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Multiple practical approaches and the absolute freedom of a listener I accept but not fundamental ontological claims motivated solely by convenience of an individual. Ontology is hard science.
I don't agree that SM is defining art solely to suit himself. The ontology of Art is hard, but at the end of the day, we can all decide for ourselves what the word means and what art objects should be included or excluded. If all this deciding works for philosophers over the years, there's no reason why we can't do it too.

 

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Discussion Starter · #162 · (Edited)
I don't agree that SM is defining art solely to suit himself. The ontology of Art is hard, but at the end of the day, we can all decide for ourselves what the word means and what art objects should be included or excluded. If all this deciding works for philosophers over the years, there's no reason why we can't do it too.

I would have accepted and even suggested myself that ”the SM approach” would have been a one convenient and practical way of seeing things, one articulation on the matter. One ”mode of being” like expressed in the article.

Nevertheless SM insisted that their approach is the only right way of seing this, just like the earth is round. That’s where the claims became fundamental with profound consequences in ontology.

I will never accept that in the deepest sense of reality and ontology an art object would be entitled to different kinds of laws of physics than a mountain.

An art object status given to an object is a choice made by human cognition. This is obvious and not debatable.

Trying to seperate an art object from it’s natural environment and laws of physics and to give it a totally new status at the mercy of the omnipotent listener is the lazy and selfcentered and naive way of perceiving the field of art.

Thank you all. :)
 

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Strange Magic said:

"I'm not sure why it's so hard to see it - the difference between an 'art' object and 'art'. Not only did I get it, I find it an entirely helpful clarification."

Waehnen said:

"It is not a clarification but an arbitrary ontological extra status invented to free the listener from any exhausting bindings to the reality. It allows false omnipotency. It is the easy way."

I think both of you make legitimate points.

"Art" refers to a number of things, and may be defined differently in different contexts and with respect to its various forms and functions. Various definitions of art may supplement, rather than contradict, each other. If we can keep this in mind, we needn't fall into many of the sorts of arguments that arise. What is really problematic, though, is to advance a theory of art that rejects common, time-honored understandings of it.

Possibly no idea about art is more commonly accepted than that it entails some sort of object, specifically an object conceived and created by a human being. We can speak of a person's "art" as his profession or occupation, the particular branch of the arts he pursues; we can speak of "art" as the skill or knowledge he possesses in order to create; we can refer to the whole field of human endeavor in which such creation takes place. Further meanings exist. But implicit in all of them is the conception and production of objects. A person who imagines beautiful things but does not produce them may be "artistic" to his core, but he is not an artist and his fantasies are not art as commonly understood. The other side of the coin is that not all created objects are art. The distinction commonly made is that objects exhibiting primarily qualities of practical utility, not appealing to the senses, mind or emotions or suggesting meanings beyond their practical use, are not art objects. (The modern notion that anything, natural or man-made, is art if it's looked at a certain way, called art by someone called an artist, or hung in a gallery and provided with a four-figure price tag, isn't worth discussing here - or, to my way of thinking, anywhere.)

Strange Magic is certainly right in pointing out that "art" as an object and "art" as a larger phenomenon are different concepts. But in reality the concepts cannot be divorced from each other, and he cannot be right in refusing the designation "art" to art objects simply because they are not presently being perceived by an audience. To say that a sculpture unobserved is no longer art but a mere hunk of stone makes as much sense as to say that a piano not being played is no longer a musical instrument but a pile of wood, metal and plastic, or that a plumber/electrician on vacation is no longer a handyman. I see value in pointing out that an important aspect of the total phenomenon of art is its reception by an audience. But in fact the creator of an art object is its first audience, and he is the only audience in the unique and preeminent position of determining, entirely or largely, what the object is (John Cage and his I Ching notwithstanding) prior to and apart from anyone else's understanding, valuation, or use of it. It's what the object IS, objectively, as made by its creator, that entitles it to be called art, and no one can claim to take away that status from it through linguistic sleights of hand.
 

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Discussion Starter · #164 · (Edited)
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.

