The Aesthetics Symposium

A discussion of Ayn Rand's philosophy of art inspired by Louis Torres and Michelle Marder Kamhi's book, What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand. This is the first comprehensive scholarly forum on Rand's aesthetics ever published



Volume 2, Number 2 (Spring 2001), Issue #4

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION, pp. 251-52

WHAT ART DOES, pp. 253-63

LESTER HUNT

Hunt argues that, despite its being too narrow in the topics it treats, Louis Torres and Michelle Marder Kamhi's What Art Is offers a fascinating account of Ayn Rand's views on art and, in addition, constitutes a major contribution to Objectivist aesthetics.

WHAT ART IS: WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE?, pp. 265-90

JEFF RIGGENBACH

Riggenbach maintains that Torres and Kamhi's What Art Is adds to our understanding of Rand's key aesthetic concepts and is particularly valuable for the writings by other thinkers that it brings to bear on Rand's ideas. It is, however, remiss in failing to include any discussion of Stephen C. Pepper and in failing to discern the true importance of Susanne K. Langer's works for a fuller understanding of Rand's aesthetics. It errs also in its discussion of music, photography, and cinema. Though unnecessarily marred by flawed copyediting, it is an important work.

NORDAU'S DEGENERATION AND TOLSTOY'S WHAT IS ART? STILL LIVE, pp. 291-97

GENE H. BELL-VILLADA

Bell-Villada argues that What Art Is, by Torres and Kamhi, opens with a useful exposition of Rand's aesthetic theories. Unfortunately, once that task is completed, the book becomes mostly a rant against the twentieth century avant-garde, with little in the way of suggested alternatives. Though they offer a causal explanation for Modernism as the product of its practitioners' schizophrenia, they make no attempt at a socio-historical accounting for the emergence and triumph of vanguard art. Their dislike of the bleakness of much Modernist literature shows a lack of understanding of the dark times in which its authors lived.

CRITICAL MISINTERPRETATIONS AND MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: ERRORS AND OMISSIONS BY KAMHI AND TORRES, pp. 299-310

ROGER E. BISSELL

Bissell points out scholarly and ahistorical lapses in Kamhi and Torres's Journal of Ayn Rand Studies essay, "Critical Neglect of Ayn Rand's Theory of Art" (Fall 2000). He argues that they have misrepresented and neglected the views of others, and have inaccurately depicted the extent to which his own essays liken and contrast music with the other arts. Bissell criticizes their failure to acknowledge Rand's "microcosm" view of art as "re-creation of reality," which is fundamentally at odds with the Kamhi-Torres perspective.

RAND'S AESTHETICS: A PERSONAL VIEW, pp. 311-34

JOHN HOSPERS

Hospers endeavors to relate his thoughts on philosophy of art to those of Ayn Rand, both in her published work and in discussions he had with her. In such areas as artistic creativity, artistic expression, representation, the role of feelings in art, truth and knowledge in the arts, sense of life, beauty, and aesthetic value, Hospers describes his agreements and disagreements with Rand.

REASONING ABOUT ART, pp. 335-40

DAVID KELLEY

Kelley discusses the relationship between philosophy and sense of life and explains why he and William Thomas do not consider sense of life essential to the explanation of why art is a major human value, though it is essential to explaining how people create and experience art. Kelley also challenges the claim by Kamhi and Torres (in their article, "Critical Neglect of Ayn Rand's Theory of Art," Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Fall 2000) that aesthetics, as a branch of philosophy, is logically prior to ethics and on a par with epistemology in fundamentality.

ART: WHAT A CONCEPT, pp. 341-59

JOHN ENRIGHT

Enright examines difficulties in Rand's concept of art, particularly in light of fundamental issues raised about architecture by Torres and Kamhi in their book, What Art Is. Neither architecture nor music presents a "re-creation" in the narrow sense of the term. Rand insists at times that art cannot involve utilitarian function, but elsewhere sees such functions as compatible with aesthetic effect. Enright argues for the aesthetic power of architecture. In evaluating an alternative definition of art, he views the concept as invaluable to our understanding of a profound human need.

GUGGENHEIMS AND GRAND CANYONS, pp. 361-82

BARRY VACKER

Vacker argues that Torres and Kamhi's What Art Is seems destined to become the seminal explication of Randian aesthetics. But the authors conflate a psychology of art with a philosophy of aesthetics, and, in so doing, embrace several aesthetic divides that have plagued modern arts and culture: art versus beauty, art versus material function, and order versus chaos. What Art Is presents a theory of aesthetics that is inherently anti-aesthetic, ultimately seeking to preserve a past order against the chaotic future.

