Monday, February 13, 2017

Friday, February 10, 2017

see the roachface you roachphobics?

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Let's bring forth the following conjecture:
Being signifies on the basis of the one-for-the-other of substitution of the same for the other.*
Why not apply this conjecture to the blattoidea member above?

A cockroach can never be a who, even for an expert phenomenologist in otherness like Levinas: he simply forfeits the question.

He's concerned with human otherness.

Heidegger comes a bit closer, but he declares the animal kingdom as weltarm (poor in world).

But insects got to have being. This question cannot be superfluous:

What's the cockroach's being?

Obviously, this is not up to the cockroach. It's up to us.   

Can one bridge the seemingly incommensurable man/insect gap?

(with about 1,000,000 brain cells, cockroaches may posses proto-consciousness!)

paired structures called mushroom bodies in a cockroach brain play a key role in navigation.

Getting "close" to the insect means using whatever intentionalität available to find sameness in difference.

Franz Kafka's man-to-insect transformation in Metamorphosen is a fruitful exercise, but Kafka was not really interested in the phenomenological side of the insect as much as presenting a "human insect" prototype.

Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector offers a deeper phenomenological analysis in her The Passion according to HG:
The cockroach, with its dangling white matter, kept looking at me, but I do not know if it really saw me (I do not know how a cockroach sees). But she and I looked at each other (and I do not know how a woman sees).
in Lispector's metaphysical comparison (human) mental-states are as intractable a problem as the cockroach's hypothetical gaze.
... in the eyes of the cockroach I could see my own existence. In the world we were meeting there are several ways of looking: you look the other without seeing it; one has the other; one eats the other; one is just in the corner and the other is there too. The cockroach was not looking at me with its eyes but with its body.
Cockroaches have 360º vision, which make up for the flatness of their bodies. each eye contains about 2,000 lenses, which means that their reality is not static. They assimilate a dizzying multiplicity at any given time. Lispector's conclusion is quite advanced.

In the phenomenology of Merleau Ponty the gaze has fundamental properties. Seeing means being drawn into a particular dimension of being, let's say, a slice of being to which the perceiving body is not foreign. 

Is that why Lispector concludes the cockroach sees with its body?

Was Lispector aware of phenomenologists insistence on the importance of the gaze? i dunno. what's important is that she cares for the insect's gaze. she echoes Merleau-Ponty's advice:

... "with the first vision ... there is initiation, ... the opening of a dimension that can never again be closed."** 

This is a crucial point: that "first vision" is not exempt from horror (human's and the cockroach's,  i bet). that horror is the beginning. without the horror there would be no future hope of empathy. for later Levinas, the face is synonymous with diachrony, i.e., lapsing of time, from time immemorial when both human and cockroach share an ancestor.  

Clearly, Lispector finds common ground in our shared prehistory.
What I saw was life looking back at me. How to name that horrible, raw matter, that dry plasma. While I recoiled inward, I felt a dry nausea, I was falling into the very roots of my identity. Centuries and centuries in the mud --wet mud, filled with life; moving with excruciating slowness.
A shared fate with insects --in the Permian primordial mud?

If there are eyes there is a face. What a coincidence! According to Levinas the encounter between self and other is given by the face.

Do cockroaches have faces?

In Violence and Metaphysics, Jacques Derrida belabors Levinas' idea of the encounter with the other:
What then is this encounter...? Neither representation, nor limitation, nor conceptual relation to the same. The ego and the other do not permit themselves to be dominated or made into totalities by a concept of relationship.  
Derrida doesn't have a non-human being in mind. a face-to-face encounter is always a human affair. yet Lispector's analysis addresses the insect's otherness via visage.

Now, is there another way to access the insect's being?

The human/insect distance is not without riddles:  we fall for the illusion of approaching difference to reach sameness, but that's a circular trap. can we abstract both insect and human likeness to seek a more hierarchical animal likeness?

Even if the heuristics may look a bit fuzzy, positing the problem already hints @ solution.  

when do we start?

(to be continued)
* Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being (Duquesne University Press, 2009), p. 26. **Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible (Northwestern University Press, 1979), p. 151.

Monday, February 6, 2017

What's Trumplogic?

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Let's take Donald Trump's first tweet above:

Any negative polls are fake news,

No matter how many, all?

What a bizarre conjecture. Given any poll range from positive to negative, N (a negative poll) automatically becomes a mathematical possibility. The only false possibility is, well, an impossibility.

Which makes said tweet a one-of-a-kind conclusion for a POTUS!