This symphony of mine is deeply and thoroughly rooted and anchored in this world, the very same reality where I have taken a funicular up a huge mountain. This symphony could not happen without the history of music, without the musical field, this very time and place and existing as a human being.

Nobody has to like it. But this symphony is not merely an abstract object or an opinion. I wish people were able to see something of what is built into it and somehow be interested in it. I wish it communicated something of this existence. I wish people heard something else in it other than their own opinion and ****. ;)

Sorry.
 

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Congratulations! Your first sentence might indicate that you are halfway there to understanding my position. Your second indicates that you have a view at variance with certain "Experts" who admire the freshness,simplicity, and earnestness of Cro-Magnon and aboriginal art. ...
I didn't say anything about experts. I think the fascination with cave paintings is less about the quality of the art itself than it is with the manifestation of the artistic impulse among humans.
Surely they are wrong? Bach leads to Beethoven, and hence is the lesser composer, Yes?
Maybe, but then Bach and Beethoven weren't Cro-Magnons or aborigines.
 

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I'm sorry that I used the word numbskull. To me it's always meant willfully ignorant person, but I remember that there are other connotations.
In astronomy it was discovered that our small group of galaxies is located under the right armpit of the Stick Man. So that triggered an unfitting response in me. Mozart probably had a mild form of Tourette Syndrome, but I don't have that excuse..

 

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A certain member in the past made a good point by posting the following in another thread (something for us to think about):

"All of the factors contributing to greatness are interrelated and dependent on each other. For example, one factor mentioned above is the tradition of received wisdom: belief in A's greatness has been passed down from generation to generation, reinforced by music textbooks and concert performances and internet forums, while belief in B's greatness has not. Another factor mentioned above is the test of time: A seems greater than B because the former's music has survived till today while the latter's has not. But these two factors are mutually reinforcing: if music textbooks have chapters on A but not B, then of course the former is going to have a leg up on the latter when it comes to the test of time. Conversely, if A's music is still performed today while B's is not, then of course music textbooks are going to have chapters on the former but not the latter. Likewise, another factor that has been mentioned is influence: A has demonstrably had a lasting influence on later composers, even today, while B has not. This is also inherently connected to the above factors: since A appears in textbooks and is more widely performed than B, then of course he is going to have a greater influence on later composers than B will.

In other words, the concept of greatness is a complex and circular system. By this point in time it's also a self-sustaining one, precisely because of the circularity. After all, this system is basically what we call a canon, and it is the very purpose of a canon to be self-perpetuating. As I wrote about in another thread some years ago, it is difficult to imagine any canonical composer being removed from the cycle and losing their canonical status, and it's difficult to imagine any non-canonical composer being inserted into the cycle and acquiring canonical status. I don't think the canon was always closed, and I don't want to think it is now, but if I'm being honest with myself then I have to think realistically that it is."
If John Field was composer A and Chopin was composer B, then we wouldn't have to even look at the scores to conclude that Field was better, because of historical circumstances and the ‘preferences’ which had developed.
 

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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.

This symphony of mine is deeply and thoroughly rooted and anchored in this world, the very same reality where I have taken a funicular up a huge mountain. This symphony could not happen without the history of music, without the musical field, this very time and place and existing as a human being.

Nobody has to like it. But this symphony is not merely an abstract object or an opinion. I wish people were able to see something of what is built into it and somehow be interested in it. I wish it communicated something of this existence. I wish people heard something else in it other than their own opinion and ****. ;)

Sorry.
Yes, musicians and composers care much more about this debate than non-musicians, for all the obvious reasons.

There are many more of them... so we get into this quagmire every time.
 

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I would have accepted and even suggested myself that ”the SM approach” would have been a one convenient and practical way of seeing things, one articulation on the matter. One ”mode of being” like expressed in the article.

Nevertheless SM insisted that their approach is the only right way of seing this, just like the earth is round. That’s where the claims became fundamental with profound consequences in ontology.

I will never accept that in the deepest sense of reality and ontology an art object would be entitled to different kinds of laws of physics than a mountain.

