The very uselessness of art that makes it so incomprehensible to the evolutionary biologist makes it all too comprehensible to the economist and social psychologist. What better proof that you have money to spare than your being able to spend it on doodads and stunts that don't fill the belly or keep the rain out but that require precious materials, years of practice, a command of obscure texts, or intimacy with the elite? -- The steadfast patrons of the arts are the aristocracy and those who want to join them. Most people would lose their taste for a musical recording if they learned it was being sold at supermarket checkout counters or on late-night television, and even the work of relatively prestigious artists, such as Pierre Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet, draws derisive reviews when it is shown in a popular "blockbuster" museum show. Modern and postmodern works are intended not to give pleasure but to confirm or confound the theories of a guild of critics and analysts, to e'pater la bourgeoisie, or to baffle the rubes in Peoria.
- Steven Pinker, How Much Art Can the Brain Take?
As a small boy, David Copperfield is tormented and abused by his vicious stepfather, but close to his own room he discovers a neglected store of old books, including Tom Jones, Humphrey Clinker, Don Quixote, and Robinson Crusoe. What David gets from these books is not just a bit of mental cheesecake, a chance for a transient fantasy in which all his own wishes are fulfilled. What he gets are lively and powerful images of human life suffused with the feeling and understanding of the astonishingly capable and complete human beings who wrote them. It is through this kind of contact with a sense of human possibility that he is enabled to escape from the degrading limitations of his own local environment. He is not escaping from reality; he is escaping from an impoverished reality into the larger world of healthy human possibility.
- Joseph Carroll, Steven Pinker’s Cheesecake For The Mind
In Pulitzer-prize winner Jane Smiley's work, Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel (pages 174 - 177), Smiley makes a compelling case that the novel as a communication form has helped our culture create an empathetic response, both in the readers' relationship with the individual characters in a specific story, but more importantly, in that novel reading as a repeated activity helps creates a generally empathetic personality in the reader herself. If you can regularly place yourself into the shoes of different characters, whose lives, cultures, personalities, etc., are radically different from your own and still feel for them, it cannot help but liberalize your view of the world and create a more empathetic personality.
- Patricia Manney, wta-talk list
When does textual exegesis shade into self-parody? In other words, when do the obsessive attentions of fanboy critics, excavating Deep Meanings from a hunk of disposable pop culture, start to look bathetic, as a result of the contrast between grand ambition and the silliness of the object under scrutiny?
- Mark Dery
When I see the randomized player make a move that I assigned a very low probability, I chuckle and rub my hands, because I think the other player has randomly made a very poor move and now I can win. When a superior opponent surprises me by making a move to which I assigned a tiny probability, I'll groan because I think the other player has seen something I didn't see, and now I'm about to be swept off the board. Even though it's exactly the same probability distribution! You can be exactly as uncertain about the actions, and yet draw very different conclusions about the eventual outcome.
Countless schools have proposed their own ways to define quality, yet they all seem to agree in at least one point: once their aesthetic choices are accepted, the value of the work of art is determined by its capacity to transcend the limits of its chosen medium in order to strike some universal chord, or by the rarity of the skill of the artist, or in its accurate reflection in what is termed the zeitgeist.
- Wikipedia - Art
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