Have cultural standards gotten lower?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous' started by Triskelion, May 19, 2013.

  1. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    Exactly as Kestra says. STJ, you insult my literacy, and yet completely failed to understand my argument. Why are you being so obtuse? I was using the phrase 'near-exponential' as a non-literal qualifier to argue that science is progressing at a remarkable rate. Apologies, as I did not realize this would cause you so much confusion. The claim that we are more literate than we have ever been is not dubious, unless you can demonstrate a point in history when a greater percentage of the world's population could read. Can you do so?

    I asked for objective measures of the claimed devolution of society. In asking I was hoping to specifically demonstrate that by using the entirely subjective (art and music) as evidence, your stance is unsupportable. I never claimed that art and music were improving in some objective quality, only that, as Kestra noted, there has always been good and bad, and that it is a very near-sighted and silly position indeed to pronounce the decline of civilization based on one's own distaste towards new music. This position also belies a huge amount of egotism, as you must presume to have knowledge of all the art and music out there, and further presume that you're own opinion of it is more valid than other people's.

    Again, we are more scientifically advanced than ever before, and our science and technology are inarguably progressing. We are more literate than ever before. You have admitted that the quality of art and music is subjective and so cannot be used as objective evidence to support your position. So, do you have objective evidence of the decline of culture? And can you possibly provide it without being rude?
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2013
  2. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    Of course there was literature produced in this period. But do you still read any of this stuff (language is no counterargument, Tolkien did e.g. translate Beowulf into modern English)?. Take theatre, as far as I know before Shakespeare there were only mystery and morality plays who were probably of far lower quality than the few remaining plays of classical antiquity.
    Same with philosophy. You don't miss anything when you jump from Greek philosophers to Spinoza unless you really care about all that theological-philosophical Middle Age stuff.


    To some degree, yes. For example claiming that one Trek story is objectively better than another would be nonsensical.
    But it is safe to say that Hitchcock movie is objectively better than a Michel Bay movie, that a Mozart symphony is objectively better than a KRS-One LP or that Moyers & Company is objectively better than Big Brother.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2013
  3. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    I understand the point you're making, but I still disagree; I still think you are making an entirely subjective judgement, even if I happen to share your opinion of the given examples.
     
  4. teacake

    teacake Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Frankly I think it sits quite firmly in the personal attack category, amusing though it was.
     
  5. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    Subjectively I prefer KRS-One to Mozart.
    But of course I totally agree with your point that 'there are no objective criteria for art' is a far more solid position than the one I just assumed which is a slippery slope and leads to numerous problems.
    So yeah, perhaps it is better to say something like "in my opinion Mozart makes better music than KRS-One but I nonetheless prefer listening to the latter".
     
  6. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    This is just a "right brain"/nonlinear thought, as it were, or a question, too. I suspect it may be on point.

    Why is there such resistance to biological evolution in some circles? To me, it seems more than religious dogmatism, when the objection comes from being appalled at being compared to an animal.

    Is it progress to realize how much like an animal mankind is, progress to embrace our true nature? How paradoxical, how like devolution, to shed a pretension that mankind is apart from nature.

    Maybe that's got something to do with it, the couth versus uncouth, and maturity as the shedding of unsophisticated distinctions. Maybe that's why rock and roll was so shocking to some.
     
  7. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    I think that Freud's "wounding blows" explanation is good:

    "In the course of centuries the naive self-love of men has had to submit to two major blows at the hands of science. The first was when they learnt that our earth was not the center of the universe but only a tiny fragment of a cosmic system of scarcely imaginable vastness. This is associated in our minds with the name of Copernicus, though something similar had already been asserted by Alexandrian science. The second blow fell when biological research destroyed man’s supposedly privileged place in creation and proved his descent from the animal kingdom and his ineradicable animal nature. This revaluation has been accomplished in our own days by Darwin, Wallace and their predecessors, though not without the most violent contemporary opposition. But human megalomania will have suffered its third and most wounding blow from the psychological research of the present time which seeks to prove to the ego that it is not even master in its own house, but must content itself with scanty information of what is going on unconsciously in the mind."

