PHIL 332 Philosophy of Beauty -- Fall 2018 -- Materials -- Methods - Lecture Outlines

Instructor: John H. Brown Office: Skinner 1118B. Tel. 301-405-5702. Email: jhbrown@umd.edu. Office Hours: TTh 11:30-1:00 and by appointment. Classroom:SKN 1112 Class meetings: TTH 9:30-10:45.

Books

1. Roger Scruton, Beauty (to be purchased)
2. John H. Brown, Theories of Beauty from Plato to the Present, in reduced form, referred to simply as TOB hereafter. Free on the web. Go to the instructor's personal internet home page at faculty.philosophy.umd.edu/jhbrown and click on the relevant items: 332 Philosophy of Beauty, Intro/Part II, Part III, etc. I recommend that you print out the assigned core text materials. You may find using legal size paper is an advantage in doing this.


Supplementary Materials:
the following files on the same website as the above contain much material from past semesters to which I will refer to from time to time, as well as new mateiral that is entered as the course progresses. In each file there is a table of contents that is updated regularly.

1. 332 Beauty Supplement

2. 332 Scruton

The character of the course

1. Presuppositions

Some basic familiarity with aesthetic criticism in some cultural domain (art, music, literature, etc.) and in life at large; and interest in enlarging that familiarity.

Interest in discovering a theoretical basis for aesthetic criticism.
Interest in historical and contemporary theories of beauty and other aesthetic values.

An open mind concerning whether beauty is a real property.

2. Basic problems of the course in a few nutshells

a. Is beauty (and aesthetic value in general) an objective reality, or is it merely "in the eye of the beholder" -- i.e. a subjective psychological response that reveals nothing about the real world?
Common formulations of the negative answer to this question:
- Everyone has his own idea of beauty.
- Beauty is entirely a personal (or individual) matter.
- Beauty is entirely a matter of feeling.
- Judgments of beauty are entirely subjective.
- What you call beautiful is merely what you happen to prefer.
- Beauty is merely a social convention, not a reality.
b. If beauty is an objective reality, what sort of reality is it, and how can it be known? In particular how is its existence related to the aesthetic pleasure felt by those who appreciate it?
c. If beauty is not an objective reality, is there any rational basis for our aesthetic preferences? Can one person's aesthetic judgment be better than another's? Can a person's aesthetic judgment improve over time?

3. Ways of addressing the problems

a. Collecting the bits of knowledge we have of the concept of beauty and of its most compelling instances, positive and negative.
b. Fashioning a coherent account of the basic "logic" of beauty.
c. Studying the attempts by philosophers past and present to produce a credible theory of beauty.
d. Working out what conditions beauty would have to satisfy in order to be a genuine reality.
e. Reviewing what is known about the world to see if those conditions are actually satisfied.
f. Exploring ways in which even a subjective beauty might be more or less rational.

4. Course requirements

a. One short paper a week throughout the semester (explained below). 50%. Papers are submitted to the instructor's e-mail address.
b. Class participation (See explanation under that title below). 40%
c. Final exam 10%

Weekly Papers

After years of standard term paper assignments, plus midterm and final essay exams, several year ago I tried a different scheme and the result fully justifies continuing that scheme. Grades are determined mainly by short (1-2 pages) weekly papers commenting on a topic in the reading assignment for the current week. This focuses everyone's attention on the subject that is up for discussion that very week, which should make the class much better informed than the traditional scheme did. It also encourages students to think for themselves about the material, since the instructor's views aren't yet given.

The instructor returns a written response to each paper and a grade that reflects the overall quality of the student's thought and expression. Obviously at the beginning of the course it isn't expected that the comments are based on deep knowledge. But it is still possible to judge how intelligent and thoughtful the beginner's comments are. Over the course of the semester the knowledge gained will be expected to show to advantage.

The initial papers may be supplemented by responses which are handled in the same way. The point is to conduct a conversation about the points raised in the initial papers. Grades on the papers will be revised upward where justified by later submissions.

This plan gives the student a running record of his or her performance in the course. No one will be unaware of how well he or she is doing at any stage of the course so far as written work is concerned.

Class participation

Attendance and sign-in. Attendance will be taken by a sign-up sheet. If it goes around before you arrive, sign in at the end of the class. In view of partipation in class discussion being a major factor in the course grade, attendance is obviously important.

No laptops, no text messaging. Along with many of my colleagues I am adopting a policy forbidding operating laptops, messaging on cell phones, and in general the use of other such gear once the class has begun. The same goes for doing crosswords or reading printed materials instead of attending to the class presentation. This leaves note taking, listening to the lecture and other students' comments, and entering into discussion as the only forms of allowable intellectual behavior. We shouldn't have to lay down these rules but enough students have become accustomed to violating them that it is necessary to do so if the classes are going to be fruitful.

Research has shown that in-class use of laptops lessens a student's learning. For an enlightening review of the evidence for this, see the following: .
https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1vmQ548UJ0WnoSwkfREU3iR-m2Co1xTWzGkhcv6bFbY8/edit?usp=sharing

Since lectures will normally last for not more than 50 minutes, there will be about 25 minutes for students to discuss the problems set by the lectures and the reading in groups of four or five. The instructor will act as roving facilitator. Since each student will have written a paper (see above) on the current reading for the week, there should be no difficulty in the groups finding plenty to talk about. The lecture just given will supply other topics. Views should be exchanged and considered by the participants. Reasons should be sought to support the views put forward. A consensus may emerge or not, as the case may be. But all parties to the discussion should end the session with a better understanding of the matters discussed.

