Apprehending Beauty

In a comment to “Aesthetics & American Idol,” Reader Mason Ian perfectly describes the “arduous” process of perceiving the greatest beauty:

Learning to subjectively like what is objectively good at first bounced off of my 3am quick-read blog-scan. But then I realized that this exact thing happened to me and I shall anecdote-ize it thus:

When first I approached Milton’s Paradise Lost I knew that I “should” treasure it as a sublime and beautiful epic of written art. But i could only (at first) force myself to appreciate it from the outside, like looking at an utterly alien thing that all others considered beautiful. You look at it sideways, squint a bit, trying to see what they see… but it is unutterably alien. Perhaps you see an angle here or there that has a symmetrical form that is pleasing, a curve here, a line there… but the whole is so beyond your current vantage point that the beauty is lost by your own unelevated perspective.

Then, after forcing yourself to merely “mentally ascribe” the designation of beauty to the form, you slowly achieve the ability to connect the slivers of recognizable traits of beauty that you CAN see from your current state.

This is achieved in literature by reading more. The more you read, the more you read. Sounds like very droll truism, but by it I mean the process by which reading one book end us turing you on to several other books, other authors, different ideas and concepts and styles. I read Samuel Taylor Coleridge and find a dozen more obscure authors through his quotes and references, which in turn leads me to more reading. Then, after ten years I come back to Milton and find that Paradise Lost IS beautiful to me in a very different way than the alien beauty I had firs admired as an outsider.

So at first I liked it for reasons outside of myself (others regarded it as the pinnacle of English poetry, etc, etc) then I learned to love it myself, through my own tastes and my own reflection.

We go from being outsiders to being insiders.

However, as it was pointed out, hollywood goes another way. The simple and quick way. the way of the lowest common denominator. Grasping beauty and goodness is a slow art that requires years of honing and exercise. Who has time? Pare down the representation of love to three lines of cheesy dialogue and a wet kissing scene and the audience is satisfied right?

Hardly. Here’s to those who take the time to find and create what is beautiful. It is a long and arduous journey but one which holds the most epic of rewards.

See, Milton and Shakespeare don’t make concessions to our impoverished vocabularies. You may have to read them with a dictionary at first. And they don’t pause every twelve minutes for a word from their sponsors. They go their own way and we have to catch up. But it is worth it when we do. The very subjective pleasure, if you want to reduce everything to this, is so much greater and deeper and more intense with these writers than with the lesser entertainment we content ourselves with (for one thing because we don’t always want to involve ourselves so much or work so hard–which is fine sometimes, as long as we don’t reduce our aesthetic standards to our own lazy pleasures and exclude what is really objectively good).

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • organshoes

    God bless Mason Ian for putting this process into words!
    I’ve often dreamt of a congregation who spent as much time learning a hymn as I, the organist, and the choir have done. You have to go where the composer and the author are taking you–which, in good, true Lutheran hymnody is to Christ–and in the way in which they are taking you. Hymns are so much more than ‘the musical portion of our program’, and certainly more than expressions of our personal tastes, sentiments, thoughts, or emotions–they express and relate not so much what is outside us, but what we are outside of, and bring us into it, and it into us.
    I’m sure it takes a lot of singing of an unfamiliar hymn or hymnstyle to bring all its virtues to light. I can spend an hour playing one hymn in many different ways, trying to find its voice or its temper, or hear it presented by another source (say, one of those great CPH cd’s of historic Lutheran hymns, or maybe Dr. Arthur Just extolling a hymn on Issues, Etc., may it rest in peace), and it’s often a revelation when I suddenly get that hymn.
    It’s a hardness of heart, often, that keeps us from this prize; being brought in at last to something that has eluded us, or baffled us. But there’s only one way in that I know of, and that’s exactly this process Mason Ian describes, of getting one’s feet wet, then finding oneself drenched with it, and drenched because of it.

