Dr. Kwasniewski's Taxonomy and Seven Theses on Music
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    Wow Dr. Kwasniewski, that was great! How do you make recordings like that. I write choral music as well, but I don't have the means to produce recordings of my compositions with a chorus all the time.
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 798
    Here's how I know its completely opinion: name something you think is cheap or ugly and tell me why.

    I realize I'm slow at this, but how does this tell you that my conviction that something is cheap or ugly only an opinion? Because I can give a reason for it? Or because you think I can't?
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    Because all reasons given for what you think or believe are based on standards chosen by you. There is an inherent bias. No matter how you respond to that question, though your reasons may be valid, your answer will not be factual, but your opinion based on personally chosen standards. One can base their decisions about what is beautiful based on academic training, religious teaching, personal experience, upbringing, etc., but the standards one uses will always be their choice. The idea of what is beautiful is in the eye of the beholder. The phrase "Bartok better than Babbitt" has been tossed around on this thread several times, but I ask: How do you know that Bartok is better than Babbitt? The answer will always be based on a set of standards chosen by the person answering the question, whether those standards were created by the person answering or not. You can answer the question any way you like, but I can always refute it with my own set of standards, whether I choose them from pre-existing ones, or I create new ones for the sake of arguing with you about it. In that case, the discussion becomes completely useless, because we would essentially be arguing about whose opinion is better. When forming a comparative analysis, there is always bias in the result. The bottom line: what you think is always your opinion. Case in point: where in academic literature (assuming we want to use academic expertise as the standard for deciding which is better) does it say that Bartok is better than Babbitt? I warn you though, any expert that states he or she "likes" or "prefers" Bartok over Babbitt is giving you an opinion, and not an academic fact. Any discourse you find on the subject will likely be based on a specific set of standards chosen by the author, such as harmonic complexity, melodic interest (interest to whom?), use of chromaticism, artistic merit (based on which standards?), historical significance (who decides what is historically significant, and how?). Any reason you give for why you think something is cheap or ugly can be used as a reason for why it is beautiful, depending on with whom you are speaking.
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  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,354
    anyone who is consistent will see that, however much leeway is allowed for taste, nevertheless the beautiful, like its companions, the good and the true, is not merely subjective, but is based on objective criteria that already point us towards the divine.


    I basically agree with this, and I thought that it was more-or-less the basic opinion of most of the people here. I was actually surprised that I was so lonesome in my agreement with the post in question.



    Some caveats or complications:

    I think there's a third category beside (or above) subjective and objective.

    To speak about beauty not being subjective (that is - it isn't 'whatever you want') doesn't mean it is objective (that is - measurable and definable).

    I think the dichotomy between subjective (feelings) and objective (standards) frames the whole thing wrong.

    There's a third something that is ill-defined in our modern philosophical language. Religious people might call it 'transcendent.' Humanists (the cool ones) use words like 'emergent.' The author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance speaks of 'Quality.'

    When Prof. K speaks about "objective standards," I think he means this beyond-myself value, a worthiness which is independent of the opinions of any individual people. But I DON'T think that "objective" is the right word, because it implies two things which are contrary to the Truth:
    -the existence of a subject who can apply objective criteria
    -the existence of objective criteria, which, by definition, must be deterministic and absolute.

    What I believe Prof. K is essentially saying - and the thing I fully agree with - is that some works, and some artists, and even some genres and periods are more transcendent than others.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,354
    .
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,354
    (I just wrote something brilliant and then lost it... AAARGH)

    Basically it was something like...


    Any discourse you find on the subject will likely be based on a specific set of standards chosen by the author, such as harmonic complexity, melodic interest (interest to whom?), use of chromaticism, artistic merit (based on which standards?), historical significance (who decides what is historically significant, and how?). Any reason you give for why you think something is cheap or ugly can be used as a reason for why it is beautiful, depending on with whom you are speaking.


    NO.

    A work (or a body of work) is great, or beautiful, simply because it so. Its quality is a transcendent property which is absolute and yet ultimately undiscoverable.

    The objective measurements and criteria are applied ex post facto as a way to explain or understand what it is that made the thing great or beautiful.

    Palestrina (et al) isn't a great composer because he followed all the rules in a species counterpoint textbook. Rather, Palestrina is simply great, and counterpoint is taught a particular way because it helps developing musicians understand (a bit) what is going on in that music.

    To put it another way:

    A subjective approach to liturgy leads to the goofiness we have come to expect in the last 40 years - the tyranny of feelings, the wasteland of deconstructionism, the self-centered worship of the individual and/or the human community.

