Artistic Expression and Rationality

Nowadays people think that Art is about Self-Expression.

Historically, that’s really weird.

The Greeks believed that art was divine, and that you had to invoke muses in order for it to be produced through you.

The word genius comes from the Roman word for a family’s guiding spirit. Humans could be guided by their genius into creating works of art, but they weren’t making the art.

The Inuit believed that each bone had one object inside of it, and that the artist’s job was simply to discover that object and shape the bone into it.

This seems to be a much more psychologically healthy way to approach art.

When you produce something now, you worry about people judging it. Laymen assume that art is supposed to reflect upon it’s creator, and many people don’t see themselves as creative enough to produce good art. So they don’t.

When I was building robots, I was dealing with constraints. I could come up with creative solutions to problems by fiddling with assumptions — wondering if I could disobey one, or considering tradeoffs between them.

In the process of considering constraints, solutions would often present themselves.

The language we use to describe good art (the idea came to me, I was inspired) sets the artist as the the object of a sentence, not the subject. It’s almost as if most people are unwilling to create if they’re responsible for the creation.

I became way more creative after I started identifying as a rationalist. How does that work?

I’m thinking that it has something to do with the fact that I now have lots of concepts that explain how thinking works without bringing my identity into it. My brain can come up with things, and I don’t have to identify them. What I know can imply something, even if I don’t think it’s true.

I just have to do things that make sense over and over again. Sometimes I don’t have good information and I screw up. I need more information, or I don’t. The things I do did or did not work, but I assume that the default human state is inaction. Failures teach me stuff, rather than signalling intrinsic traits.

I don’t view the things I do as self-expression, so much as an expression of myself through causal forces. Poems that I write that turn out well are good because of the attributes that make poems enjoyable, not because of anything particularly special with me.

Not sure if it works as a substitute, but I do think it’s an interesting thought.


About atucker

Provisional pronouncements and (hopefully) honest mistakes. I'd like to be differently wrong about things, and helpful to the world.
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One Response to Artistic Expression and Rationality

  1. Brendon says:

    Modern society and morality, for all it’s emphasis on “being a good person,” all its professed selflessness, is really inherently quite inherently selfish.

    The easiest way I can think to illustrate what I mean is by how shocking our immediate, conditioned reaction would be to someone telling us, “I don’t give a fuck about your feelings.” We’re conditioned to think our feelings and experience are just SO fucking important.

    But really, aside from the rudeness and lack of empathy implied, I generally don’t. I mean, I do, because a part of me wants to make people feel good. But also, I don’t, because you are one of several billion and really not all that special.

    Likewise, I don’t care about your art because you made it. I care about it insofar as it expresses something deep or unique about you and your experience, because in studying that we can learn and appreciate our own life and experiences more and better.

    Not because you made it. You are really not all that important in the equation.

    But that’s ok. Neither am I. 🙂

    Not sure what I think about what I just wrote actually. But was my initial reaction, and there’s definitely something here. Interesting thought, Aaron.

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