  • organshoes

    God bless Mason Ian for putting this process into words!
    I’ve often dreamt of a congregation who spent as much time learning a hymn as I, the organist, and the choir have done. You have to go where the composer and the author are taking you–which, in good, true Lutheran hymnody is to Christ–and in the way in which they are taking you. Hymns are so much more than ‘the musical portion of our program’, and certainly more than expressions of our personal tastes, sentiments, thoughts, or emotions–they express and relate not so much what is outside us, but what we are outside of, and bring us into it, and it into us.
    I’m sure it takes a lot of singing of an unfamiliar hymn or hymnstyle to bring all its virtues to light. I can spend an hour playing one hymn in many different ways, trying to find its voice or its temper, or hear it presented by another source (say, one of those great CPH cd’s of historic Lutheran hymns, or maybe Dr. Arthur Just extolling a hymn on Issues, Etc., may it rest in peace), and it’s often a revelation when I suddenly get that hymn.
    It’s a hardness of heart, often, that keeps us from this prize; being brought in at last to something that has eluded us, or baffled us. But there’s only one way in that I know of, and that’s exactly this process Mason Ian describes, of getting one’s feet wet, then finding oneself drenched with it, and drenched because of it.

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  • WebMonk

    Veith, I tend to be fairly sympathetic to your position, but sloppiness doesn’t provide a good support. One of the lines stood out to me:

    “The very subjective pleasure, if you want to reduce everything to this, is so much greater and deeper and more intense with these writers than with the lesser entertainment we content ourselves with”

    Sorry, that’s false in just about any conceivable way of looking at it.

    For one, there’s the whole issue of trying to say who’s subjective pleasure is more intense, when the thing being measured is subjective. It’s an impossibility to directly compare subjective ‘things’ from the outside. Can’t be done. Claiming that A’s subjective pleasure is greater than B’s is nonsensical unless there is some objective measure I can use to translate between or compare the two.

    Example – if A were to go to a Beatles concert (back when they were still around) and B were to read Dante’s Paradisio, how could we say who’s pleasure was the most intense? Without some sort of outside comparison scale, we can’t compare the two because they are completely internal subjective feelings.

    What can be done, is to measure the objective effects of the subjective feeling. This is normally done by measuring the sacrifices made to achieve the subjective pleasure. How much will a person pay? What will they give up to achieve it?

    That gives us something base our comparisons upon. I can’t directly tell if someone else gets a greater pleasure from reading Dante or from going to a Beatles concert. What I can do is see how much they are willing to give up to do each. That gives me, as an outside observer, the best indicator as to which person had the most intense pleasure. (or at least their expectation of intense pleasure, since they made their sacrifices of time or money before the actual event.)

    Claiming that the pleasure B has from enjoying a good book is inherently deeper and more intense than the pleasure A has from going to a Beatles concert, is NONSENSE unless there is some sort of way to compare the two.

    This is one of the arguments that gets brought up often when discussing appreciation of beauty and related topics. It happens to be a false one, and ought not to be used.

    If the discussion goes in that sort of direction (a generally useless direction for the topic, IMHO), it needs to be based on comparable things, not unsupportable statements of how certain types of pleasure are inherently “deeper” or “more intense”. In general, the discussion of “goodness” of something shouldn’t be based on the intensity of pleasure. If intensity and longevity of pleasure were the real decider, then lots and lots of really good sex would probably be the most “good” thing.

  • WebMonk

    Veith, I tend to be fairly sympathetic to your position, but sloppiness doesn’t provide a good support. One of the lines stood out to me:

    “The very subjective pleasure, if you want to reduce everything to this, is so much greater and deeper and more intense with these writers than with the lesser entertainment we content ourselves with”

    Sorry, that’s false in just about any conceivable way of looking at it.

    For one, there’s the whole issue of trying to say who’s subjective pleasure is more intense, when the thing being measured is subjective. It’s an impossibility to directly compare subjective ‘things’ from the outside. Can’t be done. Claiming that A’s subjective pleasure is greater than B’s is nonsensical unless there is some objective measure I can use to translate between or compare the two.

    Example – if A were to go to a Beatles concert (back when they were still around) and B were to read Dante’s Paradisio, how could we say who’s pleasure was the most intense? Without some sort of outside comparison scale, we can’t compare the two because they are completely internal subjective feelings.

    What can be done, is to measure the objective effects of the subjective feeling. This is normally done by measuring the sacrifices made to achieve the subjective pleasure. How much will a person pay? What will they give up to achieve it?

    That gives us something base our comparisons upon. I can’t directly tell if someone else gets a greater pleasure from reading Dante or from going to a Beatles concert. What I can do is see how much they are willing to give up to do each. That gives me, as an outside observer, the best indicator as to which person had the most intense pleasure. (or at least their expectation of intense pleasure, since they made their sacrifices of time or money before the actual event.)

