Friday, June 18, 2004

Rewritten, and again:

More comments here and one here.

A thought:
The folks at CT, like many people on the web -analytic philosophers, economists, libertarians and tech heads- tend to see the principle of non-contradiction as some sort of universal figure, applying both to those fields they know and those they indulge in on the side. Is that why so many people seem unable to tell the difference between art and illustration (and are so unwilling to respond to my comments)?

"Seth, Whaddaya mean? What's the diffeence between art and illustration?"

Illustration, speculative fiction,'philosophic' art (Baudelaire's term) et al. are based on a principled lack of ambiguity that is definable along the lines of the law of non-contradiction: p and not-p. It may be necessary to ascribe a vulgar simplicity to our complex behavior -econmists do it all the time- but that doesn't mean we can or should ever be defined by those descriptions. And the art championed in so many web posts on so many sites tends to do just that. I've said all this before, but I've never quite in this way. The law of non-contradiction refers to logic, not to people. We live by refuting it.

Illustration as a vulgar subcategory of art, is a modern invention. It is a form of representation in which rhetoric is denied as sophistry or indulged as truth. Anotomical studies and pornographic imagery share the same designation: illustrations. Both posit a direct line from form to content and from dreamer to witness, allowing the latter to become the former.
If I write the equation A=2 on a piece of paper what I write and the what you read will be practically- for practical reasons- identical. But "Rosy fingered dawn." will not work the same way. Religious and political cults argue for the union of self and other, but that's a more dangerous illusion than anything provided by a good work of art. [And of course along with illustration, the other major modern introduction to culture is the notion of life as art. a notion that is equally as reactionary.] it remains an oddity to me that all of this remains so outside the discussion of something called philosophy.

Art attempts to recreate the complexity of the world as we experience it, while still giviing it pattern. And that pattern is the result of rhetoric, of corrupted logic. The patterns of art are the result of smoke and mirrors; art is an illusion that describes our attempts at illusion. It describes the world only in the sense that we experience it. That is its honesty. Philosophic art, art as illustration, dictates which illusions are acceptable and which not, as it dictates the meaning of its particulars. But the law of non-contradiction should not be demanded of our dreams any more than it should be demanded of us.

I'll illustrate my point- this is only a blog after all- with a quote from an article in yesterday's Times. I haven't read much I.B. Singer, but I'm not defending his work, I'm merely laughing at the stupidity of the criticism leveled at it. This in defense of Chaim Grade, a Yiddish author whose works have been overshadowed by Singer's:

"Every fiber of Grade's being and everything he did — every line of poetry, every work of fiction — was animated by a sense of responsibility to the Jews: to their history, to the culture, to the people," said Professor Nadler, who studied with Grade at Harvard. "None of those commitments resonate in my reading of Singer."

Substitute for Jews: Germans, Americans, or Bisexual Hunchbacks; his argument is laughable.

Those engaged in the discussion at Crooked Timber don't consider themselves reactionary, they just like logic and simplicity and appreciate an art that offers it to them; for Nadler on the other hand simplicity and non-contradiction are a matter of political and moral necessity. Their tastes of each, however, are the same: abstract logic over sensibility, intellect and a priori assumptions over curiosity.

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