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One of the things that comes across very strongly in Woodduck's post is the view of the artist. It's one of the reasons why differences of opinion arise in this subject: the amateur consumer (like me), the musicologist, the musician, the composer etc all bring not only different perspectives, but different levels of commitment to certain ideas. I have no investment as an artist; Woodduck has an overwhelming investment as an artist.
I feel like I could pretty easily map Woodduck's artist-centric views on this subject onto the way in which I'm arguing for the "subjectivist" side. To me, what Woodduck says--to take one example--about Mozart's mastery of form and melodic inventiveness could be slightly rephrased to acknowledge the subjectivist side by noting that Mozart's use of form and melody move us (intellectually, emotionally, aesthetically), which then triggers in us the evaluation of his mastery. My only complaint with what he says is that it glosses over this causal chain in which the objective features of the music interacts with our subjective minds and based on the positivity of that interaction we assign values to Mozart and his music.

I do think it's unquestionably true that some artists are more skilled at triggering this causal chain than others are, but this very much goes back to SM's point about polling and such in that what we're talking about is greatness is essentially a poll on how many people have been moved by an artist and their work; and when that poll reaches large enough numbers we easily start taking for granted the subjective component in all of this and simply project our collective internal judgment of greatness onto the object (the artist and their work) itself.

It reminds me a lot of what ET Jaynes coined as the mind-projection fallacy, or the innate human bias to project the contents of our mind onto the objects that trigger the state of mind in us. Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote an article on this using popular "alien invasion" fiction as an example, in which aliens, who would have a completely different evolutionary psychology than our own, would often kidnap beautiful women to breed with. The point was that the authors of such works considered "beauty" an objective feature of the women, something that even aliens would recognize, glossing over the fact that our perception of feminine beauty stems from our own species' unique evolutionary psychology. Here's the full article for anyone interested: Mind Projection Fallacy - LessWrong I think something similar is at work in these types of discussions.
 

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Do you think the subjectivity of us human beings is somehow outside the field of science? If there is an agreement on the chess rules, it sure can be researched where, when, why and by whom there rules were invented and what it tells about us humans.

Just saying that there is not a single aspect about chess that could not be studied. Neither is there anything about music that could not be studied or researched. Subjectivity of human beings is nothing mystical outside the reality.
No, I absolutely think human subjectivity is within the field of science, as we know from fields ranging from neuroscience to cognitive science to the more scientifically rigorous forms of psychology. To take a favorite example, I have studied rationality for years and one of the most fascinating developments of recent decades came from the experiments done by people like Daniel Kahneman (who won a Nobel for his work in the field of Economics) that systematically sought to catalog various forms of cognitive biases via those experiments.

One importance to acknowledging subjectivity in fields that require it for the establishing of rules/goals (like chess, or art, or ethics) is that any judgments of right/wrong, good/bad, are relative to those subjectively established rules/goals. This isn't the case for purely objective things. Facts about trees don't depend upon any subjective feelings or thoughts about trees. Trees exist external to the mind and the can be studied with extremely minimal reference to our minds (minimal in the sense that we still need our minds to perceive and study anything). Value judgments and the standards that give rise to them don't exist independently of our minds the way trees do.
 

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No, I absolutely think human subjectivity is within the field of science, as we know from fields ranging from neuroscience to cognitive science to the more scientifically rigorous forms of psychology. To take a favorite example, I have studied rationality for years and one of the most fascinating developments of recent decades came from the experiments done by people like Daniel Kahneman (who won a Nobel for his work in the field of Economics) that systematically sought to catalog various forms of cognitive biases via those experiments.

One importance to acknowledging subjectivity in fields that require it for the establishing of rules/goals (like chess, or art, or ethics) is that any judgments of right/wrong, good/bad, are relative to those subjectively established rules/goals. This isn't the case for purely objective things. Facts about trees don't depend upon any subjective feelings or thoughts about trees. Trees exist external to the mind and the can be studied with extremely minimal reference to our minds (minimal in the sense that we still need our minds to perceive and study anything). Value judgments and the standards that give rise to them don't exist independently of our minds the way trees do.
Precisely. One problem in the conversation is that some people think that anything that involves human mind as a factor is outside objectivity. You know very well that even psychological statistical studies are indeed the field of science.

What would you suggest to clear up and define the terminology used in this conversation?
 

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Precisely. One problem in the conversation is that some people think that anything that involves human mind as a factor is outside objectivity. You know very well that even paychological statistical studies are indeed the field of science.

What would you suggest to clear up and define the terminology used in this conversation?
I'm not sure how many here (subjectivists or objectivists) have suggested that the human mind is outside the realm of scientific inquiry. I think most would acknowledge we can generate objective facts about subjective things (polling is one such example of an objective fact being generated by subjective opinions).

