Box 76, item 39: Notes on ethical ecology "Aesthetics 2000"


Box 76, item 39: Notes on ethical ecology "Aesthetics 2000"


Miscellaneous handwritten notes on scrap paper.


Verso of leaves not digitised. Notes housed in folder on 'aesthetics - notes + article by M. Anderson'. Note, only notes from item 39 digitised.



The University of Queensland's Richard Sylvan Papers UQFL291, Box 76, item 39


This item was identified for digitisation at the request of The University of Queensland's 2020 Fryer Library Fellow, Dr. N.A.J. Taylor.


For all enquiries about this work, please contact the Fryer Library, The University of Queensland Library.


[5] leaves. 5.62 MB.




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Deep theory naturally delivers an aesthetics. Rudiments of such a deep aesthetics are readily
assembled from elsewhere. They include:
• a theory of aesthetic objects, fictions, art works, etc., drawn from item-theory (as in JB).
• a value theory, of rich non-reductionistic form, drawn from deep-green theory
• a full plurallism_. _ _

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.~ e source of our
obligations to respect and protect wor
ks of art can be established in the type
of value
[ theory foun .
<;,c.Ae.-n-..e.d m deep-green philosophy. Given the
kind of world proposed by Richard
"Sylva-ft-, where a diverse range of enti
ties are seen to have. inherent value, it
seems quite
plausible to believe that artistic works
could also be valuable in themselves,
and that our
obligations towards them are grounded
in a recognition of 'this ~eta phy sica l pict
ure. We
have also seen that the kind of valuatio
n framework described by ~ylvan could
be usefully
employed to assess the objective valu
e of works of art, which is of importa
nt practical
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In making an evaluation of the wort h of a work of
art, we are assessing the intrinsic
value of an item. Whil e that value is inher ent in
the work itself, it is at the same time
mani feste d in certain non-natural quali ties which can
be intuited by those engaged with the
work. Thes e qualities, whic h are fund amen tal chara
cteris tics of a work of art, prov ide us
with a crite ria for asses sing value . This value
, howe ver, is not reduc ible to those
fundamental characteristics by themselves. The value
of a work of art is expre ssed by two
essen tial types of qualities perta ining to art work
s, being firstly the qualities assoc iated
with aesth etic value, and secondly the quali ties assoc
iated with instructional (or didactic)
value. This second type of value relate s to the
tende ncy of a work of art to chall enge ,
instru ct, give valuable insig ht, or enlig hten. Whil
e these two types of value may prim a
facie look like they constitute a distin ction between
the intrinsic and instrumental value of
an art work , I believe that they could neve rthel ess
be both construed as elements of an art
works intrinsic value. It is certainly true to say that
the instructive qualities of a work of art
have instrumental value, but we need n't conc lude
from this that the didactic value consists
solel y in the relation betw een the art work and the
subje ct experiencing it. It seem s quite
cons isten t to hold that the didac tic value of an
art work is deriv ed from its inher ent
constitution to to provoke certain ideas, and thus
is part of its intrinsic value. Wha t Sylvan
refers to as emotional prese ntatio n, woul d then
be best cons trued with regard to artistic
evalu ation as the presentation of an art work s intrin
sic value~ a value whic h is manifested
in term s of both aesthetic and didactic qualities.
Thes e qualities can be asses sed in terms
of a comp rehen sive set of criter ia for deter mini ng
value. Such criteria woul d inclu de for
aesthetic qualities such characteristics as beauty, stren
gth of expression, balance, harm ony,
comp ositio n, vividness and uniqu eness , and for instru
ctive qualities such characteristics as
the vivid encapsulation of an idea or a valua ble insig
ht into the nature of life or existence.
After ident ifyin g the various comp onen ts of an artist
ic presentation, the evaluating agen t is
requi red to enga ge intel lectu ally in a furth er asses
smen t. This stage is what Sylv an
refer red to as coherence proce ssing , and it is the
stage at whic h the surfa ce characteristics
of a work of art are asses sed for addit ional comp lexity
or meaning. The qualities of an art
work whic h are not intuited directly, such as the
symb olism of a painting or the mess age
of a powe rful drama, will be asses sed at this point
. Cohe rence proce ssing is espec ially
impo rtant in making an evalu ation of the instru ctive
or intellectual comp onen t of an art

work. In th~ context of the type of'theory of intrinsic
value and accompanying evaluative
framework advocated by Richard Sylvan, it seems possi
ble to establish a set of criteria for
assessing the value of works of art, and in doing so
enable practical value judgements to
be made .
One objection to the proposal that it-is possible to make
value judgements about art
works which are objectively true, is that the interpretati
~n of
1s an especially subjective
experience. It is often held that judgements about
artistic merit are nothing more than a
matter of personal opinion, and that there is no
real way of solvi ng arguments about
artistic value. While Sylvan is quite willing to admi
t that there· i's plenty of room for error
in his conceptual scheme, and that it is inevitable
that people will come to different
conclusion_s about the value of the same work of art,
there is no need to admit that we are
doomed to artistic relativism. Given a comprehensive
criteria for assessing value, it seems
reasonable to assume that a significant proportion of
people will recognize at least part of
the central core of characteristics which reflect an art-w
orks value, and thereby come' to a
not- too- diffe rent judg emen t ·o f that value. This
assum ption is supp orted by the
observation that admirers of art can and frequently
do come to some level of agreement
over what constitutes go.od art. It is important to
note that a great many of the finest
paintings, symphonies, sculptures and plays have
been held in high esteem for many
centuries by countless individuals, who have all indep
endently come to respect and admire
their value. Anot her difficulty regarding the attrib
ution of value to works of art is to
determine who should get to make practical decisions
about the value of certain works of
art. This kind of decision making is crucial for instit
utions like art-galleries and museums,
for it will determine which items will be protected,
whic h will not. While the
judgement of any person who makes a considered evalu
ation of a work of art is important,
it seems appropriate that we should leave the final
decision maki ng to the artists and
admirers of art who have the most extensive backgroun
d knowledge and understanding of
what makes a work of art valuable. We must trust that
in their capacity as 'experts' on art,
such people have a finely tuned appreciation of artist
ic value, and that when in positions of
responsibility, such as that of being curator of an
art gallery, these people will do their
utmost to ensure that valuable art is preserved.




Richard Sylvan, “Box 76, item 39: Notes on ethical ecology "Aesthetics 2000",” Antipodean Antinuclearism, accessed May 27, 2024,

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