    Claiming that the pleasure B has from enjoying a good book is inherently deeper and more intense than the pleasure A has from going to a Beatles concert, is NONSENSE unless there is some sort of way to compare the two.

    This is one of the arguments that gets brought up often when discussing appreciation of beauty and related topics. It happens to be a false one, and ought not to be used.

    If the discussion goes in that sort of direction (a generally useless direction for the topic, IMHO), it needs to be based on comparable things, not unsupportable statements of how certain types of pleasure are inherently “deeper” or “more intense”. In general, the discussion of “goodness” of something shouldn’t be based on the intensity of pleasure. If intensity and longevity of pleasure were the real decider, then lots and lots of really good sex would probably be the most “good” thing.

  • WebMonk

    Ouch! Sorry about the length of that post. I didn’t realize it was so long. I generally try to keep them a bit shorter an concise. Apologies!

  • WebMonk

    Ouch! Sorry about the length of that post. I didn’t realize it was so long. I generally try to keep them a bit shorter an concise. Apologies!

  • Ted Gullixson

    “Subjective pleasure” may also be unable to be objectively measured because it is still based on measuring human feelings. One person who has trouble reading might get more pleasure out of going to a rock concert than reading any book. Yet, intuitively, we understand the example Mason Ian gives.
    “Beauty” is a philosophical concept (as well as a religious one, since God is the creator of beauty). Perhaps the criteria that distinguishes between reading Milton, Shakespeare, Dante or going to a Beatle’s concert should be what contributes more to the development of the mind, civilization, and thought. Beauty would then be defined not by feelings of pleasure, but by the good that it may produce (which is not the same as “utilitarianism”). By such a definition, reading the Bible would be the greatest beauty. For many people, it would require the same amount of effort as desribed in the article (humanly speaking, apart from the necessary work of the Holy Spirit) to appreciate the beauty of God’s Word.

  • Ted Gullixson

    “Subjective pleasure” may also be unable to be objectively measured because it is still based on measuring human feelings. One person who has trouble reading might get more pleasure out of going to a rock concert than reading any book. Yet, intuitively, we understand the example Mason Ian gives.
    “Beauty” is a philosophical concept (as well as a religious one, since God is the creator of beauty). Perhaps the criteria that distinguishes between reading Milton, Shakespeare, Dante or going to a Beatle’s concert should be what contributes more to the development of the mind, civilization, and thought. Beauty would then be defined not by feelings of pleasure, but by the good that it may produce (which is not the same as “utilitarianism”). By such a definition, reading the Bible would be the greatest beauty. For many people, it would require the same amount of effort as desribed in the article (humanly speaking, apart from the necessary work of the Holy Spirit) to appreciate the beauty of God’s Word.

  • WebMonk

    Ted, THAT is a more useful avenue of approach to working out the “good” from the “bad” in art and life. There are a variety of different ways of thinking about beauty and art and all that stuff.

    Conflating the different aspects and trying to support one view with things that support a different view is almost useless. One of the things I’ve run into (you might have guessed it from my rambling post above) is the mixing up of “beauty” in a context of goodness and benefit and “beauty” in the context of what people find pleasurable.

    The two are not necessarily the same thing, and in fact often aren’t. I love Gershwin’s compositions, I like most Bach, I like some country music, and I really abhor most electronica. That has nothing to do with the goodness of the types of music, but with the pleasurable sensations they bring to me – subjective. I’ve heard many arguments of varying validity about the goodness of those types of music, and far too often the arguments of the goodness of those types of music try to gain support from the pleasurableness of the music.

    They’re issues that are lightly connected, not the exact same issue. I’m all for purposefully shaping my tastes in pleasure to that which is good, but trying to define those measures of goodness by pleasure is mostly circular.

    (I’ll get off my soapbox now.)

  • WebMonk

    Ted, THAT is a more useful avenue of approach to working out the “good” from the “bad” in art and life. There are a variety of different ways of thinking about beauty and art and all that stuff.

    Conflating the different aspects and trying to support one view with things that support a different view is almost useless. One of the things I’ve run into (you might have guessed it from my rambling post above) is the mixing up of “beauty” in a context of goodness and benefit and “beauty” in the context of what people find pleasurable.

