Two lovers were cursed, he to be a wolf at night and she to be a hawk during day. They could not be human together.
Humans view, interpret and mentally explore their world on many levels. Humans experience things rationally, irrationally, consciously, subconsciously, emotionally, intuitively, directly, indirectly, aesthetically– in a varying combination of these and more all at once. A human can think logically one moment and be emotionally swept up by a song the next. Math professors fall head over heals in love and abstract painters calculate their taxes.
A human’s best possible exploration, understanding and expression of the universe uses all the levels. An expression of the universe through only mathematics or only music is inherently limited. Many things in the world can’t be explained with mathematics, love and beauty for examples, just as mathematics can’t be explained with love and beauty. An explanation using just one level is flawed.
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This brief essay looks at the nature of two standard and distinct methods for making profound explorations and representations of the complex world: the logical philosophical essay and art. One is based on reason (logical essay). The other has its meaning in the irrational (art). Each is a legitimate method of communication yet limited in what it can express.
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A logical philosophical essay uses reason and logic. It intentionally tries to remove emotion, whims, logical fallacies, subjectivity and, except when clearly identified as such, the author’s opinions. The language itself of the logical essay is expected to be free of logical fallacies and similar linguistic muddiness.
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In proofing the logical essay, the writer and reader makes sure that statements are consistent. As statements are built upon statements, even small logical fallacies can undercut the entire essay.
The following are elemental examples of checking the logic of statements that might be found in an essay.
Statement #1: “Jenny has only one brother. Thus, her brother has only one sibling.”
Analysis of statement #1: Uses false logic and should be rewritten. If Jenny has a sister, then the second statement would be untrue, as John would then have more than one sibling. While John may indeed only have one sibling, the first sentence does not prove the second.
Statement #2: “Jenny’s favorite type of fruit over all other fruit is the orange. Thus, the banana is not her favorite fruit.”
Analysis: The statement is logically correct.
Writers of logical essays will have others read the drafts to check for logical accuracy.
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Opposed to the logical essay, the essential meaning of art is based in irrationality. While a work of art has an underlying and often even logic-related structure, the essential meaning is irrational (sublimeness, profound beauty). Art produces a profound emotional and psychological effect on the audience and it is here where the meaning exists.
This irrational meaning is illustrated by the wordless music you love. There is nothing logical or rational in the sounds or the emotional reaction you get from them. Art’s meaning exists beyond logic and reason.
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Artists intentionally subvert logic, reason and reality to produce the desired psychological effect in the audience.
Many paintings intentionally distort reality. Look at paintings by Picasso, Dali, Cezanne, Jackson Pollock or Renoir. Even the ‘realistic’ paintings of the 1400s have strange dimensions, characters and visual stories.
Painting by Paul Cezanne
Classic movies and novels have unrealistic plots, characters, timing and effects. Some are fairy tales or science fiction. Action space and sound.
2001: A Space Oddysey
To produce the desired emotions in the audience most movies have music sound tracks. In real life many of the scenes portrayed would have no full symphonic accompaniment. Washington crossing the Delaware, man lost alone in the middle of the desert, Humphrey Bogart walking a deserted street, Rocky Balboa running up the Philadelphia steps. Most movie music is an intentional distortion of reality for artistic purposes.
Even a literal-minded scientist will complain that a documentary about physicist Werner Heisenberg didn’t have a music soundtrack, or that the music wasn’t what he would have chosen. If asked, he might tell the director he would have preferred Beethoven over the used Bach, perhaps mixed with some Mozart.
Fiction and non-fiction distorts time. A person’s or a country’s life will be shrunk into two hours. To compensate for the time limit, the movie or book will focus on certain areas, omit others, often altering facts.
2001: distorting time and space
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Art is so different than the ‘real world’ that its meaning, its truth some will say, is derived from lies. Shakespeare’s Hamlet is fiction. Of Mice and Men is a figment of John Steinbeck’s imagination. Picasso said “Art is a lie that tells the truth.”
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An inherent conflict exists between art and logic. One requires rational thinking and the other requires irrationality. Each subverts the the other.
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An inherent problem with the logical essay is that, despite the author’s intentions, it can never be entirely free of the things it wishes to be free of– bias, irrationalness and arbitrariness.
The author has personal and aesthetic views about writing style, structure and overall presentation. A writer can’t write or think without using a plethora of conceits, some chosen, some subconscious, some inborn. A writer can’t visualize things in his mind without biases. Writers take into consideration the biases and conceits of the audience, as point of the essay is to communicate to others. Logical essays distort time as much as novels, spending more pages on one decade than another, writing about an earlier historical period before a later historical period, cutting up history and reassembling it into a collage. This distorted representation is often in part due to aesthetic taste.
If the writer and audience have a bias about the color and shape of paper the essay is to be written on, they should not assume that they are free of bias and artificial thinking elsewhere. Small biases are indication of the presence of larger biases.
Human logic has its own fiction
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Facts versus art in the biography
The subject of the biographical movie or book is or was flesh and blood, a life filled with measurable facts: dates, times, durations, heights, geography, quotes, tests, employment records, hair color, postal addresses. Yet a simple recitation of external facts will not accurately represent the person and her life. The recitation will be dry bones. A person is much more than facts and dates. Character, complex personality, aesthetic vision (perhaps the subject was a great artist or actor), beliefs, faiths, conflicts, contradictions, urges, dreams, fears, subjective experiences.
A famous composer might say, “If you want to know who I am, listen to my music. That’s all you need.”
A woman might say, “If you want to know about me, forget about my high school transcript and the conversations I have with my boss. Watch my favorite movie. If you don’t get the movie, you’ll never understand me.” Her favorite movie probably was made by someone she never met, perhaps who died before she was born, isn’t about her, perhaps takes place in a country or a planet she’s never been too and may not have a single character that resembles or acts like her or even speaks her language.
Even when distorting facts and logic and time, a biography that is a work of art, can be a better representation of the subject, his deeper personality and vision. This type of biography is a figurative representation of the person, as the above Cezanne painting is a representation of a landscape.
The obvious problem is that to create this figurative truth, one must distort the factual truth. And to tell the factual truth, one destroys this figurative truth. The biographer needs the two to exist together, but they cannot.