This conversation is closed.

If there is a standard for what is right and wrong in science, is there a standard what what is right and wrong in art, music, etc?

Sam Harris sheds the conventional notion that morality is subjective by showing that there is a Utilitarian standard for morality.
I personally believe there can be a standard for what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable in the world of fine arts. I find it baffling that people always say phrases such as "Art is subjective."
For instance, I think literature should always contain certain elements such as plot and setting...but what makes good literature great is the use of themes such as characterization and symbolism. Music can be viewed with the same lens. All music should have a tempo. Better music will have a chorus and variances in tone and harmony. Art should always convey an idea. Better art takes advantage of elements such as balance and color.
In any sort of fine art, there is clearly a standard for what is good and what is bad, and there are people with an expertise in these field who can judge what is good and what is bad. Their opinions on issues within these fields should be held on a higher pedestal than someone who is ignorant in the fields, yet we tend to not differentiate between differences in opinions.
This was one of the first things I thought of when I saw this video. I would like to see someone who has a valid point for disagreeing with me on this...because otherwise I think there can be universal closure on issues that are always deemed subjective.

  • thumb
    Sep 26 2011: in science it is not easy to define what is right and wrong. right is what works. if you can build a bridge (cd player, mri), and you can teach other people to build bridges (cd players, mri's), you are right, and your name is engineer or architect. if you can't do that, you are out. whether a bridge stands or collapses is not up to debate. it is not a matter of personal taste or opinion.

    in art, we have the same criteria: if what you do works, you are an artist. if not, you are not. the difference is in the "works" part. the goal of art is to provoke feelings or thoughts. this is personal. one piece of art works for one person and does not work for another. in art, there can be a majority opinion, but there can be no general rule or standard. there is a different standard for each and every person.
  • Sep 29 2011: I just wanted to make the disclaimer that I posted this after watching "Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions". Often, people say morality is subjective...but he argues that it is objective in more ways than it is not. He makes the point that there is a good understanding of morality and ethics and a bad one..and points to places with archaic Shariah Law as places of objectively bad morality.

    It just sparked me to post this because I figured there could be standard for what is good and bad in the creative world...maybe not so black and white...but better than we have now...
    In essence, I way saying that person A actually has a better and more qualified interpretation of literature/music/art than person B simply because they understand the elements that make up good literature/music/art.

    In an ideal world, we could have art critics that fairly look at each piece of work with a standard. In reality, we all know that isn't the case...so there is definitely a shade of gray here. =]
  • thumb
    Sep 28 2011: Art and music are forms of expression. Science is rather an effective approach to further our understanding. There is no way to standardise expression while preserving creativity.

    I think the best argument I have to show art's subjectivity is that while there are "experts" in artistic fields which judge good and bad, there is often a delay in our interpretation of greatness. What is regarded as "good" changes. Many artists' work is not seen as "genius" until many years after their death. Edgar Allen Poe made barely any money, died unhappy, and became famous only after death. Michelangelo died poor and without respect. Henry David Thoreau only began to receive praise 60 years after his death. Vincent van Gogh only became popular 40 years after his death.

    This suggests that interpretation is subjective. The art of van Gogh passed critics of the time unnoticed. The "experts" ideas of good will always change. Thus, art is subjective.
  • thumb
    Sep 26 2011: Read the book The Philosophical Breakfast Club. It talks about the invention of the scientific model.
  • thumb
    Sep 26 2011: simple if u make mistakes in science either its a mass disaster or mass goodness if you make mistake in Arts :) you are in a mass danger or in a mass popularity, simple yet true..
  • thumb
    Sep 26 2011: You do not sound as if you are a musician or an artist. Perhaps a writer.

    Something can be considered art, when it has value to the beholder. Literature can be a story, without a plot and setting. Poetry would be a great example of this. You give too much credit to "expert" art critics.

    Though, I'm sorry that when you view a painting, all you can see is the quality of the brush strokes. You have no idea of the wonders that you are missing, when you stop to see the forest as more then just a group of solitary trees.
    • Sep 27 2011: Well, I was actually passionate about art in high school and that turned into a photography hobby afterwards. Believe me, I don't judge a painting by how realistic it is...but I do notice when an artist knows the elements of art or not. I think there are categories that give meaning to art just as there are categories that give meaning to literature. The objective is to use elements such as contrast, balance, etc. to convey meaning...and a lot of people simply overlook that. Too often people paint something with no direction or concept behind it whatsoever, and it becomes "art" simply because there are colors on canvas. I feel that too often something can be mislabeled as art just because its aesthetically pleasing.


      Poetry is definitely an exception to what I said about literature, but I just didn't know if it was important to make that note, considering poetry is an art in its own.
      • thumb
        Sep 27 2011: It is commonly believed that as a society, we are losing our ability to think creatively.

        So I ask you this, does a standardized measuring system for art, promote creativity, or stifle it? If we tell people (especially children) that there is only one correct way to paint, does that help them to be creative? Or does it turn them off, as they don't want to paint in that particular way.
        • Sep 28 2011: Well to answer your first point, I really don't think we are losing creativity as a society,. I just think we've implemented so many ideas at this point that it is hard to come up with something that hasn't been experimented with already. More importantly, we are losing taste as a society. On a large scale, our art, our music, and our literature reflect a society that wants instant gratification. We only want the parts of something that make us feel good, and not the rest... this explains why pop music and dubstep are so widely received; they simply give you what you want to hear, and not what you should. If art was like a full course meal, we would be scrapping the vegetables and going straight for the meat..which is disappointing.


          Simple answer: I think teaching kids to color in the lines is a good thing. You have to learn how to follow convention before you can break it. Personally, Picasso is one of my favorite artists for that very reason.
          Long answer: Well, at an early age, I certainly think you should let people get away with as much as possible. When you're in elementary school writing your first papers, you get tons of encouragement for writing some of the most rudimentary stuff. However, as you mature in writing, people are more critical of the small things. In art, people completely overlook obvious negligence and carelessness. There is no appreciation for the discipline of art these days..its all about what "looks good" and not so much about the underlying concepts and how they were expressed.

          So to tie those two ideas together, I think the most important thing we have to address as a society is the lack of determination. By all means, I encourage more people to try art. But I also encourage people to learn it as a discipline. In the mean time, there needs to be more humility in art..people should be considered "students" of art until they master their craft. That category includes me as well.
  • thumb
    Sep 26 2011: Depends on how subjective or objective you need to be in order to insure a sane future for humanity. I don't want my airline pilot to be a subjectivist. He needs to follow procedure exactly every time. People who have the lives and well being of others in their hands need to operate according to standards. Creativity doesn' t need these sorts of standards and can explore and use failure as a teaching device because failure won't hurt anyone other than themselves.