Combining Philosophers

All the ideas for Roger Fry, Jonathan Tallant and Wolfgang von Goethe

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26 ideas

1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 1. Nature of Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a quest for truthmakers [Tallant]
     Full Idea: In this book I will treat metaphysics as a quest for truthmakers.
     From: Jonathan Tallant (Metaphysics: an introduction [2011], 01)
     A reaction: I find this appealing, though obviously you have to say what sort of truthmakers generate 'metaphysical' truths, as opposed to physics or biology. I take it that would involve truthmakers that had a high level of generality, idealisation and abstraction.
2. Reason / D. Definition / 12. Paraphrase
Maybe number statements can be paraphrased into quantifications plus identities [Tallant]
     Full Idea: One strategy is whenever we are presented with a sentence that might appear to entail the existence of numbers, all that we have to do is paraphrase it using a quantified logic, plus identity.
     From: Jonathan Tallant (Metaphysics: an introduction [2011], 03.5)
     A reaction: This nominalist strategy seems fine for manageable numbers, but gets in trouble with numbers too big to count (e.g. grains of sand in the world) , or genuine infinities.
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 3. Truthmaker Maximalism
Maybe only 'positive' truths need truth-makers [Tallant]
     Full Idea: We might say that those truths that do not need truth-makers are those that are negative. Those that do need truth-makers are those that are positive.
     From: Jonathan Tallant (Metaphysics: an introduction [2011], 10.8)
     A reaction: If you deny the existence of something, there is always an implicit domain for the denial, such as 'on the table', or 'in this building', or 'in the cosmos'. So why can't that domain be the truthmaker for a negative existential?
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 5. What Makes Truths / a. What makes truths
A truthmaker is the minimal portion of reality that will do the job [Tallant]
     Full Idea: A 'minimal' truth-maker is the 'smallest' portion of reality required to make a given proposition true.
     From: Jonathan Tallant (Metaphysics: an introduction [2011], 01.2)
     A reaction: A nice suggestion. This seems to make Ockham's Razor an integral part of the theory of truth-makers. I would apply the same principle to explanations. An Ockhamist explanation is what explains the puzzling thing - and nothing else.
3. Truth / B. Truthmakers / 12. Rejecting Truthmakers
What is the truthmaker for a possible new power? [Tallant]
     Full Idea: What power will make true 'there could be a power that does not in fact exist'?
     From: Jonathan Tallant (Metaphysics: an introduction [2011], 04.13)
     A reaction: Nice question. We can't know whether it is true that a new power could exist, so we can't expect an actual truthmaker for it. Though we might predict new powers (such as for a new transuranic element), on the basis of the known ones.
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 13. Tropes / a. Nature of tropes
The wisdom of Plato and of Socrates are not the same property [Tallant]
     Full Idea: It is not the case that Plato's wisdom = Socrates's wisdom. Platonic-wisdom and Socratic-wisdom are not the same property.
     From: Jonathan Tallant (Metaphysics: an introduction [2011], 05.4)
     A reaction: This seems reasonable in the case of wisdom, but not so clear in the case of indistinguishable properties of redness or squareness or mass. Nevertheless it gives nice support for trope theory.
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 2. Substance / d. Substance defined
Substance must have two properties: individuation, and property-bearing [Tallant]
     Full Idea: It appears that substance has essential properties: it is of the essence of substance that it individuates, and it is of the essence of substance that it bears properties.
     From: Jonathan Tallant (Metaphysics: an introduction [2011], 06.2)
     A reaction: The point being that substances are not 'bear', because they have a role to perform, and a complete blank can't fulfil a role. We can't take substance, though, seriously in ontology. It is just a label for distinct individuals.
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 5. Empiricism Critique
Many people imagine that to experience is to understand [Goethe]
     Full Idea: There are many people who imagine that what they experience they also understand.
     From: Wolfgang von Goethe (Maxims and Reflections [1825], 889)
     A reaction: This should be posted over the arrivals gate of every international airport, for returning holiday-makers. It seems to place Goethe on the rationalist side of the debate with empiricism. It is hard to explain 'understanding' in Humean terms.
13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 3. Subjectivism
Man never understands how anthropomorphic he is [Goethe]
     Full Idea: Man never understands how anthropomorphic he is.
