Question time


I am hoping that you, fine people, could help me answer some questions that I have. You can choose anyone question or answer all of them.

  1. What is art
  2. is art universal
  3. what is beauty
  4. is there a relationship between what is beautiful and what is good
  5. what is truth
  6. is there a relationship between what is good, beautiful and true
  7. in political discourse, what does left and right stand for
  8. in discussions of culture, what is cultural appropriation?
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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

49 thoughts on “Question time

  1. Arkenaten says:

    The old adage; Beauty is in the eye of the beholder is always true.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. shelldigger says:

    In no certain order,

    I believe that there are as many gods as there are believers. I also believe beauty follows similarly.

    Relationship between beauty and good? Good is a social construct. Beauty is a personal construct.

    Left and right are the hands I use to smack Republicans.

    Cultural appropriation? I feel like culture tends to bleed into other culture quite naturally and over time. I think the term relates to what people perceive as cultural hijacking, and I’m thinking that is culture bleed that happened too fast to suit the culture being imitated.

    Truth is what you never hear from the mouth of a politician.

    Relationship between good, beauty, and true sounds like an argument just itching to get started.

    Art is culture when enough people appreciate that it is art.

    Liked by 4 people

    • “Left and right are the hands I use to smack Republicans.” Nice. I like this.

      Liked by 2 people

    • makagutu says:

      Apart from politicians, everyone else is truthful?
      If culture is adaptive, why should there be talk of appropriation?
      Beauty, you say is subjective? That there is no way to say that these are the guidelines for beauty?
      Now I know what left and right is. 🙂

      Like

      • shelldigger says:

        Apart from politicians, everyone else is at least capable of being truthful from time to time.

        Adaptive culture… isn’t there an old saying, something about immitation being the greatest form of flattery? I have no idea why culture hijacking is such an issue for some. Unless it is done/meant to be offensive, then I could see there being an issue.

        Beauty is definately subjective. I have often scoffed at modern art, believeing a 5 year old with crayons could have done as good of a job.

        “One fist of iron, the other of steel. If the right one don’t get ya then the left one will”
        Quote from an old song by Tennessee Ernie Ford. 16 Tons. If you haven’t heard it there is a version on youtube. I won’t post the link fearing it will embed.

        Like

  3. The only answer I have for all of them is another question: what is the word that asks the question and what is the word that answers? Is the word the thing described? If not, then what is it we are speaking of? I lied, more than one question here. I just see all of these as leading to more thoughts, words, and never hitting on anything as illusive as to what is being asking that could possibly be universally answered for from each answer is a viewpoint. Thank you for indulging me. I hope you are well and enjoying. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. These are some deep questions.

    I’ve always found it interesting that left and right sometimes differ from country to country (just like the terms liberal and conservative differ as well). From my understanding, I’d heard apocryphal tales that “left” and “right” came from where delegates sat in the French Republic’s government. People on the left were fans of change, and people on the right were fans of keeping things as they were.

    And cultural appropriation is a messy term that I don’t think is fully defined yet. Right now it’s more of a “I know it when I see it” kind of thing. I think Pink had an article about it a while back.

    Liked by 2 people

    • makagutu says:

      Here we have government / opposition or front/ back bench. Left and right I read online.
      In this case, I will confess to being generally blind because I am unlikely to see a case of appropriation

      Like

  5. john zande says:

    Each to their own

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My shots.

    “What is art”
    Emotionally pleasing symbolism

    “is art universal”
    It is among human societies. Not aware of any examples of it among non-human animals.

    “what is beauty”
    A visual sight that is emotionally pleasing

    “is there a relationship between what is beautiful and what is good”
    Ultimately, both depend on values we hold, which can’t be arrived at through reason.

    “what is truth”
    That which provides more accurate predictions.

    “is there a relationship between what is good, beautiful and true”
    No. What is true is not always good. What is good is often not beautiful. Beauty is too often vicious and false.

    “in political discourse, what does left and right stand for”
    The reality? Different constituencies. Exactly which varies by country.