Lectures

Lectures will be connected to the lecture outlines but will not try to cover all the points on them. A selection will be discussed and the rest left for students to use as prompts for papers and discussion. Lectures are open to comments, requests for clarification, display of works illustrating the points made, and so forth. Thus the lectures will not be set pieces to be absorbed by silent, scribbling auditors. Rather they will be stimulants designed to connect with auditors' aesthetic experience and facilitate coherent thought about it.

The lecture outlines are entered into the course website in this file, "Syllabus." Last year's outlines are revised at least a week before they apply.

5. Weekly assignments: week of

Aug. 27: TOB, Introduction down to "Ancient theories of beauty" and Scruton, Beauty, Ch. 1, "Judging beauty," through p. 13. Submit a short paper electronically commenting on a topic in the week's reading assignment (or in the first lecture material) by end of day Sat, Sept. 1.

Sept. 3: Scruton, Beauty, the remainder of Ch. 1, "Judging beauty." Submit a short paper electronically commenting on a topic in the week's reading assignment by end of day Mon, Sept. 3.

Sept. 10: Scruton, Beauty, Ch. 2, "Human Beauty." Submit a short paper electronically commenting on a topic in Scruton Ch. 2 by end of day Mon, Sept. 10.

Sept. 17: Scruton, Beauty, Chs. 3-4, "Natural Beauty" and "Everyday Beauty." Submit a short paper electronically commenting on a topic in Scruton Chs. 3-4 by end of day Mon, Sept. 17.

Sept. 24: Scruton, Beauty, Ch. 5,"Artistic Beauty." Submit a short paper electronically commenting on a topic in Scruton Ch 5 by end of day Mon, Sept. 24.

Oct. 1: Scruton, Beauty, Ch. 6, "Taste and Order." Submit a short paper electronically commenting on a topic in Scruton Ch. 6 by end of day Mon, Oct. 1.

Oct. 8: Scruton, Beauty, Ch. 7, "Art and Eros." Submit a short paper electronically commenting on a topic in Scruton Ch. 6 by end of day Mon, Oct. 8.

Oct. 15: Scruton, Beauty, Ch. 8, "The Flight from Beauty." Submit a short paper electronically commenting on a topic in Scruton Ch 8 by end of day Mon, Oct. 15.

Oct. 22: Scruton, Beauty, Ch. 9,"Concluding Thoughts" and TOB, Part I, "Ancient theories of beauty" Submit a short paper electronically commenting on a topic in Scruton Ch 9 ot TOB, Part I by end of day Mon., Oct. 22.

Oct. 29: and TOB, Part II, down to "Applications." Submit a short paper electronically commenting on a topic in the week's assignment by end of day Mon Oct. 29.

Nov. 5: Section in 332Beauty Supplement relating to James Kirwan, pp. 77-81 and TOB II, pp. 41-46 on Cicero and Plotinus. Submit a short paper electronically commenting on a topic in the week's assignment by end of day Mon, Nov. 5.

Nov. 12: TOB, Part III through p. 8 plus the sections in Beauty Supplement on color, pp. 56-63. Submit a short paper electronically commenting on a topic in the week's assignment by end of day Mon, Nov. 12.

Nov. 19: TOB, Part III, the remainder of Hutcheson's Theory. TOB, Part III, "Hume's criteria" to p. 19 of Part III. Submit a short paper electronically commenting on a topic in the week's assignment by end of day Mon, Nov. 19.

Nov. 26: Beauty Supplement, items under Sense of Beauty matters through Aesthetic appreciation/judgment, pp. 83-97 plus remainder of the TOB III. Submit a short paper electronically commenting on a topic in the week's assignment by end of day Mon, Nov. 26.

Dec. 3: Continued study of TOB pp. 20 to the end. Submit a short paper electronically commenting on a topic in the week's assignment by end of day Mon, Dec. 3.

Final Examination: as follows, 12/13 ending at 11:00 a.m.

1. The short final exam is a take-home exam to be transmitted to my e-mail address by the official date of the exam. You should copy out and sign the standard avowal of the work on the exam being yours. This exam is to be roughly equivalent to 3 brief papers in length, counting 10 points out of 100 in the course grade).
Two options:
a. What parts of the full updated theory of beauty offered by the instructor do you think would be hard to convince serious, well-backgrounded and open-minded students of beauty are correct? By hard to convince I don’t mean impossible to convince, but parts that would meet with initial resistance. Say something about how you would go about convincing them.
b. Select a work shown on the course website or of your own choosing, which is available in a good reproduction, hard copy or digital file, and give the kind of searching beauty-relevant description of it as the ones in Beauty Supplement pp. 89-93. This will involve terms for crossmodal resemblances. Try to cover all the relevant aspects of the work and cite as many crossmodals as apply to it.

2. The long final exam (roughly equivalent to 9 brief papers in length counting a maximum of 25 points out of 100 in the course grade) is a two-hour in-class exam on the following subject. You may bring an outline of your essay into the exam, but the essay itself is written in an exam book in the old-fashioned way.
  Recapitulate the updated theory of beauty offered in the course, proceeding from the bottom up. Be sure to include all the details, explain the terms used in the theory, and show how the theory applies to at least one example. Once that is done, proceed to answer the question posed in either option for the short exam above.

Note 1: In both cases you need not include the part of the theory that relates to abstract beauties (math et al) since that part has not been explicitly presented to you. But your exams will be graded largely on the basis of the accuracy of your report of the core theory itself in all its complexity.
Note 2: Missing weekly papers, or revisions of those papers, will be accepted though the date of the final exam.
Note 3: The final pages of Beauty Supplement are highly relevant to the exam, so don't fail to study them (pp. 107-108).