     From: Wolfgang von Goethe (Maxims and Reflections [1825], 203)
     A reaction: Nice. It is true, even when it is pointed out to us. No matter how hard we try to realise how very different animals are from us, we can't help identifying with them. Religious people even do it with inanimate creation.
16. Persons / C. Self-Awareness / 2. Knowing the Self
We gain self-knowledge through action, not thought - especially when doing our duty [Goethe]
     Full Idea: How can we learn self-knowledge? Never by taking thought, but rather by action. Try to do your duty and you'll soon discover what you're like.
     From: Wolfgang von Goethe (Maxims and Reflections [1825], 442)
     A reaction: Good! I even like the unfashionable bit about duty. If you just do what you want, you will discover your interests, but not so much about your capacities. However, when you have to do something less comfortable, it is very revealing.
16. Persons / C. Self-Awareness / 3. Limits of Introspection
Most of us are too close to our own motives to understand them [Fry]
     Full Idea: The motives we actually experience are too close to us to enable us to feel them clearly. They are in a sense unintelligible.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.30)
     A reaction: Fry is defending the role of art in clarifying and highlighting such things, but I am not convinced by his claim. We can grasp most of our motives with a little introspection, and those we can't grasp are probably too subtle for art as well.
19. Language / D. Propositions / 2. Abstract Propositions / a. Propositions as sense
Are propositions all the thoughts and sentences that are possible? [Tallant]
     Full Idea: One might be tempted to the view that there are as many different propositions as there are thoughts that could be thought and sentences that could be uttered.
     From: Jonathan Tallant (Metaphysics: an introduction [2011], 04.5.3)
     A reaction: A fairly orthodox view I take to be crazy. I think it is a view designed for logic, rather than for how the world is. Why tie propositions to what can be thought, and then introduce unthought propositions? Why no unthinkable propositions?
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 2. Aesthetic Attitude
Imaginative life requires no action, so new kinds of perception and values emerge in art [Fry]
     Full Idea: In the imaginative life no action is necessary, so the whole consciousness may be focused upon the perceptive and the emotional aspects of the experience. Hence we get a different set of values, and a different kind of perception
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.24)
     A reaction: Good. A huge range of human activities are like scientific experiments, where you draw on our evolved faculties, but put them in controlled conditions, where the less convenient and stressful parts are absent. War and sport. Real and theatrical tragedy.
Everyone reveals an aesthetic attitude, looking at something which only exists to be seen [Fry]
     Full Idea: It is only when an object exists for no other purpose than to be seen that we really look at it, …and then even the most normal person adopts to some extent the artistic attitude of pure vision abstracted from necessity.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.29)
     A reaction: A painter of still life looks at things which exist for other purposes, with just the attitude which Fry attributes to the viewers of the paintings. We can encourage a child to look at a flower with just this attitude.
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 4. Beauty
'Beauty' can either mean sensuous charm, or the aesthetic approval of art (which may be ugly) [Fry]
     Full Idea: There is an apparent contradiction between two distinct uses of the word 'beauty', one for that which has sensuous charm, and one for the aesthetic approval of works of imaginative art where the objects presented to us are often of extreme ugliness.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.33)
     A reaction: The gouging of eyes in 'King Lear' was always the big problem case for aesthetics, just as nowadays it is Marcel Duchamp's wretched 'Fountain'.
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 5. Natural Beauty
Beauty is a manifestation of secret natural laws [Goethe]
     Full Idea: Beauty is a manifestation of secret natural laws which without this appearance would have remained eternally hidden from us.
     From: Wolfgang von Goethe (Maxims and Reflections [1825], 183)
     A reaction: An interesting defence of beauty as an objective feature of the world. I'm not sure. Much beauty is indeed the result of growth or erosion expressing underlying laws, but then I have always thought there was a sexual component to visual beauty.
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 6. The Sublime
In life we neglect 'cosmic emotion', but it matters, and art brings it to the fore [Fry]
     Full Idea: Those feelings unhappily named cosmic emotion find almost no place in life, but, since they seem to belong to certain very deep springs of our nature, do become of great importance in the arts.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.31)
     A reaction: Focus on the sublime was big in the romantic era, but Fry still sees its importance, and I don't think it ever goes away. Art styles which scorn the sublime are failing to perform their social duty, say I.
