The Free, the Just, and the Ugly

Dalrymple’s explanation of the reason for the ugliness of modern art and architecture in this new piece at Taki’s Magazine has me nodding in agreement. I think he nails it.

Since beauty is often and so obviously the product of unjust societies, not only in Europe but everywhere else, we are afraid of it. Beauty is tainted by injustice; and since nowadays we value justice, fairness and equality above all things, and make them the touchstone of value, beauty makes us uneasy. This does not mean that aesthetes should call for unjust regimes: that would be an error of logic. Because beauty is produced in conditions of injustice, it does not mean that conditions of injustice produce beauty. Modern autocracies are aesthetically at least as disastrous as social democracy, indeed usually more so, but they have all the drawbacks, to put it mildly, of autocracies. Our main artistic task is to preserve remnants.

2 thoughts on “The Free, the Just, and the Ugly

  1. Jaxon

    “Since beauty is often and so obviously the product of unjust societies, not only in Europe but everywhere else, we are afraid of it. Beauty is tainted by injustice; and since nowadays we value justice, fairness and equality above all things, and make them the touchstone of value, beauty makes us uneasy.”

    This surely holds true to an extent. I think of the building programme of Pericles – Phidias, Iktinos and kalikrates and the tribute wrung from the Delian league. But really I’d say most people… Leftists hold justice in contempt. Sure, they genuinely like to think of themselves as exemplars of the Golden Rule, they may even be capable of seemingly courageous (actually passionate) acts in the fervour of their chosen cause.

    At the risk of being tedious and reductionist I refer again to the insights of Iain McGilchrist and thinking of a scale of values, but first I quote Dalrymple:

    “Turgenev does not suggest that the landowning widow’s quasi-absolute power is in any way enviable. Although religious in a superficial and sententious way, she regards God as a servant, not a master, and she acknowledges no limits, either God’s or the law’s, to the exercise of her will. The result for her is misery, a permanent state of irritation, dissatisfaction, and hypochondria. The satisfaction of her whims brings no pleasure, precisely because they are whims rather than true desires”

    He might have included paranoia (as I’m sure he does elsewhere in the essay)

    McGilchrist applies his theory of left hemisphere/right hemisphere differences to a hierarchy of values according to Max Scheler:

    “The right hemisphere sees the lower values as deriving their power from the higher ones which they serve; the left hemisphere is reductionist, and accounts for higher values by reference to lower values, its governing values of use and pleasure.”

    Of paranoia, McGilchrist (a psychiatrist) recounts how a patient with a right temporoparietal deficit (which almost certainly entails a partial prosopagnosia; an inability to recognise faces and related to difficulty or inability to perceive depth). She says: “What’s all this with the eyes?”
    And when asked what she means she explains that she had noticed people apparently communicating coded messages with their eyes but could not understand what they were. McGilchrist not surprisingly surmises this was grounds for paranoia.
    I’ll come back to that but terms of the greater scheme of things I think he is really rather too critical of the industrial revolution and our subsequent over reliance on technology etc. I can understand that but I think it is telling that Jacob Bronowski in the Ascent Of Man insists on referring to the Industrial Revolution as the English Revolution with all its homely, domestic, connotations as indeed it did in most cases transform the home for the better.

    Indeed, getting back to Scheler and his Nature Of Sympathy, which was supported by an examination of child development, we get much closer to the nub of our woes.

    Look here https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CJckLUkh9q0 at thirty minutes in where Pinker refers to the problem of the hedonistic excesses of the sixties as a response to the “boring Ozzie and Harriet fifties”; it was not intended by Pinker as a cynical swipe but a sobering reflection.

    Now, I’m virtually entirely ignorant of Ozzie and Harriet but I get the gist. I’ve also never seen the film There’s Something About Kevin but I hazard a guess that it derives its dramatic power from the idea of decent parents producing a problem child. Now that oughta go down well with the Leftists, I mean it can happen to anyone right? And I don’t doubt that it can, I’ve witnessed a less serious version in my own family.

    Now take a look at this
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=g-soc&v=fPeW53IeVA8 from 42:00 – 45:00

    How can family compete with the disposable pleasures of modern living? Hardly conducive to the patient, cultivated, appreciation of beauty let alone development of the moral sentiments. Though the patient, referred to above, is probably not to blame for her condition a great many, I believe, are like her in that they just miss so much of true value, though they can appreciate much on, say, a holiday to Florence it must give rise to a cognitive dissonance and, in the matter of family values, paranoia.

    The fact is, a lot of people, in spite of their adherence to the Golden Rule in theory, revel in the inequality of sexual selection, given the opportunity; Zero Sum Fallacy, negative sum reality. This is where any real guilt, and especially resentment (guilty) really stems from.

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  2. Jaxon

    I think my treatment of courage needs some qualification. Apparently the cour derives from cor which is latin for heart; basically four chambers good, two chambers bad.

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