    The two are not necessarily the same thing, and in fact often aren’t. I love Gershwin’s compositions, I like most Bach, I like some country music, and I really abhor most electronica. That has nothing to do with the goodness of the types of music, but with the pleasurable sensations they bring to me – subjective. I’ve heard many arguments of varying validity about the goodness of those types of music, and far too often the arguments of the goodness of those types of music try to gain support from the pleasurableness of the music.

    They’re issues that are lightly connected, not the exact same issue. I’m all for purposefully shaping my tastes in pleasure to that which is good, but trying to define those measures of goodness by pleasure is mostly circular.

    (I’ll get off my soapbox now.)

  • The Jones

    Good post, but I was wondering this: We talk about Hollywood as if it were the tar-pit of all art. Now, I defend against the claim that most of Hollywood is an orgy of simple bang bang shoot’em-up turn your brain off pleasure (watch the Michael Bay Verizon FiOS Commercial for a funny take on this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiHsxQJ9ZOo ), but I’m saying MOST (not all) of Hollywood is like this.

    What exactly is good art when it comes to film? Hard to say. It seems like we good aesthetic beauty classical Christians don’t delve into that realm all that much. I feel like we are similar to clergy that has built up the art of music with chants and organs in the Cathedral and rightly disowns the scratchy fiddle playing of the beggar in the street, but who is utterly confounded and paralyzed when he sees a string orchestra. What is this new thing? How is it supposed to opperate?

    Christians haven’t been too great at translating great stories of the human condition and the redemptive power of Christ to the screen. Sometimes, sadly, we’re sold the line that BECAUSE it’s a good story it IS good. “You better like it because Jesus taught it, too!” Just because it’s a good story doesn’t mean the movie has aesthetic quality.

    How do aesthetic truths of literature and art translate to Cinematography? To Editing? To camera angles? To acting? Christians have fallen flat on this subject in many cases, but non-Christians seem to be doing quite well.

    Want an amazing representation of the erosion of the soul by greed and revenge? Watch The Godfather Part II. Want a creative and thought provoking presentation of Nihilism and the pointlessness of life? Watch Memento. Want a visually stunning allegory of Plato’s Cave AND some bang bang shoot’em-up action? Watch The Matrix. Where are we in this medium?

  • The Jones

    Good post, but I was wondering this: We talk about Hollywood as if it were the tar-pit of all art. Now, I defend against the claim that most of Hollywood is an orgy of simple bang bang shoot’em-up turn your brain off pleasure (watch the Michael Bay Verizon FiOS Commercial for a funny take on this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiHsxQJ9ZOo ), but I’m saying MOST (not all) of Hollywood is like this.

    What exactly is good art when it comes to film? Hard to say. It seems like we good aesthetic beauty classical Christians don’t delve into that realm all that much. I feel like we are similar to clergy that has built up the art of music with chants and organs in the Cathedral and rightly disowns the scratchy fiddle playing of the beggar in the street, but who is utterly confounded and paralyzed when he sees a string orchestra. What is this new thing? How is it supposed to opperate?

    Christians haven’t been too great at translating great stories of the human condition and the redemptive power of Christ to the screen. Sometimes, sadly, we’re sold the line that BECAUSE it’s a good story it IS good. “You better like it because Jesus taught it, too!” Just because it’s a good story doesn’t mean the movie has aesthetic quality.

    How do aesthetic truths of literature and art translate to Cinematography? To Editing? To camera angles? To acting? Christians have fallen flat on this subject in many cases, but non-Christians seem to be doing quite well.

    Want an amazing representation of the erosion of the soul by greed and revenge? Watch The Godfather Part II. Want a creative and thought provoking presentation of Nihilism and the pointlessness of life? Watch Memento. Want a visually stunning allegory of Plato’s Cave AND some bang bang shoot’em-up action? Watch The Matrix. Where are we in this medium?

  • WebMonk

    http://christiannewswire.com/news/574406002.html

    Maybe this is going to be the solution of Christians “translating great stories of the human condition and the redemptive power of Christ to the screen.” I have a knee-jerk response of skepticism to most anything Dobson supports, but this could be a good start!

    At the very least it’s good that the problem is being recognized. Whether or not these people will produce films that are beyond just good stories or if they’ll be more “You better like it because Jesus taught it, too!” sort of stories, I don’t know.