    Understandably, many react against this insanity by proposing OBJECTIVE REALITY as some kind of cure. But this "opposite" isn't better. An objective approach to liturgy is what got us the Pauline Missal in the first place: the idea that there are some measurable and knowable criteria with which a liturgy can be judged and, ultimately, fashioned.

    The Mass is Transcendent simply because it is. We can study each of its parts and its internal logic, and try to explain what the effect of singing the Introit is or holding a particular posture. But that study, those objective measurements and subjective judgements are made after a recognition, an encounter, which is neither subjective nor objective. It is simply True.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Adam, your third maxim is in concert with both our shared affections and adherence for the "attributes" of great ars celebrandi, AND Peter's theses. However, it still requires an act of will, a submission of ego that triggers discipline within us.
    All of the chatter here and at CCW about the "obvious" primacy of Western classical music traditions being validated via anecdotal or even scholastic studies in East Asian developed countries proves nothing, as those statuses still require CHOICE.
    What Peter doesn't mention is that his theses also elicited commentary (such as the poster I quoted in bold) whose refutation of my POV included conclusions that I and my ilk are "self-loathing" White-Europeans bent towards decadence. This is the built-in dilemma of qualifying art and ritual. It tends to bring out the demigoguery akin to the Wagnerian example.
    You can't have a dialogue with an idealogue.
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,528
    Decadence always gets a bad name among the envious. ;-)
  • The Mass is Transcendent simply because it is. We can study each of its parts and its internal logic, and try to explain what the effect of singing the Introit is or holding a particular posture. But that study, those objective measurements and subjective judgements are made after a recognition, an encounter, which is neither subjective nor objective. It is simply True.


    Well put. One cannot become an Effective Person (TM) simply by reading and following the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

    Those habits are descriptive, not proscriptive.
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  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,032
    This scenario reminds me of the time my mentor Gerre Hancock submitted a Bach chorale harmonization to his undergrad music theory prof for a chorale assignment. (Gerre picked a really obscure one and hoped the prof didn't recognize it...he didn't).

    Bach got a "C-". Draw what conclusions you will.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    This is the built-in dilemma of qualifying art and ritual. It tends to bring out the demigoguery akin to the Wagnerian example.
    You can't have a dialogue with an idealogue.


    Precisely. Hence why grades in elementary music classes can be difficult to justify, and why saying that one thing is better than another is simply an opinion.

    A work (or a body of work) is great, or beautiful, simply because it so. Its quality is a transcendent property which is absolute and yet ultimately undiscoverable.

    The objective measurements and criteria are applied ex post facto as a way to explain or understand what it is that made the thing great or beautiful.

    Palestrina (et al) isn't a great composer because he followed all the rules in a species counterpoint textbook. Rather, Palestrina is simply great, and counterpoint is taught a particular way because it helps developing musicians understand (a bit) what is going on in that music.


    1. Who determines if a work or body of work is great in order to say so? Someone has to make the determination somehow, which means that a bias is always applied. Example: I write a beautiful Mass setting; it would be beautiful because it is beautiful according to the first sentence, with no reason why. Someone could easily state that it is NOT beautiful. Would this mean that person is wrong?

    2. Someone still has to come up with the objective measurements and criteria, developing them according to what they think is a good way to objectively measure the quality of the music, in order to apply them ex post facto. Bias is still applied.

    3. Alban Berg was a great composer also, but some would argue that he wasn't. Why is that?

    Conclusion: the quality of something is always based on opinion. Period. If your TV goes out after 90 days of ownership and it was brand new, most people would say that the TV was not of good quality, but that is based on the standard (developed by someone, followed by others) that a TV that doesn't last very long before developing issues is not of good quality. However, by other standards, the simple fact that it turned on and lasted 90 days would make it of GOOD quality. It depends on how you look at it. And let's not talk about the QUALITY of STANDARDS!!
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,354
    1. Who determines if a work or body of work is great in order to say so? Someone has to make the determination somehow, which means that a bias is always applied.


    No.

    Someone has to RECOGNIZE its beauty in order to say so.


    Example: I write a beautiful Mass setting; it would be beautiful because it is beautiful according to the first sentence, with no reason why. ?


    There is a reason why it is beautiful, but the reason for this beauty is unapproachable. Ineffable.

    Someone could easily state that it is NOT beautiful. Would this mean that person is wrong


    Yes.

    2. Someone still has to come up with the objective measurements and criteria, developing them according to what they think is a good way to objectively measure


    No. Nobody HAS TO.
    People do, because that's just how people are.

    But no one HAS TO come up with objective criteria in order to experience quality and beauty. It is something we all do AFTER the experience to try to understand what it was that we thought was so beautiful (or whatever).

