What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand

by Louis Torres & Michelle Marder Kamhi

Authors' Preliminary Response to Symposium: Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (Spring 2001)

A symposium on Ayn Rand's esthetics in the Spring 2001 issue (Vol. 2 No. 2) of the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies inspired by the publication of What Art Is also includes comments on the authors' essay "Critical Neglect of Ayn Rand's Theory of Art"--which was based on a chapter omitted from the book and published in the journal's Fall 2000 issue (Vol. 2 No. 1). While a detailed summary of the symposium is not possible at this time, a few of the principal points made by some of the key contributors--Lester Hunt, John Hospers, David Kelley, and Randall Dipert--are briefly noted below, along with preliminary responses. (A complete list of the contents and contributors is available on the journal's website.) Our full response to the symposium will appear in the Spring 2002 issue of the journal.

Lester Hunt, "What Art Does"

[Professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Lester Hunt is the author of Character and Culture.]

In Lester Hunt's view, What Art Is "establishes serious philosophical discussion of Rand's aesthetics (a thing previously almost unheard of)," and exhibits both "breadth and depth" of learning. "I am not sure that I have ever reviewed a book from which I have learned so much," he observes. Yet he thinks that we may be too critical of Rand, for we "seem to miss no opportunity to point out . . . [her] foibles . . . [and] lapses from rigor." We did indeed attempt to be comprehensive in our cataloging of Rand's "foibles" and "lapses from rigor"--in order to disarm her critics, who have too often used such foibles as an excuse for dismissing her ideas entirely. By hanging out all the dirty laundry ourselves, we sought to dispel superficial criticism that might obscure the value of her basic principles.

Contrary to some critics, Hunt judges that the book's "considerable virtues" are most apparent in our application of Rand's theory in Part II. Even with respect to that part, however, Hunt has some major reservations. At one point, he notes: "[T]hose of us who accept Rand's conception of art cannot content ourselves with magisterially declaring that this or that thing is not really art."

Among the problematic points Hunt turns his attention to are not only the question of whether music meets Rand's definition of art (we emphatically argue that it does) but also the status of photography and architecture, both of which we insist are properly excluded. His analysis of the mimetic (imitative) aspect of music, however, suggests that he has misunderstood what we said about it. Stating that, according to our account, musical tones are (as he puts it) "stylized versions of natural human sounds, including tones of voice," he objects that "music is not about tones of voice in the way that a novel is about an architect," adding that "we do not listen to a piece of music because we want to find out about the natural sounds that are referred to and stylized in them." Of course one doesn't listen to music for this purpose--we never suggested that one does. Throughout our analysis, we expressed the view that music is about the internal, "feeling" side of human experience--about "emotional states" (and, ultimately, about the values they suggest or imply). As we explained, it is "through particular qualities of tone, tempo, rhythm, and timbre, [that] music 'imitates' or 're-creates' the vocal and behavioral expressions associated with emotional states and with emotionally charged movement." (What Art Is, 80, emphasis added). We also agreed with Peter Kivy's observation that music is intelligible in emotion-feeling terms "in virtue of its resemblance to expressive human utterance and behavior." Finally, we quoted Susanne Langer's view:

The tonal structures we call "music" bear a close logical similarity to the forms of human feeling--forms of growth and of attenuation . . . conflict and resolution, speed, arrest, terrific excitement, calm . . . --not joy and sorrow perhaps, but the poignancy of either and both--the greatness and brevity and eternal passing of everything vitally felt. Such is the pattern, or logical form, of sentience; and the pattern of music is that same form worked out in pure, measured sound and silence. Music is the tonal analogue of emotive life. [Feeling and Form, 27, emphasis ours]

Because music employs sound primarily to suggest the internal realm of feeling, rather than the external world, we assiduously avoided using terms such as "depiction" or "representation" (which connote the visual or verbal re-creation of reality). Hunt's analysis tends to blur this distinction, which we regard as an important one.

Hunt also questions the validity of Rand's (and our) exclusion of photography from the category of art. Though "the photographer does not build a picture by selecting the details of reality one at a time," he reasons, photographs may nonetheless serve the same function as images that do qualify as art according to Rand's conception. Owing to this among other considerations, Hunt proposes a "reconstructed Objectivist aesthetic" in which art would be defined, not as a process, from the artist's point of view (which he claims is the case with Rand's definition), but in terms of its function. That function, he suggests, is "to create a certain sort of meaning, in which values are embodied in concrete form." While he does not formulate such a definition, he suggests that it "would promote the broadly cognitive function of art to a status that is more central to the account, and . . . would demote the idea that [art] is a selective re-creation of reality to a more peripheral sort of status."

