mensural genus-species relations, the grounding synthetic magnitude structure is there in the world to be found and scaled by our intellects. The unity of the world in which we find kinds, similarities, and genus-species relations is in the world. We do not require Kant’s transcendental conception of homogeneity (or variety or affinity; A651–68 B679–97) for the world; we require only the world with its structure and our attunement of mind to that. The world as it is is our possibility of experience and thought.

Kant did not regard his regulative and nonconstitutive principle of “the systematic unity, order, and purposiveness of the world’s arrangement” to be a prejudice. In his logic lectures and in the text from which he lectured, common sources of prejudice were highlighted—imitation, custom, or instruction—and the remedy of prejudice was proclaimed: reflection. “A prejudice always arises when one judges without reflection, i.e., when one judges concerning a thing or its cognition without previously having compared this cognition with the laws of the understanding or of reason” (c. 1770, 168). Reflection is also a logical moment in the formation of concepts; reflection is the act in which we grasp what multiple things have in common (c. 1780, 909).

After his settlement of the cognitive status of various unities of nature in Critique of Pure Reason (1781, 1787) and in Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1786), Kant apparently remained somewhat unsettled about the profound subjectivity, even if not a bumbling subjectivity, in which he had cast the purely regulative principle of “the systematic unity, order, and purposiveness of the world’s arrangement.” At any rate, he saw a way to strengthen the validity of the principle, even though it remain a subjective validity, as a presupposition of all empirical concepts and judgments and in its directive to formulate new concepts and judgments connected with our old ones in a unified picture of nature. Fortification of the principle, as well as dovetailing of it to the principles and maxims of biology and esthetics, is to be found in the old remedy of prejudice, namely, our power of reflection. Moreover, Kant can lodge reflection in not only the formation of all empirical concepts, but in all empirical judgments, whose work concerns more specific character of nature than work of the categories and categorical principles. As with the determinative categories of the understanding, the key to the regulative unities of empirical concepts and laws of inanimate nature is from the character of judgment. For key to the categories, that character of judgment consisted of their set of logical forms; for key to the unities of empirical concepts and natural laws, that character of judgment is reflection. (These further developments by Kant on the reflective character of judgments were set out in Critique of Judgment (1790), which developments I shall examine in the next installment, to be followed by Kant’s theories of teleological and esthetic judgment.)

In Critique of Pure Reason, Kant had affirmed there are “purposes manifesting themselves in nature,” such as “the organization in the plant and animal kingdoms” (A691 B719). Kant would have us

lay at the basis [of nature] a purposiveness according to universal laws of nature—laws from which no particular arrangement has been excepted, but which have only marked any such arrangement [as purposive] more or less discernibly for us. And we then have a regulative principle of the systematic unity of a teleological connection—a unity, however, which we must not determine in advance, but in expectation of which we may only trace the physical, mechanical connection according to universal laws. For only in this way {i.e., only by tracing the mechanical connections} can the principle of purposive unity always expand reason’s use regarding experience. (A691–92 B719–20)

Complete purposive unity is perfection (considered absolutely). . . . We do not find this absolute perfection . . . in the essence of the entire object of all our objectively valid cognition, and . . . we do not find this perfection in natural laws that are universal and necessary . . . . The greatest systematic unity—and consequently also all purposive unity—is the school for the greatest use of human reason, and is even the foundation for the possibility of this greatest use. Hence the idea of this unity is linked inseparably with the essence of our reason. Therefore, this same idea is legislative for us; and thus assuming, as corresponding to this idea, a legislative reason (intellectus archetypus) {supreme mind, surpassing human, legislating entire character of things}—from which, as object of our reason, all systematic unity is to be derived—is very natural to us. (A694–95 B722–23)

The regulative law of systematic unity wants us to study nature as if systematic and purposive unity—amidst the greatest possible manifoldness—were everywhere to be found ad infinitum. For although we shall in fact spy out or reach only little of this perfection of the world, yet seeking and presuming it everywhere belongs to our reason’s legislation. (A700 B728)

I should say it is false that the greatest systematic unity consists in the greatest purposiveness of an intellect. The greatest systematic unity is the purposive unity of a physical organism, and all unity in the ingenuity of intelligent animals has a quality of perfection by being heir of the root of value in the world, which root is life (cf. Boydstun 2009*). We can seek the systematic unity in all our investigations of inanimate nature without orienting ourselves to see that systematic unity as occasion of the purposiveness of an infinite and purely intellectual composer.

(To be continued.)


Boydstun, S. 1991. Induction on Identity. Part 2. Objectivity 1(3):1–56.
——. 2004. Universals and Measurement. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 5(2):271–305.
——. 2009. Kant’s Wrestle with Happiness and Life. Part 4B. Objectivist Living.
——. 2010. Randian Axioms and Postulates in Metaphysics. Objectivist Living.
——. 2013. Judgments and Measurement. Objectivist Living.

Friedman, M. 1992. Kant and the Exact Sciences. Harvard.
——. 2013. Kant’s Construction of Nature. Cambridge.

Kant, I. c. 1770. Blomberg Logic. In Young 1992.
——. c. 1780. Vienna Logic. In Young 1992.
——. 1781, 1787. Critique of Pure Reason. W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1996. Hackett.
——. 1786. Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science. M. Friedman, translator. In Immanuel Kant – Theoretical Philosophy after 1781. H. Allison and P. Heath, editors. 2002. Cambridge.
——. 1790. Critique of Judgment. W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1987. Hackett.

Kelley, D. 1996. Concepts and Propositions. Paper at an Institute of Objectivist Studies seminar.

Lennox, J. 2005. Axioms and Their Validation. Paper at Ayn Rand Society session “Ayn Rand as an Aristotelian.” To appear in Ayn Rand and Aristotle: Philosophical and Historical Studies. 2014. Pittsburg.

Machan, T. 1992. Evidence of Necessary Existence. Objectivity 1(4):31–62.
——. 1999. Ayn Rand. Lang.

Skow, B. 2011. Does Temperature Have a Metric Structure? Philosophy of Science 78(3):472–89.

Young, J. M., translator, 1992. Immanuel Kant – Lectures on Logic. Cambridge.

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 1/22, 8:00am)

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Post 18

Saturday, October 24 - 10:40amSanction this postReply


More on sculpture

with fine photos

Post 19

Tuesday, October 27 - 1:52pmSanction this postReply

Thanks. I don't get over there often enough.

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