    3. Alban Berg was a great composer also, but some would argue that he wasn't. Why is that?


    Some people are wrong.

    Conclusion: the quality of something is always based on opinion.


    Not at all. That was a conclusion you started with, and then said a bunch of things that support it. Your conclusion is simply based on opinion.


    I think that you (and people who make similar arguments) are making the oposite mistake of the "objectivist" point of view.
    That is:
    It is clear that "objective criteria" is not sufficient to explain the sense of beauty or quality, and the tyranny of the grammarians has poisoned any notion of the absolute, tying it up too much with these notions of rules and measures. So you take the opposite stance: "It's all subjective. It's based on an opinion."

    Neither one of these positions (subjectivity, objectivity) is a good or full explanation of the phenomenon of beauty, which is - at the last - a mystery.
  • Mechanical things (like a TV) are a poor point of comparison, because those generally have an objective function, for which they are specifically created. If your TV breaks down soon after purchase, there is an objective mechanical reason for that - something about it was faulty (wiring, soldering, bad computer chip - whatever components make up a TV nowdays). The mechanical problem may be a fluke, or it may be common to all (insert mechanical object here - cars/TVs/phones/blenders/etc.) made by that builder. Either way, we can say that the object was objectively of a poor quality because it did not fulfill the function for which it was intended. Wider research might show us if it was a poor quality object by a good quality builder, or a poor quality object by a poor quality builder. Hint: this may be the reason that different similar items vary widely in price in the real world!

    If you bring up mechanical tools in this discussion, you have just disproved the idea that quality is relative. Bad move!
  • A better point of comparison is food and drink, since it is more difficult to define quality where matters of taste are concerned. A large tree grub may be a tempting delicacy or a disgusting sac of pus-like fluid, depending on your point of view.

    Yet even where food and drink are concerned, there does seem to be a hierarchy of quality in the real world. For example, is Franzia of greater or lesser quality than an expensive Chateau Lafite Rothschild? Anyone might like Franzia better, but what if I actually wanted to know which one is better wine? Or for that matter, which affordable $10 bottle of wine is better than Franzia and why. Would I ask random people on the street, because all opinions are equal and it's just a matter of taste? Personally, I would track down someone who knows something about wine (not me!) and ask them not only WHAT is better, but WHY and what the criteria are for betterness in the world of wine. I suspect that any wine expert would have many answers for me and it would be a fascinating learning experience - if I was not so childish and foolish as to believe that all opinions are created equal in matters of taste.

    I know enough about wine to know some criteria: the wine would be judged based on standards for its particular varietal, which have developed over hundreds of years. The craftsmanship of the wine would come into question - were the grapes grown, collected, and processed in the best way? Were the barrels used to age the wine of good quality? Were the temperature and water quality carefully monitored throughout the process? Was the wine shipped carefully? Stored carefully? Does it exhibit a pleasing unity and variety and intensity in its bouquet of scents and flavors, in a way appropriate to its particular style and varietal? The list could go on and on. And that's just wine - don't get me started on cheese. Yes, I lived with a Frenchman for a year!

    But to get back to music - it seems that the criteria for judging the wine are based on knowledge of the thing itself, its history, and what a particular iteration is meant to be in that continuum of craft and tradition. A daring new thing that pushes the boundaries of Cabernet Sauvignon, while remaining recognizably CS? A dependable, well-crafted and traditional Merlot? A decent daily table wine?

    The fact that everyone has an opinion and personal likes and dislikes tells me nothing whatsoever about reality. If I actually care to learn about anything, I will seek out those who are QUALIFIED to have an opinion (I'm not talking about degrees - I'm talking about knowledge of the craft or tradition of a thing).

    And that leads to an important criteria (don't have the source off the top of my head) - beauty is in the eye of the qualified beholder.

    The fact that someone has an opinion about the quality of a piece of music means nothing to me (from an educational perspective) unless they can prove to me why their opinion matters.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    That was a conclusion you started with, and then said a bunch of things that support it. Your conclusion is simply based on opinion.


    Precisely. That is exactly how people determine and rationalize what they believe is beautiful.

    If you bring up mechanical tools in this discussion, you have just disproved the idea that quality is relative. Bad move!


    The point was to show that the difference is in which standards are used and how they are applied: things that are chosen by people, with the inherent bias attached, which can be argued until we're blue in the face.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,354
    And that leads to an important criteria (don't have the source off the top of my head) - beauty is in the eye of the qualified beholder.


    Yeah, I feel like this veers too far into the "Objective Standard" territory. Particularly since study after study has shown that wine expertise is mostly bull$h*t.