What Hunt's suggestion ignores, however, is that the idea of "process" (which is only implicit in Rand's definition) is fundamental to the very concept of art--not just to her conception of the major art forms but to the ancient generic concept of "art," or techne, in which it is rooted. Though Rand's definition does not refer explicitly to the idea of the intentional application of skill and disciplined effort connoted by the broader concept of art, such ideas are clearly suggested in many of her statements about the creative process--in particular, in her lectures on fiction-writing (loosely transcribed in The Art of Fiction). Nothing would be gained, we think, in altering her conception and definition of art along the lines suggested by Hunt. Though some photographs may seem to serve the same function for the viewer as a painting, for example, the important differences between the two kinds of images should not be blurred, in our view. While many fine photographs are "lucky accidents" (as we noted in What Art Is), for example, Rand rightly emphasized that nothing in art is accidental.

Ironically, if art were re-defined in terms of its primary function, the exclusion of architecture (which seems to be one of our "magisterial" judgments that is troubling to Hunt) would appear even more requisite, since the utilitarian-nonutilitarian distinction that Rand referred to explicitly in only a few of her theoretical statements about art (and contradicted in her one major proposition about architecture--see our addendum on this) would then be brought clearly to the foreground.

Finally, Hunt comments on our discussion of Rand's definition of Romanticism as "a category of art based on the recognition of the principle that man possesses the faculty of volition." He acknowledges that we "have a valid point" in arguing that it is applicable only to fiction and drama (or to art works based on a dramatic or narrative text), and he finds our brief remarks on the subject "incisive and worthy of close attention." Yet he claims that we go too far when we "suggest that . . . Rand's comments on Romanticism . . . constitute mere personal statements that need not be taken seriously as theory." What we wrote was somewhat different in its intent from Hunt's inference, however. In stating that Rand's concepts of Romanticism and Naturalism "figure prominently in her personal esthetic of literature but are misleading in the context of her theory of art," our point was not that they should not be taken seriously in any context, but that they are irrelevant to her theory of art, which is what our book is concerned with.

John Hospers, "Rand's Aesthetics: A Personal View"

[Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, John Hospers is a past president of the American Society for Aesthetics and the author of Meaning and Truth in the Arts and Understanding the Arts. For about two years in the early 1960s he also had a close personal friendship and correspondence with Ayn Rand.]

Of all the contributors to the symposium, John Hospers might have been expected to provide the broadest perspective on Ayn Rand's theory of art, as well as the most informed response to our book. Instead, he says: "I make no attempt to provide a general review of Torres and Kamhi's book. I shall make a few remarks about views expressed in the book, and some of my own views on the same subject, interspersing them occasionally with memories of my discussions with Rand herself." His remarks about What Art Is are few indeed. Though Hospers's citations of "Torres & Kamhi" are quite numerous, nearly all of them refer to our quotations of statements by Rand, not to our interpretation or application of her esthetic theory.

What Hospers's contribution offers is mainly a self-justificatory recapitulation of his own published work on esthetics, with scarcely any consideration of how Rand's theory of art compares or contrasts with other ideas on the subject. This is consistent with his response a decade ago, when we sent him a copy of "Ayn Rand's Philosophy of Art: A Critical Introduction" (the serialized article we had published in Aristos in 1991-92) and he wrote back with a querulous complaint that we had commented on his ideas on art only in relation to Rand's.

In that article, we quoted Hospers as having once characterized his intellectual debt to Rand as follows:

"Ayn Rand was one of the most original thinkers I have ever met. There is no escape from facing the issues she raised. . . . At a time in my life when I thought I had learned at least the essentials of most philosophical views, being confronted with her . . . suddenly changed the entire direction of my intellectual life, and placed every other thinker in a new perspective. Whatever subject one discusses thenceforth, one always has to take account of Ayn Rand." [Aristos, September 1992, 3; quoted from Barbara Branden, The Passion of Ayn Rand, 413; see also 323-24]

One would never guess from this effusive testimony that Hospers had profound disagreements with Rand on fundamental issues of epistemology (not to mention esthetics), or that he had never even cited her name, much less engaged her ideas, in his serious scholarly writing on art.

