31 March 2010

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: The role of prostitution in society

Dear friends,

According to that digital fountain of information, Wikipedia, Mary
Magdalene has recently been reformed in Christian religions from being a
repentant prostitute to someone healed by Christ from illness. As the
Wikipedia article on this person puts it, Mary Magdalene was a "victim
of a historical defamation of character."

It is ironic that we should be discussing "the role of prostitution in
society" on the holiest of days in the Christian calendar. Whilst I
certainly have no ambition to rehabilitate prostitution in our society,
I don't know about you, I certainly have some serious questions, which I
ask in my short essay, that I hope will challenge the moral and
philosophical immaturity expressed by some well appointed members in our

In the meantime we'd be well advised to check out the link Edwin sent me
on a very related theme of prostitution, Edwin writes: Given the topic
for next week I think some people may do well to read this
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilya_4-ever. It was a film that was
promoted by Amnesty International and was very moving. Given the
preponderance of young girls from Chisnau in Moldova who are "promised"
the same golden future or simply abducted it is something to think about.

In the meantime I hope you have a good holiday and look forward to see
you Sunday.

Take care



+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147

Tertulia with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30 to 21h, at
Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).

The role of prostitution in society

In the real world we live in, prostitution is part of society and the
sex industry is certainly one of the more successful industries to be
involved with. In the world of philosophy, that is, the world as it
ought to be, we come across a number of issues about prostitution that
require some investigation.

There are three main issues, amongst many, relating to prostitution that
concern us: 1) the health implications of prostitution, 2) the economic
implications of prostitution, especially those affecting women, and 3)
the biological implications of prostitution.

However, I do not see any moral issues as far as consenting adults are
concerned when agreeing to sexual activities involving the exchange of
money. It is the environment surrounding prostitution that might give
rise for concern.

Thus as far as the consenting act of prostitution itself is concerned
there is no difference from any consenting agreement between adults to
provide a service in exchange for money; in this aspect prostitution
ought to be afforded the same commercial status as any other
transaction. That prostitution is not always afforded this commercial
status is maybe an explicit or implied (moral) shortcoming on the part
of those who deny this status. And the reason for the need of this
recognition is simple, the present status quo creates a lot of victims
and leaves weak people open to abuse.

This opinion, however, is probably not true to the real facts because
according to the Wikipedia article on the subject, in many European
countries prostitution is fully legalized and in many others it is not
criminalized. (Prostitution. (2010, March 30). In Wikipedia, The Free
Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19:49, March 30, 2010, from
But of course, the real situation in Europe is still vague and certainly
not universal throughout the continent. Outside the borders of Europe
the situation is seriously chaotic.

But because of the irrational status given to prostitution we are
prepared to allow this group of people to be a source or victims of
sexually transmitted diseases and of course to suffer all sorts of
abuses and health hazards. This is very true outside the boarders of
Europe, but I doubt whether the situation is that much better even given
the hight standard of health care we find in Europe. For example, in the
Medical situation section of the Wikipedia article on Prostitution it
clearly shows (with the relevant references) the causal connection
between prostitution and sexually transmitted diseases. And although I
won't pursue this issue any further, the link between prostitution and
sexually transmitted diseases probably has a more devastating effect in
developing countries where healthcare is basic or non existent than say
in developed countries.

What is however clear, is that there are still countries who still
approach prostitution with a degree of moral and philosophical
immaturity that only harms society in general and certainly some
individuals in particular.

But this moral immaturity has implications beyond ethics. It has direct
economic implications. The irregular status of prostitution makes it
fertile ground for criminal abuse and economic exploitation. Human
trafficking connected with the sex trade, i.e. prostitution, is rife and
quite profitable. It is telling that human trafficking is rife for
prostitution which is not well regulated globally, but we don't have
human trafficking of say lawyers or accountant, professions that are
well regulated, but certainly professions with a good demand curve.

Again a quick look at Google will give you a good overview of the
economic implications of prostitution, but for me the following
questions sums the issue to a "T": What skills can earn a woman $5,500
10th 2008 - http://www.moreintelligentlife.com/node/964).

Whatever the moral issues might be there clearly is a demand for
prostitution. But we have to be careful with a statement like this even
when the statistics support our claim. We have to establish whether
there is a demand for prostitutes because there are people who are
prepared to provide this service, or because there is a natural demand
for sex.