Given the seriousness of the office and the importance of the claim, I offer the following points:

1- Trump feels infallible,*
2- Any disagreement with POTUS makes you a FAKE (an emotivist consequence of #1),
3- The rejection of any negative poll as long as it comes from the "liberal media" = FAKE NEWS (a consequence of #1 & #2),
4- Trumpian for "I don't buy it" (indeed, because #1-#3),

Observe that
Any positive polls are NOT FAKE,

become as baffling as the tweet in question.

What's the logic here? I surmise a possible justification with Trump's second tweet above:

I call my own shots largely based on an accumulation of data,

That is to say, Trump's "accumulation of data" unfailingly support his declaration in the first tweet.

But isn't such "accumulation of data" Trump's own assessment which as we know discounts "any negative polls" as FAKE?

Top-to-bottom wacky!

This form of unreasoning will be referred to from here on as Trumplogic.

*The infallibilist may not see himself as infallible. Trump understands that he can make mistakes, though he actually believes he doesn't make any. And all evidence to the contrary is only seen by the infallibilist as plain wrong, FAKE, etc. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

How praise becomes sycophantic flattery

Marjorie Welish, Before After Oaths Gray 4, 2013 (via Art News)

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Happy Friday. Looking for art news & I find this review at what a chanceArt News!

This is how critic and Art News editor Barbara A. McAdam opens her review of Marjorie Welish's show of abstract paintings at Art 3 Gallery:
In her stunning, tightly focused show at Art 3 Gallery, “Some Differences,” inveterate poet, critic, and painter Marjorie Welish strikes one of her most successful attitudes—showing, not telling, how she thinks.
MacAdam favors a laudatory entrance,

stunning, tightly focused, inveterate poet, critic and painter, her most successful attitudes,

in a mere 32-word paragraph!

I don't know McAdam, neither Welish. I'm after these art reviews to show the invisible hand of arthoodication.

Which brings me to epideictic rhetoric. Here Clytemnestra implores to Achilles:
... for when the good are praised in some fashion, they hate their praisers if they praise to excess.*
*Euripides, Ifigenia at Aulis, (translation  Kovacs) 2005.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Trump's chance of being right about 3M fraudulent votes is as good as a monkey randomly writing the US Constitution

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I. Let's start with these facts:
1- Poll workers are sometimes overseen by election officials, to make sure they are not depriving anyone of a fair vote or allowing people who are not on the rolls to cast their ballots. 2- The voting lists are public record, and members of each campaign are invited to observe the voters being checked off the lists to ensure a fair process.3- Two-thirds of states request or require that voters provide some form of identification before they are allowed to vote at the polls. 4- Observers are on guard to prevent voter intimidation. The Department of Justice sends attorneys from its Civil Rights Division to observe 28 precincts and ensure they are complying with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 5- Poll workers hired to work at the voting place on election often represent both major political parties. 6- Federal Authorities are not involved in the tabulation and certification of election results. 7- The vote counting process in the United States is highly decentralized, which serves to compartmentalize the election process so that the effects of inadvertent errors or mismanagement are contained. In addition, decentralization limits the opportunities for fraud or corruption, by making it extremely difficult to accomplish on a scale grand enough to be decisive without being detected. 
Ladies and Gents, we're faced with a weird claim, coming from none other than POTUS:

Many have already questioned the reasonableness of this bombast. Whether its being true would amount to a constitutional crisis of enormous proportions for our democracy, or the more mundane detail of a needless battle for president trying to build public trust in his first week in office.  

Trump is not merely suggesting a significant fraud, say, 50,000 illegal votes? which would constitute a first in the history of American elections! No, he wants an absolute unequivocal victory, even if it means to erase Hillary Clinton's 2.9M advantage in the popular vote!

II. This week, in a meeting with congressional leaders POTUS repeated his averment. When confronted by journalists, WH press secretary Sean Spicer stated:
The president... is concerned [about] voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign, and he continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence that people have presented to him.
What studies? 

According to the Washington Post, 
Trump’s fixation with this apparently started with a few tweets by Gregg Phillips, a self-described conservative voter fraud specialist, who started making claims even before data on voter history was actually available in most jurisdictions. (It had not even been determined which provisional ballots were valid and would be counted.) These claims were then picked up by such purveyors of false facts as, a conspiracy-minded website, even though Phillips declined to provide any evidence to back it up. 
On the other hand, we have this article from NYTimes' Michael Wines, which brings to bear the general consensus of scholars in this matter:
Are fraudulent voters undermining U.S. elections? The simple answer is no. Rather, the threat comes from the myth of voter fraud used to justify rules that restrict full and equal voting rights. 
Then there is thisand thisand thisand thisand thisand this

The overwhelming consensus? Trump's claim is false.