    I like George a lot and I know he yearns to develop Christians who can produce great films, not just video-tape good stories. If it weren’t for Dobson’s endorsement, I’d be highly optimistic! (slight tongue-in-cheek there)

  • WebMonk

    http://christiannewswire.com/news/574406002.html

    Maybe this is going to be the solution of Christians “translating great stories of the human condition and the redemptive power of Christ to the screen.” I have a knee-jerk response of skepticism to most anything Dobson supports, but this could be a good start!

    At the very least it’s good that the problem is being recognized. Whether or not these people will produce films that are beyond just good stories or if they’ll be more “You better like it because Jesus taught it, too!” sort of stories, I don’t know.

    I like George a lot and I know he yearns to develop Christians who can produce great films, not just video-tape good stories. If it weren’t for Dobson’s endorsement, I’d be highly optimistic! (slight tongue-in-cheek there)

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Webmonk, I am a huge Beatles fan (though I regret I never got to their concerts). And I can say that,yes, in my experience, the pleasure I get from Dante is greater and richer and more intense than the pleasure I get from a Beatles record.

    I would also say that popular genres, including film, also have various levels of merit. My pleasure from a Beatles record is greater and richer and more intense than my pleasure from a Dave Clark 5 record (to compare two artists of the same era and genre).

    I am not comparing two different people but two kinds of aesthetic experience. And I’m certainly not trying to quantify them! Aesthetics DOES involve subjective pleasure, though, so I’m trying not to ignore that little fact, just insisting that the different objects of that pleasure have some qualitative differences.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Webmonk, I am a huge Beatles fan (though I regret I never got to their concerts). And I can say that,yes, in my experience, the pleasure I get from Dante is greater and richer and more intense than the pleasure I get from a Beatles record.

    I would also say that popular genres, including film, also have various levels of merit. My pleasure from a Beatles record is greater and richer and more intense than my pleasure from a Dave Clark 5 record (to compare two artists of the same era and genre).

    I am not comparing two different people but two kinds of aesthetic experience. And I’m certainly not trying to quantify them! Aesthetics DOES involve subjective pleasure, though, so I’m trying not to ignore that little fact, just insisting that the different objects of that pleasure have some qualitative differences.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    And The Jones, I have been a movie critic, professionally, for many years. And I have written a book about country music, full of praise for “scratchy fiddles.” I reject the elitist charge and the out of touch charge. Further, most of the movies made in the “Golden Age” of film DID reflect pretty fully a Christian worldview, from the Westerns of John Ford to the scary suspense of Alfred Hitchcock.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    And The Jones, I have been a movie critic, professionally, for many years. And I have written a book about country music, full of praise for “scratchy fiddles.” I reject the elitist charge and the out of touch charge. Further, most of the movies made in the “Golden Age” of film DID reflect pretty fully a Christian worldview, from the Westerns of John Ford to the scary suspense of Alfred Hitchcock.

  • WebMonk

    Sorry if my details of the example got caught up in the overall point. A person can internally compare their own levels of pleasure from different activities. I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise. What can’t be done is someone outside of yourself measure those feelings or compare those feelings with someone else’s feelings.

    I can’t compare your levels of pleasure to someone else’s (or even my own) pleasure with anything beyond very general comparisons. For yourself, you can authoritatively state that Dante brings a much deeper sense of pleasure than Beatles. What no one can do is say that your pleasure at Dante is deeper than someone else’s pleasure at Beatles. (assuming he really likes the Beatles)

    The statement you made —
    “The very subjective pleasure, if you want to reduce everything to this, is so much greater and deeper and more intense with these writers than with the lesser entertainment we content ourselves with”
    — was one that was global in nature, and is completely false when used that way.

    Saying the pleasure from reading great books is greater than that from watching fluff movies is impossible to determine directly for anyone other than yourself. Making a claim like that as a global claim is unsupportable and nonsensical.

  • WebMonk

    Sorry if my details of the example got caught up in the overall point. A person can internally compare their own levels of pleasure from different activities. I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise. What can’t be done is someone outside of yourself measure those feelings or compare those feelings with someone else’s feelings.

    I can’t compare your levels of pleasure to someone else’s (or even my own) pleasure with anything beyond very general comparisons. For yourself, you can authoritatively state that Dante brings a much deeper sense of pleasure than Beatles. What no one can do is say that your pleasure at Dante is deeper than someone else’s pleasure at Beatles. (assuming he really likes the Beatles)

    The statement you made —
    “The very subjective pleasure, if you want to reduce everything to this, is so much greater and deeper and more intense with these writers than with the lesser entertainment we content ourselves with”
    — was one that was global in nature, and is completely false when used that way.