I'll clarify this point by giving the following analogy. There is a
demand for actors because there are people who are prepared to work as
actors, but of course there is no inherent or natural demand for acting
or to pay for actors. However, there is a natural need for us to want
and pay for doctors, dentists, or farmers. Without the services of these
people we cannot function in our society. The question we have to ask
ourselves is, therefore, what is the status of prostitution and the
demand for sex? Indeed, what is the role of prostitution in our society?
Is sex an natural demand or a luxury?

If sex is a luxury than sure we have to proceed on the principle of
Caveat emptor (buyer beware). But what if we accept that sex is a
natural demand then we have to accept the philosophical implications
that stem from this claim or assumption.

The first of these implications goes to the heart of at least western
social thinking which is (in theory) based on monogamy and faithfulness
to a partner. If there is a demand for sex outside this monogamous
structure, and of course, by those who are not in a relationship at all,
then it ought to follow that the need for sex is much stronger than the
need for a partnership. But this is, as I say, a direct challenge to the
moral and ethical foundations of western society.

In our society, not only is sex outside a partnership frowned upon, it
is still a subject that the least said the better. The monogamous
structure in our society, at least, is so strong that sexual jealously
is a very strong emotion. But prostitution is a contradiction in this
social and moral structure of monogamy. How can there be prostitution if
we are supposed to be monogamous?

But there is also a practical question about prostitution that might
challenge the status quo. Why is it that that there are people who need
to purchase sex, when sex is one of the most basic needs of human
beings? To put this in another way, why is it that some people are not
being chosen as (sex) partners? Why are some people excluded as sex
partners, but not as paying customers?

Maybe the fact that we can ask these questions about our society
reflects some structural flaws in our society. Maybe the way we choose
partners is not necessarily the best possible method we can employ. And
while I am only going to ask the questions here, I would hazard an
opinion to suggest that if there is a discrepancy it must be somewhere
in the fact that sex is based on competitive selection and partnership
on rational strategies. Competition and rationality, are at least at
face value, incompatible.

We often see prostitution as an issue of abuse of women (although of
course men are not excluded), freedom of individuals, immoral
activities, crime, and economic exploitation of women. But I would argue
that many if not most of these issues are a direct consequence of the
irregular status prostitution is given in most societies.

What is more challenging about the role of prostitution in society is
precisely the philosophical dilemma that we rationally know that
monogamy is a great survival strategy, but the need for sexual
fulfillment is equally strong that in some cases people are prepared to
defect. Whilst "prostitution" exists in the animal kingdom and even
monogamous societies, the question we have to ask ourselves as rational
being is this: Is prostitution a reflection of some primordial instinct
that has survived in some human genes, or is it a simple case of
cheating in an otherwise successful game based on a win-win strategy?

Take care


from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: The role of
prostitution in society

26 March 2010

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Grieving

Dear friends,

Talking about grieving I have just discovered that this Sunday there is
a football match between Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid. The good news
is that it starts at 9:00pm and if we are lucky we'll get to discuss the
evening's topic of, yes, grieving.

So either by design or synchronicity grieving is certainly de jour on
Sunday. What remains to be seen is who is going to do the most grieving.
Hopefully, we'll only do philosophical type of grieving, but as we all
know, come prepared for the worse.

In the meantime, I have not been able to write anything about the topic;
as you know foreseen circumstances keeping interfering with our philosophy,

Take care and see you Sunday



+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
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photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147

Tertulia with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30 to 21h, at
Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Grieving

18 March 2010

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting:

Dear friends,

I hope you are still in front of your pc for you to read this email
before you break off for the long weekend holiday. The limits of
communication, the topic for Sunday's meeting, force me to send you the
email now and to really limit the scope of my notes today.

Have fun



+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147

Tertulia with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30 to 21h, at
Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting:

The limits of communication

What is communication? The answer to this question will help us
understand what are the limits of communication.

The traditional and common usage of communication usually means the
exchange of information between parties. But even if we go back as the
late seventies Richard Dawkins had already introduced, in some cases
with colleagues, the idea the communication is really manipulation.

That is manipulation of another biological being in terms of making them
use their muscle power to do what the communicator wants them to do. Of
course, the party that is being communicated with can develop strategies
to avoid this "manipulation." But, manipulation for us usually implies a
moral or ethical factor that makes this definition of communication very
ethically loaded.