University Policies

 A student-facing page of UM policies and resources covering the various aspects of student-instructor relations is posted at: http://www.ugst.umd.edu/courserelatedpolicies.html.

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Lecture Outlines (subject to revision a week before they apply)

Lecture 1

Prima facie reasons for doubting the reality of beauty

Long history of disagreement about beauty, individual and cultural.
Conspicuous differences of aesthetic taste, culture to culture, person to person, simultaneous and historical.
Difficulty of making another agree (or enabling another to see) that something is or is not beautiful.

Prima facie reasons for believing in the reality of beauty

Obvious cases of beauty/ugliness exist, even if many cases are disputable.
Aesthetic education seems to improve taste by broadening it and sharpening it.
Panels of expert judges are commonly used where aesthetic decisions are needed, with a good deal of public acceptance.

(Examples shown in class of beautiful humans and of imaginary ugly creatures. See also Beauty Supplement, pp. 12, 36)

Bad reasons for rejecting aesthetic realism in favor of relativism or subjectivism

The following are common reasons (sometimes acknowledged, sometimes not) for the popularity of some form of subjectivism. In each case a little thought should convince you that the reason has no logical force. That is, even if the facts alleged are as claimed, they provide no evidence that subjectivism is true. The most they can do is show how tempting it is to think that beauty is merely "in the eye of the beholder."

1. Diplomacy (tact, kindness, gentility; desire for public harmony, avoiding all controversy)

2. Pedagogical benefit (encouragement of beginnners to develop preferences without worry about "correctness")

3. Confusion about facts and values ("opinions")

4. Desire for aesthetic freedom (resistance to aesthetic dictation)

5. The demands of creativity (finding "one's own beauty")

6. The irreducibility of beauty to a set of rules

7. The unattainability of absolute certainty regarding many beauty questions

8. Conviction that agreement is of little practical use.

9. Not wanting to be bothered.

What is a theory of beauty? What must such a theory do?

How does one get started in building a theory?

Course Material Website:

http://www.faculty.philosophy.umd.edu/jhbrown

Plausible examples of ugly animals: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/science/20100812ugly.html?ref=science

Dubuffet's off-beat beauties: http://www.casa-in-italia.com/artpx/moma/moma.htm See Beauty Supplement 1.4 for Dubuffet's aesthetic credo.

Lecture 2: Scruton's Beauty 1

The work is best regarded as a treasury of opinions and appreciations rather than a fully developed theory of beauty.
     Highly relevant to the theoretical enterprise.
     But no attempt is made to build a fully reasoned case for answers to the basic ontological and epistemological questions.
     Scruton does take a position on the objectivity-subjectivity issue.
          Beauty is "a real and universal value."
          Beauty is deeply connected with our "rational nature."
     And on many other important issues.
   The text serves a theoretician admirably as a set of reminders, suggestions, and challenges.
   Yet his cultural agenda needs to be kept in perspective. Movie about Scruton: Beauty and Consolation:        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0amDwXHr0v4.


Preface and Chapter 1

1. Beauty's impact. How well-rounded is Scruton's opening description? Doubts:
       Lots of beauty seems to be unrecognized by some cultures.
       Immense diversity of undiscovered beauty.
              Is beauty unlike other value properties in this respect?
              Not likely. And any robust realism about beauty has to bet on this (similarly for moral goodness).
      Easy/obvious beauties do have universal impact. Uglinesses also.

 2. Beauty compared with goodness and truth as ultimate values

3. Beauty as a "transcendental" value: a strictly universal +/- value.

4. Scruton's platitudes about beauty that go beyond 1-9 in Lecture 1.

5. Scruton's paradox: beauty and reasons

6. Scruton on minimal beauty: star-quality vs. workaday beauty.

Note that there are other relevant constrasts, e.g.

7. Beautiful vs. pretty, charming, elegant, exquisite, lovely, cute, good-looking, neat, suitable, fitting, harmonious, expressive, powerful, functionally excellent, etc. These combine:
                Grades of beauty
                Species of beauty
                Near relatives of beauty
Note the complexity and casualness of ordinary language, its fluidity, slipperiness, subtlety, etc. Aesthetic theory needs a technical vocabulary. (Beauty Supplement, p. 86)

The relevance of the adverbial as opposed to the adjectival form of a beauty-claim: beautifully skillful, beautifully balanced, beautifully organized, etc.

8. Scruton's suggested two concepts of beauty:
                Beautiful = artistically successful
                Beautiful = purely-enrapturingly-ravishingly-consolingly beautiful (or some degree of this)
                Exemplary cases: Orlando di Lasso, Bartok, Faure.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5OhIKZ4Wbo&feature= Lasso
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OidFaXxTP6U Bartok
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCNq5kCGD4Y&feature=related Faure

But note that reserving "beauty" for the highest grade would be theoretically ruinous.

10. Intrinsic value vs. instrumental (functional) value

11. Beauty and individuality: wanting X for its beauty. Rachel and her peach: No equally beautiful peach will do. (Is that really so?)

12. Scruton on form and function in general:

13. Scruton on form and function in architecture:

14. Scruton on beauty and the senses

15. Disinterested interest = interest in a thing "for its own sake," i.e. not for our sake. (for its qualities, for what it is, not for what it can do for us).

16. Beauty = what we can pleasurably contemplate as an individual (or quasi-individual) for its own sake and in its presented form taken as the full and final focus of our mind.

