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The Protocols of Scionics



1:8 AESTHETICS

Aesthetics is typically defined as the study of the nature of beauty, art and related concepts, and also typically attempts to prescribe “proper” and “improper” types of art, architecture, music, drama, and other artistic endeavors. Also typically discussed in relation to art are the theme of a work and the sense of life the work expresses, the style or genre of the work, and the skillful or unskillful execution or creation of artistic forms.

Art and aesthetics are often spoken about as they they belonged to a sort of ineffable or undefinable realm of human activity; the truth, however, is that all realms of human activity are part of reality, and that all aspects of reality are open to empiricorational study and definition. The view that art and aesthetics are an exception to this is mystical, anti-intellectual, and anti-empiricorational. The perception of beauty and the creation and experience of art are ultimately related to the hedonic response and conceptual consciousness.

Beauty

Visual beauty relates to the pleasure one derives from looking at something. Thus it is an individual's response to the appearance of a thing which determines that individual's perception of its beauty. Different individuals can easily look at the same thing and differ in their response and in their determination of its beauty. Of course, there will be things that the great majority of individuals will find beautiful (or not) but no matter what, it is each of their individual subjective responses which determines each of their assessments of the beauty (or lack thereof) of anything. Beauty is always subjective. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” is absolutely true.

While visual beauty is related to the hedonic value (pleasure) which is derived from the sight of something, the concept of beauty may be broadened beyond the visual; in other words, there can types of beauty other than visual beauty. One can hear beautiful music, for example, described as such in relation to the hedonic value derived from hearing it. Mathematicians sometimes speak about the beauty of an equation; this is a form of mathematical beauty, which is the hedonic value which may be derived from the contemplation or understanding of a mathematical concept or equation.

While the concept of beauty is related to hedonic value, it is not merely a synonym for it, however. The appreciation of beauty requires essentially two things (1) the ability for one to actually have pleasurable experiences upon seeing, hearing, contemplating, etc., a particular thing, and (2) the capacity for conceptual thought. The experience of beauty, at it highest level, requires the conceptual appreciation that this arrangement or form (whether it be visual, musical, mathematical, or anything else) is both pleasurable and also somehow superior or preferred over other arrangements or forms. The open ended nature of human conceptual abilities enables human beings to appreciate and create aesthetic experiences (which necessarily entail hedonic experiences) in a correspondingly open ended manner, far beyond anything required by mere survival.

The conceptual appreciation of beauty may (and typically does) occur essentially automatically, without engaging volitional thought processes, because human beings conceptualize by their inherent inborn nature. The human creation of beauty, on the other hand, typically does not occur automatically or accidentally, but requires the application of volitional conceptual thought in the selection or arrangement of elements.

Art

Ayn Rand gives an excellent definition of art: “Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments.” Scionics philosophy would slightly modify this definition as follows: “Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to the metaphysical value-judgments which an artist chooses to convey.” This is because the artist may not choose to portray his is her own personal metaphysical value-judgments, due to financial, political or other considerations.

The human capacity for art, like the human capacity for language, springs from the human capacity for conceptual thought. For all of human history (until the time of modern and postmodern art, which we will be getting to shortly) the creation of art has involved the representation and communication of things, both real and imaginary. This has parallels with the way that language is used to symbolically represent and communicate concepts. The representation of one thing via another, particularly in complex and sophisticated ways, requires conceptual thought. The essential difference between “art qua art” and “language qua language” and the type of representation and communication which is effected by each, is that in language this is primarily effected via symbols, whereas in art this is primarily effected via recreation.

Another difference between art and language is that art has the ability to provide shortcut, condensed, and concrete representations of desired or beneficial arrangements, organizations, or forms of various aspects of reality. It can also serve to give concrete form to valuable abstract concepts (or instances of these concepts) allowing them to be directly experienced or felt on a perceptual, cognitive, and emotional and a level. The frequent experience of such art (1) serves to psychologically condition human beings to more readily recognize, and in turn to actualize, such beneficial arrangements, organizations, or forms themselves, and (2) to internalize the conceptual abstractions to which art gives concrete form. In other words, one can truly and substantively be elevated by art.

