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Re: artlangs as engelangs

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>
Date:Friday, July 20, 2007, 19:36

On Fri, 20 Jul 2007 15:12:19 +0100, And Rosta wrote:

> Jörg Rhiemeier, On 20/07/2007 13:50: > > Hallo! > > > > On Thu, 19 Jul 2007 23:40:37 +0100, And Rosta wrote: > > > >> andrew, On 18/07/2007 04:54: > >>> I did wonder, at one point, if the definition of an artlang is > >>> essentially an engineered language with a subjective set of aesthetics > >>> as its criteria. But that's just silly! > > > > It is indeed silly. You cannot objectivize subjective > > aesthetic criteria. It has been tried in the past; at best, > > it stifles artistic creativity because artists timidly avoid > > trying out new ideas, at worst, it leads to book burnings and > > death camps. > > The rhetorical force of your statement implies that you mean > "lead to" in its usual causal sense -- be a part of a chain > of causation. Yet the aesthetical prescriptivism you describe > is at most an accompaniment to book burnings and death camps, > and it is perfectly possible for either (aesth. prescrip. > on one hand, burnings/camps on the other) to occur without the other.
True. But aesthetic prescriptivism and hate against "non-conformous" art often go hand in hand. I said "at worst", please note. There are of course milder forms of aesthetic prescriptivism, such as museum custodians refusing to acquire experimental works, or art professors giving bad marks to students who attempt to break out of the conventions of the art. Such prescriptivism of course cannot be likened to the atrocities of totalitarian regimes - but it is clearly undesirable because it stifles artistic creativity.
> Let me be clear: I am not advocating aesthetical prescriptivism; > I am simply disputing your argument against it.
No offense taken. But your message read to me as a statement *in favour of aesthetic prescriptivism*, especially given your words about "bullshit and aesthetically bankrupt shite" (see below) - what else is that than an instance of aesthetic prescriptivism? What was your point in talking that way about modern art if you did not want to condemn it?
> >> It must be possible in principle for some artlangy design criteria > >> that are in some sense 'subjective' to nevertheless be explicit and > >> 'objectively' assessable (where 'objective' means at least 'subject > >> to intersubjective agreement); and in such a case the conlang could > >> be viewed as an engelang. But it would seem perverse -- contrary > >> to the spirit of art -- to assess a work of art in terms of how > >> successfully it achieves its stated goals. > > > > How do you objectivize subjective criteria such as "beauty"? > > Who is to decide what is beautiful and what is not? This is > > dangerous territory. Surely, we do not want anything like > > a "taste police" as in the Third Reich or the USSR under > > Stalin. Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, and de gustibus > > non est disputandum. > > > > It is difficult enough to operationalize such criteria as > > "ease of learning", "concision" or "computer tractability"; > > but trying to objectivize criteria such as "beauty" only > > leads to totalitarianism and stifles individual creativity. > > I said, in essence, that 'objectivization' of 'subjective' > aesthetic criteria is possible but undesirable. You then reply > by first briefly challenging my assertion that it is possible > and then you slide into saying how undesirable it is, as if > this is still somehow part of a disagreement with what I had said.
I apologize for the misunderstanding, but your statements read to me as if you were of the opinion that objectivization of subjective criteria was not only possible but also made sense. What you rejected was to judge a work of art against what the artist himself stated to be his intention - in my opinion an approach as legitimate as any other. You seemed to claim that the "goal statement" of the artist himself was irrelevant because subjective aesthetic criteria could and should be objectivized, and if an artist stated otherwise, he'd do so only because he wanted to vindicate a work that was objectively of bad quality. What regards the "slide into saying how undesirable it is", I would not call it that. My opinion is that trying to objectivize "beauty" is meaningless, and from that it *follows* that aesthetic prescriptivism is faulty - and because it impedes artistic creativity, it is undesirable. Why is that illogical to you?
> Anyway, let me turn to your questions: > > How do you objectivize subjective criteria such as "beauty"? > > Some criteria are more amenable to objectivization than others. > For example 'tempo' (in music, film editing, verse, narrative > pacing...).
True; parameters such as the number of notes, cuts etc. within a given time interval can of course be measured. But that doesn't really mean much - to judge whether the measured tempo is appropriate to the "subject" of the work remains bound to be subjective.
> As for beauty, it helps if you specify who the criterion > would have the work of art be beautiful to. For instance, > beautiful to the artist; or beautiful to people in general. > These are empirically investigable.
Sure. There have been opinion polls and other surveys. But that does not mean that art that goes against "common opinion" is bad art! That would be sheepish conformism.
