The skeptical assertion that aesthetics does not actually exist, other than as a post hoc statement of personal subjectivity can be argued, because it is often the case. But it is insufficient as an explanation because it is not always the case. Sometimes we have aesthetic preferences regarding something, sometimes, perhaps at a different time or under different social circumstances, we don't.
That aesthetic preferences sometimes do exist, can be demonstrated either via rational argument, or by personal testimony, or through citation of scientific empirical evidence.
We can pretty much start with the assumption that taste is subjective, whether by taste we mean the sensation of taste, or cultural taste, the one we develop or learn through immersion in our particular culture. It can immediately be noted that both personal and cultural subjectivity are flavors of Protagorean relativity, the type of relativity that people often ignorantly lampoon as irrational, 'anything goes' type argument. It can easily be demonstrated that neither personal, nor cultural tastes are arbitrary. What cannot be demonstrated is that there are absolute standards of aesthetics, whether that be the idea of beauty, or what is beautiful in itself or by an absolute standard. Nevertheless, Western philosophy for the past two thousand years has been attempting to do just that, to demonstrate what is absolute beauty, beautiful, or tasteful.
So, if taste, and beauty is not absolute, and has no absolute standards but neither is it arbitrary, then what can be said of it?
Not surprisingly, after some Darwinian reflection, judgments of taste and beauty are genetically predisposed to an extent. Factors, such as symmetry, compositional balance, color preference, and a valuation of technique compared to our own shortcoming will arise. There are also inherent perceptual elements that influence our judgment. For example, recently, a highly publicized second Mona Lisa was discovered. The question is, could it be an earlier attempt by the master, or is it a later copy by a student, or even a forgery.
The background is sketchy, without the detail, and the model looks younger, prettier. According to Florian Hutzler, a professor of psychology, Mona Lisa's facial expression shifts depending where you focus your gaze. If you look at her eyes, your peripheral vision sees a subtle smile on her lips, but if you look at her mouth directly, the smile disappears. The sfumato technique, in which paint is layered to create subtle shading is responsible for the illusion. This sort of experimentation with perception was typical of da Vinci and other renaissance painters. They discovered that subtle perceptual cues add to the sense of reality that the viewer experiences.
It can then be inferred that there must be a sense of beauty for other animals as well. To their peers, some cats are more beautiful than others.
Going past the the abstract to art and artists, taste and beauty take on different meanings. Artists do not always attempt to create timeless beauty, rather, their works have meaning to them, the viewer, and perhaps to society. A statue, standing 20 feet high in a central plaza or hidden on a wooded hillside will have different meaning than one that is 20 inches high in a quiet corner of a study.
Does the critic have anything in common with the philosopher or the artist? One would like to think so, but that is probably not the case. At least not, according to the artists. ;P
In Plato's alleged Seventh Letter, he, or someone else who was quite familiar with Plato explains why there are no treatises of his. The explanation takes the form of a loose semantic theory.
What is to be known, for example a circle, is expressed as a word which needs to be defined, as in “that in which the distance from extremity to center is everywhere equal”, or as a practical construction or drawing. But neither the verbal definition nor the construction is the mental image of the circle that is the object of knowledge.
Since Platonic “knowledge, intellectual grasp, and true opinion [which] exist not in sounds or shapes of bodies but in minds" are all object-semantical, involving both ordinary things and linguistic signs, we cannot determine meaning and truth without some essential involvement of other language users and their conceptions and beliefs. This determination can occur only in active discussion, with questioning and answering, as in a dialectic process.
Once written, philosophy is not active discussion, but a monument, an idol to be explicated and worshipped, or it is a carcass waiting for an opportunist vulture to rip its helpless body to pieces.
Even in Plato's own dialogues, the characters who were portrayed as his predecessors or adversaries suffered distortions that in live discussion would have been vigorously rejected -- especially by those "Sophists", who according to Plato, were experts in the techniques of dialectic and 'eristic' argument.
That all knowledge claims are equal or all metaphysics or existents are equally real or that all ethical claims are equal or that life is meaningless are all strawman fallacies.