    Saying the pleasure from reading great books is greater than that from watching fluff movies is impossible to determine directly for anyone other than yourself. Making a claim like that as a global claim is unsupportable and nonsensical.

  • organshoes

    I think you take too much liberty with what Dr. Veith actually said, WebMonk. He said, ‘than with the lesser entertainment we content ourselves with.’
    He didn’t specify what that lesser entertainment might be–he didn’t name any names. He only specified ‘lesser entertainment.’
    Surely you can imagine an entertainment, pursued on a regular basis, by large portions of our society, that don’t require the work of comprehension and subsequent pleasure that higher forms do. Certainly we can take immediate but deep pleasure from something superficial and temporary; but we take a deeper, longer-lasting pleasure from something we’ve worked to understand.
    Unless, of course, understanding eludes us, no matter how hard we try.

  • organshoes

    I think you take too much liberty with what Dr. Veith actually said, WebMonk. He said, ‘than with the lesser entertainment we content ourselves with.’
    He didn’t specify what that lesser entertainment might be–he didn’t name any names. He only specified ‘lesser entertainment.’
    Surely you can imagine an entertainment, pursued on a regular basis, by large portions of our society, that don’t require the work of comprehension and subsequent pleasure that higher forms do. Certainly we can take immediate but deep pleasure from something superficial and temporary; but we take a deeper, longer-lasting pleasure from something we’ve worked to understand.
    Unless, of course, understanding eludes us, no matter how hard we try.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    And, Webmonk, you are talking about quantifying pleasure, whereas what I am trying to get at is qualitative. To say, as I did, “greater” and “richer” and “more intense” is not a measure of electrical neuron sensation or anything like that.

    Also, I am talking about “aesthetic pleasure,” not other kinds of pleasure, such as sexual pleasure. (Though many works today try to substitute the one for the other, so that an aesthetically horrible movie can give people a shot of pleasure by having a pretty actress take off her clothes, but this is a testimony to its failure as a work of art.)

    Remember that this all started not with Milton but with American Idol. What do we mean when we say one of these singers is better than the others? Right now, the one favored to win it gives certain people, namely, adolescent girls, pleasure because he is so “cute.” Another sings with range and expression, originality and creativity. He is a “better” singer than the cute one, but it takes some attention to appreciate what he is doing. But the pleasure one derives from his performance, once it is fully discerned, is “greater,” “richer,” and “more intense” than what one derives from the teeny-bopper favorite. Though the adolescent girl may experience a hormonal rush from the latter that overpowers more subtle feelings, I do think even the child can be taught to appreciate the difference.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    And, Webmonk, you are talking about quantifying pleasure, whereas what I am trying to get at is qualitative. To say, as I did, “greater” and “richer” and “more intense” is not a measure of electrical neuron sensation or anything like that.

    Also, I am talking about “aesthetic pleasure,” not other kinds of pleasure, such as sexual pleasure. (Though many works today try to substitute the one for the other, so that an aesthetically horrible movie can give people a shot of pleasure by having a pretty actress take off her clothes, but this is a testimony to its failure as a work of art.)

    Remember that this all started not with Milton but with American Idol. What do we mean when we say one of these singers is better than the others? Right now, the one favored to win it gives certain people, namely, adolescent girls, pleasure because he is so “cute.” Another sings with range and expression, originality and creativity. He is a “better” singer than the cute one, but it takes some attention to appreciate what he is doing. But the pleasure one derives from his performance, once it is fully discerned, is “greater,” “richer,” and “more intense” than what one derives from the teeny-bopper favorite. Though the adolescent girl may experience a hormonal rush from the latter that overpowers more subtle feelings, I do think even the child can be taught to appreciate the difference.

  • LAJ

    What a fascinating discussion! Thank you all for your insights! Some people today think anything with however small a reference to God is better than anything with no reference. How sad! That’s how we get so much inferior “Christian” music, books, and movies. I would rather have children listen to classic country music than the contemporary Christian music. There is much more honesty and to the former.

  • LAJ

    What a fascinating discussion! Thank you all for your insights! Some people today think anything with however small a reference to God is better than anything with no reference. How sad! That’s how we get so much inferior “Christian” music, books, and movies. I would rather have children listen to classic country music than the contemporary Christian music. There is much more honesty and to the former.

