In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Free Reads -- Kevin Michael Grace | Main | WTC Plans Redux »

December 19, 2002

Guest posting -- Chris Bertram

Friedrich --

Chris Bertram, whose classy blog Junius can be read here, emailed me an especially interesting note about my earlier posting "Art is Not Science." I asked for permission to reprint it here, and he gave me permission.

So 2Blowhards is pleased to present the words and thoughts of Chris Bertram:

Dear Michael

I very much enjoyed your recent post on taste and the differences between science and art. I was surprised to find one of the commenters recommending Feyerabend: you had me scurrying off to consult David Hume's "Of the Standard of Taste". In particular, I was drawn to this paragraph, where Hume makes a nice point which is somewhat spoilt for us by his choice of poets:

"Though in speculation, we may readily avow a certain criterion in science and deny it in sentiment, the matter is found in practice to be much more hard to ascertain in the former case than in the latter. Theories of abstract philosophy, systems of profound theology, have prevailed during one age: In a successive period, these have been universally exploded: Their absurdity has been detected: Other theories and systems have supplied their place, which again gave place to their successors: And nothing has been experienced more liable to the revolutions of chance and fashion than these pretended decisions of science. The case is not the same with the beauties of eloquence and poetry. Just expressions of passion and nature are sure, after a little time, to gain public applause, which they maintain for ever. ARISTOTLE, and PLATO, and EPICURUS, and DESCARTES, may successively yield to each other: But TERENCE and VIRGIL maintain an universal, undisputed empire over the minds of men. The abstract philosophy of CICERO has lost its credit: The vehemence of his oratory is still the object of our admiration."

There is, as you probably know, much much more in there. No doubt you attribute your not getting Mahler and Dostoyevsky to what Hume calls "the different humours of particular men". I think there's still something to the idea that you are missing out on something when you don't appreciate, say, Mahler or Dostoyevsky and that comes out in the language we employ to persuade one another of the merits of some artwork.

An interesting question - at least I think so! - is this: are there necessarily limitations of our sensibilities such that receptivity to some types of artwork precludes "getting" some others, and vice versa? Are there people who "get" both David Hockney (YUK!) and Burne-Jones (HOORAY)? Maybe, and maybe these aren't good examples, but I hope you can see my point.

Best wishes

For what it's worth, I second Chris's high opinion of the Hume essay.

I asked Chris to elaborate a bit on what he meant by the language question, and got back this reply:

On the language thing I was thinking of a terrific paper I read this year by a philosopher called Mark Johnston. The paper, entitled "The Authority of Affect" appears in a journal called Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (July 2001). One very small part of the paper concerns judgements of beauty and the way they tacitly appeal to universal standards in a way that judgements of agreeableness don't. If I think Marmite (yeast-extract, vegemite?) tastes wonderful and you think it tastes revolting, then there's no real problem in analysing that as, respectively disposed-to-produce-agreeable-sensations-in-Chris and disposed-to-produce-disagreeable-sensations-in-Michael. My judgement "tasty!" means tasty-for-me. But when I say "the Alhambra is the most beautiful building in the world" I'm not saying "The Alhambra is the building that produces more agreeable sensations for Chris than any other building does", and, should you disagree, I'll try to explain why I see things that way, what it is about the Alhambra that leads me to make the judgement that it is beautiful. If you tell your wife "you are beautiful" you are emphatically NOT saying the same thing as if you say "you are beautiful to me"!

Blogging is better than college.



posted by Michael at December 19, 2002


Not sure if this is the right place to put it, but I've responded to all the trashing of Paul Feyerabend here. As I say in the piece, I'm not sure whether Chris was trashing him or not, but others certainly have been, and I hope I can help some people place him where he belongs, at least, and not where he doesn't.

Posted by: Felix on December 20, 2002 1:58 PM

Yes, blogging is better than college. Especially GRADING college papers. Ack.

That aside, yes, this free flowing exchange of ideas is better than most models of education - that's all there is to it!

Posted by: Michael Tinkler on December 20, 2002 5:17 PM

18 months later: David Hockney has recently paid his first visit to Andalucia, and his watercolour of the Court of the Lions at the Alhambra will shortly be on show at the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy in London.

How will Chris Bertram cope with Hockney on the Alhambra?



Posted by: Michael Shade on May 26, 2004 5:54 AM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?