> > Who is to decide what is beautiful and what is not? > > The quesstion has a faulty presupposition. > > > On Fri, 20 Jul 2007 01:56:19 +0100, And Rosta wrote: > > > >> Mark J. Reed, On 19/07/2007 23:51: > >>> On 7/19/07, And Rosta <and.rosta@...> wrote: > >>>> But it would seem perverse -- contrary to the spirit of art -- to > >>>> assess a work of art in terms of how > >>>> successfully it achieves its stated goals. > >>> Funny, that seems like a perfectly reasonable way to assess a work of > >>> art to me, well within the spirit of artistic endeavors. > >> Works of art usually don't have stated goals. Even when their > >> authors do state their goals, I, like most people, would see > >> that as extrinsic to the work of art. It's true that a lot of > >> conceptualist avantgardist contemporary art is now almost > >> mandatorily accompanied by a statement by the artist of what > >> the work's goals are, but that really just underlines what > >> bullshit and aesthetically bankrupt shite that variety of art is. > > > > I think you are too harsh on that kind of art. Granted, some of > > that work may be aesthetically bland, and goal statements made > > by the artists often try to gloss over that. But that doesn't mean > > that such art is "bullshit and aesthetically bankrupt shite". > > True. It is for other reasons that it is "bullshit and aesthetically > bankrupt shite" -- reasons not really germane to this discussion.
Which reasons? And if it is "not really germane to this discussion", why at all use such strong language?
> > By making such statements, you assume the role of a totalitarian > > "taste police". We do not need something like that. We have had > > that in the past, and we have seen where it leads to. Do you want > > that back? > > I exercise my critical faculties in a philosophical matter of > aesthetics, and this prompts you to earnestly ask me whether > I wish for the return of death camps? Ahem.
No, I don't accuse you of that. What I accuse you of is a faulty kind of objectivism - the idea that there is such a thing as objectively measurable beauty. That oozes out of every pore of your post, even if you now try to claim the opposite. You talked like an ultraconservative art professor who thinks the last good sculptor in history was Arno Breker. No, I don't assume that you want death camps back - but you appear to have a similarly absolutist idea of "beauty" as those people who do.
> Let's consider these rhetorical strategies of yours to be quirks > of temperament, that I should smile off as foibles.
I admit that I get quite temperamental when it comes to aesthetical prescriptivism and censorship of non-conformist art (which is not the same, I know, but quite close to each other). This is because I have a stake in the issue. I am an artist myself, and like to experiment and explore the possibilities of art beyond the trodden paths.
> >> I, like most people, assess works of art according to how they > >> delight me, how they move me, how they transport me, how profound > >> they are, what insights they give me, and so forth. > > > > So do I, but I am always aware that my assessment of art is > > entirely subjective, and I don't expect others to get at the > > same conclusions. > > I on the other hand observe that people are often able to provide > rational justifications for their assessment of art, and that > individuals' assessments of and responses to works of art > typically form clusters of intersubjective agreement.
Such clusters do indeed exist; they are often labelled "schools" or "styles". No doubt. But does that mean that certain schools are "better" than others? No.
> I find fallacious the widely-held notion that the subjectivity > of aesthetic response renders it impervious to rational or > empirical scrutiny and interrogation.
Surely, such empirical scrutiny is possible; but what you appear to claim is that there are *objective criteria to decide what is good art and what not*, and this notion I find fallacious. For example, one could say about a given conlang that it is not naturalistic, because there are things in it one would never find in natlangs - but that *doesn't mean it is a bad conlang*. It could only be considered a failure if the author claimed it was naturalistic. I tend to prefer naturalistic conlangs over non-naturalistic ones, but I would *never* say that non-naturalistic conlangs were per se bad conlangs, and I have seen non-naturalistic conlangs which I found to be ingenious and interesting.
> > Conclusion: Certain criteria just refuse to be objectivized. > > And that makes the difference between an artlang and an engelang. > > I presume that it is clear, from what I have already said, > that I think this is mistaken.
You think this is mistaken because you believe in objective beauty. I think this is not mistaken because I don't believe in objective beauty. (Apart from noting that not all artlangs are meant to be beautiful. Surely, Tolkien's Black Speech is an artlang; nevertheless, it is clear that T. made it (to his taste) as ugly as he could.) There are certainly border cases, though.
> Not that it has many implications, > though, since I'm pretty sure we'd agree on which conlangs we'd > classify as artlangs and which as engelangs.
Surely, there are border cases. But we probably indeed agree that, for instance, Sindarin is an artlang and Lojban an engelang. There is, however, no clearly drawn line; what, for instance, about Henrik Theiling's conlangs? ... brought to you by the Weeping Elf


And Rosta <and.rosta@...>