    But a useful way to think about expertise and criteria is this:
    Experience and expertise gives someone a conceptual and linguistic framework within which to discuss attributes of the thing in question. So you don't have to be a wine expert to know that some wine is good, but it helps if you want to be able to explain what is good about it, or to make predictions about whether other people might like it or not.

  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    Experience and expertise gives someone a conceptual and linguistic framework within which to discuss attributes of the thing in question. So you don't have to be a wine expert to know that some wine is good, but it helps if you want to be able to explain what is good about it, or to make predictions about whether other people might like it or not.


    Yes, yes, and YES!
  • The Objective Standard here is whether or not, according to the tradition of craftsmanship of a thing, the thing is well made. Whether someone likes it or not is a different question. So a wine expert might say "this is a very well-crafted Shiraz, but for some reason I just don't like it." Or I might say "this is a very well-crafted fugue, but I just don't like it." But the point I'm trying to make is that only the qualified observer can really say whether a thing is good quality or not.

    Objective Standard proponents get in trouble is not making that distinction (e.g. telling people they 'should' like something). OR, when they try to pick "THE BEST" composer or piece. There's just no way to do that. Discussing what's good quality, and what things are better than other things, is interesting and helpful, but trying to pick one best thing is just going to cause trouble.

  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I am gratified, Adam, that you acknowledge that we humans function under what you called the "tyranny of grammarians" which provides us the "conceptual and linguistic framework within which to discuss attributes of the thing in question." If we have consensus upon this reality, then you need to re-examine your use of the word "ineffable."
    There is a reason why it is beautiful, but the reason for this beauty is unapproachable. Ineffable.

    I believe that we've exhaustively demonstrated that even that metaphysical statement reduces thought and therefore discourse to something "other." Whether that other is prompted by emotion, or some other human neural process and combination of stimuli we don't understand and cannot exact its nature, matters not, and furthermore applying it to a known entity, whether the JSB B moll or "Goin' down to the river to pray", contravenes further discussion. That's not "ineffable." Ineffable music we believe to be that of the choirs of angels and saints praising God, according our ritual language. I have not yet heard that. But if, for example, I'm overwhelmed by the Hosanna of Faure's Requiem Sanctus, I can use the word "ineffable" to approximate my experience.

    Regarding KM's wine analogue, that actually buttresses in many more ways than one the case against EuroCentrism that is present in Peter's theses. There are folks who will never concede that anyone other than the French (Italians/Germans/Iberians) will ever produce masterworks of vintages and varietals. And, of course, that's patently absurd. Yes, sommeliers world-wide are the ones to consult if you want to develop both your palate and your lexicon to gastronomically and verbally appreciate specific regions, varietals/mendages etc. But, they're not absolutely necessary to each and every soul who wishes to increase the knowledge and appreciation for fine wines.
    But, here's the kicker- there's a world of spirits beyond wine.
    I won't argue with Peter or anyone else that a fermented liquid made of coconut milk, human saliva and secret herbs and spices in a Peruvian/Amazonian rainforest by tribal peoples is equivilent by its common attribute of being an intoxicant to humans as is fine wine.
    But, this whole debate is just another example of an individual advancing a new dogma (after the fact) that certain and specific human works of craft and art are of universal benefit, and anybody's who's smart will buy that dogma and conform in order to become indoctrinated, sophisticated and therefore (by implication) have a leg up on working out one's (cultural or otherwise) salvation.
    I still don't buy it.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,354
    One thing that I think is problematic in this discussion is that there's several layers of assertions that are being built up, and people disagreeing with something at one layer may be dismissing things beneath it which, if stated explicitly they might agree with.

    I think of this sequence like this:

    0. Quality matters.

    I think most people here agree with that, although some of the conversation has made me think maybe not...

    1. Quality or beauty (or whatever) is not subjective (dependent on the observer's opinion), but rather intrinsic to the thing itself (what some are calling 'objective,' but I would call 'transcendent.')

    Several people have already specifically disagreed with this. I happen to agree with it.
    Moving on...

    2. The Quality or Beauty of a various works is variable. Some are, intrinsically, better than others.

    It seems like a lot of people agree here, but with very strong caveats (which, in my opinion, are correct and missing the point).

    3. It is possible - somehow or other (the method is not important here) - to gauge how much better the quality or beauty of a work is than some other work, and (roughly) to rank them against each other. (That is - while we might quibble about Byrd vs. Josquin, we can determine with certainty between Josquin and Miley Cyrus.)

    This seems to be where most people get off the bus. I'm still on it.

    4. The ranking/comparison made in [3] shows that Western European Art Music is better than pop music, that real traditional folk music is better than commercialized 'folk' music, and Gregorian chant is better than David Haas.

