Aesthetic Pluralism and its Costs

The art of progressivism is also the art of doubt.  If the study of aesthetics is the study of value, then one has to take value in art seriously.  Indeed, the question, whether or not art is engaged with value, lies at the core of high modernism.  Nevertheless, as long as one is sufficiently comfortable with some stance on pragmatic truth or even conceptual truth, then one need not disassociate art making from value promulgation.

If the art of fascism is stringent rule-minded expressionism that refers only to itself, then the art of progressivism would require a supporting idea that would tend to disavow stringent rule-following.  Hence to understand progressive art or art-making–for now, the two co-exist as one!–one must first understand fascist art.   I propose that fascist art is stringent rule following that comes from some avowed interest in the not-self, though expressionism is concerned with just that.  By concern, with not-self, I mean, the artist is not interested in any sense of what it is to be a man or a woman or an artist: the biographical facts of works that are rooted in communal and individual choices are rejected.  What matters is the expression itself of some objective fact, which can only reflect objective things that remain true irrespective of the perspective taken on the work.   As soon as the artist looks upon himself, as person, as subject, all view points become true or false but relatively so.  He makes judgments on pragmatic truth, that is whether he exists or whether he is in love or whether there is today, in some corner of the world, some kind of border skirmish.  But whether or not certain other propositions can be thought conceptually true, for instance, propositions on certain religious beliefs, nevertheless he remains interested in their truth or falsity.

It is only when the subjective vision is disavowed and some concrete value is given priority that fascism creeps into art and art-making.  This concrete vision is merciless, since it cannot respect relative value and requires that its own value supersede all others.  Authoritarians project their own value in just these terms.  The fascists speaks of the way war and machinery as a beautiful march to a new world; man is undone here.  The fatherland is the project of this new world, and with it heralds the cleansing of reason so that the favored, perhaps Aryan, reason (of the dictator) becomes the sole objective reason and hence, running top down, becomes cause.  The dictator and his fascist vision are required to be infallible.  By denying and often destroying every other conception of the good, the dictators proves himself to be infallible.

Liberalism rejects these infallible objective values and seeks to support individual reason and individual cause in a non-interventionist manner.  I know what I want, but you cannot claim to know what I want and vice versa because we have not lived each others lives, though we have lived our way.  I want to seek my good, but you can only legitimately intervene on my aspiration for my good, if you know my claim is faulty or irrational.   Since often you cannot know this, you must stay your hand.  Since this is the case for me as well, I must be committed to stay my hand as well.  Hence, mutual non-intervention is required of us due to the sociological fact of doubt and is sanctioned by the normative acceptance of liberalism.  Hence, through liberalism–and yes, the liberal state–we are each fully able to respect each others own conception of the good.

Liberalism requires that each individual be a person who has claim of choice over his own a certain sphere of actions.  However, those choices can be pluralistic and need not function as a numerical accounting system that functions in a hierarchical manner.  Hence liberalism supports pluralism.   The art of progressivism is then not only the art of doubt, because for sociological reasons we cannot know the objective good for and of another person, but is also teh art of pluralism.

This position is then best supported by a position of aesthetic pluralism.  This value requires that an artist think that there are no objectively superior ways of painting in one way relative to another.  There simply are ways of painting in one way, relative to another.  If this is the case, the aesthetic pluralist artist is in a quandary: there are no rules to follow, that are designated as the correct rules; there are no facts of the matter that can support a work that he might create, because there is no superhuman authority who might adjudicate between two competing claims of the truth in works.  The aesthetic pluralist artist is a fallibilist.

The fallibilist artist has every route available to him, but no direction in which to travel.  That is the cost of aesthetic pluralism.  It is a price he pays by choosing one of the available routes.  Where he goes, only he can tell, only after he has reached the destination that, plausibly, remains unknown to him.


~ by Faheem Haider on November 25, 2009.

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