The use of language is judged, at its most basic, by how well it actually represents and communicates that which is intended. An artistic work is judged according to the same criteria, but also according to others, such as the skill of the artist in recreating that which is being portrayed (whether real or imaginary), and its emotional and aesthetic impact. All of these various criteria, however, can be combined into the single all-encompassing criteria of selectivity. (Selectivity is a key component of the definition of art, given by Ayn Rand, above.) Selectivity therefore encompasses that which the artist selects to recreate, the actual medium itself, the techniques used, the aesthetic considerations, and so on.

All else being equal, art which is the product of greater selectivity is superior to art which is the product of lesser selectivity. Art does not create itself: the selective re-creation of reality requires volitional thought, whereas the appreciation of – or response to – art typically occurs automatically, without volitional thought, according to the “sense-of-life,” i.e., the conscious and unconscious metaphysical value-judgments (which would include the hedonic response) of the perceiver of the art.

Fine Art and Decorative Art

Art can be classified along a continuum, with fine art being at the most extreme end of the continuum, and decorative art at the other. Fine art serves all the functions discussed so far regarding art, whereas decorative art serves merely to add aesthetic elements something. So, a portrait, such as the Mona Lisa, for example, would be in the fine art end of the spectrum, both because it serves an essentially purely artistic function, and also because of the the high level of re-creation of reality. On the other hand, a decorative item (or a decorative feature of a larger item) typically does not selectively recreate reality in any significant way.

This is not to imply that any particular work of fine art is necessarily superior to any particular piece of decorative art; art is not good just because it it art, and some fine art is of distinctly low quality in terms of beauty, content or theme, while some decorative art is distinctly high value. A good piece of decorative art is certainly better than a bad piece of pure art, but this should not lead one to mistakenly classify the type of art under consideration, i.e., to misclassify a piece of decorative art as fine art.

True Art Versus Pseudo-art

In contrast to true art, whether this be fine or decorative art, there is also something which Scionics classifies as “pseudo-art.” Pseudo-art includes both (1) non-art which is presented as art, and (2) decorative art which is presented as though it were fine art. (In the second case it is the falsity or dishonesty of the classification which puts a work into the pseudo-art category.) One type of pseudo-art includes non-recreations of reality. Examples of this would be a canvas upon which an abstract, non-representational design is constructed, or upon which paint is randomly splashed and splattered. (It should be noted that an abstract, non-representational design, although not a re-creation of reality, may still be selective in terms of the elements of the design itself, whereas random paint splashes and splatters are both non-recreational and non-selective.) Such pseudo-art is often (dishonestly) presented in the same context as true art, e.g., it may be in a picture frame, and even hanging in an “art gallery,” but that, of course, does not make non-art into art, or decorative art into fine art. The misrepresentation of non-art as art, or of decorative art as pure art is mistaken at best, and artistically dishonest at worst.

Modernism and postmodernism, as artistic movements, often take up the task of using art itself to comment upon art and its function; depending upon how this is done, however, the work which is produced may well be something other than a selective re-creation of reality, and thus may be termed pseudo-art rather than true art. The message of the work may also be essentially unimportant and perhaps even trite, if there even is a message. Furthermore, such works tends to lack beauty or any other aesthetic considerations, as the “artist's” objective is not at all about aesthetics, but about some commentary upon art and its functions.

The purpose of modern and postmodern art is thus almost never to selectively recreate reality and provide concrete portrayals of essential or important aspects of reality and of experience. The frequent experience of modern and postmodern art does not serve to condition conceptually conscious beings in such a way as to more readily recognize and actualize beneficial arrangements, organizations, or forms – instead it serves essentially no purpose, other than to present non-values or lesser-values as though they were of real or higher value.


Fountain (1917) Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp's Fountain (1917) is a perfect example of pseudo-art (really non-art in this case) masquerading as art, and making a statement about the role of art itself. Rather than selectively re-creating any aspect of reality at all, Duchamp simply went shopping in a hardware or plumbing store, purchased a urinal, and presented it as “art.” The implication of this piece is that “art is something to be pissed on.” The reality, however, is that while it may be true that this particular piece should be pissed on, true art has a much higher function. This piece is not beautiful – nor is it art in any meaningful sense.