    This I also think is true. However, this point - where we move from theory to reality - is where I think it breaks down into something like subjectivity.

    And what I mean by this is NOT that it is simply an opinion and subject to taste. What I mean is that the statements are either true or not, but that there's no way to know for certain. It is - I would say - not a matter of opinion so much as a matter of conjecture.

  • Torculus
    Posts: 44
    "This scenario reminds me of the time my mentor Gerre Hancock submitted a Bach chorale harmonization to his undergrad music theory prof for a chorale assignment. (Gerre picked a really obscure one and hoped the prof didn't recognize it...he didn't).

    Bach got a "C-". Draw what conclusions you will."

    One possible conclusion is that there is a reason the example he chose is obscure.

    Not every work by the masters is a masterpiece.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,032
    Most Bach I know of would get a pretty solid B+ at worst...
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  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,120
    ...a TV that doesn't last very long before developing issues is not of good quality. However, by other standards,
    For a moment I thought ClergetKubisz was going to invoke the enormous brilliance of the screen that burned out after a short time by analogy with Pergolesi or Schubert. Although we had Babbitt around a long time and he wrote a large body of what I've come to consider very beautiful music, I would not exactly consider Berg a lemon in spite of his untimely death, and in fact I feel myself on fairly solid ground in declaring him of the two the better opera composer. Bartók is better than Babbitt by that same criterion, plus he's older ;-)

    What I mean is that the statements are either true or not, but that there's no way to know for certain.
    Adam, I somehow think this might be a more interesting argument if we stuck to cases.
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  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,354
    Adam, I somehow think this might be a more interesting argument if we stuck to cases.


    I believe that one of these cases is better than the others, but I cannot be certain which one it is.

    image
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  • I don't think there can be an argument with a person who holds that all beauty (or all judgment of beauty) is merely subjective, any more than there can be with a person who maintains there is no truth, or that the good is solely determined by my appetites. As Aristotle says in Book IV of the Metaphysics, arguing with such a person is like trying to argue with a vegetable -- no progress can be made, because the first principles of reasoning are being denied.

    I'm basically sympathetic to Adam's perspective on transcendence and ineffability (which is why I love the music of Sibelius and Arvo Part so much, as different as they are), but I think he backs off too quickly from the possibility of objective criteria for the fine arts. Perhaps it's the word that offends, but granting the inadequacy of our language and the non-ultimacy of our judgments, we do have intellectual equipment for this work, and we can learn a lot by generalizing from great artists.

    My wife is a painter and iconographer, and I have enjoyed looking at her many books, both of great artists and of artists teaching how to paint. There are definitely concrete things that make a painting great, from the combinations of colors and textures to the hard or soft edges of shapes to the overall arrangement (e.g., centered vs. off-center), to the vanishing point and you name it. I think something EXACTLY like this is true for all the arts, including music. Palestrina and Bach, for instance, are great not because they just happened to cough up inspired music, as if in an irrational spasm, but because their minds and hearts were beautifully attuned to the microcosmic and macrocosmic principles of harmony and rhythm. You can get a lot of different styles of beautiful music from these principles, but they are real and they are not created by man -- they are discovered, internalized, embraced, and made fruitful.
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  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,120
    ...which is why I love the music of Sibelius and Arvo Part so much...Palestrina and Bach, for instance, are great not because they just happened to cough up inspired music, as if in an irrational spasm, but because their minds and hearts were beautifully attuned to the microcosmic and macrocosmic principles of harmony and rhythm.
    It would be nice to discover principles that would predict my tastes in advance, but our fundamental difference is my assumption that in practice it works backwards. Isn't it as plausible that Martopangrawit was led to the microcosmic and macrocosmic principles of irama and pathet by his enjoyment of Gending Gambirsawit as the other way around? I'm sure there's some good reason his music doesn't sound like Bach.
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  • dad29
    Posts: 1,908
    the phenomenon of beauty, which is - at the last - a mystery.


    Yup. After all, God is pure beauty, and even T.A. couldn't "prove" that He exists, which leads us to believe that neither the rational nor emotional can fully describe God. How does one capture "I Am Who Am" in parsed text?

    Further, it is incomprehensible to us how "perfect justice" and "perfect mercy" can co-exist in one Being. Same mystery.

  • dad29
    Posts: 1,908
    The mechanical problem may be a fluke, or it may be common to all (insert mechanical object here - cars/TVs/phones/blenders/etc.) made by that builder. Either way, we can say that the object was objectively of a poor quality because it did not fulfill the function for which it was intended.