Of course, in the biological domain there is no ethics or morality,
unless, that is morality and ethics have been selected successfully as a
survival strategy. And I think that there is no deterministic law that
states that biological systems must adopt morality as a survival
strategy; although it does make a lot of sense to do so. But just
because we have adopted such a strategy, and also a language to go along
with this strategy, it does not follow that we always have to consider
human activity in terms of morality and neither are we bound to
interpret certain language acts to always imply a moral strategy. Words
can sometimes also be neutral or have a sense of amoral meaning.

Thus, I am now trying to manipulate you, as you read this, to make you
finish what I have written and maybe then form your own opinion on the
issue at hand. Moreover, I am also trying to make you interested enough
in the topic to help you decide to come to the meeting on Sunday (for
obvious reason you are very familiar with, I'm not doing a good job!).
But my task is very easy, most of you want and wait for me to write
these notes and most of you would not find it a problem coming on Sunday
unless you had other things requiring your attention. However, when I
don't write my notes many of you communicate with me your wish that I do
write these notes.

Thus manipulation does not necessarily imply a moral consideration, of
course I agree with you that it might not be the best term to use, but
for us it does not matter; so if you prefer to use persuade it's ok by
me. As long, that is, as we agree that communication is not the exchange
of information (per se) but the exchange of information to
make/persuade/manipulate someone else to do what we want them to do with
our information.

Thus the first limit of communication is that it might legitimately be
competing with other communications and opportunities that it might
easily assume a certain type of probability that it will be acted upon.
You might want to come to the meeting, but a close friend has asked to
go with them to the cinema. The probability that you come to the meeting
and not go to the cinema depends on factors in the history of your life,
your experience with your friend and the meeting. Once you put all these
variables in you probability-mincing-machine you will have a better idea
of what you will want to do on Sunday.

But of course, going with your friend and coming to the meeting would at
the end be a decision based on an activity that you would enjoy doing
anyway. But not all activities we can act upon we would enjoy doing. In
fact I would say that most of the activities we do, we don't enjoy
doing. Which incidentally is why I and a few close friends started the
meetings on Sunday precisely to limit the things we did on Sunday
evening and did not enjoy doing.

Thus when someone communicates with us something that we do not enjoy
doing we try and find a strategy not to do that thing. For example, we
receive a message telling us to buy a certain product in the supermarket
which we do not enjoy using. In this situation many of us have developed
a strategy to simply ignore such communications.

A limit of communication is that a communication is as strong (or
persuasive) as the effectiveness of any strategy that can be employed to
neutralise that communication. A poison is as deadly as the weakness of
its antidote.

It is true, in a way, that communication is the transfer of information,
but of course not for the sake of transferring information itself, but
to do something with that information. But information is itself a
source of limitation of communication. One of the major limits of
communication is that as far as we are concerned information has to be
in some sort of physical form otherwise we won't be able to access it.

But this is not enough, for practical purpose we have to have the means
to transfer this information, or at least use the means available to us
to communicate –transfer- that information. It is no use having the
intention of meeting a friend if we don't tell that friend that we want
to meet them and maybe fix an appointment.

The physical nature of information itself creates limitations, and by
implication, on communication. Once again, we really have to look at
communication in the context of human exchange. This other limitation is
that communication has to be made in the context of time. When is the
communication sent? When do we receive the communication? How long does
it take the communication to reach us?

This has many practical implications. First of all if we communicate our
intention to meet our friend on Sunday immediately after our friend
agreed to meet their parents for dinner this communication would have a
different status than if we communicated with our friend before their
parents did.

But since information is information, and not data, and the context we
receive it, the nature and meaning of that information can change
depending on when we receive that information. For example, a product
advert that was published in the 1950s would mean different things to
people living in the 1950s and people living in 2010. Thus what was once
an attempt to manipulate someone to buy a product has today become a
curiosity that maybe excites the aesthetic feelings in us. Absolute
change of context changes the communication absolutely.

There is, however, a reverse side to this the time factor limitation. If
the time we receive the information determines the meaning of the
information (communication), it follows that if we want some information
to reach someone in a specific time, we have to do this as a function of
the nature of the information, the means we have to communicate and the
context of the recipient of the information.

This explains why I'm sending the meeting email today Thursday morning
because tomorrow Friday is a holiday and many of you won't have access
to your email.

Take care and see you Sunday.


from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting:

12 March 2010

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: The notion of crisis: what is a crisis?