Scruton's historical discussion can be left until later when we study the history of aesthetic theory

More on dancers: https://www.har.com/les-ballets-trockadero-de-monte-carlo/event_E0-001-115577034-4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnLVRQCjh8c

Contrasting songs: Kanye West Ghost Townhttps://www.google.com/search?q=kanye+west+ghost+town&rlz=1C1LDJZ_enUS499US562&oq=kanye+west&aqs=chrome.3.69i57j69i60j69i59l2j0l2.8045j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8 as opposed to Leonard Cohen A thousand Kisses Deep https://www.google.com/search?source=hp&ei=QbqXW-50pvLmAuWEiMAF&q=leonard+cohen+a+thousand+kisses+deep&oq=leonard+cohen+A+thousand&gs_l=psy-ab.1.0.0l6.1690.9767..12422...1.0..0.144.1349.24j1......0....1..gws-wiz.......0i131.L-3YW9Z9miw

and Hallelujah https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrLk4vdY28Q

Lecture 3. Scruton, Beauty, Ch. 2: Human beauty

Scruton's critique of evolutionary aesthetics

Displays: : Eliud Kipchoge: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/14/sports/eliud-kipchoge-marathon.html?action=click&module=Features&pgtype=Homepage

Dua Lipa serious pop song cp to Leonard Cohen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2vBLd5Egnk

Li’l Buck or Charles Riley dancing “The Swan”: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/13/arts/lil-buck-jookin.html

Krygyzstan antic caption: Aida Akmatova: New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/15/world/asia/kyrgyzstan-world-nomad-games.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage&action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage

Lecture 4. Scruton Ch. 3, Natural Beauty

How beautiful are sunsets? How do we tell? Here are some examples:

https://www.google.com/search?q=sunsets&biw=1024&bih=631&tbm=isch&imgil=V3B5sCsCzPnIOM%253A%253BA8ifVQJdHlCBkM%253Bhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fen.wikipedia.org%25252Fwiki%25252FSunset&source=iu&pf=m&fir=V3B5sCsCzPnIOM%253A%252CA8ifVQJdHlCBkM%252C_&usg=__zXQBUOrnqbplqoq044TacE2N5no%3D&ved=0CCYQyjdqFQoTCJKOlMb9jcgCFUyLDQodZl4E9g&ei=kQkDVtKBMcyWNua8kbAP#imgrc=V3B5sCsCzPnIOM%3A&usg=__zXQBUOrnqbplqoq044TacE2N5no%3D

Thoughts on the sublime

            Things are sublime only when they are vast in extent, or number (this applies to the microlevel),  or intricacy, or in power, perhaps in intelligence and who knows how many other respects. Sublime things are overwhelming in some way or other. But the way seems essential, for sublime things are aesthetically positive and not all vast things are positive. Historically stress was placed on the phenomenon being frightening if one were unprotected. That assumed an interested regard. When one felt protected one could adopt a disinterested attitude and exult in the power or speed or whatever.

Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and plagues are not sublime; devastation is not admirable; nor is continental drift. The demonic is not sublime. (Milton’s Satan is sublime only because nobly tragic.) War has been thought sublime because it promoted noble sacrifice, courage, etc. But this is a false view of war overall.
Black holes and collisions of supernovas are not sublime. Solar flares aren’t either. Too destructive. The mother of all bombs is not sublime either. Nor is the big bang.
But the whole career of the universe from the big bang to the present is arguably sublime.
Being protected is not enough; the sublime does not call for compassion with sufferers (esp. innocent sufferers).
Niagara Falls and other huge waterfalls are sublime only because they are formful. The immensity is well ordered. This is what makes them majestic.
The stars in the sky are scattered without readily visible order but they sparkle against the deep black in a beautiful way.
Intergalactic immensities are not sublime, just very large finite magnitudes.
Mountains are sublime only if formidable…what else makes them sublime? Read Ruskin’s description of a day in the Alps for leads (in Beauty Supplement p.2f.)
The divine is a classic case of superlative power under control, supposedly wise even if inscrutable. The manner of being and acting is supposed somehow superlative, not disordered or capricious.
Mystery is closely associated with sublimity because the overwhelming is beyond human understanding (until it is understood!) – uncanny, unearthly…..
Poetic sensibilities tend to have a low threshold for (apparent) sublimity.
Some ruins can awake the sense of the sublime: Mayan temples, e.g. Why?
Might it be necessary for species to suffer great extinctions and lesser plagues, etc., for some greater good to come into being? If so, would they therefore turn out to be sublime? No, I don’t think so. It would just show that the greater good required some badness. This would be a reason to tolerate the extinctions but not a reason to celebrate them.
The aspect of drama in the sublime
           
Harsh, discordant and violent phenomena are fascinating to us IF there is enough drama in them, whether they are auditory or visual or theatrical, etc. What is involved in a thing or sequence being dramatic?
Well, it must have a narrative quality (explicit or suggested) which has significant form, one that keeps the hearer’s interest. It may build up suspense and then reveal all or otherwise bring the tension to a resolution. Or it may sustain interest by each part being delightful, as with wit or interesting characters interacting with each other in a way that is worthy of admiration.