For example, one could claim that there are no ethical standards, or that there is exactly one standard, typically grounded in God, or that there are many standards. The last case, as in anti-realism or relativism, does not imply that all those many standards are equal, equivalent, or the same. To say so, weakens the positions to absurdity, as typified in Aristotelian arguments.
The model of time imagined by Minkowski can be derived from a perspective even closer to Newton:
However, whether time hangs from the same point of time is problematic. My origin of timelines is different from yours, and each actual origin in spacetime is different from an infinity of other actual origins of world lines. So, block time might have worked for Newton, but it cannot be fully consistent with relativity.
Perhaps, the lesson should be that reality need not be either physical or mental. It might be neither or both, or even something altogether different, whatever that might turn out to be. Perhaps we are overly influenced by human perspectives. I'm quite sure that my cat knows the difference between friend and foe, between prey and predator without any words, or ideas of physicality or mentality.
Surprisingly, Krauss nails it. He is answering precisely the question that is being asked. If that answer is not found to be adequate by those who asked in the first place, then either they do not understand their own question, or the question is physically incoherent.
The Parmenidean models of the world suggest that there should 'be' either being or an unthinkable void, the something or nothing of the question. The quantum fields are neither of these. They are *models* of probabilistic potentialities. The 'existence' of the hypothetical elements of the model (as against the mathematical relationships, which is all that physics can provide) arises from Platonic mysticism.
My previous post on Darwin's Theory of Evolution emphasized its simple, relational logic, its reliance on the dynamics of conflict between its elements, and on its resultant possibilities of powerful theoretical generalization in natural science. This time I'd like to comment on its limitations.
Darwin's theory only covers evolution due to natural selection, there is also selective breeding. Evolution is only one special form of change. Its outcome does not affect any of the individuals or particulars, only their future generations, the form of their 'species'. Change in particulars, whether by chance, physical interaction, preprogrammed evolution (as in maturation), or by divine plan or intervention, remains unaffected. Why not permit the Divine to drive an automatic, if that is His choice?
Evolution is one or a series of successive changes within species in response to changing environmental conditions. While the origin of the theory is biological, evolution can be extended to other physical systems, as long as its fundamental assumptions are neither simplified nor extended.
I suppose, that seems rather ambitious, doesn't it?
The first thing to notice is that the theory is Heraclitean, not Aristotelian.
There is no hint of teleology in the theory itself, regardless of anyone's opinion. The theory only relies on statistical selection from the natural diversity of a species. The selection process is due to species specific strife within the parameters of the environment. Everything, including the environment, is in flux, although at varying rates. The theory does not categorize a state of affairs, but describes how things change.
Given that almost all modern science is Heraclitean, in that it is the study of change, Is there a philosophy of science that can handle Heraclitean science?
For this reason, it becomes necessary to unbundle first person reality from scientifically objective existence. This distinction becomes apparent in that existence happens in the physical present, whereas reality inevitably trails the present by a variable amount (the present is always in the past of our awareness). Variability depends on distance of the source, the nature of the medium and the signal, the sensors, and on the speed of awareness.
What is meaningful is more or less a formal expression or sign clothed in additional context dependent significance. From this, one can attempt to distill a further abstraction, pure meaning. Although sign and context are inseparable, philosophers usually assign meaning to either the formal, semantic aspects, or to the contextual (and intentional) pragmatic aspects of expressions. HERE's a short description, and HERE's a short history.
In relativity, movement is continuous, causally determinate and well defined, while in quantum mechanics it is discontinuous, not causally determinate and not well defined. ~ David Bohm
What kind of philosophy of objects can we invent that originates in discontinuous indeterminate probabilistic motion? Can the two be necessarily reduced to one or the other? If not, then can the two ever be compatible?
Interesting stuff, Michio.
What was the government's role in creating the housing bubble? And how does the government attempt to cushion the consequences on the mortgage industry and potential home buyers?
What happened here was that absolutism is still applicable to a static, picture model of the world (Euclidean perspective), but that it fails when a dynamic, changing world is taken into consideration.
Even static pictures of the world appear quite different, yet equally real, from the perspective of various magnifications from the quantum up through microscopic, unaided, and telescopic.