On persuasion. Making a start with Kant's subjective universal judgements. On persuasion again.

Modern Bede is a quiet scholar more at home in heaps of papers than in angry public debates. Bede wants to examine lines of arguments and show when they are bad. But he is painfully aware of how ineffective this is as a method of persuasion. Logic rarely persuaded anyone of anything.


And in any case, the real problem here is that we have to deal with what Kant would no doubt call (with the capitalization too) Subjective Judgements. He pointed out something paradoxical about aesthetic judgements which I think is true; ie that when we make the subjective judgement that, say, Citizen Kane is a great film, or Lear is a profound play, we are trying to say something more than simply ?I happen to like it?. Such judgments are universal, so we are trying also to say "...and furthermore, this is great art that everyone else should appreciate too". In other words, although aesthetic judgments are subjective; they feel objective. Kant called these "subjective universal judgments", thus neatly encapsulating the paradox.

I shall inevitably write more about Kantian aesthetics, but at the moment I want to say that the reason that people don't agree about art is of course that they have different taste (almost tautologically so). One can talk about communities of taste: sets of people who share the same aesthetic interests. But still; why is it that some people like Cradle of Filth, and others Mozart piano trios? Indeed, these two communities are largely (one imagines, without wishing to prejudge the issue too much) mutually exclusive.



I think that different tastes arise because people expect "art" (or whatever plays the equivalent role in their community of taste) to do different things. Some people want excitement; some repose; and some want the sort of reflective movement that I have already referred to. If a Mozartian wants a Cradleoffilthian to start appreciating piano trios, then they are clearly not going to have an easy time of it. They must somehow shift the expectations of the COFian towards the things that the Mozartian wants. I.e.: the thought that "If only you saw the world as I see it, and wanted the same things as me, then you would appreciate the same art that I do" seems entirely reasonable.

But I think this type of view goes further: persuading anyone of anything must first involve shifting their aesthetic perspective; indeed, it must make the end point desirable or even loveable. So at the heart of any argument, no matter how logically cast, lies a Kantian subjective universal judgment.

Kant, being Kant, thought that our rational ordering meant that all humans should somehow have the same taste, in art as well as morals (hence his arguments for objective morality). Subsequent events have weakened this belief. In any case, even if it were true, one would still have to do the work of persuasion: to show people their true aesthetic options.

In later posts I shall expend some cyber-ink in trying to appeal to the aesthetic sensibilities of hardened, anti-religion scientists. Most of these types, as far as one can judge, find the aesthetics and outcomes of religion despicable; which is why they fail to spend too much time trying to examine the logic of the situation (which is of course entirely understandable). I want to persuade them to shift this aesthetic, and to see the essential lovability of religion. I am under no illusions about the a priori plausibility of this endeavour.



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