Bird Songs (not calls) and other  animal vocalizings – how musical are they?
                                                                                                                                                   Brief phrases repeated, followed by other brief phrases. Often interrupted by wheezes or other entirely unmelodic sounds. Listen, and think. Champions are canaries in cages. Songbirds in the wild are enjoyed aesthetically largely because of the context. Thrush song in the deep woods in the cool of evening has a beautifully liquid sound, full and richly liquid-like.
                                                                                                                                                   These bring to mind rather forcefully the aesthetic good that can be found in things/situations that are not outstandingly beautiful. The hoot of an owl makes the evening woods a lot more enjoyable. We don’t want it to sing like one of the famous tenors or even sound like a piece of guitar or flute music. We want it to sound wild. Beautifully wild? Maybe: it’s softer and richer than the sighing of the wind in conifers, isn’t it? The hoot of a great horned owl is tender, almost as if loving.
                                                                                                                                                   The joys of nature are really something. An enthusiast is apt to say we should appreciate the harsher sounds in the wild, the shriek of a barn owl or raccoons mating. Are those cries beautiful in any way? Do they add beauty to the wild context? In the daylight the shriek of an eagle high on a crag may perhaps be said to be bracing. Its energy may be beautifully in tune with the rough crags. Interesting problem. What we can be sure of is that the cry of the gnu being savaged by lions is not beautiful. Cries symptomatic of distress can’t be beautiful because they are “defective” in the broad sense of signs of defective states.
                                                                                                                                                   What of roars or snarls of anger? Can they be beautifully determined, confident, expressive of strength, and so forth? Imagine a filmmaker wanting one in a scene. Give me a really big roar! Give me a really sinister snarl! She wants one that is beautifully appropriate, but that doesn’t mean the roar or snarl itself is beautiful. Perhaps it’s relevant here to cite The Wrestler. Relevant youtube roars: Lion
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_22gJ5kB31k                                                                   Grizzly: https://www.google.com/search?q=grizzly+bear+roars&rlz=1C1LDJZ_enUS499US562&oq=Grizzley+bear+roars&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.10007j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8 Elephants trumpeting in anger: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNBK5V8OHCw
I don’t think anyone would say these are beautiful vocalizings. And they aren’t meant to be admirable just to listen to – that would detract from their functionality. But can they contribute to a beautifully wild savannah scene (or boreal, in the case of the bear)? I suppose a beautiful savannah scene (temporally extended) might feature a cheetah capturing and killing an antelope: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hwkbdmUijg
This video mixes different speeds but is very beautiful. And the event itself has significant beauty. Like a tragedy with beautiful language, characters that earn our interest and sympathy, and a continuously gripping plot.
Sound of wind in aspens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_innxt6Oesw
Or in winterspruce: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXkMTQccPvk
Or burbling streams and bird calls: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2NmyoXBXmE
Lyrebird vocalizings: : https://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/weirdest-superb-lyrebird

Lecture 5. Scruton, Ch. 4, Everyday beauty

Other categories of artifacts/performances with aesthetic properties
Games and sports of many kinds can be beautiful: they allow of beautiful performances, a general category that we certainly can’t ignore, since the performing arts put that beyond doubt. What can one say about beautiful and unbeautiful sport performances? A thousand things, but let me pick one example of athletic beauty contrasted with one of comparative unbeauty. Gymnastics doesn’t just enable beauty but is judged in part on the basis of it. Professional wrestling on the other hand is comparatively unlovely. Martial arts score much higher in grace, agility, and lack of pretense (real martial arts, that is, not the fictionalized, fly-about stuff in movies). Grace is not a principal aim, exactly, but a necessity for the efficacy of the performance. NCAA or Olympic wrestling strikes me as being insufficiently graceful to be very beautiful overall, though the quickness, muscularity, and stalwart balance displayed are impressive.
      Football, baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis et al don’t quality as beautiful overall but certainly do contain beautiful moves or episodes. And like everything else they have some overall aesthetic value. (The Harlem Globetrotters see to it that their performances have more aesthetic value than the norm for ordinary games.)
            In games, chess is outstanding for the intellectual beauty of moves that achieve or enable checkmate several moves down the pike against the cleverest riposte. Beautiful insightfulness. There are plenty of videos with narratives that explain the thinking behind the various moves and behind the high praise given for the beauty of the winning strategy. Just Google “beautiful chess moves”. It may strain your mind to follow the demonstrations, but you will be convinced that the authority is justified in calling the moves beautiful.
            This kind of beauty in chess is limited in an interesting way. If a player just stumbled on the winning sequence without foreseeing its success the performance would not be beautiful. There can be no accidental beauty in chess, only accidental success. So the beauty is really that of strategizing. The sequence taken strictly by itself is not beautiful.
Fashions that are “time-sensitive”
Fashions are notoriously time-sensitive. But what precisely does that mean? Can beauty be so unstable as to fluctuate with the social scene? Here we must exercise great care. Otherwise theory of beauty will fracture into chaos. Clothes are not just embellishments. They are emblems of a local culture at a given time. Hence in order to fit into one’s time and place one has to dress in a way normal for that context. Otherwise one’s garb is a costume rather than simply clothes. Of course even clothes can be eccentric or “tribal” within a given culture, as Goth outfits are in our time, and also Mennonite clothing that hasn’t changed much in two centuries while the rest of the country has moved way on. One dresses in a way aimed at showing one’s solidarity with one’s chosen public. And since the style adopted at time T1 changes to a different style at T2, one changes one’s dress with it. Compliance with a group style has some harmony in it, but only an extremely modest degree, hardly worth praising as beautiful.
            Fashionistas go much further, changing style seasonally. They dote on the trendy but also seek to be exceptionally stylish. There is therefore a kind of time-sensitivity to some of the terms used in the world of fashion. “Elegant 1950” will not called elegant in 1990 but quaint or something of the sort. Does this mean that once elegant clothes cease to be elegant with the change of fashion?
            Here I think we ought to hesitate. If an outfit was really elegant in 1950, it is because it has aesthetic values that are real, not just advertised or promoted. It’s because of the fine design, materials and workmanship in the outfit. None of that ceases to apply to the outfit when styles change. New designs refer to a different cultural context. A designer who desires to be “creative" will necessarily want to create designs that go beyond those of the past in a good direction. Artists do this too.
            Clothes have to be assessed in context, though. One factor is the social support system that is needed to make a given fashion type possible. Ladies’ maids were essential to fancy styles before the 1920s. So were valets for men. Togas worked only if you didn’t have to do any manual labor. (See Bty Supplement p. 103). Like any other category of aesthetic interest it is essential to find out what a given garb was like in context. Present day garb is accepted more because it is easy for the unaided wearer to use, clean, and press than because its informality is more beautiful. Especially when one is on a tour.
The role of practical functionality in everyday beauty
           
