From Bloggingheads: Denis Dutton On His New Book: ‘The Art Instinct’

First 7:00 min here.

Dutton argues against what he views as the dominant intellectual and academic trend of the last 40 years:  art as a function of culture, and understood as such.  Rather than seeing art tied into a web of other political and philosophical ideas about culture (Marxism and social constructionism he mentions…he is a libertarian)

Dutton would like:

…to perhaps do what Noam Chomsky did for the study of language (there is a universal appartatus common to us all which is inexplicable through analysis alone…least of all through a post-modern and non-scientific analysis.  This approach has deepened and attached linguistics to something akin to Immanuel Kant’s metaphysics and philosophical transcendental idealism).

Dutton appears to rely on Kant, but also heavily on Darwin’s theory of evolution.

It’s quite a task to try and systematize, understand and explain the arts at all, and something only a philosopher might try.

Without having read it, I can say very little more than I’ve said, though I wonder a little at his motivations…

I’ve read the book and commented here:  Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Related On This Site:  How might Kantian metaphysics mesh with political philosophy?: More On Daniel Deudney’s Bounding PowerDaniel Deudney on Bloggingheads.   Jesse Prinz (with Nietzsche thrown in) wants to push the cognitive sciences toward Humean empiricism:  A Brief Review of Jesse Prinz’s ‘The Emotional Construction Of Morals’

Also:  Mixing Kant with Aesthetics?  apparently I can’t do it justice and look silly trying:  Some Quotes From Kant And A Visual Exercise…also a brief post on A Sympathetic View Of Noam Chomsky?

Seattle Earthquake-January 30th 2009-4.5 On The Richter Scale

Good info here at the USGS.

Apparently, it happen at 5:25 am PST, and I had no idea.  About 1 in 4 or 5 people I spoke with today either felt it, or were woken up enough to realize something had happened, but weren’t quite sure what.

Here’s a good map at the USGS site which measures how many people responded and intensity.

The vibrations and earth movement could be felt for only a few seconds, though it happened along the Nisqually fault, where the February 21, 2001 6.8 earthquake occured.

Map of that quake’s intensity here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Some Quotes From Kant And A Visual Exercise

From Christopher Want’s Introducing Kant:

“In the case of the pyramids:

the eye needs some time to complete the apprehension from the base to the peak, but during that time some of the earlier parts are invariably extinguished in the Imagination before it has apprehended the later ones, and hence the comprehension is never complete..’  “

What about this video of a surfer on Maui’s north shore?

Perhaps you get a sense of awe and wonder at observing this wave, but this may have more to do with your imagination and your onboard apparatus for observing the wave than perhaps any necessary characteristic of the wave itself (for Kant, the imagination is a very specific category of perception, which can ((amended)) function without the rules of the understanding, especially in aesthetic representation but which ultimately is applied to the rules of the understanding to give us the best knowledge we have, which are in turn guided by the Ideas Of Reason…).

Here’s another quote:

“…a light broke upon all natural philosophers. They learned that reason only perceives that which it produces after its own design; that it must not be content to follow, as it were, in the leading-strings of nature, but must proceed in advance with principles of judgement according to unvarying laws, and compel nature to reply its questions.”

Immanuel KantPreface to the Critique of Pure Reason.

Newton’s 3rd Law might be a good example of those ‘unvarying’ laws.

Related On This Site:  When aesthetics goes too far?: Goethe’s Color Theory: Artists And Thinkers…some problems with Kant and potential idealism when applied to American politics:  From The Internet Encyclopedia Of Knowledge: Immanuel Kant And Utilitarianism

From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?

Full audio here.

Art, of course, can transcend politics, as well as current social and intellectual trends.  What is good art…and bad…the truths found there…and whether or not artists transcend the deepest ideas that often drive them are matters of deep debate.

A different matter of debate, however, is whether or not the National Endowment For The Arts should receive fiscal stimulus money because it can potentially stimulate the economy.

OF course, those with self-interest in the matter think so, and the report (this is NPR, with its own fish to fry) focuses on them.  They also focus briefly on Brian Riedl, budget analyst at the Heritage foundation who sees no merit to the claim.


Of course, the artists could seek patrons (especially difficult in a tough economy), or use gimmicks to get people in the door (as common in Shakespeare’s day as it is now) or make a populist appeal directly to the people whose lives they can enrich without taking their tax dollars (these are difficult times for all).

Another question might be:  in what way do those making the appeal serve what good artists must transcend to provide them with a livelihood?

Also On This Site:  We’re already mixing art and politics, so…How Would Obama Respond To Milton Friedman’s Four Ways To Spend Money?

A Few Thoughts On The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict: No Questions…No Answers?

Quote found here at Jeffrey Goldberg’s site at The Atlantic:

A great sage once taught: He who claims to know the answer to the Middle East dispute doesn’t even know the question.”

My limited experience in looking at this problem has led to ever greater complexity and confusion:   an ancient history of settlement, displacement, conflict, relative peace, religious and other wars…religious (and highly abstract) deductions to land…lots of Western involvement from the Romans to the British…etc.  It goes on and on

I believe there has been a current American shift (mostly left) in opinion on Israel, and which Israel is foolish to ignore.  By focusing on the inequities of the current Israseli military actions, this conventional wisdom hasn’t fully recognized the dangers evident in the Hamas charter, or the deep wellspring of Arab hatred toward the Israelis (Israel doesn’t have a right to exist).  

