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Objectivity

Post #1095 • December 4, 2007, 3:43 PM • 38 Comments

Via Hovig, Virginia Postrel reviews a book entitled Objectivity.

Objectivity fears subjectivity, the core self....[T]here is no getting rid of, no counterbalancing post-Kantian subjectivity. Subjectivity is the precondition for knowledge, the self who knows.

On the other hand, what if the core self is merely the aware part of a basically objective process? The fun continues.

Comment

1.

opie

December 4, 2007, 3:53 PM

Uh oh. This old dog again. And I don't even understand the post, except that it is about objective & subjectve all over again.

Oh, well. Maybe we can settle something this time.

Anyone wanting to comment should be required to read post 1069 in its entirety.

Then we can talk.

2.

Eric

December 4, 2007, 6:54 PM

Sorry that I don't have time to read 177 comments before I comment opie. I was wondering what the people around here thought about the poststructuralist position on the whole objective/subjective issue. I just finished reading the Oxford Short Introduction to Poststructuralism. If you don't know it already here is their thoughts:

'Subject' places the emphasis squarely on the language we learn from birth, and from which we internalize the meanings."

"Subjects can differ - even from themselves."

"The subject is condemned to citationality. The ambiguity of the subject's status, as agent and as subjected being, defines the use of the term."

(according to Althusser) "The subject is the destination of all ideology, and the place where it is reproduced. This is the source of its power: ideology is internal: we are its effects: we cite it unwittingly every time we reaffirm the 'obvious'.

3.

opie

December 5, 2007, 3:53 AM

I am bewildered by these statements, Eric, and I never heard the term "citationality". Is this a wholly semantic type of analysis?

Could you explain just one of them?

4.

Eric

December 5, 2007, 5:03 AM

(Sorry those quotes were useless) I think the core idea of the "poststructuralists" (most of them didn't call themselves that of course) believe that there is no objectivity (Lacan goes so far as to say that we do not return to a truly objective state until we die and that we spend our lives pursuing that objectivity) and that our subjectivity is really a culturally constructed thing. So it is a misnomer to think that subjectivity comes from some core identity that is sealed off from the outside world. Subjectivity is constructed. They define the subject as: "that which is capable of signifying practice and thus agency, choice; at the same time, the effect of subjection to the symbolic order." In other words the poststructuralists focus on this inner contradiction. We are capable of agency, choice, etc., but at the same time our subjectivity is constructed by the prevailing ideologies. Sorry this stuff makes me roll my eyes usually but I thought it might be relevant to the discussion.

5.

Eric

December 5, 2007, 6:19 AM

Not surprisingly, the poststructuralists don't believe in "objectivity" or "expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations..." or essences in general. However, they do believe (at least Derrida did) that we can live better lives in the future.

6.

Jack

December 5, 2007, 7:15 AM

If I ever need Derrida, or any such person, to improve my quality of life (now or "in the future"), just shoot me.

7.

Eric

December 5, 2007, 7:44 AM

Franklin your original post on Pansubjectivity is excellent and convincing. It really brought to mind William James' writings, especially his tomb, "Pragmatism." He talks about a constellation of sensations and the non-existence of clear cut cause and effect. He and John Dewey talk about an endless chain of phenomena with no clear cut beginning or end.

8.

opie

December 5, 2007, 9:29 AM

LOL Jack.

Eric I have terminal impatience with all these people who are in the business of "this is really this and not really that". Most of what they say is both obvious and useless.

it is quite possible to have an intelligent & fruitful discussion of the matter of "subjective vs objective" in art, even though I have a problem with the words as they are used, as I was at pains to indicate in the "pansubjective" discussion #1069. All we are required to do is define (or understand) our terms and we can go right ahead, as we did then.

The result, for anyone who is really interested, is a firmer understanding of what art is and how it works. We all nmeed that, some more than others.

Onwards and upwards with pragmatism!

9.

Fred

December 5, 2007, 10:39 AM

I believe Franklin's word was panjective - not panSUBjective which would indicate something completely different.

10.

Fred

December 5, 2007, 10:41 AM

I also am enjoying the part about William James' "tomb".

11.

opie

December 5, 2007, 10:48 AM

That's right, Fred, But what we discussed was subjective/objective.

12.

Fred

December 5, 2007, 10:57 AM

You are forgetting taste and quality and goodness as key components of the discussion

13.