People tend to think that practical functionality of things that have it (architectural things, for instance) is somehow inconsistent with true beauty. But aside from the possibility of functional beauty, which requires really extraordinary functionality, practicality plays a role in limiting the competition class under consideration (say doorframes in northern European row houses, one of Scruton’s examples) to ones that are practical enough. Doors too narrow to admit average-size humans would be excluded, for instance, regardless of how good-looking they are as objects. The question which design to choose applies only to doorways within that competition class, does it not? So that question can be entirely aesthetic, dealing with the look of the patterns involved. This doesn’t cover all aspects of such situations, but it gets us started on the right foot.

Lecture 6. Scruton, Ch. 5. Artistic Beauty

Prelude: Nussbaum Cohen, countertenor of note performing Handel, Rinaldo, Cara Sposa
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MZ7WQgWIms

Cara sposa, amante cara, dove sei?
Deh! Ritorna a' pianti miei.
Cara sposa, amante cara, dove sei?
Ritorna, ritorna a' pianti miei.
Cara sposa, Deh! Ritorna.
Deh! Ritorna a' pianti miei.
Cara sposa, sposa cara, dove sei?
Deh! Ritorna, dove sei?
Deh! Ritorna, a' pianti miei.
Ritorna, a' pianti miei.
Deh! Ritorna, a' pianti miei.
Del vostro Erebo sull'ara
Colla face del mio sdegno
Io vi sfido o spirti rei!.

Beloved spouse, dearest heart 
Where art thou? 
Woe! Return to him who weeps! 

O guilty spirits from thy Erebus altar 
My face on of complete contempt, 
I defy thee, wicked spirits!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yF4YXv6ZIuE Vivaldi "Vedro con mio diletto" from Il Giustino sung by Jakub Józef Orliński. Useful to show the vocal production close up.

Before Scruton

1. The religious connection to fine art
            Make it beautiful in order to honor the gods/ancestors (and receive their favor)
            Make it awesome to overawe the worshipper Show Monreale JX Pantocrator Ppt
2. The political connection to fine art
            To celebrate the ruling power or the state or a private person as a political power.
            To intimidate rivals/dissidents with fearsome beauty Show Royals in regalia Ppt
3. The personal connection to fine art
            To preserve the memory of one’s dear ones. Make it and them as beautiful as possible. Show Sargent portraits of patricians Ppt
From the above all sorts of other connections spread out. General traits of fine or high art include seriousness and display of consummate craftsmanship. The works are expensive because it’s costly to hire the best artists for the time needed to make the works. Materials are also usually expensive. Appeal to the public is also often a practical requirement. But in the old days it always came with a feeling of the extraordinary, the uncommonly excellent. In Renaissance times the greatest religious paintings were objects of local pride.
Visual and literary art often dealt with inherently unbeautiful subjects but did so in ways that were in important respects beautiful. Art elevated the atrocity (massacre, martyrdom) to the level of heroism or at least some consolation. Show Judith with Holofernes’ head; Massacre of the innocents is another good example of the latter. The Holy Family escaped and Herod was satisfyingly vilified. But what about the rape of the Sabines? That was a Roman conquest: the women were incorporated into a coming state and the Sabine men weren’t of much concern, I suppose. But what of crimes like the Rape of Lucretia? They are commendations of virtue and satisfaction at retribution against the wicked. They can therefore be beautifully dramatic, as when virtue is tested and holds firm and when villainy is plotted and executed, the villain made both intelligible and contemptible. The victim can be beautifully heroic and the presentation beautifully composed. The tale can also be beautifully insightful of the foibles, the crimes, and the occasional heroism in human life.
All this and more stands behind the concept of fine art – fine implying high standards of craftsmanship, decorative beauty, composition, representation, expressiveness, and thematic content. Unfortunately Scruton begins the chapter focusing on what he takes to be a grotesque perversion of these ideals by 20th century avant-garde art – which, he says, dropped art into the urinals of Paris. A crucial corrective of this is the abundant evidence that the high ideals are still very much alive. This will be a main theme before we are finished with the book.

Scruton's Opening gambit: What does it take to be, or to become art? Problem cases that generate the baffled question: Can that be art? (spoken with incredulity)

The arrival of non-art art, art by fiat: Found art: Fountain, In Advance of the Broken Arm, et al.

Additional thoughts about the preceding topics
Re. Art and entertainment: the case of Cirque du Soleil. How to explore it.

Find the case closest to it that is arguably high art and compare them. E.g., Pilobolus Dance Troupe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOZ6KnVPvIU&feature=relatedNote how different this from the entertainment pieces by the same troupe. Also compare this with the duo in Cirque's Quindam: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGUUZSWZAz8&feature=related

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sD-ki0q8d80

Then confirm the finding by comparing a case that is indisputably high art and asking whether the ordering relation holds up. E.g. Netherlands Dance Theater http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itCc6EAgPrc&feature=related

Note the profusion of other dance categories: ballroom, tap, ice, roller skating, B-boying (break) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rg887SYsLvE&feature=related; also Fred Astaire's super-elegant dancing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxPgplMujzQ&feature=related

Re. Art photography vs. other (professional) photography: the case of Andreas Gursky (Beauty Notes) -- unmistakable art (in this case, appealing only as art) Other subartistic categories: journalistic, portrait, fashion, advertizing, sports, etc.
Overachievers in these categories: art-grade productions and artistic aspirations:
Cartier-Bresson, Arnold Newman, Dorothea Lange, Philip Jones Griffiths, Mary Ellen Mark, et al

Re. Beauty: (High) art is often less beautiful overall than entertainment or other types of artifacts or perfomances. No paradox in that.