The president has no choice but to cling to Gregg Phillips like a mussel to its shell.

III. I need to digress: Justification is a process of negotiating and carefully accommodating our beliefs to the best available evidence. Generally, the more informed by the evidence, the better our justification becomes. Better, firmer, evidence brings us closer to the truth. Regarding the fraud All we have thus far is consensus and no evidence to the contrary. Although the consensus, by itself doesn't yield truth, the more reliable the consensus, the closer we get to truth of the matter. 

Trump is fighting the general consensus with no reliable evidence. Wishful thinking doesn't yield truth.

If a John Doe believed that there were 3M illegal votes in the last elections, we wouldn't have this discussion. Nobody would care. On the other hand, people hold all sort of far-out beliefs (Flat Earth SocietyMoon-landing conspiracyPaul McCartney is deadProtocols of the Elders of Zion, etc).

Yeah, we wouldn't be entertaining this outlandishness if POTUS didn't believe it.

Epistemologists talk about how a belief or set of beliefs is justifiably held when the belief coheres with other beliefs. As our belief system is directly related to behavior production, one can follow why a prejudiced set of beliefs can produce this bigot.

Why would Trump believe what he believes?

I cannot answer that question. But better yet,

Do you believe Donald Trump can simply subvert the seven guidelines presented above + the best expert consensus and produce 3-5M fraudulent votes?

Good luck.

Trump's chances of producing the evidence are as good as a monkey randomly writing the US Constitution.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A logical analysis of "alternative facts"

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For about 25 centuries of science and logic, a fact remains undisputed.


"2+2 =4,"
"Water boils at 100 ºc,"
"Donald Trump is the 45th president of the USA,"
"John Lennon was killed by Mark David Chapman,"

are facts.

Then we have the aerial photo comparison (above). And this is White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's declaration:
This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.
Fact check: certainly not "in person."

In a second press conference Spicer comes back to defend the conjunction.

Ok, let's make "in person" = p and "around the globe" = q

We get (p & q)

but p is clearly false, so, the conjunction (p & q) is automatically false.

No alternative.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Jacques Racière y el régimen del arte

Jim Drain AIDS-a-delic (2005)
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Aprovecho la obra de Jim Drain (arriba) para comentar el discurso de Jacques Rancière en su reciente libro Malaise dans l'esthétique (2004), traducido al inglés como Aesthetics and its Discontents (2009).  Sabemos que el arte y la política no están separados. El arte, como práctica, tiene que ver con otras disciplinas. El artista no es un ente aislado de un contexto político y social específico. Luego el arte mismo está conectado con otras disciplinas, particularmente desde la revolución estética de fines del siglo XIX, el llamado esteticismo, con figuras como Mallarmé, Baudelaire, el Arts and Crafts Movement, etc. 

Comencemos con la dicotomía ranciereana entre "política" y "policía".

La segunda refiere un sistema de organización que establece ciertas leyes que atañen lo sensible (entiéndase por lo sensible el campo de la experiencia en general). La función de "la policía" es distribuir, separar. En este caso a la sociedad: en grupos, posiciones sociales y/o funciones.

Comisión Nacional de Alfabetización, Cuba, (1961)

La política tiene como función interrumpir la distribución de "la policía" digamos esos miembros que no son parte de las coordenadas de la percepción de dicha sociedad). 
La comunidad política es en efecto una estructuralmente dividida, no ya entre distintos grupos y opiniones, sino dividida en relación ella misma. El todo de la “masa” política no es nunca igual a la suma de sus partes, sino como una simbolización suplementaria.*
La política tiene ese efecto estabilizador homogenizante, digamos, las divisiones sociales bajo una identidad es decir, el ciudadano, la nación. El conflicto por el poder político es atenuado por medio de actividades sociales y económicas de trabajo y ocio. Rancière argumenta que siempre hay una "reducción" de lo social por lo político siempre que la unidad nacional se utilize para protegerse de los conflictos de división social. Por otra parte, la reducción de lo político a lo social ocurre cada vez que la promesa de desarrollo económico o de progreso se ofrece como una solución al conflicto político. 