    That, or the first law of thermodynamics: entropy is built-in, no matter HOW long it lasts. That is not so for beauty, however.
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  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I don't think there can be an argument with a person who holds that all beauty (or all judgment of beauty) is merely subjective, any more than there can be with a person who maintains there is no truth, or that the good is solely determined by my appetites.

    Dear friend, colleague and mentor, Peter.
    I do pray that observation isn't a personal indictment. The "argument" is actively engaged and still on-going.
    But what is the point of the argument in the end for you? For what is the tangible outcome you argue?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,333
    God is pure beauty, and even T.A. couldn't "prove" that He exists


    Didn't St. Thomas famously present five philosophical arguments to prove God's existence?
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,908
    He presented the arguments, but they do not "prove" the existence of God. They only demonstrate that there is no OTHER answer to his arguments.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,528
    Whether or not Thomas "proves" the existence of God is not so certain, although I certainly regard St. Thomas highly. This is a world in which Scholastic theology is seen as word-stacking, word-linking, and general word manipulation. I am afraid such theology is viewed as proving nothing other than skill in wordsmithing.

    To add a bit to this, a priest friend and I have discussed one of the problems in current attempts at evangelization. With Scholastic reasoning, evangelizers approach the contemporary world with the wrong set of tools.
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  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,354
    Aquinas' "proof" of the existence of God does little more than prove that some creator (Prime Mover) exists, but reveals little about the nature and character of this God, which Aquinas admits must be taken on faith.

    He also makes clear that theological argument isn't intended to convince somebody of the primary articles of faith (which must be accepted by faith, as they are matters of revelation), but rather to move from those articles of faith to other truths which can be shown through logic based on these first principles.

    I answer that, As other sciences do not argue in proof of their principles, but argue from their principles to demonstrate other truths in these sciences: so this doctrine does not argue in proof of its principles, which are the articles of faith, but from them it goes on to prove something else; as the Apostle from the resurrection of Christ argues in proof of the general resurrection


    Further, he explicitly states that if a person rejects Divine Revelation, there is nothing that can be done to PROVE faith to him. There are, however, valid answers to his objections to faith.

    If our opponent believes nothing of divine revelation, there is no longer any means of proving the articles of faith by reasoning, but only of answering his objections---if he has any---against faith. Since faith rests upon infallible truth, and since the contrary of a truth can never be demonstrated, it is clear that the arguments brought against faith cannot be demonstrations, but are difficulties that can be answered.


    Scholastic theology gets a bad rap as "word-stacking, word-linking, and general word manipulation." This is not the case at all, but CW makes a very good point:

    With Scholastic reasoning, evangelizers approach the contemporary world with the wrong set of tools.


    This is 100% accurate. You cannot use Scholastic-style theology to convince people to believe. Aquinas wasn't trying to turn atheists into Christians. He was trying to turn confused Catholics into right-thinking Catholics.
  • Adam, I agree with you about St. Thomas's motivation. But there is a deeper problem with moderns, which is that they have a kind of anti-philosophical bias, an irrationalism that is ill-suited to patient argument and disputation. So the Scholastics, through no fault of their own, end up badly off in a modern setting. As a teacher, however, I can say from much experience that if you take a classroom of young people with open minds who are willing to learn, then Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas (among others) will take them VERY FAR into an understanding of the mysteries of nature and of faith -- not to "prove" them, but to delight in their mysteriousness all the more, and to revel in their beauty.

    Melofluent, I wasn't thinking of you so much as another participant in this thread who seemed to me to be simply subjectivizing the arts altogether, as if it were nothing more than a matter of taste. As for what's at stake in this debate, as far as I'm concerned, it's a matter of our need to undergo a radical conversion of intellect and will towards the beautiful, which is part and parcel of our salvation, and maybe even, in some sense, a precondition for it (and certainly a result of it -- in different senses). Far from being merely a matter of taste or cultural conditioning, the nobility of the works of fine art is an attribute THEY possess, a reflection of the Divine, and a privileged path that leads man to God. Conversely, bad art, art unworthy of its vocation, mediocre and crass art, etc. -- and there is indeed such a thing -- lead men away from God and even from the dignity of their own nature.

    So, to my mind, there is a lotat stake. I am content if I can stir up a debate that may cause people to think about the relationship between music and their immortal souls, but I'm resigned to the fact that, with music especially, lots of folks (not including you) will merely dig in their heels, cross their arms, and say: "Fooey on you, I'm not interested in thinking about music -- it's all about feelings."
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • BTW -- my post today at Views from the Choir Loft might be of interest, as it touches on some related themes:

    http://www.ccwatershed.org/blog/2014/mar/13/eternal-not-contemporary/
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Thank you, Peter, for your explication. The open-ended, "free-will" aspect if you will, of your example of eager students seeking the heart of disciplined thought is a huge aspect upon which we can reach consensus (and having a Visalian up in WY with you, I get first-hand occasional updates along with huge smiles!)
    @AdamW-
    He was trying to turn confused Catholics into right-thinking Catholics.