Hospers did not respond to our subsequent invitation to submit an article on Rand's esthetics to Aristos. The issue of the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies featuring "the first comprehensive scholarly forum for discussion of Ayn Rand's philosophy of art" gave him yet another opportunity to "take account" of Rand's ideas on the subject to which he had devoted most of his professional life. He has failed to do so.

On the rare occasions when Hospers does reflect on Rand's ideas in the present paper, it is to raise stale objections (such as the idea that music isn't a "re-creation of reality" since it doesn't "represent" things), without considering the answers we offer to the same objections. In one of the two instances in which he responds to something we say, he omits a crucial passage (the quotation from Susanne Langer's Feeling and Form, cited above in our response to Hunt) which leads up to our summary point. Thus he writes: "When I read Torres and Kamhi's description of Rand's view--'What music presents, then, are certain auditory concretes . . . that have emotive and existential significance. That is why music, in Rand's analysis, possesses an objective, generalized, core of meaning'--I do not have, from this description, a clear enough handle on her view to say more about it without further elucidation." In the first sentence of ours quoted by Hospers (which we italicize here), we summarize Langer's view, not Rand's, and the "emotive and existential significance" we refer to is illuminated by the preceding passage from Feeling and Form. Furthermore, with a little imagination Hospers might have recognized that we were alluding to the same sort of significance he was describing when he wrote, only two pages earlier: "When people are sad, they move slowly; their movements are not loud or rapid, and they speak softly and low--just as the music we call sad tends to be slow rather than rapid, and soft rather than strident."

At the very least, if Hospers was unwilling to give in-depth consideration to Rand's theory itself or to our book, he might have responded to our article "Critical Neglect of Ayn Rand's Theory of Art"--in which we cite him as well as others. By failing to do any of these, he has added little of substance to the subject of this symposium--however interesting his latest reminiscences of conversations with Rand about their personal preferences in art may be.

David Kelley, "Reasoning about Art"

[Founder and Executive Director of The Objectivist Center, David Kelley was formerly a professor of philosophy at Vassar College, and is the author of The Evidence of the Senses and The Art of Reasoning.]

David Kelley's contribution to the symposium does not consider What Art Is but focuses instead on our essay "Critical Neglect of Ayn Rand's Theory of Art", in which we take issue with points in "Why Man Needs Art" (an article he co-authored with William Thomas, in The Objectivist Center's journal, Navigator), as well as with what we judged to be his general tendency to treat esthetics (that is, the philosophy of art) as tangential to the major branches of philosophy.

Kelley opens "Reasoning about Art" by acknowledging the validity of two of our objections regarding his and Thomas's focus on literature at the expense of the other arts. We raise a "good question," he notes, in criticizing them for citing Rand's analysis of "metaphysical value-judgments" (a concept central to her definition of art) without explaining how those judgments could be expressed in artworks other than literature. He also indicates that "any appearance of bias towards literature, due to the prevalence of literary examples, was unintentional and will not be true of the book itself," since the article was but "a brief excerpt from a much longer book project [their forthcoming book The Logical Structure of Objectivism], and a paragraph discussing the various forms of art was not included in this adaptation." We would counter by suggesting that, in a truly balanced consideration of esthetics, the other art forms warrant far more than a single paragraph.

Following his opening remarks, Kelley catalogs a list of purported scholarly and moral lapses on our part:

Kamhi and Torres appear to have set themselves the task of finding fault with every point they could lay their hands on, no matter how minute or remotely related to anything essential--not only in my case but in their comments on Leonard Peikoff and other writers as well. They repeatedly take statements out of context. . . . They engage in ad hominem argumentation. . . . They appeal to authority. . . . They engage in equivocation. . . . I trust that readers can assess such carping and sometimes fallacious claims for what they are worth.

The offenses Kelley alleges would indeed be egregious if they were true, but the single example he offers in each case relevant to him (he offers none at all in the case of Peikoff and nameless "other writers") warrants a very different interpretation from the distressing one he has placed on it--as he might have recognized had he considered our "Critical Neglect" essay in relation to our book, for which it was originally written. Since our frequent citations of The Evidence of the Senses and The Art of Reasoning (among other work) treat his thought with considerable respect, it is implausible that we would have resorted to ad hominem and patently false argumentation in our subsequent criticism of him. In any case, as our response below will demonstrate, we did not resort to such practices.