 Wade Guyton, Action Sculpture, (2006)

Ahora bien, ¿qué es lo estético para Rancière? "Una forma de pensamiento en que se problematiza la naturaleza del arte". 1 Ocurre cuando se desglosa un cierto "régimen". ¿Qué es un régimen? "... la relación específica entre prácticas, formas y modos inteligibles [del arte], que nos permiten identificar ciertos productos específicos como pertenecientes -o no- a eso que llamamos arte". 2 

Eduardo Marín, Mearte, (2006?)

La revolución estética que comenzara a fines del siglo XIX y se extiende hasta más allá de la segunda mitad del siglo XX, inaugura un período de "desorden" de lo estético si se entiende como una forma histórica que responde a los retos que este trastorno plantea. En el siglo XX, pensemos en la escultura que abandona la solidez en favor del volumen, la pintura que deja la representación en favor de lo abstracto, la irrupción de la fotografía como híbrido entre tecnología y arte, en la música el fenómeno del atonalismo, etc.

Gabo, Linear Variation No. 1, (1943).

"La estética" se convierte en el pensamiento de este nuevo (des)orden. En consecuencia, la jerarquía antigua de los sujetos de estudio se vuelve borrosa. Por ejemplo, en el caso de la separación entre el régimen clásico (siglo XVIII) y el romántico (siglo XIX), la obra de arte ya no se refiere al prestigio de los mecenas, sino que se relacionan con el "genio" de los pueblos. 3

Para Rancière, la estética surge con el reconocimiento de que no existen reglas "preexistentes" que puedan distinguir rigurosamente la presentación de los objetos o situaciones dentro del contexto del arte (este cambio entre régimen y régimen nos recuerda a Thomas Kuhn y su Estructura de las revoluciones científicas).4  
 Ana Mendieta, Sin título, (1972)

El trabajo del especialista no es inventar nuevas formas de relación, sino hacerlas inteligibles: investigar qué ha desaparecido, qué da lugar a lo próximo; por ejemplo, la distincion que aparece entre "naturaleza humana" y "orden social natural" acompañando la explosión de nuevas formas de experimentación y creatividad desde fines del siglo XIX. El autor se ha referido a esto como la "democratización del arte". 

 Auguste Rodin, Las puertas del infierno, (1884-6)

La identificación estética de las artes no es simplemente una manera de explorar lo ya pasado lo que Rancière llama "régimen de normatividad" sino también de lo que vendrá. El pensador toma el famoso tratado de Las Cartas estéticas sobre la educación del hombre  de Friedrich Schiller (donde el poeta introduce la idea del Spieltrieb), síntesis pre-hegeliana entre dos momentos: Formtrieb (juego de la forma) y Sinnestrieb (juego sensual), que para él significan eso que llamamos "lo bello". El Spieltrieb es una especie de fuerza liberadora que tanto Schiller como Rancière ven como la potencialidad de la educación etética,  
... proceso que representa una promesa para la comunidad; ya no es tan solo arte lo que habita este espacio, sino una forma en la cual no hay separación entre ambos estados de experiencia [forma y contenido]. Es un proceso que transforma la soledad de la apariencia en realidad vivida, cambiando la pasividad estética en la acción de la comunidad viviente (AP, p. 36).
Partiendo de esa premisa, puede comprenderse el realismo socialista como una manifestación de este principio llevado al extremo. 

Mikhail Nesterov, Retrato de Ivan Shadr (1934) 

En el contexto de la política del arte soviético durante los años 30, la obra de Nesterov (arriba) compite y desplaza la obra que mostramos abajo. 

  Kasimir Malevich, Suprematismo, autorretrato (1916)

Algo que a mi juicio Rancière no ha explorado lo suficiente, ¿existe acaso un discurso estético privilegiado? Si es así ¿en virtud de qué? ¿Qué ocurre cuando aparecen discursos paralelos que se delegitiman unos a otros, como es el caso de el llamado arte "degenerado" (en la Alemania nazi) o "diversionista" (en el bloque soviético o en China)?

Rancière diría que aunque el arte siempre mantiene una estrecha relación con "la vida", el arte hoy por hoy es autónomo. Dicha autonomía del arte es otra manera de nombrar algo básico: la heteronomía del arte. Schiller ilustra cómo la experiencia estética es siempre heterogenea. El arte crea divisiones y destruye jerarquías ontológicas entre categorías.5

¿Es dicha propensidad del arte intrínseca? Estimo que Rancière diría que no, puesto que la propia idea de régimen indica que el arte no siempre ha sido autótomo. Entonces la cuestión es, ¿hay vuelta atrás? ¿Puede el arte perder su autonomía? 

