Skip to main content

"Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear."

I've written somewhat jokingly in other venues of aesthetic evil--a notion put forth in some philosophic circles, in David Bowie's Outside, and in the very notion of a 'clip artist'--something I've been thinking about applying to some extent, albeit in an amoral light, in a story about the disenchantment of a hitman with violence. So the idea that morals and aesthetics can be intertwined in complex ways is nothing new.

It is often the case in fiction that evil, good, and the characters which represent them are, perhaps in melodramatic fashion, simplified and distilled to be viewed through a distorted 'less is more' sort of lens. When this is done poorly, we get the stereotypical, lowest-common-denominator sort of product we expect from summer blockbusters and best selling novels sold by the checkout lines of your local supermarket. But it is not out of necissity that such an aesthetic produces lackluster material. One might argue such an approach has resulted in fine children's books, epic poems, and the majority of great and stirring political rhetoric. Regardless, it is true that many of us are pleased by such reductionist perhaps even abstract (as embodied in the examplee of a fully developed Agent Smith, the only truly worthwhile philosophic 'thought' in the Matrix trilogy) accounts of both good and evil. That is to say that we are not just pleased in some way by proper ethical action, but also by wrongful, hurtful, and villainous doings, if only as entertainment, if only as fiction.

Does this implicate us in the wrongdoings? Does this account paint us as perverse, or at least conflicted, imperfect creatures? Well, so what? Is that news?

Maybe. A lot of people hold their aesthetics, their tastes, their dearest fictive loves close to their hearts. They identify themselves with, by, and through that which they enjoy or appreciate. So do morals become entangled with aesthetics in another way. Now, taste is made into a means of measuring oneself and judging others. Elitists and those who despise them (for what reason other than the aesthetic?) both fall in to this practice. Is it wrong, a mistake, irrational? Not so fast.

Ethical and aesthetic claims share some important properties. They are both nomological in nature; they are value judgments. As such, they may very both be mere matters of preference, and if not, if they are relative to something else or even objective, the two might be so for the same reasons. This is often the thinking of moral philosophers who do not want to discard an objective philosophy of art, taste, and the like for fear such an act might snowball into their own field of inquiry--and then into all structured thought, all philosophy, cry the alarmists--leaving us without a definitive right or wrong. If this worry is correct, there is something importantly similar about the types of claims about ethics and about aesthetics. I tend towards the opinion that both are arbitrary and preferential, but are also important, and can and often should be used in a manner similar to that of moral and aesthetic objectivists.

There is no reason that one should not be able to judge an act, product, or person on moral or aesthetic grounds just because such matters are subjective.

And judge people do. You should see how heated some people get when I tell them I thought Gladiator was a mediocre film--or how happy others are when they hear someone agrees with them on that point. If you tell videogame fanatics their pasttime of choice lacks substance and style when it comes to plot, story, or general writing, many will be at your throat. This shouldn't surprise anyone, but perhaps the implications, as discussed above, should.

I dunno.


Popular posts from this blog

Well now.

I think I'm going to try to revive my online writing habits, outside of Facebook.

And what have I been thinking or feeling in the interim, across the last couple years or so? Well, I'm glad you asked.

In part, this.

Pointless Ruminations on the Absurd

The world around us is in no way required to conform to our expectations, beliefs, or desires. Rather, it is all but guaranteed to disappoint us, at least once or twice a lifetime. The loftier (or more deeply felt) our ideals, the more this may be true.

When we accept this incongruity and are keenly aware of it, but cannot change our thinking, absurdity steps in. The world no longer quite makes sense. It is untethered from rational or moral concerns, adrift in a bizarre joke told by no one.
Desire for normative order is often irrational and misplaced. Placing ethical constraints on amoral matters makes no sense. Yet these appear (sometimes, seemingly) inescapable conclusions. Hence the sensation of absurdity.

We can apply these incongruous demands to anything and anyone. But this is not a universal philosophy. It is a philosophy of the self, a diagnosis.

Happy Valentine's Day

Mindful concentration and earnest effort make health, safety, and creativity more likely, but there are no guarantees. Every plateau has a cliff. Each incline can become a decline. These paths require attention. When we traverse uncertain ground in the darkness, if the wind sweeps past, we may keep our feet or we may lose our footing and tumble down.
When I requested February 14th off from work, I didn't expect to spend the day alone, you know. Now, it's just another day on which I should be doing chores. There is so much to do around my small apartment. It's almost amazing. But of course I realize, keeping our spaces clean requires persistent effort, as well.
Still, there are cliffs all around. Some of them seem treacherous, others quite comfortable.