Re. Entertainment: This term does not properly cover many, many kinds of non-(high) art. No other term does either.

Other terms for subcategories: Decorative or applied art, Folk art, Outsider art, Commercial art, Advertizing art, Design (zillions of subdivisions here) , etc.

Lecture 7. Scruton Ch. 6, Taste and Order

Preliminaries about the language of "taste" in art and aesthetics

Scruton, Ch. 7, Beauty and Eros: how can art present an object of sexual desire as an object for contemplation and hence as beautiful?

Lecture 9. Scruton Chapter 8. The Flight from Beauty (1)

Lecture 10. Scruton 8. The flight from beauty (2)

Lecture 11. Plato's theory of beauty (1)

Lecture 12: Plato's theory of beauty (2)

The musical equivalent of Des Esseintes' extreme aestheticism: Glenn Gould playing the aria in Bach's Goldberg Variations:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gv94m_S3QDo&feature=related
Can you imagine Des Esseintes' scent and flavor organs producing comparably artful complexity?

What is the best known example of artlike cuisine? Ferran Adrià (videos); Beauty Supplement, p. 25. If this fails, try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3sGz1XtD4I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKWgmx0kc1A
http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/10/el-bulli-201010 (article)
If cuisine is capable of becoming a genuinely fine art, it will have to be like this.

Adrià's stated goal: "provide unexpected contrasts of flavour, temperature and texture. Nothing is what it seems. The idea is to provoke, surprise and delight the diner." Also "the ideal customer doesn't come to El Bulli to eat but to have an experience."

But there seem to be basic deficiencies of structure in odor and flavor space, compared with visual and auditory property space, that affect form and content. Beauty Supplement, pp. 63-69. Of these the most pointedly relevant is the last.

So perhaps the conventional wisdom on the subject is right.
Though unquestionably cuisine of this caliber is an art of some lesser significance.

Lecture 13: Plato's theory of beauty (3): Plato's Symposium and the Ascent of the Soul to Beauty Itself; beauty and love.

Lecture 14: Plato's theory of beauty (4) -- Platonic normative aesthetics

Additional cases worth accessing re. Apollonian vs. Dionysian

Postscript to Lecture 14: More examples of Dionysian qualities.

Lecture 15: Plato's theory of Forms confronted: How to make it credible? How to apply it to beauty?

1. Questions about Plato's basic ontology

 

2. Questions about the ontology of beauty (assuming it is supervenient and admits of degrees)

3. Questions about knowledge of beauty

4. Major questions about Plato's normative theory of beauty

5. Master Question for Platonists: Is there a property that meets all the essential Platonic conditions for Beauty Itself?

Prologue to Lectures 16. Examples, examples.

 

Lecture 16. After Plato: Plotinus and the Neo-Platonic Tradition

1. Plotinus on the elusiveness of Beauty: the need for a "remoter principle" -- does this help with any of the Platonic problems? TOB, pp. 42ff.

3. What drives the Platonic instinct to "seek a higher principle"?

Lecture 17. James Kirwan on Neoplatonic beauty - Beauty Supplement, pp. 77-81.

Overture to Lecture 18, looking back to Plato's normative aesthetics:

Lecture 18. The Sense of Beauty Theory 1

Sense of Beauty basics

Gao Yanjinzi, Beijing Modern and Contemporary Dance Company:    https://news.cgtn.com/news/3d3d514d33676a4e7a457a6333566d54/share_p.html?utm_source=bluef&utm_medium=CgtnWebsiteCampaign&utm_content=40yearsSimon Beck’s snow art:  https://slate.com/human-interest/2016/08/a-look-at-simon-becks-snow-art-in-norway-video.html  

Lecture 19: Sense of Beauty theory 2

I. Review of the preceding: ontology and epistemology of sensory properties: points needing special emphasis:

Lecture 19. Sense of beauty theory 3: Application of the color model to the case of beauty:

Hutcheson's sense of beauty theory: Hutcheson's almost full-scale application of the color model to beauty (ontologically as well as epistemologically)

Therefore:

2. Filling in the argument (justifying the premises and the conclusion) -- a sketch of tasks and proposals:

3. The resulting ontological interpretation of beauty: Beauty = the disposition to elicit a beauty-response from a sense of beauty in such a way that the accuracy of the response can (in principle) be intersubjectively validated.

Overture to Lecture 20

Lecture 20: The sense of beauty theory 4

Hutcheson's normative theory: beauty is created by (the right ratio of) uniformity amidst variety

Uniformity -- sameness/similarity of certain properties or relations holding within an object or scene or event.
Variety -- number of elements (or complexity?) in an object or scene or event.

How could a change in the ratio increase the value of things (in a certain respect)?

A better idea: Variety as number of uniformities

The variety of kinds of uniformity creates serious problems in scoring overall beauty. Are all of equal importance?

Ptolemaic vs. Keplerian planetary systems

5. Optimal outcome (Hume and beyond):

Lecture 22. Sense of beauty theory 6. More about uniformity and variety.

Lecture 23. Sense of Beauty 7: Yet more about the key concepts.

Lecture 24. Sense of beauty 8. Final points, observations, and questions.