Desde el punto de vista de Rancière, esta clase de experiencia (en Schiller) es parte de una relación estructural que gobierna la sociedad humana. Este mensaje de Schiller funciona hoy por hoy de una manera post-utópica, en que rompe con el estereotipo de la división del trabajo entre explotador y explotado, o en el arte propiamente dicho, entre "artista" y "público". Lo estético para Rancière viene siendo un espacio de comunidad práctico/conceptual.6

Tonico Lemus Auad, Retrato, 2003  

A la estética le toca analizar la diferencia entre lo que es arte y lo que no es arte. Por ejemplo, ¿es Fat Chair de 1964 arte? Olvidemos por un momento que la pieza es conocida y que haya sido hecha por Beuys. Una pregunta más interesante es si existe un régimen actual en el que Fat Chair no es considerada arte. La respuesta es afirmativa. Rancière diría que en tal régimen no se consideraría el arte como una esfera autónoma, sino subordinada en término Schilleriano a "la vida". 

Joseph Beuys, Fat Chair, (1964)

Debido al estado de heterogeneidad, la estética debe evitar caer en los extremos. ¿Cómo ilustrar esta tensión? Insistir demasiado en la autonomía sería excluyente de la vida (un ejemplo sería el arte de Beardsley  a fines del siglo XIX en Inglaterra). Aunque Rancière no diría que este dibujo (desechado en la versión final de las ilustraciones para Lysystrata) no es arte, sin duda no hubiese sido considerado arte para el público inglés victoriano conservador de la época.

The Lacedaimonian Ambassadors, (circa. 1896)

Por otra parte, denegar las diferencias propias del arte convertiría la experiencia del arte en mera "vida". Este es el peligro que Bataille hallaba en el espectáculo totalitario facista, que se aviene tanto a lo estético en su variante futurista.

 Desfile de Nuremberg, 1933 (en Olympia de Riefenstahl)

 Iofan, pabellón de la URSS, (Expo de Paris, 1937)

Le toca a lo estético mantenerse justo al borde. Este aparente (des)orden propio de lo estético no significa caos (el autor se aleja del discurso normativo postmodernista relativista). Y si bien Merda d'artista de Manzoni es arte, ¿qué tipo de arte?

 Piero Manzoni, Merda d'artista, (1961)

Lo que nos lleva directamente a la pregunta sobre la relación entre el arte y la filosofía. Comentando la diferencia entre abstracción y convencionalismo en el arte, Rancière nos recuerda que el paradigma anti-mimético de la pintura no puede entenderse simplemente como un "destierro" de las imágenes, o de la representación o el redescubrimiento de una esencia perdida entiéndase esto cargado del término tal como es usado por Platón en el capítulo X de La República.

 Sudarshan Shetty, Six Drops, (2009)

En el caso de la pintura moderna, por ejemplo, se trata de una afirmación de ser concebida y practicada como superficie plana, bidimensional, cuya forma deviene en su propio contenido (su materialidad). Rancière escribe: "Se trata de una nueva forma de pintar que se ofrece a los ojos entrenados que pueden verla de manera diferente". Es decir, se requiere a un cambio que es percibido por una nueva mirada. Ambos, obra y mirada, se encuentran felizmente en esa complicidad o "régimen".

 Barnett Newman, Ornament 1, (1948)

Sin embargo, el nuevo régimen estético no rompe completamente el vínculo entre pintura y discurso. Es decir, siempre hay una relación de oposición dada en este caso por la crítica sobre cuál es el lugar propio de cierto arte. Por ello Rancière expresa que en lo sucesivo, "el poder de las palabras ya no es el modelo que la representación pictórica ha de tener como norma" (estado que es posible en tanto no se produzca un próximo régimen).

De ahí que no sea nada raro para nosotros inscribir el trabajo de Lissitzky en un régimen particular que tiene lugar en la URSS durante los primeros años de la revolución y que llamamos Constructivismo.

El Lissitzky, Proun (circa 1920)

Rancière estima que la pintura necesita una nueva forma de visibilidad que se logra a través de una reinterpretación del pasado de ella misma. La teoría viene a jugar un papel importante en el régimen de la estética, pues la teoría influencia la "forma de producción" (mientras que esta forma de producción tiene también sus momentos teóricos). Ambos son modos de hacer, y como tales operan unos sobre los otros. El trabajo de una estética crítica no debe separar estos esfuerzos en campos distintos de especialización, sino redoblar la fuerza de cada uno a través de su combinación en prácticas discursivas.

