Re: Rules in the arts

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Posted by R. John Howe on January 30, 1999 at 09:03:47:

In Reply to: Re: Rules in the arts posted by Yon Bard on January 30, 1999 at 08:13:32:

Yon -

Thanks for your response.

You said in part

: It is either arrogant or naive to think that you can capture something as subtle and complex in a few simple rules. It ignores the possibility of innovation. That's precisely the Meistersingers' error.

My thought:

We are now talking, not about the 10 rules in this salon, but rather about the nature of rules themselves and whether they are the vehicle for making these judgments regardless of their current incompleteness or other current imperfections. I am familiar with your example but it does not seem to me to take on the claim I am making here but rather the straw man one of whether complex phenomena can be explained with reference to a FEW rules. To admit that it cannot does nothing to the potential efficacy of rules themselves as an explanation of how we do this.

:I said:

: "And the fact that a given set of rules may be ejected from time to time is not an indicator that rules are inadequate for the distinctions we want to make and the qualities we want to recognize"

And your responded:

: It most certainly is!!!

My thought:

You need to give me more here. Why is such overturning not explained by the cultural relativity of rules and/or the fact that they are refinable and in experience refined in an endless dialectic of application and revision? I do not understand why you think that the possibility that a rule may spawn an anti-thesis or even a completely different conceptualization of the guidance the rule purports to provide, is itself any evidence that the new judgments are not themselves are simply instances of the following of different or revised rules. It is not the content of a given rule that would have to shown to be faulty (this happens all the time) but rather that the new judgments are being made on a basis that is itself not an instance of rule-following.

I said:

: "I would be interested to hear Yon or Marvin or anyone else describe what they think the recognition of genius is if it is not rule-governed. On what alternative basis do we do this?"

And you responded:

: I simply don't know! Perhaps (even probably) there are rules, but let's face it, we don't really understand how the mind performs even the simplest of tasks; how can we expect to understand something as subtle and complex as recognizing genius? 'Expert systems' for even the simplest, best understood, and least controversial diagnostic procedures run into hundreds of rules and require extensive analysis and much iteration to create. How can I take seriously a set of ten rules as summarizing as complex and ill-understood an area as esthetics?

My thought:

I find the beginning of what you have written here more hopeful. Perhaps you would allow that these judgements are instance of rule-following.

At the end, of course, you rehearse the argument you made in your initial point above and to which I think I have responded there. No one is claiming (not even Alexander and Salingaros, who to my mind are making an astounding claim in their view that the rules we follow are at least to some extent hard-wired in our minds) that any 10 rules are sufficient to make aesthetic judgments.

Thanks for your patience in this exchange.


R. John Howe

: Regards, Yon

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