Passionate cause

As long as I’m giving space to people who disagree with me, let me give AC Douglas a shout.

When he last commented here, on June 22, he put the old debate about the comparative value of pop and classical music in what, for him, is its most important context:

It’s NOT a question of “best” or “better-than”. It’s a question, rather, of comparing the artifacts of two essentially incommensurable aesthetic hierarchies which can “no more be compared than one can compare, delectable-wise, the proverbial apples and oranges on the same delectability continuum of things-that-one-can-eat-that-grow-on-trees,” as I’ve elsewhere put it.

Postmodern dogma — which is, at once, both a horrific and risible <i>reductio ad absurdum</i> of Sixties cultural thought, and which “seeks a dissolution of all hierarchies, both natural and culturally determined without distinction” as we’ve written previously elsewhere — is another culprit here, and it’s as wrongheaded and boneheaded as it could possibly be. Hierarchies are essential to the well-being of Homo sapiens, and there’s just no getting around that. It’s in our DNA as it’s in the DNA of all living things, also as we’ve written previously elsewhere, and any attempt to circumvent that ineluctable fact of life is doomed, ultimately, to abject failure, and the attempt itself certain to leave by the wayside scores upon scores of unnecessary and regrettable casualties.


We’ve no argument with, nor objection to, the artifacts of popular culture per se. What we argue against, and lodge objection to, is the growing absence of a fundamental aesthetic distinction between, and separate hierarchies of aesthetic value for, such artifacts and the artifacts of the realm of high culture (so-called to distinguish it from the popular sort). Contrary to the pernicious equalitarian conceits of postmodern thinking, there is such a distinction; a self-evident and inarguably real one … and no meaningful aesthetic continuum connecting the artifacts of the two realms can be constructed except on the merest technical and taxonomic grounds.</blockquote>

This is all covered in some detail in my 2006 S&F post, “A Call For A Return To Hierarchal Sobriety”, which can be read here..

In that essay, you’ll find AC’s passionate belief that art created in the high-culture realm aspires to transcendence, while things created in the realm of popular culture — however powerful or affecting they might be — don’t have that aspiration. Thus high and popular culture exist in separate aesthetic realms, with the high-culture realm ranking higher in the all-important hierarchies of life.

It’s not exactly news that I don’t agree with this, but so what? I’m touched by AC’s passion, and I admire him for waging what must sometimes be a lonely struggle. I hope that people who agree with him will read his essay, and join him in his fight for what he believes.

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  1. says

    Hi, Greg – I first wrote in to you way back when to say how impressed I was with your dealing with folks who disagree with you. This is an example of your still doing so. So many folks on the web simply dismiss those they disagree with, forming these like minded cliques and talking just to one another. I’ve been a regular reader of AC Douglas for years and have learned a lot from his writing.

    I strongly support what you’re up to, but understand where ACD is coming from. My hope is that in the end it won’t be an either/or situation when it all shakes out.

    Thanks, Lyle. Much appreciated. I can be harsh, sometimes, when I get caught up in the heat of debate. But I try to remember that the people I’m disagreeing with are human, just as I am.