An art object status given to an object is a choice made by human cognition. This is obvious and not debatable.

Trying to seperate an art object from it’s natural environment and laws of physics and to give it a totally new status at the mercy of the omnipotent listener is the lazy and selfcentered and naive way of perceiving the field of art.

Thank you all. :)
I was just going to say that this is an excellent post and then I was going to say something that would get hackles up, so I wanted to delete this post (but some programmers just don't include, for whatever reason, a delete function).

Yes, I think of some people as lazy and self-centered about the subject of music. And I definitely shouldn't do that, because I'm the same way about many other subjects.o_Oo_O
 

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Sorry but No Sale. You, like Woodduck and I, have discussed these matters to a point well beyond the time spent by reasonable people on subjects where there is no real chance of agreement, let alone understanding.. As I stressed to Woodduck, we all agree we love art, CM, so many other and varied things so that it is time to shut it down, Yes? As the saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. How about you?
I can't prove it scientifically, but I suspect there are very different consequences from the different views that both of you hold. 'Consequences for society and human advancement and life enrichment and of course every individual's potential for appreciation and self actualization.
 

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Regarding to the ongoing objective-subjective debate here, I managed to dig up what I said in an old thread about it. Here's an extract from the post in which I summed up my position on the topic:



I think that intersubjectivity and the new musicology, which aren't talked about much on this forum, offer a way out of arguments between the two extremes. People here might not know about these, or might be hostile to them as with other approaches coming out of postmodernism, possibly because they don't fit well into modernist notions which are still prevalent at TC (e.g. less restrictive definitions of the canon, interpretations of music history outside the grand narratives view, and music which resists being subjected to traditional methods of formal analysis).
Yes, and we can even say that education offers "a way out". And doesn't it always...
 

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If Strange Magic has left the thread I'm more than willing to take up for the "subjectivist" side.

The more I've had this discussion (not just on here, but elsewhere), the more I've come to realize that the terms themselves are at least partially to blame for why and how people talk past each other. At the least I think I've found four slightly different definitions people seem to be using when mentioning objectivity/subjectivity:

Subjectivity = Mind-dependent things or "individual opinion"
Objectivity = Mind-independent things or "facts not amenable to individual opinion."

There are probably more subtle definitions than this, especially with objective where I've also noticed a definition close to something like "unbiased."

To me, it's quite obvious that any notions of greatness, good, better, best, etc. do not exist as properties of objects without perceiving, feeling, thinking minds that create values and standards based on what they like/dislike. These values and standards can point to objective features of music, but this is very different from saying the greatness is IN those features that we like. This also doesn't mean all artistic judgments exist only as individual opinions. We do, indeed, have have the standards and values formed by groups whether they be as small as a sub-sub-sub culture devoted to a rather obscure genre of music, or the standards of a society/culture over long periods of time. The latter are valuable in large part because they determine what music survives for future generations to discover. It's fine, of course, if you only decide to care about what music you like/enjoy, but to me part of the reason to engage in discussions about greatness, canons, etc. is to play a role (even if it's a minor one) in determining what music is heard in the future. In a way it's a kind of Darwinian approach to aesthetics.

I think the difficulty of this subject is bound up in the messy tangle that happens in the interaction of subjects with art objects. We experience an art object and our reactions (aesthetically, emotionally, intellectually, etc.) themselves are an incredibly complex web of cognitive phenomena influenced by a billion different things that we can have vastly different levels of awareness of, ranging from our socio-cultural conditioning to our individual personalities and tastes to our knowledge about the art in question even to all of the evolutionary psychology that underlies why we appreciate and value art in the first place.

As far as I know, nobody has come close to unraveling this entire mess, though I don't doubt there are steps being made towards it in science that, at the very least, can alert us to some of the unconscious cognitive factors that go into shaping our aesthetic opinions and values, both as individuals and in a larger socio-cultural context. EG, I find it fascinating that generally people's music tastes tend to peak around their teenage years, with the music they latch onto during that period usually remaining lifetime favorites; and declining as they get older, resulting in the cliched attitude of "music in my day was so much better than the crap that's popular today!" Obviously such a phenomenon doesn't describe everyone, but clearly it's a common thing and must have some psychological/neurological underpinning. It's just one example of how I think science can move towards helping us understand why react to art how we do.

