Anthea Hamilton is nominated for work focusing on fetishism including an enormous sculpture of a man’s buttocks.
That sentence is true. The “sculpture” is of a man’s enormous bootocks (using my old colleague Seargeant Gatewood’s preferred pronunciation) prised apart by giant disembodied hands. Since this is a family blog, and since I cannot advocate the radial dieting the image provokes, I will not show it.
The Turner Prize is given to image-makers (let’s not call them artists) under 50 years old. The prize itself is handed out by celebrities, who are defined as people above us all. Wikipedia says Yoko Ono, who is famous for being famous, gave away the forty-thousand British smackers in 2006, and in 2016 the dishonor went to actor Jude Law, who has (Wiki says) been in films.
Other nominees for this year’s money is a person who stacked yard rubbish into a not-so-neat pile with the title “aesthetically-overlooked materials” (pictured above), a person who evidently went to a Hobby Lobby dumpster and glued the remains together to create “poetic, pictorial puzzles”, and a person who displayed a store-bought choo-choo train.
Now it is a cliché, but still a truth, to say Hamilton and the other image-makers are talentless immature tiresome frauds with no sense of propriety, proportion, or prudence. The real question is whether they are also lost souls bamboozled into thinking they have contributed something positive to society, instead of ushering it closer to its doom. Or are they brazen hacks looking to become minor celebrities and make a buck out of slimy speculators who buy their works hoping to resell them to dumber dupes down the line?
If the answer is that these intellectually challenged image makers have been duped, then we should have nothing but pity for them. Pity does not mean that these sad people should be encouraged, though. Obviously, they should be discouraged by all means short of physical restraint. Go ahead and hurt their feelings by telling them their work is sad crap that looks worse than an open, suppurating sore.
If it is the latter, if in fact these image-makers know what they are doing, and there is sufficient evidence to assume it is true of at least some of the image-makers, then since their toddler-like tinkerings do positive harm to any that see them, these image-makers are evil.
Evil too are those that do nothing more than purchase autographs hoping thereby to gain a profit. For the creations by these image-makers are little more than a form of pornography, a pornography of corruption, hate, and ugliness, and making a profit from pornography is evil.
There are, of course, grades of evil. Not everything is evil to equal degree. The oil paintings of sad clowns and fuzzy flowers put up for sale in gas stations and flea markets are the mildest form of artistic evil, akin to wearing t-shirts with goofy messages in public. Both inflict faint ugliness on unwary citizens.
The images described above, and those like them, are far worse. Why? Because they are touted as good and worthy by self-appointed elites. The money awash in the system commands respect, too. That is unfortunate, because money has the weakest correlation with the good. But in a culture which has such a strong grip on materialism, money has undue weight
One elite is Will Gompertz at the BBC. Knowing that the works peddled by the prize are being called out, Gompertz had to defend them in “What defines a good work of art?” Gompertz correctly—I say correctly—identifies the central flaw in modern art:
You can appreciate pretty much anything if you intellectualise it – even those really dire videos you try to sit through in galleries. But not every work touches your emotions and makes you feel something.
Gompertz had “fun” looking at the bootocks, which he could not (or did not) “intellectualise”. Yet I felt the desire to smack some sense into Hamilton. According to Gompertz’s theory, my emotional response turned the bootocks into art.
Though it pains me to type this conclusion, which ought to be clear to the meanest intellect, if emotions define art, then because everything causes some reaction, everything is art—and therefore nothing is art.
This is it! I am taking an e-holiday. Except for work-related mop-up operations, no Internet, no Twitter, no email, no TV, no cell phone, no blog, no nothing.
I have posts scheduled for the blog for next couple of weeks, so readers will not go hungry for the scintillating intellectual content they have come to know and love. If something amazing, shocking, world-shaking, stupendous occurs during my sojourn I might log back on to write about it, but it would have to be at the alien-invasion level. I might be on for the next and last debate. Meanwhile, I have engaged an Editor to handle the day-to-day mechanics.
Emails, of course, will be stuffed in the Inbox and I’ll see them in time. I am currently about six months—and maybe even more—behind answering all the wonderful story ideas readers send in. Two more weeks (or maybe three if I get really excited about it) won’t make much difference.
There is a stack of books as high as boo times two that I need to read, there is a book I am working on, and articles that deserve more attention than I have been giving them. And I too often let the Internet become a distraction—and an excuse for not working.