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing; The notion of crisis: what is a crisis?

Talking about crisis, it seems that there is a massive problem on the
internet this evening because I cannot get my mail nor link to any site.
I have even tried using my mobile.

I will try and post the email on the blog or send out emails sometime in
the evening on Friday.

In the meantime we have two very short essays one by Raul and an other
by me.

See you Sunday



+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147

Tertulia with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30 to 21h, at
Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).

----------essay by Raul----------------

Hi Lawrence and peer debaters,

I barely had time to write this week. Very busy. Please, accept this
humble little essay for our brainstorming about the notion of crisis.

Thank you all in advance,


Embolon prided on being a Greek peasant. He bent down his wrinkled hump
to seize the copper coin from the little vaulted niche carved in the
womb of the goddess. Phidias the late sculptor gave it to him as
precious token. Now he was getting on for 89 years – the Morai whined at
him. No matter how hyaline his eyes were, he could still make out the
chasms of the hilly pinnacle around which his hamlet stood up. His
vision was impaired by glaucoma, but elevated intraocular pressure was
not the key reason for this condition. All happened when he was sifting
the wheat at the barned back in his forties. Some spikes impacted his
retina. Pain. Discombobulation. Unexpected, but real.

I dreamt of Embolon last night. When I woke up I thought to myself that
all had been a critical nightmare. Am I too critical? No, I am not. Am I
under crisis? Perhaps. I don't know. If so, what sort of crisis would I
be going through? A personal one, a social one or a systemic one?

Embolon told me that crises were reputed to be positive by the ancient
Greek farmers. Crisis in Greek means discernment, judgment. It is to
filter elements through a sieve, what a farmer threshes. For possessing
a critical insight is a howling gift as long as you are not besieged by
mediocre people.

Over the years the meaning mutated from the goodness into the badness.
Were bacterial lexicographers changing into forms resistant to their own
coinages? No, indeed. It was 1627 when crisis was transferred a
non-medical sense to convey the idea of a unconceivable change that
drives us on the verge of collapse.

Such is now. Everything switches over to a novelty whose contours are
blurred. Embolon still lingers on in our present, like a clot
obstructing our tendency not to look at things twice. A critical state
of many. Today.

Let's welcome crises! Thanks to them, we wonder who we are. Where our
coordinates lie on. What boundaries we have crossed in the pursuit of
knowledge and what else is still to be attained. When we take soundings
of now, we startle in disbelief. Gullible we are, we feel an untold
story is to be penned. Will you make it to this chronicle with Embolon
and me?

Raúl Martín-Díaz

--------------------essay by Lawrence------------------------------------

The notion of crisis: what is a crisis?

We are supposed to be in an economic crisis. And whilst we are at it
maybe even a political crisis, a moral crisis, a housing crisis. We also
have personal crisis, mid life crisis, growing up crisis, and even
crisis which we have not even heard about.

Maybe one of the ways to understand the notion of a crisis and discover
the fundamentals of a crisis is to look at the common features or
conditions that make up crises. Furthermore, we can then identify what
are the necessary and sufficient conditions of a crisis.

One other issue we might want to consider is whether a crisis is a
subjective phenomenon or an objective one. In other words, do crisis
happen to us because of something about us or because there are
conditions out there that create a crisis for us? In effect, how much
are we personally responsible for the crisis we experience and how much
do others or other things contribute to our crisis?

One feature or condition of a crisis, any crisis, is a serious deviation
from expectations or planned expectations. In other words, a crisis is
something we experience that we perceive to be or might even be outside
what we consider normal. Something that is not normal maybe, and
usually, trigger our survival instincts. Which in itself is quite a
useful and important instinct.

If we take the present economic crisis we might describe this as a
crisis because our expectations of continuous economic growth simply
failed to materialise and continue after a few years. Thus, because
there are so many people who have lost their job and many others who are
not making profits by the truck load we can call the present situation
as an economic crisis. My opinion on this matter, which has nothing to
do with the philosophical debate, is that the so called economic crisis
is nothing but criminal irresponsibility by most governments on this
planet. But that's too big a subject to discuss here.