The Treachery of Images (circa 1928) by René Magritte

Another “commentary” work is René Magritte's The Treachery of Images (circa 1928), a simple painting of a pipe for smoking, below which are the words "Ceci n'est pas une pipe." (“This is not a pipe.”) His work is meant to convey the idea that paintings of things are not identical with the thing itself – an obvious and rather insignificant observation. While it is a selective re-creation of reality, and thus may be nominally considered to be art, the painting is of such a simplistic nature as to be much more on the merely “decorative” rather than “pure” end of the spectrum of art. This painting, while not actually ugly, is certainly not a beautiful piece; after all, it is merely an image of a pipe, and some words.

The contemporary art world desperately wants us to believe that Duchamp’s Fountain, Magritte’s Treachery of Images, and a huge variety of other non-selective art, are actually profound works of great genius. If we do not experience this supposed profundity ourselves, then (the art world says) the problem cannot be with the artist or the art: it must be with us, for not having the capacity to appreciate its value. This is pure nonsense – precisely because the works themselves are nonsense, masquerading as representations of some sort of higher aesthetic truths. This is exactly what mystical religions do, by the way: present nonsense as though it were a higher truth, while accusing those who rightfully reject this religious nonsense of some sort of moral failing. In much the same way, the art world accuses those who rightfully reject artistic nonsense of some sort of aesthetic failing. The true reality of most religions is that the false nonsense they spew is actually anti-spiritual in nature (for how could falsity ever be spiritual) while the reality of of the art world is that the false nonsense which they spew is anti-aesthetic. (At least the art world will sometimes admit this anti-aesthetic stance, although claiming to adhere to some higher artistic standard – which they can never identify or justify.)

At least one of the reasons why religions spread falsity is because it has proven profitable for them to do so. It is much the same for the art world: it is profitable for them to promote the falsity that non-selective works are extremely valuable. They sell art, or charge admission to their museums and galleries, or get tax-funded grants for their operations, based on the idea that there is real value in what they are selling, displaying, or doing. It is time consuming to create selective art, and very quick (and easy) to create non-selective art. Artists can make more art, with less time and skill, and thereby make more money, if they and the art world in general can convince the public that quickly produced rubbish is valuable. This also allows unskillful artists (which are most artists, since real skill is rare) to justify themselves and their work, rather than either admitting to their lack of skill or working very hard to improve. If there were true competition for excellence in art, very few could ever hope to make a name for themselves, but since the current system is more of a “race to the bottom,” it is only necessary to find some new way of being outlandish or provocative, which takes very little talent in comparison.

It should be noted that the same concepts regarding pseudo-art which apply to painting also apply to other forms of art. In music, for example, non-art would include random noise or sound effects presented as though they were music. An example of an audible version of decorative art would be sound effects added to an enhance an environment, whether in a movie, play, or even in a themed environment, such as in a theme park. (One can imagine creaking hinges and other “spooky” sound effects employed to enhance the sense of being in a “haunted” house, for example, or the sound of a crowing rooster to give or enhance the impression of sunrise or “early morning.”) Sound effects have a proper, valid use, but they are not music. Presenting noise or sound effects as though they were music is, again, at the best mistaken, and at the worst artistically dishonest, and in either case would be pseudo-art.

An example of cinematic non-art would be something like a film showing nothing but static, or random images, or even a blank screen, presented as though it were art. A purely decorative cinematic form would consist of abstract, non-representational flowing images. Presenting these as though they were true cinema does not, of course, actually make them true cinematic art, and again, would be at best mistaken, or at worst artistically dishonest.

Sense of Life and Value-Reflection

One's “sense of life” is one's overall feeling towards life and reality in general; more technically, it is comprised of one's conscious and unconscious metaphysical value judgments. This overall feeling is comprised of one's attitudes towards many facets of life and reality, concerning such issues as:

  • the “goodness” or “badness” of life, reality, oneself and mankind;

  • the degree to which one feels that one is generally in control of one's destiny, or the degree to which one feels that one is generally controlled by outside forces;

  • the comprehensibility or incomprehensibility of life, reality, oneself and mankind;

  • the proper roles of reason and emotion as a determinant of one's thoughts and subsequent actions.

Art can be used to convey the “sense of life” which is consciously or unconsciously held by the artist. It can also be used to convey the sense of life which an artist may feel is most profitable or expedient to convey, based upon political, social, financial or other considerations.