I also think the objectivists have a point in that certain things--like the continuing appeal of the "great composers" like Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and their "masterpieces" over time--scream out for an explanation of why/how that happens. It's a truism that such composers/work are considered great people people continue to think they're great, but explaining why they think/continue to think that is another matter entirely. It could very well be that such great composers/works managed to tap into something that appeals to very fundamental elements in our psychology, allowing them to be appreciated/enjoyed across times/cultures and even by people who aren't well-versed in the social-cultural particularities of the era in which they made their music; but even if that's the case I would still caution against claiming this is any kind of "objective" standard for greatness. What it is is an explanation for why so many subjects think such things are great. You may think that's splitting hairs, but we're still also left with the problem that there is zero music that appeals to everyone, and even the enduring composers/works have relatively little stake in the big picture of all the music out there that people now like.

I would also like to applaud OP for suggesting that we move towards something like a reductionist approach to this issue in which we do try to consider these subjects more piecemeal rather than the big generalities that tend to get spoken about. As much as I'm interested in the subjective/objective distinction from a philosophical angle I do think it would be more useful if we took to discussing the "complex interaction between subjects and art-objects," but part of that has to come with a recognition that the subject, at the very least, plays an equal role in that interaction; that standards/values aren't God-given, aren't found in nature the way rocks and trees are, but are created by human minds with biases and values relative to their time, their cultures, their biases, personalities, individualities, etc. There's something that can easily happen in human cognition when standards are shared by a lot of people within a group that people start thinking those standards have an existence as objectively real as the sun and ignore the fact that they were originally created by other human minds that had their own biases and values relative to the things listed above. It's GOOD to question such things, even if we end up accepting them as our own.
 

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If Strange Magic has left the thread I'm more than willing to take up for the "subjectivist" side.

The more I've had this discussion (not just on here, but elsewhere), the more I've come to realize that the terms themselves are at least partially to blame for why and how people talk past each other. At the least I think I've found four slightly different definitions people seem to be using when mentioning objectivity/subjectivity:

Subjectivity = Mind-dependent things or "individual opinion"
Objectivity = Mind-independent things or "facts not amenable to individual opinion."

There are probably more subtle definitions than this, especially with objective where I've also noticed a definition close to something like "unbiased."

To me, it's quite obvious that any notions of greatness, good, better, best, etc. do not exist as properties of objects without perceiving, feeling, thinking minds that create values and standards based on what they like/dislike. These values and standards can point to objective features of music, but this is very different from saying the greatness is IN those features that we like. This also doesn't mean all artistic judgments exist only as individual opinions. We do, indeed, have have the standards and values formed by groups whether they be as small as a sub-sub-sub culture devoted to a rather obscure genre of music, or the standards of a society/culture over long periods of time. The latter are valuable in large part because they determine what music survives for future generations to discover. It's fine, of course, if you only decide to care about what music you like/enjoy, but to me part of the reason to engage in discussions about greatness, canons, etc. is to play a role (even if it's a minor one) in determining what music is heard in the future. In a way it's a kind of Darwinian approach to aesthetics.

I think the difficulty of this subject is bound up in the messy tangle that happens in the interaction of subjects with art objects. We experience an art object and our reactions (aesthetically, emotionally, intellectually, etc.) themselves are an incredibly complex web of cognitive phenomena influenced by a billion different things that we can have vastly different levels of awareness of, ranging from our socio-cultural conditioning to our individual personalities and tastes to our knowledge about the art in question even to all of the evolutionary psychology that underlies why we appreciate and value art in the first place.