Eric

December 5, 2007, 11:56 AM

Fred don't be a little c-unt. I know the word is tome. The pragmatists, James, Royce, and Dewey were the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century in my opinion. You could disagree with the ideas in Dewey's "Art As Experience" but at least Dewey tried to rescue aesthetics from the Kantian stranglehold. His book "Human Nature and Conduct" is a profund book. I think that you can approximate objectivity, peel away layers of irrationality and stupidity, in order to be able to predict or at least be prepared for future actions and events. The postmodernists' deconstruction of objectivity and celebration of pluralism and subjectivity has led us to where we are now in the arts.

14.

Eric

December 5, 2007, 12:10 PM

Profound not "profund."

15.

Fred

December 5, 2007, 12:20 PM

I'll disregard your tone and choice of words Eric.

16.

Franklin

December 5, 2007, 12:51 PM

We generally don't sweat typos around here unless they dramatically alter or injure meaning. And we're generally (although admittedly not exclusively) above the ruder epithets. Mind your tone, please, and take the high road.

Eric, I may share something with the poststructuralists, somewhere. But they think that the objective experience doesn't exist and the subjective experience is ideology all the way down, which strikes me as patently ridiculous. This has made me hesitant to mine the postmodernist sludge for jewels - too much of it is fractally wrong. Thanks for dropping the names of the Pragmatists - I need to bone up on them.

My attitude instead is that the distinction is false. It's all materials, some of which houses awareness. Quality exists in materials and the arrangement thereof. Our ability to detect the quality is taste.

17.

Chris Rywalt

December 5, 2007, 2:01 PM

"Fractal wrongness" is a really useful phrase.

18.

Eric

December 5, 2007, 2:06 PM

Sorry Fred. I am self taught, never went to grad school, and have never attended an art fair. I can be sensitive around pedants. My apologies. I agree with Franklin that the distinction is false and I think that most of Dewey's later writings tried to show this. He got to his conclusions by way of Hegel. I think objective and subjective are terms that are still thrown around lazily in the popular discourse though. They are convenient ways to avoid really thinking about things. I like your essay on panjectivism Franklin. It is convincing and appears to take human physiology into account.

19.

1

December 5, 2007, 5:11 PM

opie,

this is probably not the best time to ask this, but i guess it is as good as any, other than clem (and maybe not even him) who can can stand up to you in the battle of words concerning art related discussions?

have you met that person who made you double take?

or unearth other individuals who have shaken you?

and what did they say?

thanks

20.

Eric

December 5, 2007, 5:28 PM

1 that is a very funny question. I know that genuflecting is appreciated around here.

21.

opie

December 5, 2007, 9:03 PM

You're right, Eric. Odd question. Kind of uncomfortable.

Well, I sent Catfish (with whom I battled tooth & nail in post #1069) my tentative "art is life" essay and he tore it to bits quite effectively. I have yet to take it up again. But he seems to be more taken with my presumed innate bowling abilities anyway.

My cranky, supersmart sociopath grandfather, several friends in college, and the alcoholic leader of a jazz band I played in - none of them about art but they just seemed to be in on something I wanted to posess for myself.

Clem was fun to argue with. He relished it so much.

As for art, art as such, not so much words, although his writing is as far out there as his painting: my friend Jules Olitski. He's the competition. I really miss him.

it isn't "art words" anyway. It's just common sense and perceiving the plain stark reality in front of one's nose and taking it seriously.

22.

opie

December 6, 2007, 4:26 AM

Anyone have any subjective or objective take on Art Basel this time around?

I found it very thin. I got the feeling that the dealers are having a hard time finding good stuff.

23.

Eric

December 6, 2007, 4:51 AM

Without having gone to an art fair even once in my life I would say the merch being sold is definitely thin, or to put it another way, mostly shite. With the demand being so high these days the visual art making segment of the human race can't keep up the pace. We all know that truly great or even truly good artists are very hard to come by. The last several visits I paid to Chelsea in NYC were complete disappointments; one uninspired, cynical, pretentious, piece of dreck after another. I will give it another try this Saturday.

24.

catfish

December 6, 2007, 5:41 AM

Eric, 1, and opie: Clem was the one who never let anyone shake his confidence during an argument. Once, in a public argument with him he asserted that artists would side with him against me. Tony Caro then stood up and said "wrong, I agree with 'catfish'." That didn't rattle Clem, it just pissed him off and he clamed up. He made it a point to come up to me after the session and say "in your heart, you know I'm right." And he was.

Now, about that subjective thing opie and I argued about in the now legendary 1069, I'd say the same thing. Opie knows I'm right.