As much as it may claim for itself, this viewpoint just seems to focus its lens on another part of the problem.

Of course, some of that Arab sentiment is also aimed at the West in general, based on genuine and legitimate grievance where mutual interest may lie…but also largely on a violent, ideological, and religiously extreme projection of the Arab world’s current failures (at least economic, social and educational) onto everyone else.  It has become Bin Laden’s raison d-etre.

As idealistic (especially politically so) as this is, I should also say that any foreign policy we make in the region should strive to recognize the Palestinians as subjects, and not objects in service of our own legitimate self-interest (which is a problem I have all too often with the American right).  We will reap what we sow, and so will Israel.

So, what was that question again?

Addition:  01/25/09 60 Minutes piece on one potential obstacle for the 2 state solution:  Israeli settlers.  Link here from Andrew Sullivan.

Another AdditionAaron David Miller on Bloggingheads discusses his book ‘The Much Too Promised Land.’  So what about practical policies, lobbyists, mutual interests, American politics, etc…?  This guy knows his stuff.

Also On This SiteFrom Bloggingheads: Anne Marie Slaughter And Stephen Walt discuss American Foreign policy and Obama’s options.  More On The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Western/Non-Western Forms Of Government?A Few Thoughts On The Current Israeli Military Operation Into Gaza: A Shift In U.S. Attitudes?


by pinkturtle2.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: ‘The Last Professors: The Corporate Professors And The Fate Of The Humanities’

Full post here.

If you’ve studied in a humanities department, you’ve probably noticed a divide between what you read and wrote there and the culture at large: movies, videos, music videos, songs, broadcast news etc… which (as Camille Paglia argues) is the culture for a majority of Americans. 

The author Frank Donoghue, whom Fish reviews, argues that it’s a losing proposition to even try and work against this tide, mostly for financial reasons:

“Such a vision of restored stability,” says Donoghue, “is a delusion” because the conditions to which many seek a return – healthy humanities departments populated by tenure-track professors who discuss books with adoring students in a cloistered setting – have largely vanished. Except in a few private wealthy universities (functioning almost as museums), the splendid and supported irrelevance of humanist inquiry for its own sake is already a thing of the past.

The departments are not self-sustaining, and it’s evident from within. 

I would argue that much of Donoghue’s thinking has likely been influenced by the idea that because there is a lack of a central vision of what liberal learning ought to consist of (in part due to the influences of Continental postmodernist thinkers, the tail end of Existentialism etc. again this is a Paglian view of things, with some Allan Bloom throw in)…

…as a result a result race identity, gender politics, and all manner of other interests (many politically left) have helped filled the void.  I won’t argue that these groups don’t contain a lot of truth as many other on the political right are doing. 

I will argue that from the current state of Humanities departments… these ideas are informing our politics and shaping public opinion…and the political and idealogical reactions to them (on the right)…for better or worse.

So does Donoghue have a solution?:

“In his preface, Donoghue tells us that he will “offer nothing in the way of uplifting solutions to the problems [he] describes.” In the end, however, he can’t resist recommending something and he advises humanists to acquire “a thorough familiarity with how the university works,” for “only by studying the institutional histories of scholarly research, of tenure, of academic status, and . . . of the ever-changing college curriculum, can we prepare ourselves for the future.”

Not really, though what he does offer seems practical.  


As mentioned:  I have some doubts about Fish’s larger interpretation of affairs…a tendency to view the arts, humanities, and philosophy itself through a certain lens.  (Fish teaches a course on conservative philosophy..hopefully in the better sense of that word…conservare…). 

Many people, especially on the political right, have been motivated by similar interpretations (sophistry?) of what’s going on…

See Also On This Site: Martha Nussbaum saw this coming a while ago, but is her platform broad enough?: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.

  A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche ConnectionStanley Fish In The NY Times: More Colorado FolliesFrom The Boston Globe: Literature Needs To Embrace Science

AlsoShould You Bother To Get A Liberal Arts Education? Allan Bloom, Camille Paglia and Anthony KronmanHow To Study Literature: M.H. Abrams In The Chronicle Of Higher Ed.

by kinkazzo  Poor Old Harold Bloom

Add to Technorati Favorites 

Garrett Mattingly On Machiavelli-The Prince: Political Science Or Political Satire?

Full article here.

“The notion that The Prince is what it pretends to be, a scientific manual for tyrants, has to contend not only against Machiavelli’s life but against his writings, as, of course, everyone who wants to use The Prince as a centerpiece in an exposition of Machiavelli’s political thought has recognized…”

Mattingly (wikipedia), a historian, argues that this short work of Machiavelli’s overshadows his attempts at plays, poems and prose, and overlooks the following:

“‘…Popular rule is always better than the rule of princes.’ This is not just a casual remark. It is the main theme of the Discorsi and the basic assumption of all but one of Machiavelli’s writings, as it was the basic assumption of his political career.”

Well, perhaps Machiavelli did really believe in the traditional virtues (Christian, Aristotelian?) and thus did not truly question those traditional beliefs…

…and instead perhaps The Prince should be viewed more as work of art in the vein of his other works (and not as philosophy necessarily?) as Mattingly argues…

Are you convinced?

See Also On This SiteFrom Nigel Warburton’s Virtual Philosopher: Machiavelli Is Always RelevantFriday Quotations: Machiavelli And The Founders

Niccolo Machiavelli by Crashworks

Add to Technorati Favorites