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  • WebMonk

    “But the pleasure one derives from his performance, once it is fully discerned, is “greater,” “richer,” and “more intense” than what one derives from the teeny-bopper favorite.”

    How can you know that for everyone? You know it for yourself, but you cannot directly know that for anyone else. If someone really likes the teeny-bopper performance, it’s impossible to say whether you or he is having the “deeper”, “richer” and “more intense” pleasure, unless you work out some sort of external comparison of indicators.

    Is your pleasure from the non-teeny-bopper performance more “intense” than an adolescent girl’s pleasure of the teeny-bopper’s performance? At best, you can only use outside indicators as comparisons between the different people’s feelings.

    You say that if people work at it, then their pleasure from the non-bopper performer will be deeper and more intense than their pleasure from the teeny-bopper. You are only basing it on your own perception, though.

    Why not say:
    “But the pleasure one derives from his performance, once it is fully discerned, is “greater,” “richer,” and “more intense” than what one derives from the non-teeny-bopper.”
    (I don’t know names since I don’t watch regularly enough)

    What sort of comparison can show which statement is true – your statement at the beginning, or the one immediately above this?

  • WebMonk

    “But the pleasure one derives from his performance, once it is fully discerned, is “greater,” “richer,” and “more intense” than what one derives from the teeny-bopper favorite.”

    How can you know that for everyone? You know it for yourself, but you cannot directly know that for anyone else. If someone really likes the teeny-bopper performance, it’s impossible to say whether you or he is having the “deeper”, “richer” and “more intense” pleasure, unless you work out some sort of external comparison of indicators.

    Is your pleasure from the non-teeny-bopper performance more “intense” than an adolescent girl’s pleasure of the teeny-bopper’s performance? At best, you can only use outside indicators as comparisons between the different people’s feelings.

    You say that if people work at it, then their pleasure from the non-bopper performer will be deeper and more intense than their pleasure from the teeny-bopper. You are only basing it on your own perception, though.

    Why not say:
    “But the pleasure one derives from his performance, once it is fully discerned, is “greater,” “richer,” and “more intense” than what one derives from the non-teeny-bopper.”
    (I don’t know names since I don’t watch regularly enough)

    What sort of comparison can show which statement is true – your statement at the beginning, or the one immediately above this?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Maybe our problem is the ambiguity in the term “greater.” I didn’t say someone would get “more” pleasure (quantifiable), but “greater” pleasure (qualitative; that is, a “better” pleasure).

    To say George Washington was a “greater” president than Millard Fillmore does not mean that the father of our country was president longer, nor that Fillmore was any less of a president than Washington. Rather, it means that Washington was “better”–he was nobler, his accomplishments were more significant, he played a more important role and did it well.

    “Great” art gives “great pleasure”: the pleasure of learning something, the pleasure of insight, the pleasure of astonishment, the pleasure of vicarious experience, the pleasure of praise that God has given such gifts to mortals. Watching a car chase movie stimulates the neurons, but that kind of pleasure is, literally, lesser than what one gets from Milton. It is simpler (thus, not as rich); it is more superficial–that is to say, skin deep, as opposed to the multi-faceted pleasures that Milton provides–and so it is not as “intense.”

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Maybe our problem is the ambiguity in the term “greater.” I didn’t say someone would get “more” pleasure (quantifiable), but “greater” pleasure (qualitative; that is, a “better” pleasure).

    To say George Washington was a “greater” president than Millard Fillmore does not mean that the father of our country was president longer, nor that Fillmore was any less of a president than Washington. Rather, it means that Washington was “better”–he was nobler, his accomplishments were more significant, he played a more important role and did it well.

    “Great” art gives “great pleasure”: the pleasure of learning something, the pleasure of insight, the pleasure of astonishment, the pleasure of vicarious experience, the pleasure of praise that God has given such gifts to mortals. Watching a car chase movie stimulates the neurons, but that kind of pleasure is, literally, lesser than what one gets from Milton. It is simpler (thus, not as rich); it is more superficial–that is to say, skin deep, as opposed to the multi-faceted pleasures that Milton provides–and so it is not as “intense.”

  • Pinon Coffee

    I think the comments at the beginning of the thread were spot-on: it takes time to recognize beauty and excellence in an unfamiliar art form. It’s worth it.