One typically derives the greatest degree of hedonic value from works of art which reflect one's own sense of life; this is “value-reflection.” If one has a peaceful nature or disposition, or peaceful values and a peaceful sense of life, one is far more likely to seek out and enjoy art which reflects these values and depicts peace. Likewise, if one has a violent nature or disposition, or violent values and a violent sense of life, one is far more likely to seek out and enjoy art which reflects these values and depicts violence. This can be extended to all sorts of natures, dispositions, values, and senses of life: rational or irrational, kind or unkind, loving or hateful, and so on. One can determine a lot about the values and sense of life of another via the art which the other person seeks out and enjoys.

Just as one's own values and sense of life influences the types of art one seeks out and experiences, extended exposure to certain types of art can actually influence one values and sense of life. For example, exposure to art which depicts peace can influence one to become more peaceful. Likewise, exposure to art which depicts violence can influence one to become more violent. This can be extended to all sort of artistic depictions: rational or irrational, kind or unkind, loving or hateful, and so on.

Pseudo-art rarely provides a meaningful or beneficial sense-of-life. Much of it is essentially meaningless, and by presenting itself as though it were true art, it only serves to undermine the recognition of the value of true art. In those cases where meaning is to be found, this is typically limited to some inconsequential, mistaken, or mystical statement about art itself. Pseudo-art does little to elevate anyone, unless you consider the undeserved money and prestige accrued by the “artist” and those who run “art” galleries. Pseudo-art can serve to idealize confusion and non-meaning, thereby suppressing the conceptual mind's quite beneficial drive for understanding and control, and in turn suppressing pro-survival and pro-happiness behaviors.

Empiricorationalism in Art

There are three distinct ways in which art can be classified as being empiricorational: empiricorational execution, empiricorational realism, and empiricorational nobility.

Empiricorational Execution

A work of art can be executed in a fashion which demonstrates the artist’s empiricorational use and understanding of the artistic medium.


The Last Supper (circa 1495 – 1498) Leonardo da Vinci

The Last Supper (circa 1495 – 1498) by Leonardo da Vinci is an example of empiricorationally executed art. The event portrayed is certainly not empiricorationally realistic (see number 2, below) as it portrays the fictitious last meal which the mythical Jesus Christ shared with his disciples, at the moment when he revealed that one of them (Judas) would soon betray him. Leonardo da Vinci’s empiricorational understanding and use of the artistic medium, however, is exceptional. His use of perspective and color (although the colors have faded with time), the realism of the figures and objects in the scene, and their varied and convincing emotional reactions to Jesus’ revelation, are all the hallmark’s of an artistic masterpiece, despite the piece portraying a mystical, mythological, and hence non-empiricorational event.

Many of the masterworks of the past similarly portray a non-empiricorational theme, while being executed in a highly empiricorational fashion. This was due, on the one hand, to the pervasive mystical influence of the church in almost all aspects of life, and on the other, to the very high value placed upon true artistic skill. The empiricorational viewer of such art is likely to be hardly stirred at all by the religious themes of such works, while nevertheless being greatly moved by the the skill and mastery involved in their creation.

Empiricorational Realism

A work of art can portray events or things which are in accord with reason and reality. This would include portrayals of (1) actual things or events, or (2) things which actually could exist in some sense. These things or events could be present, historical, or empiricorationally projected future possibilities. Art that is empiricorationally realistic generally must also be empiricorationally executed in order for a high level of empiricorational realism to be achieved.


Mona Lisa, aka La Giocanda
(circa 1503 – 1517) Leonardo da Vinci

Mona Lisa, aka La Giocanda (circa. 1503-1517), another work by Leonardo da Vinci, is both an example of empiricorational execution (like all of da Vinci’s work), and of empiricorational realism. It portrays, not some mythical figure or event, but is simply a portrait of a real or imagined woman. (Most scholars think it is a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, an Italian noblewoman, although this has not been established with certainty.)

Empiricorational Nobility

A work of art can portray things or events which demonstrate the noble striving for empiricorationalism. This is a non-self-sacrificial type of heroism or nobility – it is the noble loyalty to, and ever-faithful application of, empiricorationality in all aspects of one's life. It is the ever-vigilant and noble loyalty to reality, to logic, and to empiricorational persistence in the face of adversity. It is not the self-sacrificial abdication of the empiricorational pursuit of one's self-interest, but the relentless empiricorational pursuit of one's own highest values, often in a world which would thwart such pursuit. Art that is empiricorationally noble generally must also be both empiricorationally realistic and executed.