Your question is a good one, and I honestly think your OP is a valiant attempt at defining the terminology moving forward. I don't know what my own attempt would look like, but it would probably have similar features. One difficulty in these discussions is navigating between more piecemeal discussions of nuanced particulars and the broader, more general terms and ideas that break down into those particulars. It can give one a sense of vertigo trying to know which direction to go in as it varies from individual-to-individual based on the level of mutual understanding and agreement on the terminology. Any full account would have to be a thorough bottom-up approach, and I'm not sure that's feasible on a casual forum as opposed to in a more thorough academic setting; but yours was as good an attempt as any I could probably manage.
 

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I am composing a symphony, you know. It doesn’t happen by itself. Creating it demands huge amount of time, effort, perspiration, cognitive functions, technical expertise and artistic and aesthetic knowledge and contemplation. I pour my whole personality and history and being into this piece of work.
When I was a graduate student many years ago, I was at one point challenged with writing a piece for orchestra at the same time as being involved in discussions like the one in this thread. As you say composing a symphony is very demanding in many ways, and I found that combining the two activities was something I couldn't handle. A core philosophical challenge was undermining me. In my opinion you are handling a similar challenge very well. But I'd like also to wish you every success with your symphony, and hope this controversy won't be personally discouraging as it was for me.
 

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When I was a graduate student many years ago, I was at one point challenged with writing a piece for orchestra at the same time as being involved in discussions like the one in this thread. As you say composing a symphony is very demanding in many ways, and I found that combining the two activities was something I couldn't handle. A core philosophical challenge was undermining me. In my opinion you are handling a similar challenge very well. But I'd like also to wish you every success with your symphony, and hope this controversy won't be personally discouraging as it was for me.
I'd be curious to know why you find/found such controversies discouraging.
 

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.. this strike(s) me as saying that money has value regardless of whether anyone thinks it does.
Bad analogy to support your point of view. If whether money has value depended on the subjective whims of a few people that would be one thing, but as long as the value of money depends on the the view of millions upon millions of people and the full faith and credit of the federal government, there is objective evidence that people can count on the value of money for the foreseeable future.

Besides, this kind of analogy is dismissively useless. Classical music would have no value if no one thought it did. Wow, proof of absolute subjectivity!
 

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What I'm interested in is whether you can demonstrate the above without reference to any subjective notions such as what we (as individuals, as a collective species, or even as just a community of classical music fans) like and value, because this strike me as saying that money has value regardless of whether anyone thinks it does. If the judgment of "well-composed music" depends upon standards we create based on what we like then it is not (by literal definition) objectively well-composed; If Mozart's "mastery of form and melodic inventiveness" depends upon our standards we create based on what kinds of melodies and forms we like then the judgment of their mastery very much is up for a vote and, in fact, that's all it depends on.
1. If the standards by which music is judged well-composed were created by its listeners, then you would be correct in claiming that no music could be called objectively well-composed. But that isn't what happens. What happens is that composers and listeners share assumptions and expectations of aesthetic form which have evolved and prevail in their common culture, and a composer strives to make effective use of those assumptions and expectations to create a product that delights the minds and engages the emotions of listeners who share the common musical language. It's obvious that Mozart has done this exceptionally well. It's also obvious, to those who are musically knowledgeable or perceptive, that doing it exceptionally well is no easy task. In fact it's so difficult to do it on Mozart's level of skill and inspiration that he has been virtually worshiped as one of the great creative figures in human history.

2. The principles of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic form with which Mozart (and other composers) were working are highly complex. The number of relationships that exist between the notes of, say, Mozart's 40th symphony is enormous, higher than our conscious minds can deal with as we listen to the music, or even Mozart's mind as he composed it. See my post #234. The manner in which those principles came into existence - who developed them and why - is irrelevant to the fact that Mozart had exceptional skill in exploiting them to produce works simultaneously complex, orderly, original, and capable of affecting other people intellectually and emotionally. The evidence that he did this better than his contemporaries is the more obvious the more we understand music, but also clear from the history of his music in performance and in reputation, during and since its appearance.

3. Principles of order in art are not the arbitrary fancies of wandering minds, for the fundamental reason that principles of order in the universe are not optional but essential to the nature of reality itself. Art succeeds, in all cultures everywhere and for all time, in exploiting these principles and embodying them in microcosmic form, thus satisfying the human need for constructive ordering and representation of their lived experience. The forms of art are for all practical purposes limitless, just as life experience is infinitely diverse, but order is the fundamental vehicle of aesthetic comprehensibility and expressiveness. The ability to order the notes, colors or words of an artwork in interesting and moving ways is an exceptional skill which human minds are wired to perceive and appreciate.

I am very, very tired of people who have not engaged in the incredibly demanding process of creating aesthetic order saying that quality in art is "all subjective" That is simply horse pucky.
 