    “in discussions of culture, what is cultural appropriation?”
    I’m not clear on this one myself.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hariod Brawn says:

      Hi Mike, hadn’t expected to see you here. Is art always symbolic? Is beauty always visual?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Hariod,
        I do think art is always symbolic, but there are varying levels of symbolism. We tend not to label art we perceive to be straightforward as symbolic, but even cave art is far more symbolic than anything animals ever engaged in. We are the symbolic thought species.

        On beauty, it did occur to me after I posted, that music, mathematical concepts, speeches, and many other things can be beautiful. So now my answer would probably be: perception that is emotionally pleasing.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Hariod Brawn says:

          Thanks Mike. Robert, just below, seems to agree with you that art is necessarily and inherently symbolic, but whereas you describe it as ’emotionally pleasing symbolism’, he calls it ‘creative symbolism’. For myself, I don’t necessarily see symbolism in abstract painting or sculpture, say, as I don’t think it stands as a signifier of anything other than of itself, meaning its form, colour, shape, as perceived. That said, one might say it’s emblematic (meaning suggestive of, or indicative of, or resonant) with regard to one’s sense of harmony, balance, things like that, and which I’d very much agree with. Maybe I’m drawing an artificial line of my own making, between symbolism and what is emblematic of your ’emotionally pleasing’ sense about certain art?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Maybe the distinction is between explicitly conscious symbolism and the more subconscious variety. There is something that distinguishes abstract art from random environmental stimuli. When you say a “sense of harmony, balance, things like that”, I think perhaps you’re describing aspects of common sensory experience that elicit emotional responses from us for whatever evolutionary reasons, and the art is somehow capturing just those aspects.

            This also probably explains why people often don’t get abstract art. If the aspects that are emphasized don’t resonate with them, then for them, it *is* indistinguishable from random environmental stimuli.

            Liked by 1 person

          • makagutu says:

            Should abstract art, which can only be made sense of by a select group of people be called art?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Hariod Brawn says:

            Of course it should, Mak. There’s no need to ‘make sense of’ abstract art, and most abstract artists I know object to the very attempt being made. To do so is rather to miss the point, that being one of the viewer’s direct and unmediated perception (i.e. non-conceptual, not mediated by the intellect or memory) and feeling.

            Like

      • makagutu says:

        Hi Hariod, I am happy to see you here

        Liked by 1 person

    • keithnoback says:

      May I butt in?
      Art that is merely didactic is not art.
      As you say, art elicits something from those who encounter it.
      If it is really good, it evokes more than a basic feeling.
      Representation is only a means, and I think that certain painters, as well as most dancers and composers, would say that representation is not even a necessary means.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Break in anytime Keith.

        I personally don’t have strong feelings about what is or isn’t art. Purely didactic communication, like a stop sign, certainly doesn’t feel like art to me. But it seems like an advertisement or explanatory diagram could. I’m not sure if there’s a fact of the matter distinction here.

        What would you see as an example of art without representation of some kind?

        Liked by 1 person

        • keithnoback says:

          I figured it wasn’t a burning issue for you.
          Too busy trying to make a bunch of circuits conscious, eh?
          If you succeed, don’t ask your creation to bring butter…
          Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings come to mind. But does the Marche Slave represent anything these days either?
          If the context of a representation goes missing, does it still symbolize anything?
          A nice sunset is evocative. A Jackson Pollock is evocative. The key difference seems to be that I know that the painting was meant to be evocative. Is that the only fact of the matter?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Aw, come on. What’s the fun of creating a consciousness if I can’t have it bring me butter?

            Thanks for the art exposure! I think Pollack’s stuff is representational, but the representation is ambiguous in a manner that may evoke different impressions in different people, or even different impressions in the same viewer at different times or in different moods.

            The same is true for the Marche Slave, although I suspect the title leads most people to envision a long hopeless march ramping into something more epic. But it evoking that seems to rely heavily on common cultural influences.

            The nice sunset vs Pollack painting is an interesting question. Does art require an intelligent designer? If so, how do we account for the fact that artists often stumble into creations without setting out ahead of time to evoke the things they do? I guess you could argue that at some point, the artist had to recognize what they had, just as a photographer might have to recognize the opportunity to capture a beautiful sunset.

            Liked by 1 person

      • makagutu says:

        Keith were you reading my mind. Good art must necessarily evoke more than a basic feeling.
        So we move to the next question of what is good/ bad art?

        Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      Mike, is art and beauty the same thing?

      I apologize for lack of clarity in the 2nd question. If a work is only understood or appreciated by a small group of people, is it still art? Or should art be that which only has a universal appeal?

      How’s beauty false and vicious?

      Liked by 1 person

      • makagutu,
        I would say that beauty is broader in scope than art. A breathtaking mountain top may be beautiful, but it doesn’t seem like most people would call it art.

        I don’t think any one piece of art has to have universal appreciation to be art. Often art depends on common cultural influences. Those outside of those cultural influences may be utterly untouched. And some art may appeal to one gender more than another, or to adventurous people over timid people, or it may vary by other personal attributes.

        I think we’ve all had the experience of a beautiful person with a vile personality. And a desert may be beautiful to look upon, but would be a brutal place to be stranded in.

        Like

  7. 1. What is art? Creative symbolism.

    2. is art universal? Among humans, yes; among other higher Earthly lifeforms, possibly.

    3. what is beauty? Subjective perception.

    4. is there a relationship between what is beautiful and what is good? No.

    5. what is truth? Everything that exists outside subjective perception (i.e. objectivity).

    6. is there a relationship between what is good, beautiful and true? No.

    7. in political discourse, what does left and right stand for? Academically in political science, “left” typically represents liberalism, progressivism, and change while “right” typically represents social and economic conservatism and resistance to change.

    8. in discussions of culture, what is cultural appropriation? The oppression of minority groups’ cultural identify and practices by the ruling majority.

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      1. Does art have a goal or as long as a creative draws a line, we call it art?
      2. Question two was not clear. My apologies. Should a work of art have a universal appeal? Or is it still art if it can only be appreciated by a select group?
      3. So there can be no standard of beauty as it depends on the beerholder?
      8. So cultural appropriation includes oppression of a minority group? What if one borrows from a minority culture?

      Liked by 1 person

      • These are very esoteric questions, and my subjective opinions can be no better than others’; but, I’ll try.

        1. Art can have a specific goal; or, it may not. I recall seeing a video of an elephant painting when given a paintbrush and vibrant colors by its human keeper. The animal was jubilant, prancing back and forth as it admired its artful creation. It’s the same for people.

        2. I understand now, and my answer is NO. Just because nobody appreciates someone’s creativity as art does not mean that it isn’t art. Like beauty, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

        3. Yes, there can be no OBJECTIVE standard of beauty; but, everyone can certainly have their own SUBJECTIVE standards of beauty.

        8. In the loosest sense, we are all guilty of cultural appropriation because we all borrow from or are inspired by other cultures; however, I was referring previously to the strict definition of the term which requires the intent to oppress minority groups via exploitation, propaganda, and other subversive means.

        Like

  8. What is art?
    Me
    Is art universal?
    If I own it, yes.
    What is beauty?
    Me.
    Is there a relationship between what is beautiful and what is good?
    Yes, me
    What is truth?
    Obviously, me.
    Is there a relationship between what is good, beautiful and true?
    Also me.
    In political discourse, what does left and right stand for?
    The people who annoy me a little bit and the others who annoy me more.
    In discussions of culture, what is cultural appropriation?
    Appropriation implies illegitimacy. Where do we go from there?

    Liked by 3 people

  9. keithnoback says:

    Selective answers:
    Truth is what stands before us.
    Beauty is concordance.
    There is no thing: ‘Good’. But, I think morality refers to a class of activity which attempts to reconcile our intention (what we are about), with truth and motive. So, yes there is a relationship between good beauty and truth.
    Cultural appropriation is dining on the choice cuts. It seems like a great deal to the consumer, who wonders why the source of the meat is complaining.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Mystro says:

    Sheesh, I was looking forward to an easy day, now here I am thinking about things. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m not that good at it. Oh well, here’s my go at some answers.

    1. Stealing what I like from a couple definitions, art is the application of creative skill, an expression of more than ordinary significance.

    2. The existence of art is universal amongst humans, what is considered art is not. As art is dependent on it being significant, enough ignorance and/or apathy can kill any art form.