    Right you are. However, centuries replete with magistrates of the Church employing CharlesW's "wrong tools" conjured up this remniscense:

    http://youtu.be/8CBqjZX6FjE
    Thanked by 1Andrew Motyka
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    This is what I'm hearing: that which is beautiful is so because it is beautiful. Something that is beautiful is beautiful because it is, and something that isn't is not because it's not. Should not, then, all peoples find the same things beautiful?
    Thanked by 1futurefatherz
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,354
    But there is a deeper problem with moderns, which is that they have a kind of anti-philosophical bias, an irrationalism that is ill-suited to patient argument and disputation.


    Yes.

    And the really weird thing about this is an irrational worship of rationality and a sort of fetishization of 'argument and disputation.'


    So the Scholastics, through no fault of their own, end up badly off in a modern setting.


    Or, I'm sure you would agree, they only seem to. Who really comes off badly is, of course, moderns.

    As a teacher, however, I can say from much experience that if you take a classroom of young people with open minds who are willing to learn, then Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas (among others) will take them VERY FAR into an understanding of the mysteries of nature and of faith -- not to "prove" them, but to delight in their mysteriousness all the more, and to revel in their beauty.


    Yes, I've had this experience as well, both as a student and as a teacher.

    Of course "open minds" is the key.

    I think that philosophy and scholastic theology is fabulous.

    But I also think it can never be "The First Step."

    You can't start teaching Fux to someone who's never heard music before, or explain the golden ratio to someone who's never seen a beautiful work of art.

    The beginning has to be an encounter with the Divine, in one way or another. This is, of course, something we cannot force or control - but we can facilitate it.

    And, even as much as the modern world seeks to prohibit and constrain this encounter, it cannot ultimately succeed because eternity is "written on our hearts."

    ...
    Moving further back in the conversation


    I'm basically sympathetic to Adam's perspective on transcendence and ineffability (which is why I love the music of Sibelius and Arvo Part so much, as different as they are), but I think he backs off too quickly from the possibility of objective criteria for the fine arts. Perhaps it's the word that offends, but granting the inadequacy of our language and the non-ultimacy of our judgments, we do have intellectual equipment for this work, and we can learn a lot by generalizing from great artists.


    Yeah. I suspect our positions are rather close, though I'm not completely sure.

    Essentially, my problem with the idea of "objective criteria" is that, in typical practice, that idea is used to suggest that some work is good because it follows some rules or meets some criteria. This treats "objective measurement" as a deterministic sieve which catches some things and rejects others.

    I believe, rather, that these objective criteria are actually characteristics which works of quality tend to exhibit. We can use them as descriptive anchors, but not as a deterministic test for greatness.

    Not incidentally - this issue I have is a BIG DEAL in a number of other fields, including math, theoretical cryptography, computer science, quantum mechanics, biology/taxonomy, linguistics, medical diagnosis.... and the strong trend comes down on the side of non-deterministic descriptions, rather than deterministic sieves.

    (Of course EVEN THAT is not a deterministic proof, just a general description of the attributes of various ineffable mysteries that keep coming up over and over again.)

    I do think - FOR PRACTICAL PURPOSES - talking about 'objective criteria' in the way that Prf. K does is very useful. Moreover, I think the notion of 'non-definable ineffablility' only is useful once one has gotten a decent training in the definable and objective. That is to say: You can only scale the heights if you know how to have your feet planted firmly on the ground, not if you've been trained to perpetually have your head in the clouds.

    (Or, to put it another way - you can't teach Godelian incompleteness before basic algebra. It won't be understood, and you'll have a room full of 7th graders saying that no one could possibly ever know what x really equals.)
    .....

    So, to my mind, there is a lot at stake.


    Indeed.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,354
    This is what I'm hearing: that which is beautiful is so because it is beautiful. Something that is beautiful is beautiful because it is, and something that isn't is not because it's not. Should not, then, all peoples find the same things beautiful?


    Yes.

    (And, as a theological exercise... assuming that's true, what can we then conclude is the cause of all people not finding the same things beautiful?)
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,612
    (I think I lost you all after the OP.)
  • Thanks, Adam -- if I'm reading you rightly, I believe our views would converge even more if we had the leisure of a face-to-face conversation.

    Just stepping back a bit...