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 2. Art as Form
Art needs a mixture of order and variety in its sensations [Fry]
     Full Idea: The first quality that we demand in our [artistic] sensations will be order, without which our sensations will be troubled and perplexed, and the other will be variety, without which they will not be fully stimulated.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.32)
     A reaction: He makes good claims, but gives unconvincing reasons for them. Some of us rather like 'troubled and perplexed' sensations. And a very narrow range of sensations could still be highly stimulated. Is Fry a good aesthetician but a modest philosopher?
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 3. Art as Imitation
If graphic arts only aim at imitation, their works are only trivial ingenious toys [Fry]
     Full Idea: If imitation is the sole purpose of the graphic arts, it is surprising that the works of such arts are ever looked upon as more than curiosities, or ingenious toys, and are ever taken seriously by grown-up people.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.23)
     A reaction: But then you might say that same about fine wines. A mere nice taste is hardly worthy of grown ups, and yet lots of grown ups feeling quite passionately about it. What about Fabergé eggs?
Popular opinion favours realism, yet most people never look closely at anything! [Fry]
     Full Idea: Ordinary people have almost no idea of what things really look like, so that the one standard that popular criticism applies to painting (whether it is like nature or not) is the one which most people are prevented frm applying properly.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.29)
     A reaction: A nice remark, though there is a streak of Bloomsbury artistic snobbery running through Fry. Ordinary people recognise photographic realism, so they can study things closely either in the reality or the picture, should they so choose.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 1. Artistic Intentions
When viewing art, rather than flowers, we are aware of purpose, and sympathy with its creator [Fry]
     Full Idea: In our reaction to a work of art (rather than a flower) there is the consciousness of purpose, of a peculiar relation of sympathy with the man who made this thing in order to arouse precisely the sensations we experience.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.33)
     A reaction: I think this is entirely right. I like the mention of 'sympathy' as well as 'purpose'.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 4. Emotion in Art
In the cinema the emotions are weaker, but much clearer than in ordinary life [Fry]
     Full Idea: One notices in the visions of the cinematograph that whatever emotions are aroused by them, though they are likely to be weaker than those of ordinary life, are presented more clearly to the conscious.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.25)
     A reaction: Fry had probably only seen very simple melodramas, but the general idea that artistic emotions are weaker than real life, but much clearer, is quite plausible.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 7. Art and Morality
For pure moralists art must promote right action, and not just be harmless [Fry]
     Full Idea: To the pure moralist, accepting nothing but ethical values, to be justified, the life of the imagination must be shown not only not to hinder but actually to forward right action, otherwise it is not only useless but, by absorbing energies, harmful.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.26)
     A reaction: I think this is the sort of attitude you find in Samuel Johnson. Puritans even reject light music, which seems pleasantly harmless to the rest of us. 'Absorbing energies' doesn't sound much of an objection, and may not be the actual objection.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 2. Happiness / d. Routes to happiness
The happiest people link the beginning and end of life [Goethe]
     Full Idea: The happiest man is one who can link the end of his life with its beginning.
     From: Wolfgang von Goethe (Maxims and Reflections [1825], 140)
     A reaction: [from 'Art and Antiquity']. A nice thought, which chimes in with the idea that a good life is like a complete story or a work of art (Idea 7501), or that it is 'eudaimon'.
24. Political Theory / B. Nature of a State / 1. Purpose of a State
The best form of government teaches us to govern ourselves [Goethe]
     Full Idea: You ask which form of government is the best? Whichever teaches us to govern ourselves.
     From: Wolfgang von Goethe (Maxims and Reflections [1825], 353)
     A reaction: Not a fashionable view, since the rise of freedom as the highest political ideal, but I identify with the idea that a good government should educate, and should try to facilitate virtue as well as pleasure.
25. Social Practice / C. Rights / 1. Basis of Rights
To get duties from people without rights, you must pay them well [Goethe]
     Full Idea: If you demand duties from people and will not concede them rights, you have to pay them well.
     From: Wolfgang von Goethe (Maxims and Reflections [1825], 180)
     A reaction: [from 'Art and Antiquity']. ...or have great power over them. Goethe gives the optimistic liberal view, rather than the Marxist view.