As an example of our "ad hominem argumentation," Kelley cites "the claim that Thomas and I could not introspect on our own aesthetic responses." What we actually said, however, was the following: "Though Thomas and Kelley allude to the importance of 'introspect[ing] on the role of art in our own lives' when considering the function of art, they do not appear to have engaged in such introspection in any depth themselves, especially in regard to art forms other than literature. Had they done so, we doubt that they would have suggested that all art . . . helps philosophy to 'guide man's actions.'" As the verb form and full context of our remark make clear, we were referring to Thomas and Kelley's observations in the essay at issue--not (as Kelley's phrase "could not introspect" implies) to any general inability to introspect on their responses to art. Only the latter would have constituted an ad hominem argument. As Kelley himself observes in The Art of Reasoning (1st ed., 120): "An ad hominem argument rejects or dismisses another person's statement by attacking the person rather than the statement itself. . . . [T]he goal is always to escape the responsibility of dealing with a statement logically, and the method is always to try to discredit the speaker." As reflected in the above quote, our argument does engage in logical analysis, and therefore does not meet Kelley's own test for ad hominem.

The fallacious "appeal to authority" alleged by Kelley is in regard to the place of esthetics in the classification of the branches of philosophy. Apparently, his reference is to our note 38, in which we point out that his relegation of esthetics to a lesser position than politics "departs not only from Rand's [classification] but also from that adopted in the 1970s by the American Philosophical Association's Eastern Division." In response, we should note first that, since we offered other reasons for our position, it was not based solely on an "appeal to authority." But even if it were, as Kelley notes in The Art of Reasoning (118-20) "it is perfectly appropriate to rely on the testimony of authorities if the conditions of credibility are satisfied": (1) that the alleged authority "be competent--an expert on the subject matter in question"; (2) that the authority "be objective"; and (3) that "the issue in question requires specialized knowledge or skill that the ordinary person does not possess." Since our statement meets all three conditions, it is entirely within the bounds of legitimate scholarly argumentation as Kelley himself defines them.

The single example offered of our "repeatedly tak[ing] statements out of context" is our "citation of advertising copy from one of [the Objectivist Center's] seminar brochures as evidence regarding [Kelley's] views." As presented by Kelley, this might indeed seem carping. But let us put it in context. What we wrote--after analyzing his statements on the place of esthetics in Rand's philosophic thought and among the branches of philosophy, in general--was the following: "The deficiencies of Kelley's view of both Rand's aesthetic theory and the philosophic significance of art are reflected in the activities of The Objectivist Center . . . , which he heads. For example, a subordinate position is often assigned to aesthetics in the Center's publications and mailings, as well as in its annual summer seminars." In a note keyed to that passage of the text we added:

An article in The Objectivist Center's journal about the Center's then forthcoming summer seminar noted, for example, that "the intellectual feast comprises more than just philosophy offerings. . . . Each afternoon offers a smorgasbord of sessions on aesthetics, performance, and physical and mental fitness" (Navigator, March 2000, 3).

A likely implication of the description we quoted was that, in the Center's view, "aesthetics" was apart from the "philosophy offerings." Since we had collected numerous similar examples over the years, it was reasonable to assume that they reflected Kelley's view as the Center's founder and executive director.

Finally, there is Kelley's charge that we "engage in equivocation" when we "view [his and Thomas's] claim that art is linked to man's capacity for reason as a claim that all art affirms reason as a value." Though, oddly, Kelley does not include "equivocation" among the fallacies he discusses in The Art of Reasoning (at least in the 1st ed.), Lionel Ruby's Logic: An Introduction (2nd ed., 1960, 56) defines it as "[the use of] an ambiguous word (or root or phrase) in more than one sense in a given unit of discourse, such equivocal use resulting in an unjustified inference." Since Kelley does not quote us directly on this point, we can only surmise that he may have had in mind the following passage, as it focuses on reason, the concept to which he most prominently refers:

[Thomas and Kelley] begin their essay by asserting that Rand "argued that art is intimately connected with man's need to rely on reason in the service of his life in this world" [emphasis added]. In fact, she argued no such thing, for she was well aware that many of the major works of art (music and literature, as well as painting and sculpture) throughout history have been intimately connected with man's presumed need to rely not on reason but on faith--in the service of a god, or gods, and of an afterlife, not of "life in this world."

We can find no instance of equivocation in this passage.