Same thing was true when I had a “smart” phone, which I discovered was making me dumber. I gave it up two years ago and returned to a flip phone that can’t even store pictures. Not only is this far cheaper—being a philosopher of probability and statistics pays far less than you would have guessed—but the gained freedom is refreshing. I usually don’t bother carrying it with me and so have rediscovered what I already knew the first thirty years of my life: you don’t need a phone everywhere you go.
A small e-exception will be radio shows, of which I average some two to three a week. The Stream sets these up, and since they’re part of my job I’ll continue them. The phone will be turned on right before the shows, and turned off right after.
About Twitter: the blog itself automatically tweets the articles when published, so if you see “me” tweeting (besides an alien invasion), it isn’t. On the other hand, given Twitter’s panicked censoring of non-progressive voices, and the subsequent induced dullness of the platform, I might even suspend the service. If you cancel, you have 30 days to reconsider and can restore the account. We’ll see.
If Trump wins, his effect on the accelerating downward slide of our culture will be as a speed bump, perhaps a small series of speed bumps. If Hillary wins, she might cast the order “Bomb Putin!”, which will create a much bigger bump. Besides, she has as a list of clients those who donated to the Clinton Foundation to service before the rest of us. Don’t forget her call—and “dream”!—of open borders. Trump will be more receptive. How much?
Not too much. Trump is one man (or one team), and the bureaucracy, Congress, the media, universities, and entertainers will be against him. That’s five against one; it’s not a fair fight, and can’t be. Actually, strike that. It’s more like 0.5 against 5.5, because nobody expects Trump will consistently uphold Tradition and Reality.
A Trump election will only delay the inevitable. Most will say that’s a good thing, because any pause allows time to breathe. A respite will give room for soldiers of Tradition and Reality time to regroup after so many years of defeat.
That’s to one side. To the other is the idea that if it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly. Rip the bandage off! The fight (many against the few) is coming, let each declare his allegiance and let’s get on with it. Yet a Trump residency on the people’s throne will give progressives time to regather, too, and given there are so many more of them, they’ll be able to do more. Why not light the fuse now and get it over with?
Ah, all democracies end the same way. There’s good and bad whichever way the election goes. Might as well take what comfort you can.
Debate notes (mostly modified tweets)
Trump can be nervous. Sniff, sniff. Good to know if you play poker with him. Hillary’s tell is her open-mouthed maniacal grin.
Hillary is good at debating. She doesn’t answer, she attacks. That’s the right thing to do in democratic political debates. Not philosophical debates, where presumably there is interest in finding the truth, but certainly in a democracy where the public must be convinced.
Trump, after waffling around for ten minutes, finally came to that idea.
Hillary: “I’m glad Trump isn’t in charge of the law.”
Trump: “Because you’d be in jail.”
Trump lost on the bathroom banter (as he should and as was expected), but beat back the waves by calling out Bill’s rapes and Hillary’s attacks on Bill’s victims. Hillary’s only answer to the emails was (in effect) “It’s all lies.”
Each and every disaster about Obamacare was predicted before it was passed. How much more are you (yes, you) paying?
Radical Islamic terror. Go ahead and said it, you Islamophobe. Or is it Islamaphobe? Spelling counts.
Who’s up for a nuclear holocaust with Russia? Hillary: Me! Me!
Most imaginative charge so far: Hillary’s claim that Trump’s campaign is causing terrorism. Hey. Some people will believe it.
Hillary: Putin and the Kremlin hacked my emails on my unsecured server. Wait’ll I’m president, boy. Release the drones!
Who wins against lowering (Trump) versus raising (Hillary) taxes?
Dr Hillary helped pass a law that allowed for better dosing for children. If you don’t remember anything else tonight, remember that.
Who’s up for a nuclear holocaust with Russia? Hillary: Me! Me! Oh, wait. Did we already do that one? Well, Hillary did it twice, too.
Trump: Syria is fighting ISIS, Russia is fighting ISIS. The implication is “Let’s not have war with Russia.” That’s the right answer. But I say as one of the irredeemable basket of deplorables.
Hillary: When I said Trump’s supporters were irredeemable deplorables, I meant I didn’t like Trump.
Trump: She has tremendous hatred in her. When she said deplorables, she meant it. (And then out came the maniacal grin!)