As far as I know, nobody has come close to unraveling this entire mess, though I don't doubt there are steps being made towards it in science that, at the very least, can alert us to some of the unconscious cognitive factors that go into shaping our aesthetic opinions and values, both as individuals and in a larger socio-cultural context. EG, I find it fascinating that generally people's music tastes tend to peak around their teenage years, with the music they latch onto during that period usually remaining lifetime favorites; and declining as they get older, resulting in the cliched attitude of "music in my day was so much better than the crap that's popular today!" Obviously such a phenomenon doesn't describe everyone, but clearly it's a common thing and must have some psychological/neurological underpinning. It's just one example of how I think science can move towards helping us understand why react to art how we do.

I also think the objectivists have a point in that certain things--like the continuing appeal of the "great composers" like Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and their "masterpieces" over time--scream out for an explanation of why/how that happens. It's a truism that such composers/work are considered great people people continue to think they're great, but explaining why they think/continue to think that is another matter entirely. It could very well be that such great composers/works managed to tap into something that appeals to very fundamental elements in our psychology, allowing them to be appreciated/enjoyed across times/cultures and even by people who aren't well-versed in the social-cultural particularities of the era in which they made their music; but even if that's the case I would still caution against claiming this is any kind of "objective" standard for greatness. What it is is an explanation for why so many subjects think such things are great. You may think that's splitting hairs, but we're still also left with the problem that there is zero music that appeals to everyone, and even the enduring composers/works have relatively little stake in the big picture of all the music out there that people now like.

I would also like to applaud OP for suggesting that we move towards something like a reductionist approach to this issue in which we do try to consider these subjects more piecemeal rather than the big generalities that tend to get spoken about. As much as I'm interested in the subjective/objective distinction from a philosophical angle I do think it would be more useful if we took to discussing the "complex interaction between subjects and art-objects," but part of that has to come with a recognition that the subject, at the very least, plays an equal role in that interaction; that standards/values aren't God-given, aren't found in nature the way rocks and trees are, but are created by human minds with biases and values relative to their time, their cultures, their biases, personalities, individualities, etc. There's something that can easily happen in human cognition when standards are shared by a lot of people within a group that people start thinking those standards have an existence as objectively real as the sun and ignore the fact that they were originally created by other human minds that had their own biases and values relative to the things listed above. It's GOOD to question such things, even if we end up accepting them as our own.
One person says I like this I don't like that. Leave me alone. It doesn't matter that much.

The other person says, well let's look at what's in the scores, let's see what the different devices do to our brain and try to figure out how that all works in all the different combinations from Art. Perhaps what we learn can be applied elsewhere.. As Goethe exclaimed (we’re told) on his death bed, “More light, more light!”.

Which one is the constructive course?, which one is an investment in our future well-being?, which one will promote through education the best music to endure into the future?

It seems so clear to me, but other people approach many subjects as mere entertainment. Perhaps they’re weary from all the ‘schooling’ from every direction these days. 24 hour news and the whole Internet full of answers that are now so easy to look up, …you can teach yourself technical subjects if you're driven to do that.
 

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The more I've had this discussion (not just on here, but elsewhere), the more I've come to realize that the terms themselves are at least partially to blame for why and how people talk past each other. ...
Thank you for a well thought out and well written response to this debate. Several of us have pointed out (you, 4chamberedklavier, myself, and Sid to some extent) that we feel members are not arguing the same issues. There seems to be no movement towards agreement at least partially for that reason. Personally I believe both sides are generally correct in what they argue. I do believe greatness is subjective (and obviously so), but I believe there are reasons that certain composers and works are considered to stand above others. There are experts (and other knowledgeable people) who can assess works and give reasons that others can understand and appreciate. Those reasons are worth discussing, and those who argue strenuously that those reasons matter are correct.
 

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One person says I like this I don't like that. Leave me alone. It doesn't matter that much.

The other person says, well let's look at what's in the scores, let's see what the different devices do to our brain and try to figure out how that all works in all the different combinations from Art. Perhaps what we learn can be applied elsewhere.. As Goethe exclaimed (we’re told) on his death bed, “More light, more light!”.

Which one is the constructive course?, which one is an investment in our future well-being?, which one will promote through education the best music to be endure to the future?