    How many of you are fans of the operas of Handel? I have to say that much of my thinking (and feeling) about music lately has been indebted to several months of immersion in these operas, of which I just can't get enough. My respect for Handel has grown to almost ridiculous proportions as I listen to aria after aria, each one musically distinctive and finely chiseled, emotionally satisfying and beautifully crafted, full of immense pathos or toe-tapping ebullience. I just don't know how it's possible for so much magnificent music to pour forth from one soul. And from this vantage, it is hard for me to take seriously a lot that passes for music nowadays, whether in church or outside of church. (Over the years I've gone through similar bouts of concentrated musical absorption with Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Sibelius, Part, among others, so what I'm saying about Handel should not be taken to be exclusive to his music.)

    I'm not implying that church music should sound like Handelian opera, of course, but only that Handel's music achieves a transcendent perfection, opens a fountain of melody and harmony and rhythm from which we can drink huge drafts again and again... and become more healthy, more human, more noble.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Peter, as you've also implied before, "nowadays" can mean a variable swath of time. And even given that each of us has a limited amount of recreational time, of which you've currently chosen to absorb the catalog of GFH, I wonder if you'd consider affording yourself the time and will to absorb...
    *The collaboration of the jazz orchestrator/pianist Gil Evans and trumpeter Miles Davis (may they RIP)
    *The catalog of jazz vocalist Kurt Elling
    *The catalog of pianist Keith Jarrett? etc.
    Without forecasting and any other prejudices, would you then tell us what you draw from those fountains?
    And you know I'm not implying that church music should sound like any of these as well. Pax
    Thanked by 1kenstb
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,333
    = "Go away and listen to jazz music for several weeks and then I'll consider what you have to say."
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Richard, that was a fairly "Rip Van Winkle-just awakened" response, and one that is sadly, for you, absolutely WRONG.
    I'm sure even Peter will not have regarded that analysis as what I proposed, which was both specific and offered in earnest. I have followed Peter's (and others') opinion with great interest, seeking to genuinely understand his POV. You have, OTOH, reduced my interest to mere contradiction. As a scholar, one would think you would make such a clear distinction rather than assuming I had an agenda as blatant and generic as you so state.
    Is my POV so repugnant to you (as well as others who've upbraided me in like manner) that I have, a priori, no credibility whatsoever?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,872
    (And, as a theological exercise... assuming that's true, what can we then conclude is the cause of all people not finding the same things beautiful?)

    It could very simply be a darkened state of being or dead conscience.
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    Yet it could also be different cultural standards for beauty that exist all across the world. We see that this is true in the different Rites of the Church: the Church has historically respected local custom and catered to cultural differences in the areas to which She has spread. However, at the same time, I also recognize that the same things we hold beautiful could also be beautiful to those from a different culture: I know an Indian classical musician who loves Gregorian chant, however, he was raised on Ragas and plays the Tabla and Harmonium. The reverse is also true: I adore Gregorian chant, yet I find the music of different cultures fascinating and beautiful. It is not difficult to see how there is a timeless aspect to them that makes them beautiful. My original point was that a person's perception (and perspective) can change what they believe is beautiful, which is one reason we don't always agree on what is beautiful.
  • Bombshell alert -- get ready for this -- I have a lot of albums of Keith Jarrett and have enjoyed them a lot. His Paris concert has some of the most amazing classical-jazz fusion improv that I've ever heard. The album Staircase is lucidly melancholy. In the La Scala concert he is positively volcanic and orchestral at times. The Cologne concert too has some memorable moments. Yes, I do appreciate his gift, his artistry, but I have found in recent years that I don't enjoy listening to them as much -- they don't seem to me to have the same perennial staying power, and they sometimes now strike me as excessively sensual (and it's not simply the grunting of the pianist). My preference has strayed over to his disc of Handel keyboard music: now THAT is sublime! :-)
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Liam
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,084
    Thought experiment: Which, say, three to five composers (PS that was in my mind when I originally posed this: and/or performers) would you like to witness improvising with each other (this is an anachronistic experiment; they need not have lived contemporaneously, nor speak the same language(s) other than music)? (Two alone is not nearly as interesting as at least three.)
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Composers

    JS Bach
    F.Chopin
    E. (Duke) Ellington
    WA Mozart
    G. Gershwin

    Instrumentalists/Vocalists
    Paganini
    Bela Fleck/Victor Wooten
    John Coltrane/ Charlie Parker
    Kurt Elling/Ella Fitzgerald
    Jimi Hendrix/Tommy Emmmanuel
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,084
    A couple of composer quintets:

    Josquin des Prez-Byrd-Monteverdi-Mozart-Mahler

    Bach-Handel-Haydn-Beethoven-Stravinsky