* Jacques Rancière, Aesthetics and Its Discontents, (Polity Press, 2009), p. 115. A este respecto, apunta Rancière: "En la clásica definición hay varios grupos opuestos: los incorporados en el estado y la constitución, los que son ignorados por las leyes, y esos que reclaman en el nombre del derecho de otro que aún no ha sido inscrito en los hechos". Es decir, aunque "la policía" pueda verse como un elemento negativo, en realidad ambos, policía y política no pueden existir el uno sin el otro. Se trata de una asimetría estructural básica y a la vez necesaria entre ambos. 1Del ensayo "Aesthetics as Politics", en Aesthetics and Its Discontents, p. 24. 2 Idem. p. 29. 3Rancière trae el ejemplo del famoso texto de 1797, escrito entre Hegel, Schelling y Hölderlin, titulado Das alteste Systemprogramm des Deutschen Idealismus. 4 Thomas Kuhn usa el término "paradigma" para referirse a cada momento específico que trae una nueva manera de "ver" las cosas. Tomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, (Chicago University Press, 1962). La autonomía del arte viene precisamente con el tercer régimen (el de la modernidad expresado por el discurso racionalista del siglo XIX), que requiere un sujeto racional "desinteresado". Este régimen estético abre la posibilidad de que se descubra "lo bello" en cualquier parte y lugar, causando una especie de democracia estética. En aparte, debe apuntarse la similitud entrte la idea de "régimen" y el epistémè de Foucault en su Las palabras de las cosas, aunque Foucault se refiere a formaciones discursivas, es posible leer a Rancière con cierta inflexión foucaultiana.  En un post futuro nos proponemos abordar la discusión entre Rancière y Alain Badiou a este respecto. 6 En mi interpretación de Rancière uno puede ver el arte (de una manera vertical) como una disciplina autótoma y a la vez (de modo horizontal) como una disciplina que se alimenta y alimenta otras disciplinas. Otro aspecto del arte es suvisibilidad como espectáculo cultural. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Is it better -in art- to fail miserably than to succeed mildly?

Juan de Alfaro y Gámez, Nacimiento de San Francisco de Asís, 1665 (Gámez is considered a mediocre portraitist)

Monday, January 9, 2017

every work of art possesses its own degree of perfection and its own measure of truth or falsity, triviality or greatness

Clement Greenberg, the paradigmatic American critic 

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Chances are you don't know about Theodore Meyer Greene. Born on 1897, Greene got his A.B. degree in Philosophy at Amherst College in 1918, and received his Ph.D. at the University of Edinburgh in 1924. After teaching in Punjab, India, he got a position at Princeton University in 1923, and remained a professor of philosophy for 22 years. He wrote about ethics and aesthetics.

I never heard of Greene until accidentally I chanced upon his 1947 book The Arts and the Arts of Criticism —on the 9th floor of the Richter Library at UM, my second home.

Meyer Greene makes a decisive normative point that I wish to pursue:
... every work of art possesses its own degree of perfection and its own measure of truth or falsity, triviality or greatness. (AAC, 369)
Does this make Greene a realist in aesthetics? Sort of,  
Artistic quality, as exemplified in bonafide works of art, has its own essential nature which reveals itself only to the artistically sensitive eye and ear and can be appraised only with the aid of the artistically cultivated imagination. Attention can be directed to the inner formal structure of a work of art, considered generically, and the attempt can be made to discover the chief categories in terms of which this inner structure can most conveniently and accurately be analyzed. 
What does "essential" mean? It depends, of,
... the continued identity of any specific individual will depend upon how the class of individuals to which it belongs is defined, and this, in turn, depends upon the observer's interest and frame of reference. (AAC, 224)
There is a persistent disagreement among aesthetic scholars and critics, concerning the evaluation of artworks  —whether the aesthetic judgement is subjective, affective, expressing non-propositional attitudes, etc. Saying "this painting is derivative" or "Schubert's C Major sonata expresses formal balance," etc, must be taken as projections of feelings and emotions, not as factual claims about the work in question. Preference and differences in sentiment prove that there are no facts of the matter in aesthetic evaluation. Aesthetic properties are not real properties.