    But the resistance to Darwin is stronger than that to heliocentrism or pychoanalysis so you need an additional explanation. I think Becker's Denial of Death can provide it, we often disavow what reminds us of our mortality and being a mortal animal is such a reminder.
     
  8. Owain Taggart

    Owain Taggart Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    You wouldn't happen to be the Kestrel that used to hang out on the official boards, would you? If so, big hello :)
     
  9. Kestrel

    Kestrel Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Sorry, no. He (?) has good taste though!

    Do I personally read any of it? Not regularly, but then I don't regularly read Ovid or Chris Marlowe either. Is it read though? Um... yes. In high schools even; I read Chaucer and Beowulf (I'd like to read Tolkien's translation one day; Seamus Heaney has a great translation) right alongside Sophocles and Shakespeare.
     
  10. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    It's an interesting philosophical question, I think. Is there any objective measure of art? I think there can be...sort of... once we define parameters. However, those parameters will necessarily be arbitrary, so I'm not sure where that leaves our standards in terms of objectivity. If our arbitrary parameter for judging music is complexity and subtlety of melody, then Mozart is a hands-down winner. But if it's skillful and inventive rhyme, then Kanye wins. If movie "art" is defined by the ability to build psychological suspense, Hitchcock is obviously the better artist, but if we are defining art as the ability to entertain then (whether or not we find it palatable) Michael Bay might have an edge -- I don't think I've ever seen a Michael Bay movie...I'm just going on his popular success.
     
  11. ichab

    ichab Commodore Commodore

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    First off, my remarks were to the OP, not you.
    And second, I was answering HIS question which was asking for an opinion on popular culture. I answered it. Sorry that I missed your "demands" for evidence backing up our opinions to the OP.

    It speaks a lot about me. I don't like hip hop. There are many who don't like today's country music or today's version of Rock. Everyone has their own opinion on what is good. Just because you disagree with that opinion doesn't make theirs any less. There is no way that someone can "prove" that they don't like hip hop. It's an opinion. Not fact.

    I wasn't around in the sixties but I know that music which wasn't done by the artists themselves was considered inferior in that time. It's why The Monkees were so hated by the music critics.


    If you knew as much about film as you claim then you would know that movies were not released anywhere near the rate they are today. There were no multiplexes playing 10-20 movies a day.Most of the movies were adapted from famous novels or popular stage plays.Of course you had the occasional remake, but nowhere near the rate of remakes that you have today. With some eg: Spiderman,The Ring, they're doing them within ten years of the original. That's ridiculous.

    Also, the Wizard of Oz in 1939 was the first version that was not a silent picture and was in full color. The earlier adaptions were done during the era of advancement in film technology.Every "Oz" movie since 1939 have been attempted sequals or prequals, not remakes.
     
  12. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    All the evidence is contrary to your belief that Hollywood is producing remakes at a greater rate today than most other points in its history.

    And, to counter the point of remakes produced within ten years of the original being a new offense, I will point out that The Maltese Falcon was made three times in ten years (1931, 1936, 1941). Perhaps most important here is the consensus that the third version is the best.

    I'd comment on your remark that "[in the past] movies were not released anywhere near the rate they are today," but I can't imagine the conversation would be a productive one.
     
  13. Gov Kodos

    Gov Kodos Admiral Admiral

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    Heck, they used to split sets for different productions. Dracula filming in one half of the day, then a Spanish version filmed later for release in Mexico and other Spanish speaking venues. Hollywood studios could and did crank out films faster than Henry Ford's factories could spit out cars through out its history.
     
  14. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    True. I just noticed that the implicit criterium for "objectively good" I used in this thread was 'having become a timeless classic that stands the test of time'. This is obviously not a bad criterium but it is subject to group thinking. Kestrel mentioned Marlowe and I haven't read Marlowe not because I actually know that I like his dramas less than the Bard's but because everybody else thinks like this.
    One's preferences are correlated with those of everybody else (this is why do e.g. we checks sites which aggregate movie reviews if we need some info which helps us to decide whether we should watch a movie or not) but not perfectly. So just because many folks over space and time have deemed a certain artist or piece of art to be good doesn't imply that you think like this as well.