Kelley devotes most of his article to a discussion of "the two main substantive objections" we raise: that he and Thomas neglected Rand's concept of sense of life; and that, contrary to his view, esthetics is a fundamental branch of philosophy. We comment only on the first of these points here. Kelley states that, in considering the question Why does man need art?, he and Thomas "argued, as Rand herself did, that man's need for art derives from a cognitive need for philosophy." By "philosophy," he explains, they meant the following:

In order to guide our actions and integrate our knowledge, we need some view of the nature of the world and our place in it [in other words, metaphysics], some view of how knowledge is acquired [epistemology], some view of what values to live for and what principles to live by [ethics]. . . . The content of that worldview may be held in the form of a consciously articulated system of ideas, or in the form of the emotional sum that Rand described as a sense of life.

We would argue that Kelley's use of the term "worldview" midway in this passage is itself an equivocation, since our criticism pertained precisely to the issue of what form one's worldview is held in. What we wrote on this point was: "Thomas and Kelley . . . ignore Rand's valuable distinction between an explicit 'philosophy' and an implicit 'sense of life.'" As Kelley himself now acknowledges in his response in JARS, "The latter is the form particularly relevant to art."

In any case, the distinction is one Rand took great pains to elaborate--despite her own occasionally equivocal statements on the subject, as in the following passage (which Kelley may have had in mind):

In order to live, man must act; in order to act, he must make choices; in order to make choices, he must define a code of values; in order to define a code of values, he must know what he is and where he is--i.e., he must know his own nature (including his means of knowledge) and the nature of the universe in which he acts--i.e., he needs metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, which means: philosophy. He cannot escape from this need; his only alternative is whether the philosophy guiding him is to be chosen by his mind or by chance.
If his mind does not provide him with a comprehensive view of existence, his sense of life will.

In this passage--from the essay "Philosophy and Sense of Life" (The Romantic Manifesto, 30)--Rand is using "philosophy" loosely, in the sense of a "worldview" (much as Kelley did). But it is preceded by several paragraphs in which she sharply contrasts her concept of sense of life (as "an emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man and existence") with a fully articulate "conscious philosophy of life." Since she devoted an entire essay to delineating this distinction, it is clear that, notwithstanding her own equivocations, she regarded it as a very important one.

Along similar lines, we also criticized Thomas and Kelley for declaring that "the artwork is a concrete embodiment of the artist's philosophy" (emphasis added). In his response, Kelley acknowledges that "artworks rarely convey anything like an entire philosophy," and that "it is hard to see how any art form other than a philosophical novel could do so." We agree with his claim that, nonetheless, "the judgments [artworks] convey are philosophical in character," loosely speaking. But we think him mistaken in his further claim that a painting of a mother and child, for example, is "essentially normative in character" because it re-creates what the artist regards as "important, worthy, or vital" in reality. Here, again, Kelley blurs an important distinction identified by Rand when she wrote in "The Psycho-Epistemology of Art," that "the primary focus of art is metaphysical, not ethical [or normative]" (The Romantic Manifesto, 22). True, she had referred in a slightly earlier essay to normative abstractions as forming the foundation "of morality and of art" ("Art and Moral Treason," ibid., 145). But she clearly revised that view when she distinguished between "Normative abstractions . . . formed by the criterion of: what is good?" and "Esthetic abstractions . . . formed by the criterion of: what is important?" ("Art and Sense of Life," ibid., 36).

Randall R. Dipert, "The Puzzle of Music and Emotion in Rand's Aesthetics"

[C. S. Peirce Professor of American Philosophy at SUNY - Buffalo, Randall R. Dipert is the author of Artifacts, Art Works, and Agency.]

We should note at the outset that Randall Dipert not only read and offered suggestions on selected chapters of What Art Is in manuscript but also provided a strong endorsement for the book's cover, taking care to phrase it so as to make clear to academic colleagues, in particular, his conviction regarding the value both of Rand's theory and of our interpretation and extension of it. It is a welcome outcome that he has restated that conviction in this scholarly symposium, and has offered some of his own observations about particular aspects of Rand's and our work.

"There is much that I like about Ayn Rand's esthetics," Dipert begins, referring especially to the "bold simplicity" of her concepts of "sense of life" and "metaphysical value-judgments." (We must correct him on one point here, however, by noting that these concepts apply to all art, not merely to "great," or "good," or "the greatest" art, as he at times implies.) Nevertheless, Dipert considers that there are "serious flaws" in Rand's work, "due in large part to indulgent excesses, an isolated, almost monomaniacal work ethic, and to autodidactic arrogance," on which he does not elaborate.

