Monday, January 09, 2012

Somebody Said My Name On a Thing

The ever-amusing Indoor Kids had the great Film Crit Hulk on their most-recent podcast, and he graciously gave me a mention at the start of some "Arkham City" discussion. Have a listen HERE.

5 comments:

FILMCRITHULK said...

HULK LAUGH. HULK SAID YOUR NAME ON A THING BECAUSE YOUR STUFF HAS INFLUENCED EVERY SINGLE THING WE WERE TALKING ABOUT!

Mads said...

My god.

It's great that you got mentioned on a thing by some people, Bob, but some of what is said on the podcast is BS, and I got really pissed listening to it because of how bloody wrong it made everything.

The definition Hulk puts outthere - his definition of art - is clearly the definition of high art. That is, it is nearly always going to be art that is made for the sake of being art.

Holding this up as some sort of higher value thing is pissing me off, because it devalues everything else, and that's ridiculous.

Not to mention, it's completely normative, which is _also_ bullshit. I mean, normative definitions can be ok, yeah. In some contexts, they help clear things up. But art? He does a normative definition of the least normative concept in human history?

And look, he does try to discuss why it's fair to put out a normative definition for art, but his argument boils down to "It's a matter of fueling the rhetorics of the discussion". That's not good enough, and in this case, it's a really, really bad place to start a discussion.

Art is consistently an observable attribute that persists to defy a normative definition. It's litterally what the avant garde art phenomenon does: It changes the definition of art by describing things as art that were not formerly recognized as art. _Any_ normative definition is a contradiction to all of art history.

What's worse is that you don't need this art-non art normative bs to discuss the concept, the value, or the meaning of the art attribute...which is exactly what avant garde art in every genre persists in doing by its mere existence! It's completely possible for wordless pieces, so surely it's possible for ones that use words too!

I think he's right about one thing - his perspective is educational. I get why normative definitions are a great tool for education because it allows for rigid and easy to conduct testing and examination and homework and teaching. But this was supposed to be some sort of philosophical abstract discussion, not teaching to middle schoolers who need a firm foundation to establish memories and building the identity of abstract concepts. It's an utterly useless perspective to take on here, because the concept of art is in fundamental conflict with the concept of normative teaching.

*sigh*

There's even a lot of great analysis in the podcast, but this one thing really gets my goat. It spoils all the good analysis because I have to endure this horrible, flawed misobservation about the foundation of the subject.

But what takes the cake is how he goes on to say, he put the definition outthere, this normative bs abstract description, and when someone explains that braid fits the bill? He's not willing to admit it. He doesn't give a straight answer. He's like, "maybe". Dude, it's your definition, it's very clear, because you made it very clear, if you made it and you can't tell, what the hell good is it? What do you mean "maybe" ?

I'll tell you why he says that though. He's a bloody hypocrite. He puts a definition outthere to discuss, says "this must be how art works" because it fits the bill for what he's thought was art so far.
Then someone goes and shows him something that fits the definition, and he doesn't recognize it as art, so he won't say whether or not its art.

Mads said...

This is clearly self-serving. He won't admit that it does fit the bill, because then he would have to call it art when he clearly don't want to call it that (probably because he has integrity). He won't say the game doesn't fit the bill because he can't argue that without putting out a logically flawed argument (because it bloody well does fit the bill).

So he responds vaguely, because an overt answer would either compromise his integrity or his normative definition (...and going back on that would also compromise his integrity somewhat...).

_His_ definition, which he _insisted_ should be normative, in fact had an inductive source: His own observation and his own feelings about art. And so he reveals that he regards his subjective perspective on it as more worthwhile than his definition. That it is a higher authority than his normative definition; after all, otherwise, answering it in relation to braid would be very simple.

But he won't admit it! He apparently doesn't recognize that anybody elses subjective definition is also a legitimately higher authority than his normative definition. That would, after all, undermine his position.

So at this point, he is the using and accepting a fundamental logical flaw to present a more powerful rhetoric (probably without realizing it, but who knows), and doing it to create a hierarchy of quality, which by itself is pretty awful. If he's realized the inherent contradiction of having a normative definition and what it will do to the discussion, what he's doing is manipulative sophistry when he's bringing it up again. If not, well then it's just a bloody shame.

Then there's the ridiculous segway into the discussion of the definition, "well the first problem humans dealt with in language was normative definitions". Yeah, sure, except no. Normative definition is, pr. (current and inductive) definition context free. It's innately inferior to context-based, inductive definitions. If you go by dictionary definitions for language, your comprehension of even the simplest conversation would be far poorer.

It may have been an early problem for human culture to have a large enough shared context for conversation, sure, but that has nothing to do with normative definitions, which is at most a crutch. The real tool for communicating about complicated things is our rich, natural language (whose words are _defined_ by it's use in all other contexts an individual has had the word in) is much better equiped to handle. Contextual language was the first, biggest problem in language and culture, not context free language.

Essentially, what this post boils down to is:
The definition of art isn't clear or simple, it _shouldn't_ be perverted in a fashion such that it seem to be, and if you have to try to clean it up and make it clear by trying to introduce a normative explanation of what it is, any argument that follows and relies on that definition is useless, because you don't know if there's an underlying flaw or not, _because you're working off an incorrect definition_. Anything you deduce from it is, as a result, possibly tainted.

Andy Warth said...

TL;DR

Mads said...

here's the summary at the end:

The definition of art isn't clear or simple, it _shouldn't_ be perverted in a fashion such that it seems to be, and if you have to try to clean it up and make it clear by trying to introduce a normative explanation of what it is, any argument that follows and relies on that definition is useless, because you don't know if there's an underlying flaw or not, _because you're working off an incorrect definition_. Anything you deduce from it is, as a result, possibly tainted.