    3. I like keithnoback’s ‘concordance’, but I want to add a qualifier. Either elegant or efficient. Maybe both.

    4. They both have very similar requirements, so there is much overlap. But one does not necessarily imply the other.

    5. As much as I am a fan of empiricism, I cannot endorse SelfAwarePattern’s definition. According to that, in a society where many believe 2+2=7, one who thinks 2+2=5 has the truth. Granted, in most areas the best predictors will be the closest we can ever get to the truth, but I have to go Robert AV’s definition for the actual truth.

    6. None whatsoever. Some of the most beautiful things I have ever encountered were complete fabrications. Further, the ugliest of things are uglier still because they are true.

    7. The right are bastards and wear it proudly. The left are bastards but try to hide it.

    8. Culture appropriation is a major driving force of cultural evolution. Like biological evolution, it results in an ever changing and varying sphere of cultures. Also like biological evolution, it can involve some disturbingly nasty processes with little to no regard for the wellbeing those who happen to be caught in the middle of it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • makagutu says:

      Well, I am glad you took time off to respond 🙂
      1. A work of art should have significance?
      2. I am sorry I didn’t make myself very clear. If a work of art is only available for appreciation by a select class, is it a work of art?

      Like

      • Mystro says:

        1. I think so, yes. Kind of like a word. If a word has no significance to anyone, it loses its ‘word’ status and just becomes a noise.

        2. Absolutely. Again, like language, some art means nothing to different cultures, so it is no art to them. Just because you don’t understand a language, doesn’t mean it isn’t one.

        Like

        • makagutu says:

          Tolstoy argues that some works, if translated would still be understood by others from a different culture since they deal with matters of common life. What do you think?

          Like

          • Mystro says:

            Makes sense to me. The act of translating (an art in itself) makes the significance of the work accessible to the different culture.

            What would you or Tolstoy say about idiomatic work? Expressions that don’t translate well or directly to other languages or cultures. Idioms, by definition, are not common. My view would say the original is art, but as some of the meaning (and therefore significance) is lost in translation, the translated piece is a lesser art work.
            But if I understand your presentation of Tolstoy correctly, he would say the original is already a lesser art because of it’s inability to be translated entirely.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            I think, to Tolstoy, art has to come from feeling and he argues that if this is the case, it would be easily understood by the common folk. So the same would apply to idiomatic work if they are representations of common life.

            Like

  11. koppieop says:

    Why do these questions and many reactions of readers attract me? Because they make me think hard. I’m afraid I cannot offer philosophical comments, but I accept the standing invitation on this blog to put in a (short) opinion.
    Subjects 1 to 6 refer to personal appreciations, so yes, they are universal. Art, beauty, good and trust are intertwined. I may not find beauty in art, but I will feel that it is well intended. When I deal with someone who is not a good person, I know that he cannot be trusted, no matter how kind he is and how green his promised valleys are.
    7. Basically the original difference between political left and right exists, but in fact it is replaced by left-center and right-center ideologies and alliances. Another example of such confusion is expressed by the humorous saying on the balance sheets of corrupt banks and political systems:
    “On the left side nothing is right, on the right side nothing is left”.
    8. Cultural appropriation. Would I object to foreigners who live in our country, behave like us, learn our language, get to know our culture? I would not. Would I oppose their using their own traditional clothes and eat their own food? Neither would I criticize that. What I will disapprove of, will be their trying to impose those habits on us. That cultural appropriation, the other way round, is unacceptable. A sad illustration is the existence of ‘sharia’ courts in England.
    Regards.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. […] were varied answers to this question in my previous post. Since the days of Plato, philosophers and laymen have attempted to define art. In his book, What […]

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  13. Argus says:

    Beauty is that which strikes a resonant chord. Resonates.
    Makes you want for more (of it) (whatever ‘it’ is).

    Beauty can sometimes seem a bit contradictory—I’ve known homely (okay, plain) women who were very beautiful. And vice versa, brrrr.

    I’ve enjoyed the beauty of the night sky—and the thrill of the typhoon. Almost anything can be beautiful and often in unexpected places—the vibrant pure beauty of the Deep when alone in a cave with your candle blown out; a spluttering long-haired blue-eyed blonde tumbled back to the surface after an unexpected huge wave (and indignantly sham-blaming you for it).

    Beauty must resonate. And only YOU can judge …

    Like

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