Another aspect of a crisis must surely be the time frame. For there to
be a crisis it has to take place over a period of time. Something that
can be solved overnight might not necessarily be described as a crisis.
However, although I will argue that time is a relevant factor to
describe some event as a crisis, it is also a factor that is context
drive. Having a desperate toothache during the night is a crisis, but a
bank having sluggish cash flow over night is a non event. If a bank has
a sluggish clash flow over a period of months than might qualify as a

But by virtue of introducing a time factor and a deviation from the
norm, we are also implying a problem of anticipating what the future
will be like, to start with, then how to achieve the desired future
state of affairs. But a necessary condition of a crisis, I would argue,
is that not only we don't know what the future will be like, but even
more, we don't know what to do to bring about the future and the state
of affairs in the future we would like.

If a crisis is a psychological problem, we have this experience and
maybe causing us stress and anxiety, a crisis is first and foremost an
epistemological problem. We just don't know what to do to fix the
present situation. And maybe it this epistemological deficit that
implies that a crisis my be a situation that happens over time.

Before we can fix a problem, we first have to discover what the problem
is, and more importantly, do we have the knowledge base to fix the
problem? If we don't have the knowledge base to solve the crisis we have
to actually accumulate that knowledge base before we can do anything.
And this takes time.

There is another, more subtle, epistemological issue that relates to a
crisis. I'll give an example that, at face value, seem to be legitimate
and a genuine crisis. These past few weeks two regions on the American
continent experienced huge and destructive earthquakes. Haiti and Chile,
we can argue, have been hit by such a massive quake that these two
countries are for practical purposes in a state of economic and social
crisis. Many and many people do not have basic services, basic staples,
governments and overseers of society are not functioning as before. And
this crisis stems from the fact that earthquakes tend to destroy
physical infrastructures: roads, buildings, water supplies, power cables
and so on. At the epistemological face value level this is a crisis.

But is it; could the situation in Haiti, especially, and Chile, maybe,
be described in other terms? The subtle epistemological issue is
introduced to help us identify what is outside the norm and what we
have, in effect, is because there was nothing normal in the first place.
Is the crisis in Haiti due to the earthquake or due to the lack of
social and political infrastructure in this Country in the first place?
Why did the houses in this country collapse like matchsticks, or worse?
Was the earthquake that serious, it was, but I would argue that the
crisis, is due to the lack of social responsibility of those in
authority in not making sure that housing complied with a standard that
might not collapse at the slightest whiff of an earthquake. It is bad
enough when buildings are built to the highest standards; what can we
expect from shoddy work?

Thus our state of epistemological frame of mind is not only responsible
for solving our crisis but also important to help us understand the
crisis in the first place. There is no doubt that today, as we read
these words, there are many people in Haiti that are experiencing hell
on earth. But it is also true that by attributing the crisis to the
earthquake we are misinterpreting the real nature and cause of the
crisis. The real cause of the situation in Haiti today is not the
earthquake but rather failings of the authorities in the past.

Therefore, what is a crisis depends very much on what we know, but a
crisis can also be created by what we want to believe. And if our
beliefs are not bad enough, we can go on and compound the situation by
making others believe what we want them to believe.

Take care



from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: The notion of
crisis: what is a crisis?

04 March 2010

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Is good art a matter of opinion?

Important message by Milton + 2 essays

Dear friends,

This week we are discussing; Is good art a matter of opinion?

As we all know this is an old theme in philosophy and the fact that
good, art and good art are still philosophical subjects suggests that
these are key problems in our thinking. And they are so entrenched that
we are still discussing what is good art, we haven't even started
discussing the morality of art. For example, should art reflect reality
or are we justified in depicting reality which is different from the facts?

We are once again lucky this week because Raul has also written a short
essay for Sunday. As always I have not read Raul's essay not be
influenced by what he wrote.

Talking about luck, Milton has asked me to share this important message
with you:

Estoy buscando para mi una habitación o piso compartido para algunos
meses. Sabes de algo o alguien? Milton Miltonriveramanga@gmail.com

All the best



+++++++++MEETING DETAILS+++++++++
SUNDAY 6.00pm – 8.30pm at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
-Email: philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk
-Yahoo group >> philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk <
-Old essays: www.geocities.com/philomadrid
- Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com/
photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/photosphilo
tel 606081813
-metro: Bilbao : buses: 21, 149, 147

Tertulia with Ignacio and friends: Every Thursday, from 19:30 to 21h, at
Moore's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal).