The audience questions surely helped Trump over Hillary.
Hillary: Did I forget to answer the question about special interests funding my campaign and Clinton Foundation?
1 Now, from what has just been said it is clearly shown that every intellectual substance is incorruptible.
2 For all corruption occurs through the separation of form from matter; absolute corruption, through the separation of the substantial form; relative corruption, through the separation of an accidental form. For, so long as the form remains, the thing must exist, since by the form the substance is made the proper recipient of the act of being. Now, where there is no composition of matter and form, there can be no separation of them; neither, then, can there be corruption. It has been shown, however, that no intellectual substance is composed of matter and form. Therefore, no intellectual substance is corruptible.
NotesQuod erat demonstratum, baby. Plan accordingly.
3 Moreover, that which belongs to a thing through itself is necessarily in it always and inseparably—thus, roundness is in a circle through itself, but is by accident in a coin; so that the existence of a non-round coin is possible; whereas it is impossible for a circle not to be round. Now, being is consequent upon form through itself; for by through itself we mean according as that thing is such; and each and every thing has being according as it has form. Therefore, substances which are not themselves forms can be deprived of being, so far as they lose form, even as a coin is deprived of roundness as a result of ceasing to be circular. But substances which are themselves forms can never be deprived of being; thus, if a substance were a circle, it could never be non-round. Now, we have already shown that intellectual substances are themselves subsisting forms. Hence, they cannot possibly cease to be, and therefore they are incorruptible.
4 In every instance of corruption, furthermore, potentiality remains after the removal of act. For when a thing is corrupted it does not dissolve into absolute non-entity, any more than a thing is generated from absolute non-entity. But, as we have proved, in intellectual substances the act is being itself, while the substance is as potentiality. Therefore, if an intellectual substance is corrupted, it will remain after its corruption; which is simply impossibility. Therefore, every intellectual substance is incorruptible.
Notes Recall, from Book 1, that potentiality is a kind of existence.
5 Likewise, in every thing which is corrupted there must be potentiality to non-being. Hence, if there be a thing in which there is no potentiality to non-being, such a thing cannot be corruptible. Now, in the intellectual substance there is no potentiality to non-being. For it is clear from what we have said that the complete substance is the proper recipient of being itself. But the proper recipient of an act is related to that act as potentiality, in such fashion that it is in no way in potentiality to the opposite; thus, the relationship of fire to heat is such that fire is in no way in potentiality to cold. Hence, neither in the case of corruptible substances is there potentiality to non-being in the complete substance itself, except by reason of the matter. But there is no matter in intellectual substances, for they are themselves complete simple substances. Consequently, there is no potentiality to not-being in them. Therefore, they are incorruptible.
6 Then, too, in whatever things there is composition of potentiality and act, that which holds the place of first potentiality, or of first subject, is incorruptible; so that even in corruptible substances prime matter is incorruptible. But, with intellectual substances, that which holds the place of first potentiality and subject is itself the complete substance of those things. Hence, the substance itself is incorruptible. But nothing is corruptible except by the fact that its substance is corruptible. Therefore, all intellectual natures are incorruptible.
7 Moreover, whatever is corrupted is corrupted either through itself or by accident. Now, intellectual substances cannot be corrupted through themselves, because all corruption is by a contrary. For the agent, since it acts according as it is a being in act, always by its acting brings something into actual being, so that if a thing is corrupted by its ceasing to be in act, this must result from the mutual contrariety of the terms involved; since things are contrary which exclude one another.
And on this account whatever is corrupted through itself must either have a contrary or be composed of contraries. Yet neither the one nor the other is true of intellectual substances; and a sign of this is that in the intellect things even of contrary nature cease to be contraries. Thus, white and black are not contraries in the intellect, since they do not exclude one another; rather, they are co-implicative, since by grasping the one we understand the other. Therefore, intellectual substances are not corruptible through themselves. Likewise, neither are they corruptible by accident, for in this manner are accidents and non-subsistent forms corrupted. Now, it was shown above that intellectual substances are subsistent. Therefore, they are altogether incorruptible.
8 Again, corruption is a kind of change, and change must be the terminal point of a movement, as is proved in the Physics [V, 1]. Hence, whatever is corrupted must be moved. Now, it is shown in natural philosophy that whatever is moved is a body. Hence, whatever is corrupted must be a body, if it is corrupted through itself, or a form or power of a body depending thereon, if it be corrupted by accident. Now, intellectual substances are not bodies, nor powers or forms dependent on a body. Consequently, they are corrupted neither through themselves nor by accident. They are, then, utterly incorruptible.