It seems so clear to me, but other people approach many subjects as mere entertainment. Perhaps they’re weary from all the ‘schooling’ from every direction these days. 24 hour news and the whole Internet full of answers that are now so easy to look up, …you can teach yourself technical subjects if you're driven to do that.
I would answer your questions with this question: constructive to what end, and what does either have to do with our future well-being? We're talking about understanding aesthetics, not curing cancer or learning how to do our taxes!

I don't see how either approach as you wrote them will "promote through education the 'best' music to endure to the future;" that kind of preservation for posterity falls on choices made by actual educators and, to a lesser extent, passionate music fans like ourselves. As to whether it actually promotes "the best music to endure," that's kinda the issue we're trying to get at, or maybe under.

I don't disagree with anything in your last paragraph, though I'm also not sure how it relates to the discussion at hand since I didn't really mention entertainment VS learning technical subjects.
 

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One person says I like this I don't like that. Leave me alone. It doesn't matter that much.

The other person says, well let's look at what's in the scores, let's see what the different devices do to our brain and try to figure out how that all works in all the different combinations from Art. Perhaps what we learn can be applied elsewhere.. As Goethe exclaimed (we’re told) on his death bed, “More light, more light!”.

Which one is the constructive course?, which one is an investment in our future well-being?, which one will promote through education the best music to be endure to the future?

It seems so clear to me, but other people approach many subjects as mere entertainment. Perhaps they’re weary from all the ‘schooling’ from every direction these days. 24 hour news and the whole Internet full of answers that are now so easy to look up, …you can teach yourself technical subjects if you're driven to do that.
I believe Strange Magic does not approach art as simplistically as you suggest. I assume he is happy to discuss details of art and would engage with others about aspects of a work. I also assume he would and has changed his opinion of the value of works based on reading, discussing, and thinking about them. The only difference is that ultimately, he views all art appreciation as subjective. Everyone in the world could believe that a Rembrandt is superior to the stick figure and still view all art as subjective.
 

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To me, it's quite obvious that any notions of greatness, good, better, best, etc. do not exist as properties of objects without perceiving, feeling, thinking minds that create values and standards based on what they like/dislike.
"Standards of what we like and dislike" is a little vague. I don't feel particularly predisposed to like atonal music, but I love Webern and most Schoenberg. In other words, I don't think I have a set standard by which I measure everything as "likable" or "unlikable". In fact it was the initial unlikability of atonality that led me to explore what was below the surface. It was in the music, not in my preferences.
 

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Thank you for a well thought out and well written response to this debate. Several of us have pointed out (you, 4chamberedklavier, myself, and Sid to some extent) that we feel members are not arguing the same issues. There seems to be no movement towards agreement at least partially for that reason. Personally I believe both sides are generally correct in what they argue. I do believe greatness is subjective (and obviously so), but I believe there are reasons that certain composers and works are considered to stand above others. There are experts (and other knowledgeable people) who can assess works and give reasons that others can understand and appreciate. Those reasons are worth discussing, and those who argue strenuously that those reasons matter are correct.
Part of it is just the difficulty of not only comprehending such complex subjects but finding ways to communicate that understanding effectively to other people. It's a well-known fact that the people most educated on a given subject don't always make the best teachers because they aren't the best at communicating that knowledge. So not only are we all coming at this with slightly different perspectives and slightly different understandings of all the words being used, we're coming at this with different ways of expressing those perspectives and understandings!

Nonetheless, I think I agree with everything you say here. My only caution is that experts are often great at telling you about all the objective features in a work, but that there is still an unbridgeable gap between what a work IS and whether or not it's great, good, bad, better, best. etc. One thing I find is that people think that an expertise in facts makes one an expertise in value judgments, and that's not the case; the two things simply inhabit completely different spheres. As a rather absurd example, an expert on colors still has no real authority on what the best color is. But I would absolutely agree that experts are to be valued for the knowledge and insights they do possess, for their ability to educate us and alter/expand our awareness and appreciation of everything that goes into a work of art.

I also agree that it's worth discussing all the reasons we have (or think we have) for valuing the art we do and don't, but I can also understand why some don't care about such things. We're all here for different reasons.
 
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