--------essay by Raul -----------

Hi Lawrence,

Please, I would like to share with my peer debaters my short essay for
this Sunday's meeting.
Btw, I wrote and shot a 3-minute monologue in Spanish, performed and
adapted by the actress Ester Mora. It is uploaded on

What do you make of it?

Thank you in advance,


At the break of dawn I rushed to make the most of the empty streets. As
I jogged around my neighbourhood, I made out a pale monticule of sand
laid down by the bricklayers from the works nearby. The sunlight
filtered through an overcast sky in a myriad of velvet-faceted shapes.
All of a sudden the crest of the monticule glittered brilliantly. I came
puffing and panting up to this precious light. An old silky handkerchief
spiralled downward prodded by the breeze. I wish I had brought my camera
to seize that moment at the moment. So vague, so beautifying, so essential!

That handkerchief itself barely cost some few pennies. The people, who
blew their nose with it and carelessly threw it onto the conoid pile,
weren't aware that their negligence might have been decoded otherwise.
Actually, it prompted me into an artistic feeling. Good or bad one? I
reckon that it is certainly a matter of opinion, since there is no one
single canon in the historiography of art as to set forth what being
beautiful or ugly entails. For Libyans, a woman must be only portrayed
when she boasts thick thighs and spongy breasts, whereas in our
ultramodern Western civilisation if you women aren't slender you had
better make yourselves scarce.

Apparently contradictory, good art has as many judges as disparagers.
Some think that a piece of art is adept when it is life-minded or
matches with a socially-oriented based-upon-reality role, features that
should be easily picked out beyond all possible doubt. Others would wage
war on how reverential a piece of snot stuck on a canvas may be if
framed in a contemporary painting museum.

The point is not to be overwhelmed by the current mass-media approach
that stereotypes a patronising yet dull attitude within the comfortable
boundaries of the institutionalised art. If you are a creator, you have
to risk. By trespassing the limits, you can only scalpel a new anatomy,
for instance, of a vitreous mucous density. I like hygiene. It is a must
in my life. However, filthiness aesthetically photographed will result
in magic. Not in vain, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a leitmotiv
that presides over my life.

Moreover, we should frequently make further use of some sort of everyday
handkerchief, even you. You, who abide by the purportedly foreseeable
rules; you who gaze at your navel and pat on your own back. For canons
are delineated by new coevals every generation. Someone is thus entitled
to revel in art, good or bad one, insofar as you don't put others' lives
at stake. The time is come. Let's whoop it up – canons are now fodder


---------- essay by Lawrence----------------

Is good art a matter of opinion?

Aesthetics is not only the study of what is beauty, but also of what is
objectively beautiful. We accept that art can be beautiful and we also
accept that works of art can also be good.

In our society we think that if something is good that "goodness"
belongs in the object that is good and not in the opinion who believes
or claims that something is good. Matters of goodness and matters of
beauty are usually assumed to belong to the object that is good and the
object that is beautiful.

If we accept that beauty is something that belongs to the object we are
looking at, then it seems quite reasonable to assume that beauty is
something that can be objective because it is a property we perceive to
belong to the object and not to us. However, is this a reasonable
assumption to make? In other words, we basically assume that beauty and
good are properties which can be established objectively. Are we
justified in doing so?

Moreover, we usually try to see a connection between good art with
beautiful art. Again does such a link exist? Must good art always be
beautiful art ; and vice versa.

If there is such an objective link between beauty and the object we
perceive, then good art cannot be a matter of opinion. And since we also
associate good as an objective property belonging to the work we
perceive we also accept that good art is not a matter of opinion. In
fact we are so much indoctrinated in this way of thinking that when we
ask someone to express an opinion on a piece of art and who is not,
let's say, au fait with the instincts of philosophy, they always start
with the defensive statement, "well, I don't really know anything about
art." As if, what we think about art has to be based solely on objective
knowledge in the same sort of objective way we have to know about what
is good road construction or good molecular bonding.

Unfortunately, like many other activities today, good art is also linked
with the monetary value of a piece of art. Thus good art may easily be
linked either unwittingly or intentionally to money value. It would be
reasonable to assume that money can never be a measure of good art.

However, the issue very much depends on the awareness we have of a
particular piece of art. If we don't know that a piece of art exists we
cannot have an opinion, objective or otherwise, about that piece. And
money value in today's world can easily act as lubricating grease of the
information machine to make information about something flow more
easily. Practically everyone knows about the Mona Lisa and maybe even
have an opinion about whether it is good art, but what's your opinion of
the painting of Doña Isabel de Porcel by Goya?