Greene takes a different course. He keeps close to the axiological branch, so to speak, by suggesting a close connection between ethics and aesthetics. He takes Aristotle's idea of the mean to elaborate a normative standard: Just as the extreme of excess and defect comes to define a balance of virtues, "essential nature" can be seen as a function of factors, states, or tendencies which, in and of themselves, constitute moral vice or artistic imperfection (let's add that Aristotle would defend a version of realism in ethics), that is to say, what is right is true and vice-versa (something is true if it matches reality).
... it is quite possible for a discriminating critic to compare two works of art with reference to their measure of perfection, i.e., to the closeness with which each approximates to its ideal of artistic expressiveness... (AAC, 401)
Perfection is a kind of approximation expressed by,
... specific reference to the specific medium, expressive intent, and other essential aspects of each work of art under review. In other words, the relative degree of perfection which any given work of art manifests in comparison with other works of art is an objective fact for artistic perception.
These two points are interesting:
(I) Artistic perfection, like moral goodness, is a mean between extremes. And it is always a single state, whereas the possibilities of artistic defect are multiple. There is in art, as in morals, only one correct solution to any specific problem, but many incorrect solutions.
In art, like in morals there is one state (one shot) with multiple possibilities for defect.1

Even if Meyer Greene's connection between ethics and aesthetics is stimulating, how could one establish the mean (of courage) between excess (rashness) and defect (cowardice)? How could that balance expressed in the art work?
(II) Artistic perfection, like moral goodness, is not a function of mere arithmetical proportion; it is not determinable, either by the creative artist or the critic, in a mechanical fashion by the mere application of universal rules. It is always the unique solution of a unique problem.
What problem? We know that Aristotle's moral mean is found when contrasting the "intermediate in the object," which is "one and the same for all men," with the "intermediate relative to us," which is "not one, not the same for all."

"Rightness" is relative to each individual moral agent and cannot be deduced a priori from abstract rules or principles.Moral balance, according lies between states of excess and deficiency. Aristotle sees courage as a mean between cowardice and rashness, but this middle point may be different for different individuals in different situations.

How does ethics and aesthetic converge? Instead of analyzing character or conduct, artistic perfection is the locus of artistic quality. If the mean (in virtue) is given by the uniqueness of the moral agent and his situation, in aesthetics, it is the specific artwork which determines the mean of artistic perfection. Uniqueness is the frame of reference.
... just as a virtuous action is never precisely the same on two occasions (since the agents and the circumstances in which they find themselves are never identical, however great their similarity), so artistic perfection, despite similarities. (AAC, 395)
 If we go to (I) above, we find an important distinction.
The extremes of artistic imperfection are not in themselves forces with a dynamic power of their own; they are merely states of imperfection. But they possess for the creative artist a perverse fascination, tempting him to favor now one and now the other to the detriment of his art. If he is to be successful in his creative labors, he must exert every effort to recognize them as states of imperfection, and to resist their psychological appeal: he must use all the artistic acumen and will power at his disposal to achieve a clear apprehension of his artistic goal and to translate his insight into the sensuous pattern which it dictates. (AAC, 399)
What is this? Meyer Greene is ready to claim that the more competent the artist, the less will he/she be tempted by the non-artistic extremes "to which lesser artists so frequently succumb."
This conflict of extremes, meanwhile, largely determines the vitality of the actualized mean, for the latter is now seen to be a dynamic resolution of a dynamic situation. As Aristotle puts it, it is because the mean is hard to hit that "goodness is both rare and laudable and noble."
Is the artist aware of the extremes? Well, if he's not he would not be a good artist —Meyer Greene would retort. And yet, is it not a platitude to maintain that Francis Bacon is a great artist because he was able "to use all the artistic acumen and will power at his disposal to achieve a clear apprehension of his artistic goal?"

Meyer Greene presents a novel parallel between Aristotle's contribution of the mean of virtue and aesthetic perfection. Just as the mean of virtue can be discovered (not merely by deductive reasoning) but by practical wisdom and moral perception, artistic quality is discoverable only by artistic wisdom and insight.

However, if perfection is a standard of properties contained in this artwork "X," how am I sure that "X" expresses —all— its uniqueness? How does "X" offers a solution to a unique aesthetic problem? Is it by comparing "X" with other works and measuring formal possibilities of error in lesser works?  
Meyer Greene's Idea of Criticism

Meyer Greene mentions two kinds of critique: historic and recreative. The former determines the nature and intent of works of art "in their historical context." Recreative critique, on the other hand, "imaginatively apprehends" whether the artist has actually succeeded in expressing in a specific work of art.

How does this happen? 

As "a desire to contemplate rather than to achieve the ends which other men are intent on achieving." There is a particular Kantian flavor here. Later in the text, Greene defends imagination as a faculty that illumines the individual's moral realm. A sort of part conceptual/part emotional faculty.

