Sunday, February 6, 2011

Oprah R. Dworkin

"We value great art most fundamentally not because the art as product enhances our lives but because it embodies a performance, a rising to artistic challenge. We value human lives well lived not for the completed narrative, as if fiction would do as well, but because they too embody a performance: a rising to the challenge of having a life to lead."

*puke*

20 comments:

anonymouse said...

That's why I enjoy my tone-deaf uncle's singing so much. Sure, it sounds awful, but witnessing his rising to the artistic challenge (even more challenging for him than for someone with talents!) fills it with greatness.

Anonymous said...

Anonymouse 3:54,

Doesn't that mean that your uncle *didn't* rise to the challenge? Maybe my use of that expression is different from others'. The way I use it, there's a success element in the meaning. One doesn't automatically rise to a challenge by "giving it all they've got".

Anonymous said...

Not only sappy but wrong as well.

Anonymous said...

Ha, he's talkin' like a girl! Girls make me puke!

Anonymous said...

Does he defend the claim? If he defends it -- by making an actual argument -- it isn't puke-worthy.

Anonymous said...

Dworkin cites Wilde, Keats, and Nietzsche in a footnote to the passage; that might count as "making an argument" in some circles.

Anonymous said...

Agree with 10:40: I think the thing to focus on here is not so much the style, but the clear wrongness of the point, or at least, the point's first part.

Anonymous said...

Still puking...

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the pukey readers can pinpoint exactly where the style is notably sappy or puke-inducing? For the most part the language seems innocuous and straightforward.

Perhaps the cliche of "rising to a challenge" is annoying, but it's not a tremendous style crime. Consider most of the key words: value, performance, enhance, embody, well lived. Not exactly the purplest of prose.

anonymouse said...

9:45: My uncle did succeed in several of the goals necessary to singing well. Just not all of them. Moreover, relative to his capacities, he now sings extremely well and, relative to his previous states, he has shown great improvement. For a while when he sang, he didn't realize that he wasn't changing notes or singing the words (like Phil Hartman's Frankenstein's monster singing Christmas tunes). Then he started singing the words, but not changing notes. Now he sings the words and changes notes, but they are nowhere near the right ones and don't go in the right direction. So he is much better than he was, each improvement has involved great struggle, study, and personal overcoming--he has endured years of ridicule and has persisted. It seems to me that he has risen to the challenge of having songs to sing again and again.

Anonymous said...

Whether it's "innocuous" I'll pass over for the moment, but "straightforward?" Not a chance.

I mean, and this is just for starters, he couches his assertions (sic) in this present-tense, active voice language that obscures the distinction between descriptive claims and making normative claims. so way to obfuscate your thesis, there, Dworkin.

Even venturing into the wildest extremes of charity and assuming he's making some normative argument about what we are supposed to be valuing about human lives - about what makes a human life "well lived," his argument blows. He seems to be making a parity of reasoning move to art - we value art not for some functional reason but for "rising to artistic challenge."

This could mean that art is valuable to the extent that it achieves or makes a good effort at achieving its artistic aims. Thus, the parity move would yield the conclusion that a life "well lived" is one that makes a good effort at achieving the aims of human life. If that's the argument, he's screwed, because not only is that not remotely a widely accepted notion for the value of art, but it also leaves us in the dark on what the aims of human life are, unless everyone gets to set his or her own aims, in which case, nice punt, d**khead.

Of course, if he's saying that art is valuable to the extent that it engages with some wooly, ill-defined set of challenges with which all art must contend on some level, then maybe the parity move gets a more plausible, less crazy conclusion (not good, just LESS crazy), but the premise that we value art for such reasons is clearly mistaken, descriptively speaking.

So, to sum up: intentionally equivocal statements of dubiously truthful premises leading to an unhelpful/implausible conclusion. Great philosophy!

Frank O'File said...

Yeah, but he's writing for hedgehogs. You've got to take the intended audience into account when making these judgments.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11.05... I wish I could upvote this comment, Reddit-style.

Glaucon said...

Philosopher's Anonymous. A battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of bullshit.

As for art, all my pictures are confused.

Anonymous said...

"Not only sappy but wrong as well."

At least you understand the quote enough to provide an assessment. I don't even know what the hell it means.

Anonymous said...

"Philosopher's Anonymous. A battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of bullshit."

Now that's some sappy bullshit, right there.

anonymouse said...

Blackburn on Ronnie: 'Dworkin is a very impressive writer, with what his early prey, H.L.A. Hart, is said to have described as a "fluent and somewhat elusive analytic style". He has a keen lawyerly eye for the way to present a case, and is indefatigable in doing so. He knows a great deal, and deploys what he knows with admirable skill. His works are proper objects of wonder, if not always sources of conviction.'


http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=414939

Glaucon said...

"Philosopher's Anonymous. A battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of bullshit."

Now that's some sappy bullshit, right there.


I thought it was nicely ambiguous, actually...

Anonymous said...

11:05 here -

Follow-up, pursuant to some of the shitty writing in Dworkin's latest book, a colleague of mine said he's reached the point in his career where he doesn't have to present arguments or have a readily understandable thesis.

I'm sure he was being serious, but I'm not quite positive whether he meant this is praise.

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