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The Expert's Ear: Expertise And Aesthetic Judgments
The first time I listened to Pinkerton, Weezer’s second studio album, I hated it. And so did almost everyone else. Rolling Stone readers ranked it as the third worst album in 1996. Writing for Entertainment Weekly Jeff Gordinier compared it to “a collection of get-down party anthems for agoraphobics.” Reacting to a wave of negative reviews the lead singer of Weezer, Rivers Cuomo, confessed that Pinkerton is a “hideous record.” A few years later something changed. In 2002, Rolling Stone readers – the same readers that said Pinkerton was the third worst album in 1996 – voted it the 16th greatest album of all time. In 2004 Rolling Stone re-reviewed the album and gave it five stars. A 2010 “Deluxe Edition” reissue of Pinkerton claimed a perfect score of 100 on MetaCritic.com. Pitchfork likewise gave it a perfect 10.0. Today, Pinkerton is one of my favorites. What, exactly, changed?
To paraphrase Charles Murray, author of Human Accomplishment, a person’s appreciation of a thing or event varies with the level of knowledge that a person brings to it. If you know a lot about hockey, for example, you and a novice will pay attention to different parts of the game when there is one minute to go in the third period and the home team is down by a goal. Will they pull their goalie? Will they pinch the defensemen? Will the coach call a timeout? These questions never cross the novice’s mind because he doesn’t know the rules of the sport. Both you and him might enjoy the game equally, but your appreciation of it is objectively greater.
Academic interests provide other examples. Is there any question that a Lincoln scholar would appreciate the chance to meet Lincoln more than someone who knows little about Lincoln? If you are a geologist what you see when you visit the Grand Canyon is different from what a non-geologist sees. If you are a neuroscientist a full neurological explanation of consciousness is more exciting for you than for someone who knows nothing about the brain. I’m certain that the physicists working at CERN were many times more excited when they discovered the Higgs-Boson than I was when I first read about the discovery.
Appreciation is a function of knowledge because experts know what to look for. This is especially true in art. Think about Philip Glass listening to Arnold Schoenberg, Picasso looking at a Monet, or Rodin in front of Venus de Milo. My knowledge of modernism music, impressionism art and ancient Greek sculptures, in contrast, is next to nothing, so it’s nearly impossible for me do anything more than listen and gaze. If I took a class on these subjects I would appreciate them more. In the meantime Monet’s Impression, Sunrise is just another “famous” painting.
In Of the Standards of Taste David Hume likewise argues that experts in art are drawn to the best work because, just like a scientist is in the best position to recognize good ideas in his area of expertise, an artist, having refined taste, is in the best position to recognize superior work in his domain. Here’s Hume in his eloquent 18th century prose:
A great inferiority of beauty gives pain to a person conversant in the highest excellence of the kind, and is for that reason pronounced a deformity: As the most finished object, with which we are acquainted, is naturally supposed to have reached the pinnacle of perfection, and to be entitled to the highest applause. One accustomed to see, and examine, and weigh the several performances, admired in different ages and nations, can only rate the merits of a work exhibited to his view, and assign its proper rank among the productions of genius.
The question is if experts are “right” and the rest of us are “wrong.” Is my judgment of 20th century music neither more nor less true than Glass’? In How Pleasure Works Yale Professor of Psychology Paul Bloom mentions Art, a play by Yasmina Reza that comments on the tension between novices and experts with respect to aesthetics. The main character, Serge, purchases an unframed white canvas with some hard-to-see diagonal scars – perhaps homage to Robert Rauschenberg. Serge shows it to his friend Marc:
Marc: You paid two hundred thousand francs for this shit?
[Serge complains to another friend later in the play]
Serge: I don’t blame him for not responding to this painting, he hasn’t the training, there’s a whole apprenticeship you have to go through.
Most people side with Marc’s implication: Serge is an art snob who claims to have superior taste even though taste is purely subjective; it’s impossible to determine if art is “good” or “bad” because what’s “good” and “bad” is matter of opinion. On the other hand, it seems true that the reason experts prefer certain works (i.e., Bach) to others (i.e., Britney Spears) is because experts are drawn to compositions that require excellence and have the biggest aesthetic payoffs. Presumably, this gravitation is based on objective qualities distinct from subjective tastes.
And so it was with Pinkerton. When Weezer released Pinkerton a small group of dedicated fans and critics praised the album. They probably saw the rest of the world like Serge: everyone else “didn’t get it” because they don’t have the “training” to appreciate it. Like Marc, I thought they were all snobs. This line of reasoning bothered Hume. In his essay he does not deny that subjective tastes exist but he does maintain that judgments could be better or worse and that experts, by virtue of possessing the most knowledge with respect to their domains, have the best judgment. He would agree with Serge that truly appreciating visual art requires knowledge of visual art. Accordingly, Serge is in a better position to comment on visual art, just like a geologist is in a better position to comment on the geology of the Grand Canyon. I think Hume is right. I was in middle school when I first heard Pinkerton. To the end, I was a novice listener in regard to contemporary Western rock music. A few more years of listening to music – I also learned a few instruments and was in a ragtag Weezer-wannabe band – and I came to appreciate Weezer’s album because I was in a better position to appreciate and judge it.
