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A&O Class Notes – February 5, 2019
reposted in April to improved formatting
Nothing exists ...
Even if it did exist it could not be known ...
Even if it could be known, it could not be communicated...
even if it could be communicated, it would not be understood
--Gorgias (d.about 380 BC)
"A writer who keeps a personal diary uses it to record what he knows. In his poems and stories he sets down what he doesn't know" observed by the Polish poet, Adam Zagajewski in his memoir
“Art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness which characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm—an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction.” (Saul Bellow 1915, In George Plimpton (1967) 3rd series, p. 190)
[such stillness is a precious “momentary stay against confusion,” as Frost
Returning to our personal (mind-map) “definitions” of ART that there can be some very different meanings for the same term. In A&O, we speak of art in a very broad way, including both the EXPRESSION of an object or experience as well as their RECEPTION.
There seems to be a threshold of meaningfulness on the part of the creator and/or the audience: As a form of communication (even communication between levels of an individual) we can distinguish input of information (stimuli, sensory perception), its integration into an individual’s psyche (conception), and the output (actions or feelings that guide actions).
As communications, what are we learning about what we see and how is that affecting us? When we speak about senses we are speaking of aesthetic experience. A few years ago, Slobodan Marković of the University of Belgrade (Serbia) tried to deconstruct the idea using an interdisciplinary (psychology/biological) approach [see Marković (2012) “]   ].” . 2012;3:1–17. doi: 10.1068/i0450aap. [
His ideas made clear progress but also identified areas needing more investigation if we are to ever have a clear and satisfying meaning for aesthetics. One implicit theme in his essay involves “levels of organization,” a core theme in as well.
At some level we often seem to know that aesthetic experience can be informed by the of the creator (maybe that helps us focus on our own intentions in paying attention to it). Can great art be UNINTENTIONAL? Pursued to meet a NEED other than communicating with others? Is it a WORK of ART oran ARTIFACT … are phenomena in nature (a beautiful sunset?) “works of art?”
The countless we’ve heard or read these words converges on what they mean (to us)—they have implicit meaning and you would expect them to be at least slightly different for each of us.
But each word also has more or less baggage from its : so for example,
… WE TALKED ABOUT WORDS: here are a couple that remind you to use them with insight as to their meaning, because implicit meaning is likely to come through: e.g.
SO, about words–some have unusual power to communicate thoughts and feelings beyond mere definitions: we only touch on . Another important idea is the extent to which the gender connected to a noun affects its extended meaning: an idea researched by Lera Boroditsky and described nicely in her , briefly (although arguably we have cut to its core with what we’re discussing) … You might want to check in on ideas about IDEOPHONES (words that evoke feelings because of how they sound when uttered). A nice essay that describes great ideophones but also uses them to argue for a theory of the evolution of language is by David Robson in
Along with Protagoras was Gorgias (c.485-c.380 B.C.E.), another sophist whose namesake became the title of a Platonic dialogue. … His most well-known work is , wherein he, contrary to Eleatic philosophy, sets out to show that neither being nor non-being is, and that even if there were anything, it could be neither known nor spoken. Finally, Gorgias proclaims that even if existence could be apprehended, “it would be incapable of being conveyed to another” (B3.83). This is because what we reveal to another is not an external substance, but is merely … . is not “substances and existing things” (B3.84). External reality becomes the revealer of (B3.85); while we can logos, we cannot apprehend things directly. … the [mental] representation is different than the thing itself. In its summation, this nihilistic argument becomes a “trilemma” (quoted).
I adapted it for A&O class:
. “Robert Frost, in the preface to his ( 1949 ), defined a poem as “a momentary stay against confusion” and defined poetry as an artistic medium which reflects stability and permanence encompassed by the moment of the poem. In his own work, he wanted to preserve his most common poetic subjectsCCthe fading New England country life and dialect, and rural landscapes and historyCCby fixing them indelibly in an immortal poetry, for Frost always retained something of the notions his mother taught him as a child: that a creative act is one inspired by God, that the impulse to write is divine, and that poetry could express dimensions of immortality. When he matured as a poet, Frost relied on Emerson’s thoughts regarding the “godly artist” to corroborate his mother’s teaching; later still, when asked to introduce the anthology (1957), America’s foremost poet alluded to his early belief that poets enter a meditative “state of grace” while composing.” From “The Enduring Robert Frost,” By Samuel Maio (first published in , 1990).
At the still point of the turning world.
Neither flesh nor fleshness;
Neither from nor towards;
at the still point, there the dance is…
– T.S. Elliot,
By now you may think (with some justification) that our seminar is like a giant mystery game in which you receive seemingly random clues and use to create a coherent narrative –sometimes the story is clear and suddenly there’s a bit of new evidence that changes everything. I’m asking you (as every artist and scientist is asked) to .
Today, after check-in, lets have as much clarity as possible about NEEDS and how they drive ADAPTATION and its relationship to EVOLUTION.
· – WE have translated Maslow’s need hierarchy, famous in humanistic psychology into biological terms. There are five of them and they weave though all DEEP ETHOLOGY and at every LEVEL OF ORGANIZATION:
· – referring to an identifiable trait (again, at every LEVEL OF ORGANIZATION), that helps an organism COPE with change in its internal or external environments that affect NEEDS. Important in all of DEEP ETHOLOGY with special emphasis in PSYCHOLOGY and EVOLUTION (! And in an EVOLUTIONARY sense, may have helped our ancestors cope or )
· LEARNING is short-term adaptation in that it copes with environmental (or internal bodily) change. [dissonance reduction by means of assimilation or accommodation] One of our particular gifts is LEARNING (all organisms LEARN – they change their behavior as a result of experience — Do CELLS learn? –if so, how?
“Sonal Khedkar, a co-chair of Brain Awareness Week for the Advancement of Neuroscience Club visited class to recruit interest in this year’s project: They will host a variety of events throughout the month of March, including an Art Gallery exhibition starting on We would like this gallery to include mainly student work as a showcase of creativity on our campus. –this can manifest in many ways and there is no limit on the forms this can take! Some examples include: depiction of the brain, drug addiction, neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia etc.).
· Oliver Sacks (again): This is related to SHADOW SYNDROMES (not mentioned in class but worth a look: link)
We could select MUSIC as the medium for art that we can look at more closely:
o Do we hear with more than our ears? Read this Aeon essay: “” and then read Walt Whitman’s meditation on whether music might be the “purest and profoundest expression of nature” at BrainPickings : ()
o RESONANCE: associated with music but SO much more: is it the inmost dimension of MUSIC that as a process reaches most deeply into my SELF?
During check-in, YOU have identified a piece of music or a genre of music that (presumably) has affected you: But say more about that! When? Where? How did it make you feel? Some science: DESCRIBE the music (key, cadence, etc) Then describe a episode it in developmental, ecological, evolutionary, and physiological terms (That is (for example), how old were you? Where were you? Are there memes involved? Did you experience heart pounding, hyperactivity, anxiolysis, ?)