Next, Greene moves on to what he calls "judicial criticism,"
The task of judicial criticism is that of estimating the value of a work of art in relation to other works of art and to other human values. This determination of value involves, as we shall see, an appeal to at least three distinguishable normative criteria -a strictly aesthetic criterion of formal artistic excellence, an epistemic criterion of truth, and a normative criterion of larger significance, greatness, or profundity.
Now, this is new territory and Greene is going to need to flesh this out. He proceeds to address the subjectivist position, that is to say, aesthetic value is not an objective property out there in the world,
It is possible to interpret aesthetic response in a purely subjectivistic manner by denying that aesthetic quality actually characterizes the object of awareness. The subjectivist admits that aesthetic response has psychological characteristics which distinguish it from other types of response. But he denies that some objects of awareness actually possess in greater or less degree an objective aesthetic character of their own.
The subjectivist denies that there properties out there which elicit the subject's aesthetic response.3

He explains the apparent objectivity of aesthetic quality by saying that we unconsciously project our aesthetic feelings into the object of our awareness, and thus ascribe to it a quality which the object itself completely lacks.
This is Greene's more interesting point:
Aesthetic quality is, I believe, as objective as the secondary qualities of color and sound, and may (following G. E. Moore) be entitled a tertiary quality. It is "objective" in the sense of actually characterizing certain objects of awareness and not others, and therefore as awaiting discovery by the aesthetically sensitive observer.
How are these properties "objective"?
It is correctly described as "objective" because aesthetic qualities are apprehended by the aesthetically-minded observer as an awareness of formal organization. The term "beauty" will be restricted to apply only to formal aesthetic quality. (AAC, 4)
Greene is saying that these properties are detected (as opposed to being conferred): it's out there.

How is "formal organization" objective? "Formal" is already a sort of conceptual order, an organizing principle. Howe does "formal" organizes?  Take Convergence (1952) by Jackson Pollock. Is it "formally organized?" Prima facie Convergence looks chaotic.

(to be continued)
1Aristotle generally describes the mean of virtue an "extreme." That is to say, since the mean is an absolute norm, i.e., the one and only virtuous course of action in any concrete situation, it is impossible to be too virtuous —there is no excess of the mean. In addition, it is impossible to deviate from the mean and still be truly virtuous —there is no defect of the mean. 2 Many scholars eschew this approach. Why? "The blue in that painting is derivative," or "Pat's piano solo was overly dramatic," are good examples. Non aesthetic properties, like "being blue," or the plucking of a guitar has no causal connection whatsoever to "being derivative" or "cacophonous." 3 Objectivism is the school that the object of aesthetic discussion is the artwork. The disagreements is about which properties art works have (or lack thereof). Whether or not a work is "derivative" or "elegant" depends upon objective properties of the work. In addition, there is a requirement of general sensibility, a specific form of education. The properties require a particular discernment. On the other hand, "elegant" ends up being contained in the artwork. Subjectivism defends the view that art criticism is not about facts but aesthetic experiences, emoting propositions, etc, felt by the art critic. The subjectivist club has some famous names: R. Ingarden, B. Croce, J. Dewey, G. Lukacs, R. Scruton, M.C. Beardsley!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


what you find below is a summary of 40 pt. computer program for a beautiful face. the program presents diverse fixed facial points "ratios." the idea being that the program expresses real beauty.

by "real" the programmers mean these ratios yield an objective ideal (obviously, the larger the set the better the approximation).
This work presents a novel study of the notion of facial attractiveness in a machine learning context. To this end, we collected human beauty ratings for data sets of facial images and used various techniques for learning the attractiveness of a face. The trained predictor achieves a significant cor- relation of 0.65 with the average human ratings. The results clearly show that facial beauty is a universal concept that a machine can learn. Analysis of the accuracy of the beauty prediction machine as a function of the size of the training data indicates that a machine producing human-like attractiveness rating could be obtained given a moderately larger data set.
the programmers make a point about "real" beauty, as a concept, i.e., quantifiable. given a discreet number of variations, the program yields a "standard" of shared attributes. each sample (face) of the set is already picked as representative of its kind.

here is the 40 item-point list (we abbreviated for the sake of space):

1. Face length
2. Face width—at eye level
3. Face width—at mouth level
4. Distance between pupils
20. Nose width at nostrils
21. Nose length
22. Nose size = width * length
25. Thickness of middle of top lip
26. Thickness of right side of top lip
27. Thickness of left side of top lip
38. Ratio of (distance from nostrils to eyebrow top) to (distance from face bottom to nostrils)
39. Skin smoothness indicator (description follows)
40. Hair color indicator (description follows)

do you agree? if not, why not?