ON METAPHYSICAL VALUE-JUDGMENTS, pp. 383-86

MICHAEL NEWBERRY

Newberry argues that, contrary to Rand, Torres and Kamhi (authors of What Art Is) do not recognize the connections between major art forms and the metaphysical questions they seek to answer. Many of the authors' conclusions, including their re-definition of Rand's concept of art, are based on a negation of these connections. But such links are crucial to Rand's concept of metaphysical value-judgments; Newberry provides examples in support of Rand's view.

THE PUZZLE OF MUSIC AND EMOTION IN RAND'S AESTHETICS, pp. 387-9

RANDALL R. DIPERT

Dipert argues that, at first glance, Rand's view of representational arts, such as literature and the visual arts, might seem to have little applicability to pure music. Nevertheless, Rand took music without words as a serious art form, and struggled to develop a plausible theory of music. As Torres and Kamhi note in What Art Is, Rand's approach probably contradicted certain elements of her full aesthetic theory. But her theory of music and its relationship to emotions offers some fascinating suggestions that accord with--and in some respects go beyond--the best recent thinking in musical aesthetics.

REVIEWS

THE BENEFITS AND HAZARDS OF DIALECTICAL LIBERTARIANISM, pp. 395-448

RODERICK T. LONG

Long reviews Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism, the long-awaited final volume of Chris Matthew Sciabarra's "Dialectics and Liberty" trilogy. Long finds Total Freedom to be an impressive scholarly achievement that makes a compelling case for the existence of, and the need to further promote, affinities between the seemingly disparate intellectual traditions of libertarianism and dialectics. However, Long argues that Sciabarra's neglect of certain crucial distinctions vitiates to some extent his case for dialectics, his critique of Murray Rothbard's anarchism, and his application of the Objectivist theory of abstraction to the problem of internal relations.

DISCUSSION

REPLY TO JOHNSON AND RASMUSSEN: ANOTHER LOOK AT ABORTION, pp. 449-56

TIBOR R. MACHAN

Machan argues that Gregory R. Johnson and David Rasmussen (in "Rand on Abortion: A Critique," Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Spring 2000) are mistaken to claim that Rand should have embraced the pro-life position on the issue of a woman's right to seek an abortion. Rand believed that a fetus is only a potential, not an actual, human being. So killing a fetus is not homicide, any more than killing a seed would be the killing of a flower. Machan's alternative view of abortion is within the spirit of Rand's position, while escaping Johnson and Rasmussen's criticisms.

REPLY TO JOHNSON AND RASMUSSEN: RAND THE MODERATE, pp. 457-67

ALEXANDER TABARROK

Tabarrok argues that Gregory Johnson and David Rasmussen (in their essay, "Rand on Abortion: A Critique," Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Spring 2000) misconstrue Rand's theory of individual rights and her position on abortion. Rand's views fit neatly within her Aristotelian philosophic framework. Moreover, Tabarrok defends Rand's views on the family as reasonable and well within the feminist mainstream.

REJOINDER TO MACHAN AND TABARROK: RAND ON ABORTION, REVISITED, pp. 469-85

GREGORY R. JOHNSON and DAVID RASMUSSEN

The authors defend their critique of Ayn Rand's views on abortion, arguing that their critics miss its main points. Tibor Machan and Alexander Tabarrok actually depart from Rand's own position under the guise of defending it; they introduce a non-Randian distinction between being a human organism and being a moral person.

CONTRIBUTOR BIOGRAPHIES

The Aesthetics Symposium

Volume 2, Number 2 (Spring 2001), Issue #4

GENE H. BELL-VILLADA

Professor (and former Chair), Department of Romance Languages, Weston Hall, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts 01267, has published essays, reviews, fiction, and satires in numerous journals, including The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, In These Times, Monthly Review, Commonweal, Salmagundi, Triquarterly, and The Nation. His books on Borges and on Garc¡rquez are now standard classroom items, and his Art for Art's Sake and Literary Life was a finalist for the 1997 National Book Critics Circle Award. He has also published two books of fiction, The Carlos Chadwick Mystery and The Pianist Who Liked Ayn Rand: A Novella & 13 Stories..

