[NetBehaviour] on art and knowledge

Michael Szpakowski m at michaelszpakowski.org
Fri Sep 28 21:49:32 CEST 2018

HI Edward I just wanted to respond very briefly to your comments ( and, in passing, to a remark of Alan's arising from them). I'll say again you engagement with the piece is generous and it's lovely to have someone both read it and think about it hard enough to write a very cogent response.
The problem I have with what you write, fluent and compelling as it is ( and as I would expect from you), is that you are addressing a different piece from the one I wrote and in the process you erect a giant straw person.
At no point do I every use the word 'value' in relation to art . My compass here is much narrower -I address simply the question of art and knowledge, as in the title. 
I try and show that by a traditional philosophical definition of knowledge it is unhelpful and indeed ultimately either trivial or nonsensical to assert that all art produces knowledge in that sense of 'true facts about the world'. Equally problematic is a world where by bureaucratic ( research council, academic &c) fiat art is divided into knowledge producing or not. I then look at another candidate for knowledge - Ryle's 'knowledge how' and observe that this is clearly a well founded concept but not reducible to the first kind and I take this fact as encouragement to seek other distinct phenonema that one might reasonably term knowledge. The one I describe and dub knowledge-with I assert is found in all art works. ( If I have to I'd be prepared to limit that to 'all art works to date' although I actually think this is not necessary). I deliberately do not raise the question of how in any specific case this might contribute to the 'value' of any art work except to suggest at the end that along with other factors it might do so in some way ( and in fairness I do imply by the presence of the Harman quote at the start that my ideas might help us in fleshing out his insight)
I am aware that to some extent my suggested universality of this form of knowledge in artworks might be regarded as definitional ( and hence contrary to Alan's Wittgensteinian proclivities, which I share) I would reply to this that its presence might very well be a necessary but not sufficient condition of arthood. I can imagine all sorts of things conveying my 'knowledge with' -a particularly sensitive letter of condolence for example, without the thing  remotely becoming a candidate for being art. 
I don't believe that this would undermine a Wittgensteinian approach since even in the canonic 'games', if we generalise enough we can find some  basic condition necessary to all our examples -  'involves in some sense a human being' ( true even of two chess playing computers) or 'can be glossed in words'.Far from being formulaic I'm incredibly tentative about drawing wider conclusions about value or even definition from what I write.
There is a great deal to chew over in what you write - I agree with some parts & disagree with others but that would be a different ( although interesting) discussion from the one my piece attempts to start...
but again, thanks!cheersMichael

      From: Edward Picot via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
 To: netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org 
Cc: Edward Picot <julian.lesaux at gmail.com>
 Sent: Thursday, September 27, 2018 8:07 PM
 Subject: Re: [NetBehaviour] on art and knowledge
 Infuriatingly, I can access the full article if I click the link while I'm at work, but I can only access the precis if I click it at home. This didn't stop me reading it - when I was supposed to be getting on with something else - and I'll draw a veil over the question of how many patients are now dead as a result, when they ought to be still alive. But the worst thing is that my comments will have to be based on how I remember your article, because I don't have the actual text in front of me. From what I remember, you did rather a good job of demolishing other people's ideas about what might constitute the 'value' of art, but I was a little bit more suspicious when you came to your own ideas on the same subject. As I remember these came down to (a) the best art is the art which provokes in us the widest/most intense range of interpretations/reactions, and (b) art teaches us how to live. Both of these sound a bit like F R Leavis to me - in fact there was a whole school of literary criticism, particularly based in Cambridge, which was founded on the ideas that the best literature teaches us how to experience life more fully, distinguish and understand our own ideas, emotions and aesthetic responses more scrupulously, and thereby become more fully aware and morally capable people. This was used as an argument in favour of (a) doing literary studies at University level, and in fact making the study of literature (and by implication art more generally) into one of the most important University departments; and (b) preserving a canon of the 'best' literature and trying to make sure that it was routinely taught in schools. In other words it was a very 'highbrow' argument; only the best literature could have the sought-after uplifting effect; so in the end it came down to 'Reading Shakespeare can make you a better person, but reading Longfellow can't', and then down to arguments about who deserved to be in the canon and who didn't. Henry James and Jane Austen - in (because they're ironic and morally scrupulous). Dickens - out (too much of a showman, too sentimental - until Leavis had a change of heart and suddenly decided 'Hard Times' was a grownup novel). T S Eliot in, Milton out. Dante better than Milton. John Donne better than Spencer. And so forth.
 Then along came Structuralism and said, 'Actually, we only find value in art because we've been trained to do so; an image means one thing if you see it in a museum and something entirely different if you see it on the front of somebody's T-shirt; the whole thing, the whole act of interpretation, our whole response to art, is a cultural construct, and the context in which we do our viewing/reading/listening is everything; it's probably more important than the work of art itself'. Which I don't entirely buy, but it had the effect, in about the 1970s, of knocking down the whole 'art makes you a better person' edifice.
 Basically I think I shy away from any attempt to define what art does for us. I do think it can make us better people - or at least it can enrich our lives by giving us experiences we wouldn't have had otherwise. I do also think that some art is better than other art, and the breadth and depth and range of its effect have got something to do with how you would calibrate the differences. In other words, if I had to put my money anywhere, I might put it somewhere very close to where you've put yours. But I don't like to see any of this written down as a formula, because it always seems to come out wrong. I'm a great believer in responding to individual works of art on a case-by-case basis. And I'm also a believer, as someone who tries to be creative himself, in just trying to make the stuff that feels right, without worrying too much about philosophical justifications.
 On 25/09/18 23:08, Michael Szpakowski wrote:
 > Hi Edward -that link should take you into a screen readable version.> The way the thing is licensed means that's all I can send unless> people get the hard copy when it's out ( not sure when)... Mail me> personally if you still can't get into it... ( & thanks for> looking!) cheers m.> > > ------------------------- *From:* Edward Picot via NetBehaviour> <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> *To:*> netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org *Cc:* Edward Picot> <julian.lesaux at gmail.com> *Sent:* Tuesday, September 25, 2018 6:02> PM *Subject:* Re: [NetBehaviour] on art and knowledge> > Michael,> > I can't get into the full text! Do you need a login or something?> > Edward> > > On 25/09/18 11:46, Michael Szpakowski wrote:>> Hi folks I have a piece on this topic coming up in a forthcoming>> issue of the International Journal of Art and Design Education. >> They've posted a public 'read-only' copy of it here: >> https://rdcu.be/7BPg>> >> comments, responses, disagreements, whatever most welcome! cheers >> m.>> >> >> _______________________________________________ NetBehaviour>> mailing list NetBehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>> <mailto:NetBehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> >> https://lists.netbehaviour.org/mailman/listinfo/netbehaviour> > _______________________________________________ NetBehaviour mailing> list NetBehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> <mailto:NetBehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> > https://lists.netbehaviour.org/mailman/listinfo/netbehaviour> > > > > _______________________________________________ NetBehaviour mailing> list NetBehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org > https://lists.netbehaviour.org/mailman/listinfo/netbehaviour
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