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Criticizing Mozart's contemporaries as "failed Mozarts" is always easy, but on what grounds are we assuming they all tried to achieve the exact same artistic goal? Did Mozart write like this in 1769,
Or like this in 1805?
And since when have we judged all composers based on technicality? (melody, harmony, counterpoint, etc)
 

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Woodduck: "I am very, very tired of people who have not engaged in the incredibly demanding process of creating aesthetic order saying that quality in art is "all subjective" That is simply horse pucky."
I think not. Your exact notions can be applied to the vintner's art and skill, though on a smaller scale perhaps. All that labor and all their hyperbolic rhetoric about both the labor and the product. Since you dislike always my ice cream flavor analogy (what is the best flavor?), I turn here to oenology and the oenophile and consider the same mechanisms at work, all reaching the same conclusion--it's all a matter of opinion. Like the other arts under the existing Groupthink, one must be tutored, always, by the Experts, to develop one's palate and one's nose in order to extract the ultimate experience of the particular variety at hand. Yet, to the chagrin of the oenophile, blind taste tests often show a random-number result, with even the tasters with the ultimate reputations for exquisite refinement and discernment losing their way entirely. Horse pucky is a readily-available commodity here in Nova Caesarea--our state animal is the horse--but can be found almost universally, especially in the arts. This is not to be seized upon as a repudiation of the often-useful role of the critic in widening our spectrum of works of interest, but, ultimately, we come down to opinions, individual or clustered into groups. Sorry if this is found tiring but it is what it is. :rolleyes:
 

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Criticizing Mozart's contemporaries as "failed Mozarts" is always easy, but on what grounds are we assuming they all tried to achieve the exact same artistic goal? Did Mozart write like this in 1769,
Or like this in 1805?
And since when have we judged all composers based on technicality? (melody, harmony, counterpoint, etc)
No one has called Mozart's contemporaries failed Mozarts or assumed that all composers are trying to do exactly the same thing. "We" haven't judged all composers based on anything. The nature and significance of melody, harmony, counterpoint and "etc." is hardly summarized by the term "technicality."

Would you like to try again?
 

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I think not. Your exact notions can be applied to the vintner's art and skill, though on a smaller scale perhaps. All that labor and all their hyperbolic rhetoric about both the labor and the product. Since you dislike always my ice cream flavor analogy (what is the best flavor?), I turn here to oenology and the oenophile and consider the same mechanisms at work, all reaching the same conclusion--it's all a matter of opinion. Like the other arts under the existing Groupthink, one must be tutored, always, by the Experts, to develop one's palate and one's nose in order to extract the ultimate experience of the particular variety at hand. Yet, to the chagrin of the oenophile, blind taste tests often show a random-number result, with even the tasters with the ultimate reputations for exquisite refinement and discernment losing their way entirely. Horse pucky is a readily-available commodity here in Nova Caesarea--our state animal is the horse--but can be found almost universally, especially in the arts. This is not to be seized upon as a repudiation of the often-useful role of the critic in widening our spectrum of works of interest, but, ultimately, we come down to opinions, individual or clustered into groups.
This is as frivolous and obtuse an approach to art now as it was the first time you offered it. And how many hundred times is that now?

How would you, Mr. "It's All Subjective," know that there's horse pucky in the arts? How would you know it if you saw, read, or heard it? Is horse pucky one of your flavors of ice cream?


Sorry if this is found tiring but it is what it is. :rolleyes:
Yes, it is what it is. But your "it" is not my "it." Thanks to the ubiquity of taste buds, your "it" is easily understood by everyone, including your dog. My "it" - which is the it of people who make art and know what it contains and represents - seems to baffle a lot of otherwise intelligent people. I'm confident that you're one of those, and my confidence is unlikely to waver no matter how much ignorance of the nature of art you display.
 

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This is as frivolous and obtuse an approach to art now as it was the first time you offered it. And how many hundred times is that now?
How would you, Mr. "It's All Subjective," know that there's horse pucky in the arts? How would you know it if you saw, read, or heard it? Is horse pucky one of your flavors of ice cream?
Yes, it is what it is. But your "it" is not my "it." Thanks to the ubiquity of taste buds, your "it" is easily understood by everyone, including your dog. My "it" - which is the it of people who make art and know what it contains and represents - seems to baffle a lot of otherwise intelligent people. I'm confident that you're one of those, and my confidence is unlikely to waver no matter how much ignorance of the nature of art you display.
I trust that you are content with your tone here. I find it increasingly informative, and consider my shafts are finding their mark. ;)
 

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Didn't you know that knowledge is impossible?
My subjective knowledge is better than anybody's! :LOL:
So my answer to the whole thing is: ya know, I can't really say for sure one way or the other. And...it doesn't hinder my enjoyment of great art either way. I hope that the desperation in my tone was conveyed by the forum software.
 

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Subjectivists seem to be weirdly confident in the objective truth of their positions.
When you're right, you're right. But the tone was interesting--this is (just) an Internet discussion, and conducted more for play than for combat. My views are almost absurdly simple but people become so agitated by their simplicity that some become........
 
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