A couple of years ago there was a grad student named Flatboy who rattled the cages of several of the regulars, including opie and Jack, but not so much Marc. Or so it seemed. As I remember it, Flatboy quoted several passages in Greenberg that required some twisting and turning for the regulars to defend. In the end, they seemed to like each other, especially when Flatboy espoused a number of hilarious "genuflecting" strategies that art students could deploy against their pompous profs.

25.

opie

December 6, 2007, 7:02 AM

Sorry, Catfish. In your heart you know I'm right.

I seldom got the best of Clem, but once, when I did, he seemed delighted, as if he had come upon something new. He was not defensive but so accustomed to being right that it suprised him when he realized he had not thought something completely through.

Flatboy had a very disconcerting way of being oblique & sometimes just saying things to be provocative (which I would never stoop to, of course!) but he was great to have on the blog and I would really like to have him back. As I recall he was a graduate student in California, so perhaps he is going through moves & changes right now.

26.

opie

December 6, 2007, 7:10 AM

Eric except for certain sure-fire blockbuster shows the best places to go for a rich buffet of good art are the auction exhibitions of modern art and post-war art at the auction houses.

There you will find any number of interesting examples by first-rate artists which you have never seen before, and the success rate is probably better than anywhere outside of museums. The contemporary auctions are less satisfying because they are full of current trophy/tchotchke junk but even there you do better than Chelsea because there is more immediate variety in one place.

27.

Jack

December 6, 2007, 7:29 AM

Well, OP (#22), if I wind up going I'll report back, but increasing thinness is to be expected. The easier and more profitable it is to sell inferior work, the more such work will proliferate. Besides the obvious financial incentive, such work is relatively easy to generate, find and keep flowing.

Insofar as the system is money-driven, it would make no sense, from a business standpoint, to promote higher or more stringent standards, since that would hurt sales. There is so much rich-idiot money readily available that there's no way the dealers are going to pass on it. In other words, bring on whatever will sell--suitably packaged, of course, with the proper pretense, posture or image.

28.

Jack

December 6, 2007, 9:13 AM

Just saw some Basel photos taken yesterday at Critical Miami blog. They may or may not be truly representative, but they are exceedingly discouraging. Remember that this is supposed to be undisputed No. 1 art fair in the world. It could be funny if it weren't so atrociously bogus.

29.

Eric

December 6, 2007, 9:22 AM

Holy crap Jack. You are right. I can hardly wait to put together a comic collage based on those atrocious images tonight.

30.

Franklin

December 6, 2007, 9:22 AM

I saw those. He makes it look like a convention for the easily amused. Linky.

31.

Jack

December 6, 2007, 9:55 AM

Well, I suppose I'm missing the point. The thing is a commercial enterprise, and the bottom line is sales figures. Nobody really cares how good or bad the stuff is, just how well it's selling. If it works for the rich idiots, everybody's happy.

32.

opie

December 6, 2007, 10:59 AM

I think he is serious because he actually use some serious-sounding positive adjectives and only once says "yawn". Good grief!

Jack it is not even a matter of "good" or "bad". These people don't even think in those terms. They don't think at all. They are just mindless, swarming ants.

33.

Jack

December 6, 2007, 11:26 AM

I don't know. Spending good money to get a more exact idea of just how bad the fair is seems like a lousy investment. If they're so successful, why can't they have free admission, or at least a cheap entrance fee, instead of this tiered business based on what time you go in the place?

34.

Eric

December 6, 2007, 11:40 AM

At Art Basel the hot dogs cost $7.

35.

Jack

December 6, 2007, 11:47 AM

OP, of course Alesh is serious. He's a member. Membership has its privileges, but it also has its requirements. What do you want him to do, risk looking out-of-it? Perish the thought.

As for the $7 hot dogs, I hope you get a lap dance with that or something (performance art, of course).

36.

opie

December 6, 2007, 12:28 PM

A plastic tulip class of mediocre champagne is $14 and my wife likes chanpagne.

Oh, well...you get to keep the glass. It's better than most of the sculpture there.

37.

Jack

December 6, 2007, 3:17 PM

I guess the not-so-subtle message is:

"If you're rich, you deserve to be ripped off, and we're here to do just that--from snacks and drinks all the way to the big trophy items. Enjoy the fair. We certainly will."

38.

Jack

December 6, 2007, 4:06 PM

An even less subtle message is:

"If you're not well-heeled, don't bother complaining about entry fees or food and drink costs, because this game was never intended for you, and you're both superfluous and irrelevant. Be grateful you can get into the place at all. If we don't really care about art per se, we most certainly don't care about people who can't or won't pay our prices."

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