ROGER E. BISSELL

Is a professional musician and graduate student in psychology at California Coast University. He is also a writer on psychology and philosophy. His work has appeared in a number of publications, including Reason Papers, Objectivity, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vera Lex, and ART Ideas.

RANDALL R. DIPERT

C. S. Peirce Professor of American Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York 14260, has published on aesthetics, the philosophy of mind, and logic, including Artifacts, Art Works, and Agency (1993).

JOHN ENRIGHT

A poet and computer consultant, has written and lectured on many aspects of the aesthetics of poetry. His essays have appeared in Objectivity, Full Context, Objectively Speaking and Nomos. He is the author of Starbound And Other Poems (Axton).

JOHN HOSPERS

Professor Emeritus (Department of Philosophy, University of Southern California), 8229 Lookout Mt. Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90046, email: was a professor of philosophy at Brooklyn College in the early 1960s when he met Ayn Rand on the occasion of Rand's speech at the college in the spring of 1960. She invited him to her home, and they had regular discussions for several years prior to his moving to California. He was Chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Southern California for some years, and is now retired and living in Los Angeles. He has written more than a hundred articles, and his best-known books include Introduction to Philosophical Analysis and Human Conduct. He was the first candidate for U. S. President for the Libertarian Party (1972) and still gives talks to various groups, such as the International Society for Individual Liberty.

LESTER H. HUNT

Professor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 600 North Park Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53706; is the author of Nietzsche and the Origin of Virtue (Routledge) and Character and Culture (Rowman and Littlefield).

GREGORY R. JOHNSON

is a philosopher in private practice in Atlanta.

DAVID KELLEY

Executive Director, The Objectivist Center, 11 Raymond Avenue, Suite 31, Poughkeepsie, New York 12603, is the author of The Evidence of the Senses, The Art of Reasoning, A Life of One's Own, and numerous other articles, monographs, and reviews. A new edition of his Truth and Toleration, re-titled The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand: Truth and Toleration in the Objectivist Movement, has just been published by The Objectivist Center and Transaction Publishers.

RODERICK T. LONG

Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, 6080 Haley Center, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama 36849, A.B. Harvard 1985, Ph.D. Cornell 1992, is the author of Reason and Value: Aristotle versus Rand (The Objectivist Center, 2000), and various articles on ethics, libertarianism, and Greek philosophy.

TIBOR R. MACHAN

Distinguished Fellow and Professor at the Leatherby Center of Chapman University, Argyros School of Business and Economics, Orange, California 92866, is also Professor Emeritus at Auburn University's Department of Philosophy and Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution (Stanford, California). He has written, among other works, Ayn Rand (Peter Lang, 1999), Generosity: Virtue in the Civil Society (Cato Institute, 1998), and Classical Individualism: The Supreme Importance of Each Human Being (Routledge, 1998). He is editor of the series "Philosophic Reflections on a Free Society" at the Hoover Institution Press.

MICHAEL NEWBERRY

Theophiliskou 5, 85100 Rhodes, Greece, is a painter who has exhibited his work throughout the world. He taught at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and has given lectures on the creative process and form versus formlessness at The Objectivist Center's Summer Seminars. In July 1999, he was featured in CNN International's "The Art Club," which had a worldwide audience..

DAVID RASMUSSEN

is an independent scholar living in Carson City, Nevada.

JEFF RIGGENBACH

Is the author of In Praise of Decadence (Prometheus, 1998). He has been a working critic of the arts (most notably of literature, music, and film) since 1972, publishing widely in newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Jose Mercury News, Berkeley Monthly, Libertarian Review, Reason, and Inquiry. From 1996 to 2000, he taught courses in philosophy, music appreciation, popular culture, and writing at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco.

DAVID RASMUSSEN

is an independent scholar living in Carson City, Nevada.

ALEXANDER TABARROK


Vice President and Director of Research, The Independent Institute, 100 Swan Way, Oakland, California 94621- 1428, received his Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. He has taught economics at the University of Virginia and Ball State University. His papers have appeared in The Journal of Law and Economics, Public Choice, Economic Inquiry, The Journal of Health Economics, The Journal of Theoretical Politics, and many other academic journals. In addition, he has contributed opinion-editorial pieces to magazines and newspapers across the United States.

BARRY VACKER


Assistant Professor, Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas 75275. He is the author of many articles on aesthetics and technology. His forthcoming book, Chaos at the Edge of Utopia, offers a radical reinterpretation of the aesthetics and technologies of utopia, past and future.