If knowledge about a piece of art is a must, including the knowledge
that the piece exists in the first place, before we can say anything
about that art whether it is good or not, then that knowledge must
surely be relevant within the context of what we generally know and are
aware of. In other words, something is knowledge if it can be put into a
context. And of course one of those contexts is that we actually know
that the piece exists.

Thus if knowledge about a piece can confer objectivity to that piece of
art, after all even the most philosophically naïve person will accept
that knowledge is supposed to be objective, then what we can claim as
knowledge about that art is both objective and independent of our
opinion. It seems that knowledge about a piece of art can lead us to the
claim that good art is independent of our opinion. And if we can
establish this about a piece of art we can take it all the way to the
bank; sometimes literally! Is there such knowledge between what is good
art and what is independent of our opinion.

Of course, we might argue that by stipulating the condition that
knowledge about something must always be in a context, we are opening
ourselves not only to a slippery slope ending but also leading us into a
vicious circle. If our knowledge has to be put into a context, that
context has to be put into its relevant context, ad infinitum. It might
well be that knowledge is a context short of an infinity funny farm, but
it does not have to be; we can start or stop with our experience.

But this is not without its unintended consequences; one of which is
that it might be true that the person who is philosophically naïve might
have no idea about our piece of art. But because we or this person does
not have an opinion about what is good art, it does not follow that good
art is not a matter of opinion nor good art can be established objectively.

Good art can also be an utilitarian criteria thus good art is good
because, more or less, everyone says so. But of course a collective of
opinions does not make anything good anymore than a single opinion does.
Nor is a collective of opinions the basis of objectivity, although we
expect that if something is objectively true it would be common
knowledge. Indeed we accept that there is a distinction between opinion
and knowledge. My opinion that tomorrow it might snow, is different from
knowing that the weather patterns indicate a high moisture content in
the atmosphere, followed by cloud cover and an eventual drop of
temperatures to below zero. They are still different even if tomorrow it

Maybe good art is good because it is technically good art? But who is to
decide what is technically good? Artists, manufacturers of art
materials, critics? And even if they do have the last say of what is
technically good art, do they also have the last say of what is
beautiful art? But if we accept that technically qualified people can
tell us what is technically good art, but not what is beautiful art,
then we must accept that good art and beautiful art are not one and the
same thing. We can even learn how to live with this distinction, but you
must agree that it is a distinction that jars with our sense of reasoning.

But if good art is not beautiful art, what is good art? Indeed what is
good; what is good independent of the contexts I have mentioned; i.e.
the artist, the critic, the investor and so on?

We can answer these questions by choosing either of two ways. Either
accept that good has no real meaning and is therefore used as some sort
of semantic placebo. Or good means what is generally accepted as good in
a given context.

Thus the Mona Lisa is good art because it represents the best depiction
of an enigmatic smile, or because it is the most thought provoking piece
of art by Leonardo da Vinci, or because investors are prepared to pay a
lot of money for it. Thus, given the context, an opinion about a piece
of art can be either subjective or objective, and maybe even scientific.
In other words, what is good art is a matter of context.

On the other hand, good art can be a matter of opinion and our opinion
depends on our experiences and on any objective knowledge we might
happen to know. Thus, in the expression -good art- the word good works
like a placebo. If our body defense systems are up to the job, then our
body can cure an illness and if not, it doesn't. In the same way, if we
happen to be versed in what is art, either by knowing about art itself
or by taking a short cut and have some semblance of philosophical
awareness, we can safely say what is good art even if it is our opinion.
And if we don't have these skills and background then good means that we
really have no say on the matter.

Which is why I like the Goya painting more than the Mona Lisa. Liking a
piece of art is philosophically sufficient for a piece of art to be good
art. The fact that we are not responsible for any objectivity criteria
for others to follow means that this condition is also efficient. I
don't need to worry about what others think.

As for Doña Isabel, not only is this an incredible painting by one of
the world's best "photo" journalist ever to live, but if you look
carefully in the streets of Madrid you can catch a glimpse of those
genes that once played a role in what Doña Isabel herself looked like.
And that's an objective fact.

Take care


PS the painting by Goya of Doña Isable is in the National Gallery,
London, and this is the link:

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Is good art a
matter of opinion?


Amazon other link