What Art Is:
The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand

by Louis Torres and Michelle Marder Kamhi

Table of Contents


Traditional Meanings of the Term "Art"
What the Ordinary Person Thinks
The Cartoonists
The Journalists
The Ubiquitous Question: "But Is It Art?"
The Experts Speak
The Art Historians
The Critics
Need for a Valid Theory and Definition of Art
The Default of Philosophy
Ayn Rand's Theory of Art
The Status of Rand Studies
Overview of the Present Study


Chapter 1: "The Psycho-Epistemology of Art"

The Purpose of Art
Metaphysical Value-Judgments
Rand's Definition of Art
The Cognitive Function of Art
The Creative Process
Art, Religion, and Philosophy
Art and Ethics
Romanticism and Naturalism
"Efficacy of Consciousness"

Chapter 2: "Philosophy and Sense of Life"

Emotional Abstraction
Philosophy and Sense of Life
Sense of Life and Character
Sense of Life in Love and Art

Chapter 3: "Art and Sense of Life"

Emotion and "Expression" in Art
"Communication" in Art
The Significance of Artistic Selectivity
The Response to Art
Subject and Meaning in Art
Style and "Efficacy of Consciousness"
Esthetic Judgment

Chapter 4: "Art and Cognition"

Painting and Sculpture
The Performing Arts
The Role of the Director
The Art of Film
The Arts and Cognition
"Modern Art"

Chapter 5: Music and Cognition

Music and Emotion
Music and Sense of Life
Rand's Mistaken Hypothesis
The Importance of Melody
The Composer's Viewpoint
Music as a "Re-Creation of Reality"
The Symphony Orchestra
Avant-Garde "Music"

Chapter 6: The Definition of Art

Anti-Essentialism in Contemporary Philosophy
The "Institutional" Definition of Art
The "Appeal to Authority"
The Rules of Definition
Rand's Definition of Art

Chapter 7: Scientific Support for Rand's Theory

Human Evolution and Prehistoric Art
The Fundamentality of Mimesis
Anthropological Perspectives
The Integrative Nature of Perception
The Psychology and Physiology of Emotion
Neurological Case Studies
The Modular Mind and the Diversity of the Arts
Clinical Psychology--Madness and Modernism


Chapter 8: The Myth of "Abstract Art"

Pioneers: Kandinsky, Malevich, and Mondrian
Mind Divorced from Matter: The"Primacy of Consciousness"
Collective Aspirations: The "Universal" vs. the "Individual"
Absolute Subjectivism
"Decoration" vs. Art
Utopian Aspirations
A Flawed View of Human Perception and Cognition
"Intuition" in Place of Reason and Objectivity
Counterfeit Elitism and "The Emperor's New Clothes"
Freedom, Spontaneity, and "Cognitive Slippage"
Theoretical Revisionism
Meyer Schapiro
Clement Greenberg
Abstract Expressionism
Mark Rothko
Jackson Pollock
Barnett Newman
Abstract Sculpture
Polling the People
Art in the Home
Killing the Messenger

Chapter 9: Photography: An Invented "Art"

Rand's Argument
What Photography Is
Historical Considerations
Contemporary Critical Views
Postmodern Photography

Chapter 10: Architecture: "Art" or "Design"?

Rand's Theoretical Position
Batteux's Classification
D'Alembert's Error
The Nature of Architecture
Utilitarian Function
Architecture and Values
Architecture and Abstract Sculpture
Architecture as Design

Chapter 11: Decorative Art and Craft

Rand's View
Historical Influences
American Indian Artifacts
Quilts and Feminist Art History
The Arts and Artifacts of Africa
Contemporary Crafts as "Art"

Chapter 12: Avant-Garde Music and Dance

Avant-Garde Trends in Music
John Cage
Avant-Garde Dance: Merce Cunningham
Dance: The "Silent Partner of Music"
Cunningham's Progeny
If It Moves, It Must Be Dance
Constrained Movement as Dance
"Discussing the Undiscussable"
Ice Dancing

Chapter 13: The Literary Arts and Film

James Joyce
Samuel Beckett
John Ashbery
The Art of Film
Harrow Alley

Chapter 14: Postmodernism in the "Visual Arts"

The Long Shadow of Duchamp
Pop Art
Conceptual Art
Assemblage Art and Installation Art
Performance Art
Video Art
Postmodernism and Photography
The Future: Art and Technology

Chapter 15: Public Implications

Government Subsidy of the Arts
Corporate Support
Art and the Law
Teaching the Arts to Children
Discipline-Based Art Education
Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Cautionary Tale
The "Core-Knowledge" Program
"The Educated Child"
A Radical Alternative

Appendix A - New Forms of Art

A glossary of purported new art forms invented in the twentieth century.

Appendix B - Artworld Buzz Words

A sampler of the meaningless jargon of the arts establishment, employed in discussions of work that is not, in fact, art.

Appendix C - The New York Times--"The Arts"

Headlines and quotations from reviews, reflecting promiscuous use of the term "arts."