Monday, November 05, 2012
Reader Dismuke emails me a link to a striking example of the degree to which
Western culture has declined in the short span of a few decades. Writing at PJ Lifestyle, "Zombie", whom
readers here might remember for photo-blogging various leftist gatherings, notes
the following about a juxtaposition he observed (and photographed) during a
In the foreground we have a marble sculpture entitled "California Venus," in a timeless neo-classical style. It was carved in 1895 by sculptor Rupert Schmid. In the background, just a few steps away, we have its companion piece, a sculpture entitled "Pink Lady." It was created 1965 by artist Viola Frey.Zombie further elaborates:
In just 80 years, the state of sculpture in America went from beautiful and exquisitely refined to ugly, klutzy and incompetent.
I don't know whether the curators at the Oakland Museum juxtaposed these two pieces intentionally, or if it was just an accident, but either way they deftly summarized everything that went wrong with 20th century art.
A side-effect of this artistic shift is that it opened the door to incompetents. Let's just be frank: Rupert Schmid was simply a better artist Viola Frey. Even if they had worked during the same era and were both informed by the same cultural attitudes, whatever he created would always be superior to whatever she created.Zombie chooses not to discuss why this shift occurred, noting that "entire books" have been written on the subject. This is too bad, because a thinker who has enjoyed a resurgence lately, Ayn Rand, had volumes to say on the subject. In her time, Rand noted many negative cultural effects, including the decline of art, emanating from the spread of modern philosophy. The decline of art, the injustice of someone like Frey being hailed as an "artist" (and of a Schmid being so off-handedly dismissed), and the sad fate of Schmid's model, which Zombie does discuss -- all of these are obviously caused or made possible by the widespread rejection of reason brought about by the rise of modern philosophy in academia and its consequent transmission throughout our culture by intellectuals.
But, you see, that could never have happened, because if someone like Viola Frey had crafted "Pink Lady" back in 1885 and tried to pass it off as art, she would have been laughed out of the gallery. And if someone like Rupert Schmid had created "California Venus" nowadays, he'd be pitied as a pathetic unoriginal throwback from the Unenlighted Ages.
I do not know why Zombie chose not to even mention why he thought this decline occurred, but I can't help but wonder if the bad reputation philosophy in general suffers thanks to modern philosophy might be to blame.
Perhaps if more people knew of such connections as Rand made, they would realize that philosophy is not something one can safely ignore as non-objective nonsense. Rather, they would know that good philosophy is necessary for the Rational Animal to live and flourish, and that bad philosophy is ugly, dangerous nonsense that must be fought with better ideas. Perhaps Zombie himself might have realized that he had photographed an example of the still-reversible decline -- but not necessarily of the collapse -- of Western civilization. (He says "culture", but what civilization can go on for long with a diseased culture?) Indeed, perhaps the greatest danger posed by bad, modernist philosophy is that it preempts such discussion by causing people to dismiss it on the basis of what they know of philosophy, only the nonsense.