Judging from Rand's fiction alone, Dipert notes, he would not have expected a very refined theory of art, because her novels seem to him to be "closer to propaganda or sermon than to great art"--"more manipulative craft and philosophical treatise than they are novels"--though he concedes that, as such, they are "powerful and effective pieces of literature." In a long aside from the thesis indicated by the title of his paper, Dipert contrasts Rand's tendency toward what he considers heavy-handedness in her fiction with the "delicacy and obliquity" of novelists whose work he particularly admires. He also suggests that we do not "entirely appreciate" the extent to which her novels suffer from a lack of subtlety, although he adds that one of the merits of our book is that we "remain at arm's length from seeing her aesthetics merely as an extension of her fictional writing." Dipert's inference regarding our estimation of Rand's novels is surprising, as we scarcely discuss them. On one of the two occasions when we do, we are, in fact, quite critical of Rand (see our comments, p. 368, n. 40, on the scene between Dagny Taggart and composer Richard Halley in Atlas Shrugged). In the other instance, we briefly examine her satirical depiction of the contemporary art world. Here we concur with literary scholar Stephen Cox's view that Rand's considerable "comic and satiric skill" has been too little appreciated. While we admire this and other aspects of Rand's fiction, however, our admiration is hardly without qualification--though we certainly disagree with the extremity of Dipert's characterization of its flaws. In any case, it is worth noting that the two recent book-length studies on her work in Twayne's Masterworks series--The Fountainhead: An American Novel (1999), by philosopher Douglas den Uyl, and Atlas Shrugged: Manifesto of the Mind (2000), by literary scholar Mimi Reisel Gladstein--offer more appreciative assessments than Dipert's.

In contrast, when Dipert turns to Rand's ideas on the nature of music, he finds them "rich and subtle . . . a remarkably pure working out of her aesthetic theory," and "worthy--surprisingly worthy--contributions to the continuing debate in music aesthetics, including [that] on emotion and music." On this last point, he is especially qualified to speak, as music is an art form with which he is intimately acquainted, and on which he has written several philosophic papers. It is therefore particularly gratifying to us that, while he considers that our "discussion of the arts in general, and [our] application of Rand-like theories to the other arts, are perhaps [our] strongest contributions," he deems our discussion of music "very fine indeed."

Dipert offers a number of provocative observations and suggestions which warrant further reflection and investigation. Noting that we tend to agree with Rand and esthetician Peter Kivy "that music's emotional expressivity is likely an extension of ordinary expressivity in terms of gesture and speech," he briefly considers the possibility that "one can experience mere perceived and organized sounds as emotions." Such "emotional contours," he suggests, would be "without the distinctively cognitive objects that emotions typically have: yearning, mourning, even anger, without being directed at a precise target or intentional object" (emphasis added)--a suggestion that recalls Rand's observation that "music induces an emotional state without external object," and that the listener's subconscious then supplies "an internal one." In Dipert's view, her most distinctive contribution does not lie here, however; it lies instead in her claim that what matters for the listener "is not the feelings that [music] evokes but, as she puts it, how one 'feel[s] about these feelings'"--in other words, one's sense-of-life response to the series of emotional states suggested by the musical work.

For Dipert, one of the "better points" of our book is our analysis of how Rand's "discussion of music is often inconsistent with some elements of her general theory of art, notably her thesis concerning the 're-creation of reality'"--though he mistakenly attributes that discussion to the section entitled "Rand's Mistaken Hypothesis." What we view as Rand's "mistaken hypothesis" on the nature of music is her proposition that, while music is like the other arts in affording "a concretization of [one's] sense of life," it differs in that "the abstraction being concretized is primarily epistemological, rather than metaphysical" (emphasis added)--in other words, that the meaning of a work of music lies primarily in "the kind of work it demands of a listener's ear and brain" in the process of "hearing and integrating a succession of musical tones." Rejecting this claim, we argue that it reflects a misguided emphasis on form at the expense of content, which is completely at odds with Rand's view of the other arts.

Dipert regards as "an attractive hypothesis" Rand's insistence, with respect to the other arts, that form must always be "in the service of substance," as he puts it. As he points out, however, form in music has always appeared to assume greater importance because the "inner, psychological" nature of music's "emotional substance" makes it difficult to identify and articulate specific content. It is here that we think Rand's theory offers the greatest insight, through her suggestion that, when music suggests "an emotional state without external object, [the listener's] subconscious suggests an internal one." Such an explanation helps to explain, for example, why the experience of music is often felt as more intensely personal than that of the other arts--the reason may be that each listener particularizes the "content" of a piece of music according to his own individual experience and associations.


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