Notes Be careful with this one. Intellects change, as yours is changing now by reading these words. Intellects can also be corrupted, by (say) reading the New York Times. But Aquinas means corruption in the sense that the substance itself disappears. And this bad pun is made even funnier when you consider the next argument where the first form of corruption is called perfection. Point is: beware as ever for the fallacy of equivocation.
9 And again. Whatever is corrupted is corrupted through being passive to something, for to be corrupted is itself to be passive in a certain way. Now, no intellectual substance can be passive in such a way as will lead to its corruption. For passivity is a kind of receptivity, and what is received into an intellectual substance must be received in it in a manner consonant with its mode, namely, intelligibly. What is thus received into an intellectual substance, however, perfects that substance and does not corrupt it, for the intelligible is the perfection of the intelligent. Therefore, an intelligent substance is incorruptible.
10 Furthermore, just as the sensible is the object of sense, so the intelligible is the object of intellect. But sense is not corrupted by a corruption proper to itself except on account of the exceedingly high intensity of its object; thus, is sight corrupted by very brilliant objects, hearing by very loud sounds, etc. Now, I say by corruption proper to the thing itself because the sense is corrupted also accidentally through its subject being corrupted. But this mode of corruption cannot happen to the intellect, since it is not the act of any body, as depending thereon, as we have shown above. And clearly it is not corrupted by the exceeding loftiness of its object, because he who understands very intelligible things understands things less intelligible not less but more. Therefore, the intellect is in no way corruptible…
13 A further argument. It is impossible for natural desire to be in vain, “since nature does nothing in vain.” But every intelligent being naturally desires to be forever; and to be forever not only in its species but also in the individual. This point is made clear as follows.
Natural appetite is present in some things as the result of apprehension; the wolf naturally desires the killing of the animals on which it feeds, and man naturally desires happiness. But in some other things natural desires results without apprehension from the sole inclination of natural principles, and this inclination, in some, is called natural appetite; thus, a heavy body desires to be down.
Now, in both ways there is in things a natural desire for being; and a sign of this is that not only things devoid of knowledge resist, according to the power of their natural principles, whatever is corruptive of them, but also things possessed of knowledge resist the same according to the mode of their knowledge. Hence, those things lacking knowledge, in whose principles there is a power of keeping themselves in existence forever so that they remain always the same numerically, naturally desire to exist everlastingly even in their numerical self-identity.
But things whose principles have not the power to do this, but only the power of perpetuating their existence in the same species, also naturally desire to be perpetuated in this manner. Hence, this same difference must be found also in those things in which there is desire for being, together with knowledge, so that those things which have no knowledge of being except as now desire to be as now, but not to be always, because they do not apprehend everlasting being. Yet they desire the perpetual existence of the species, though without knowledge, because the generative power, which conduces to this effect, is a forerunner and not a subject of knowledge. Hence, those things which know and apprehend perpetual being desire it with natural desire. And this is true of all intelligent substances. Consequently, all intelligent substances, by their natural appetite, desire to be always. That they should cease to be is, therefore, impossible.
Notes Don’t misunderstand desires in the second paragraph. Aquinas is not saying rocks think. In any case, this will strike readers as the weakest argument because of the premise “intelligent being naturally desires to be forever”.
14 Furthermore, all things that begin to be and cease to be do so in virtue of the same potency, for the same potency regards being and non-being. Now, intelligent substances could not begin to be except by the potency of the first agent, since, as we have shown, they are not made out of a matter that could have existed antecedently to them. Hence, there is no potency with respect to their non-being except in the first agent, inasmuch as it lies within His power not to pour being into them.
But nothing can be said to be corruptible with respect to this potency alone; and for two reasons: because things are said to be necessary and contingent according to a potentiality that is in them, and not according to the power of God, as we have already shown, and also because God, who is the Author of nature, does not take from things that which is proper to their natures; and we have just shown that it is proper to intellectual natures to exist forever, and that is why God will not take this property from them. Therefore, intellectual substances are in every way incorruptible.
Notes Here is an excellent brief definition of contingency and necessity: “things are said to be necessary and contingent according to a potentiality that is in them”.