    In addition this leads to a selection and amplification problem. To stay with theatre, if a play isn't particularly successful when it is first put on stage (as well as, to exclude something like Waiting for Godot, the first few years) it is unlikely that it will ever appear on the stage again. It becomes forgotten and while it is possible that somebody who goes through entire oeuvre of an author rediscovers such a forgotten play he might not actually put it on stage even if he likes it because of risk aversion ("I like it but nobody before me did so there has to be a reason for it").

    So yeah, once you start to think about a criterium which seems to be on an intuitive level a good proxy for "objectively good" it turns out to have numerous problems.
     
  15. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    ^But fun problems! :D
    I think you've made the mistake of believing my post was directed solely at you, it wasn't, so no need to get huffy. Wasn't it fairly obvious that those comments were addressed to everyone in this thread who has tried to argue that culture is deteriorating? I did explicitly address everyone, and specifically named only one other person (who wasn't you), and asked these questions before you even joined the topic. So chill, it's not all about you.

    Um, yeah, that's the point I was making...
    And? Relevance?
    When did I claim to be an expert on films? You really need to reread my post, maybe sans knee-jerk defensiveness.
    So? And computer animation and 3D film have made huge advances since the 2001 Spider-Man movie. If someone thinks they can do a different or better job of telling a story, what's wrong with that? I'm not an expert in literature and storytelling either, but I know enough to know that people have been telling and retelling the same stories in different ways for millennia. Retelling is nothing new. Your argument that remakes in the movie industry are evidence of the devolution of culture fails: it has been shown that within the film industry remakes have been the status quo from the get-go, and the same goes for the broader context of story-telling in human history (religion possibly being one of the greatest examples).
     
  16. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    No, progress does not mean development and change, it means movement toward a goal. No, I did not say the existence of universal literacy was dubious, I said its relevance is dubious. No, I did not admit quality is subjective, and in fact I implicitly offered (as horation83 noted above) the definition of something that stands the test of time. No, objective does not mean perfect, nor does it even mean quantitative, much less easy to apply.

    Yes, asking for objective measures when you do not believe in any objectivity at all is an obvious rhetorical ploy (and an insulting one at that.) Yes, talking about progress and awesomeness and such is claiming that it is better, which directly contradicts the alleged argument (and is kind of insulting to think no one notice.) Yes, the insistence that age is an automatic disqualifier for comprehending the good stuff out there is insulting. Yes, it is entirely possible for a society to convince itself that its culture is just dandy when it has objectively declined.

    And that's why I noted that was the interesting question as to how someone inside the cultural bubble could notice that the bubble was shrinking when everyone around them says differently. There a lot of people who believe what people tell them before their lying eyes, especially when they think it's all subjective, except for old people whose subjectivity doesn't count.
     
  17. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    ^So, that would be a "no" on being able to provide any objective qualifiers?
     
  18. Avon

    Avon Commodore Commodore

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    i guess having a symbol of communistical totalitarian oppression as an avatar sort of rules out objectivity
     
  19. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    Looks like it. Can't say I'm surprised.
     
  20. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I didn't bother hunting up a link to the study measuring objective trends in pop music because it was widely publicized in well-known sources like New Scientist.

    Also, I knew full well that people so shameless as to claim it's all subjective and then still argue that there's progress would try something grossly ignorant, like trying to claim variety isn't a part of excellence.

    Further, the objective facts of history show conclusively that whole generations have praised themselves, yet the test of time has decisively rejected them.

    The inability (or refusal) to understand simple English may be useful to hide confused and incompetent thinking. But the fact is that mainly this is about indignation that old people don't appreciate the magnificence of the young. This is not an admirable thing.

    And, skepticism is still opposed to materialism.