Lecture 25. Subjectivism and realism

Lecture 26. Conclusions: reminders of home truths plus applications

Back to Normative Aesthetics: kinds of beauty, beautiful aspects, etc.; more truisms about beauty

1. Individual human beauty : What makes an individual human b'ful?
        B'ful aspects, b'ful ensembles, b'ful totality
       Beauty of different aspects of persons:

  • Facial and bodily beauty (proportions, features, skin texture, hair, muscle tone etc.)
  • kinesthetic beauty (movement, gesture, etc.)
  • beauty of personality (good tempered, understanding, etc.)
  • moral beauty (beauty of character: honest, kind, etc.)
  • intellectual beauty (quick, insightful, rational, etc.)
  • Beauty of persons overall -- obvious complications when we try to sum up. Many beauties are roughly on a par.
  • Duerer's proportions and Michelangelo's David. Overhead displays.
  • Clearly unbeautiful bodily condition: anorexia http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTIjRxT_Y9g&NR=1&feature=fvwp
  • How beautiful can extreme obsesity be? The case of nomadic Mauretanian marriage criteria: Beauty Supplement, p.47.
  • The chief factor seems to be fat sex and marriage advantage.
  • How much appreciation of bodily beauty does that suggest?
  • New truism derived from thinking about this case:
  • New Truism 1: Beauty is not identical to, and not dependent on, sexual attractiveness or practical advantage.
  • Problematic bodily distortions: labrets (Beauty Supplement, p. 52)
  • Contrast these with genuinely good-looking tribal body décor:
  • http://www.diretube.com/Les_Tribus_De_L_Omo/The_Painted_People_of_the_Surma_and_Mursi_Tribes_in_Southern_Ethiopia-video_cbd36eb13.html [If this site is blocked, look up Hans Silvester photographer and look through some of the images that are displayed there.]
  • Can we suppose the people who delight in body painting and decor like this delight in the same way in the labrets?
  • Cosmetic surgery, bare face vs. made up
  • http://www.lifestylelift.com/minilift/index.php?addid=730&gclid=CNLfnrThprICFYNM4Aod4CsA-A
  • Plastic surgery gone bad: http://itthing.com/celebrity-cosmetic-surgery-fails
  • What role do causal factors, cultural or evolutionary, sexual or other, have in determining what is beautiful?
  • New Truism 2: A person’s reason for admiring a thing for its beauty is never the same as the causal explanation of that admiration. See Beauty Supplement, p. 98)
  • Non-human animal beauty: what criteria apply?
  • Suggested beauty-criteria: Beauty Supplement, pp. 36-40.
  • Examples: Ppt. Ugliness in Nature; on the positive side see the beauty of disvalued creatures: on the positive side of things that are usually unappreciated: http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2011/06/07/science/0607-jellyfish-9.html
  • Do appearances under nonstandard conditions affect the beauty of a thing? How do we determine what conditions are "standard" for different categories of things?
  • Ask what natural or cultural kind the thing belongs to. E.g. a painting: what sort of lighting is relevant?
  • New Truism 3. In judging the beauty of a thing, the category to which the thing belongs is important.               
  • 2. Event beauty (aside from the event-aspects in the above)
             Cultural events: music, dance, light shows, fireworks, etc.
                    Athletics
    http://www.sportscinematographygroup.com/ew_bigwave.html See also Beauty Supplement, p. 26.
            Natural events: weather phenomena:
    http://cloudappreciationsociety.org/hector-thunderstorm-project/
            Landscape, foliage, blossom events, seaside phenomena, etc.
    3. Mathematical beauties, e.g. neat geometrical proofs of Pythagorean Theorem, Beauty Supplement, pp. 16-17.
             Examples in Beauty Supplement, pp. 12-14.
             http://www.geom.uiuc.edu/~banchoff
    4. Astronomical beauties, e.g. Saturn         http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpegMod/PIA14922_modest.jpgSaturn fly-by animation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPlTn6bJEOQ
            Unbeautiful planetary object: Hyperion, moon of Saturn; ppt. NYTimes Micro Photos 12-14.

    Many other categories of beauty remain to be surveyed: think of beauties of literature, for instance. Then those of aromas or flavors; those of architecture and the countless other divisions of design; those of games like chess; and so forth and so on.

    How to deal with the huge variety of beauties: a few pointers.

    In confronting a candidate beauty (or aesthetic value), do not fixate on the question of its overall beauty.

    Rather, ask what is beautiful about it. What beautiful properties does it have? This should lead to a close examination of its properties, to be sure one has taken them all in.

    Consider the beautiful property question as impersonally as possible, independently of what practical advantage the properties would give oneself, including one's self-esteem. New Truism 1.

    In short, evaluate it in terms of what deserves to be admired about it. Try to ascertain how admirable it is compared with the well-established paradigms of beauty.

    Do the same for its properties that are not beautiful.

    In this process the default should be trust in one's positive aesthetic intuitions. But one should expect one's intuition to improve with experience.

    Do not obsess about the threshold of beauty as opposed to lesser value. Remember the truism on this point.

    Do not obsess about the common meaning of "beauty" as opposed to other aesthetic value terms. What counts is aesthetic value.

    Checklist of other points to digest before writing the final essay:

    1. Is beauty a property of objects?

    2. Are you clear on the difference between overall beauty and the beauty of parts or aspects?

    3. Are you clear on the difference between the beauty of an object or event and the beauty of an object in a certain context?

    4. Are you clear on the difference between the beauty of an object or event and the beauty of their appearance to humans?

    5. Are you clear on the difference between the beauty of a thing and the beauty of a life to which the thing may contribute?

    6. Are you clear on how the difference of high-brow, middle-brow, and low-brow fits into the theory?

    7. Are you clear about the limited accessibility of beauty to human cognition? I.e. why some very beautiful things cannot be enjoyed by humans.