    I think Christians tend to be weak in film; I think we (especially homeschoolers) also tend to be weak in the realm of fashion. I would love to see PHC start a fashion design major. A good outfit can be just as much a thing of beauty and craftsmanship as a poem–and it’s more obvious to everyone who sees you. Just because a lot of people pervert the purpose of clothes doesn’t mean we should ignore them entirely. (Deconstructed hems? Clashing patterns? Someone infuse some theology, quick!)

    To that end, I would support Christians reading Vogue. It’s a study, as well as entertainment. :-)

  • Pinon Coffee

    I think the comments at the beginning of the thread were spot-on: it takes time to recognize beauty and excellence in an unfamiliar art form. It’s worth it.

    I think Christians tend to be weak in film; I think we (especially homeschoolers) also tend to be weak in the realm of fashion. I would love to see PHC start a fashion design major. A good outfit can be just as much a thing of beauty and craftsmanship as a poem–and it’s more obvious to everyone who sees you. Just because a lot of people pervert the purpose of clothes doesn’t mean we should ignore them entirely. (Deconstructed hems? Clashing patterns? Someone infuse some theology, quick!)

    To that end, I would support Christians reading Vogue. It’s a study, as well as entertainment. :-)

  • WebMonk

    People can adjust their tastes to some extent, and ought to work to make their quantitative (intensity-level) pleasures align with that which is qualitatively good. Absolutely! Qualitative and quantitative ought not be confused. Absolutely! Quantitative does not define Qualitative. Absolutely!

    What is the qualitative better thing being held forth here in American Idol? The voice.

    That seems to be the general point being made about American Idol – all those people who are voting for Archuleta really shouldn’t be voting based on something so silly as the fact that they “like” him (good looks, personality, moves, with an OK voice), they ought to be voting for the better voice because it is a superior quality of pleasure to appreciate a good voice compared to a good face.

    Why is it a greater (qualitative) type of pleasure to enjoy a good voice compared to a good face/body/actions? (just as a general difference between American Idol performers) The determination that the superior “type” of pleasure (voice) in American Idol is based on a personal quantitative pleasure. I know you specifically reject the standard that quantitative defines qualitative, but how is the determination made that a performer’s voice is a qualitatively superior thing, and all those teens just don’t have the right set of qualitative standards because they’re putting looks and actions above voice?

    Personal quantitative pleasure; it sneaks in there.

    “Right now, the one favored to win it gives certain people, namely, adolescent girls, pleasure because he is so “cute.” Another sings with range and expression, originality and creativity. He is a “better” singer than the cute one, but it takes some attention to appreciate what he is doing. But the pleasure one derives from his performance, once it is fully discerned, is “greater,” “richer,” and “more intense” than what one derives from the teeny-bopper favorite.”

    Sounds like a qualitative difference being defined by a personal quantitative judgment, doesn’t it?

  • WebMonk

    People can adjust their tastes to some extent, and ought to work to make their quantitative (intensity-level) pleasures align with that which is qualitatively good. Absolutely! Qualitative and quantitative ought not be confused. Absolutely! Quantitative does not define Qualitative. Absolutely!

    What is the qualitative better thing being held forth here in American Idol? The voice.

    That seems to be the general point being made about American Idol – all those people who are voting for Archuleta really shouldn’t be voting based on something so silly as the fact that they “like” him (good looks, personality, moves, with an OK voice), they ought to be voting for the better voice because it is a superior quality of pleasure to appreciate a good voice compared to a good face.

    Why is it a greater (qualitative) type of pleasure to enjoy a good voice compared to a good face/body/actions? (just as a general difference between American Idol performers) The determination that the superior “type” of pleasure (voice) in American Idol is based on a personal quantitative pleasure. I know you specifically reject the standard that quantitative defines qualitative, but how is the determination made that a performer’s voice is a qualitatively superior thing, and all those teens just don’t have the right set of qualitative standards because they’re putting looks and actions above voice?

    Personal quantitative pleasure; it sneaks in there.

    “Right now, the one favored to win it gives certain people, namely, adolescent girls, pleasure because he is so “cute.” Another sings with range and expression, originality and creativity. He is a “better” singer than the cute one, but it takes some attention to appreciate what he is doing. But the pleasure one derives from his performance, once it is fully discerned, is “greater,” “richer,” and “more intense” than what one derives from the teeny-bopper favorite.”

    Sounds like a qualitative difference being defined by a personal quantitative judgment, doesn’t it?

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