Does that make Pinkerton objectively good and that with enough expertise anyone will see why? In Human Accomplishment Charles Murray argues that relationship of expertise to judgment forms a basis for treating excellence in the arts as a measurable trait. “The high correlations among [experts] are a natural consequence of the attempt by knowledge critics, devoted to their subject, to give the most attention to the most important people… Various factors go into the estimate of importance, but they are in turn substantially associated with excellence.” Hume partially agrees. Experts are not infallible or free from cultural chauvinism - he clarifies that the experts “must preserve his mind free from all prejudice.” But despite potential biases, true standards of beauty are determined by the “joint verdict” of “true critics.” (Although both never claim that experts could be “right” in an absolute sense).
I leave the last word with you, the reader. Do objective standards in art exist? Are experts in the best position to recognize these standards because they appreciate work conducted within their domain of expertise? I think the answer is yes… but maybe that’s just my novice subjective opinion, uninformed by experience.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?
- Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
- The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
- Just as bad habits can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick.
How masturbation affects your brain...<p>Orgasms are a very common human phenomenon. The physical and mental health benefits have been researched frequently as a result, and yet, there is still so much to be learned about how our bodies and brains react to the chemicals and hormones released during and after experiencing this type of sexual release.</p><p>"The amount of speculation versus actual data on both the function and value of orgasm is remarkable" explains Julia Heiman, director of the <a href="https://kinseyinstitute.org/" target="_blank">Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction</a>.</p><p>Masturbation causes a rush of <a href="https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-dopamine" target="_blank">dopamine</a>, which is a chemical that is associated with our ability to feel pleasure. Along with the rush of dopamine that is released during an orgasm, there is also a release of a hormone called <a href="https://www.livescience.com/42198-what-is-oxytocin.html" target="_blank">oxytocin</a>, which is commonly referred to as the "love hormone."<br></p><p>This concoction of chemicals does more than just boost our mood, it also can play a key role in decreasing stress and promoting relaxation. Oxytocin decreases <a href="https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol" target="_blank">cortisol</a>, which is a stress hormone that is usually present (in high volumes) during times of anxiety, fear, panic, or distress. </p><p>According to BDSM and fetish researcher <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/dr-gloria-brame-colbert-ga/278388" target="_blank">Dr. Gloria Brame</a>, an orgasm is the biggest non-drug induced blast of dopamine that we can experience. </p><p>By boosting the oxytocin and dopamine levels and subsequently decreasing our cortisol levels, the brain is placed in a more relaxed, euphoric, and calm state. </p>
Masturbation boosts your immune system and raises your white blood cell count.<p>How do those effects on the brain from reaching orgasm translate to boosting our immune system and making our body healthier?</p><p>The increase of oxytocin and dopamine that causes a decrease in cortisol levels can help boost our immune system because cortisol (well-known for being a stress-inducing hormone) actually helps maintain your immune system if released in small doses. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.health24.com/Sex/Great-sex/incredible-health-benefits-to-masturbating-20181030-2" target="_blank">Dr. Jennifer Landa</a>, a hormone-therapy specialist, masturbation can produce the right kind of environment for a strengthened immune system to thrive. </p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15316239" target="_blank">A study</a> conducted by the Department of Medical Psychology at the University Clinic of Essen (in Germany) showed similar results. A group of 11 volunteers were asked to participate in a study that would look at the effects of orgasm through masturbation on the white blood cell count and immune system.</p><p>During this experiment, the white blood cell count of each participant was analyzed through measures that were taken 5 minutes before and 45 minutes after reaching a self-induced orgasm. </p><p>The results confirmed that sexual arousal and orgasm increased the number of white blood cells, particularly the natural killer cells that help fight off infections. </p><p>The findings confirm that our immune system is positively affected by sexual arousal and self-induced orgasm and promote even more research into the positive impacts of sexual arousal and orgasm. </p>
Masturbation can ease and prevent pain, which allows you to achieve the restful sleep that helps your immune system stay strong and healthy.<p>The benefits of masturbation have long been debated, but the more research that is done on the topic the more we understand that there are many positive reactions that happen in our bodies and brains when we orgasm.</p><p>Orgasms can help prevent or mitigate pain, which boosts the immune system, preventing cold and flu symptoms. </p><p>According to neurologist and headache specialist Stefan Evers, about one in three patients experience relief from migraine attacks by experiencing sexual activity or orgasm. Evers and his team <a href="https://www.livescience.com/27642-sex-relieves-migraine-pain.html" target="_blank">conducted an experiment</a> with 800 migraine patients and 200 patients who suffered from cluster-headaches to see how their experiences with sexual activity impacted their pain levels. </p><p>The study showed that 60% of migraine sufferers experienced pain relief after participating in sexual activity that resulted in orgasm. Of the cluster-headache sufferers, about 50% said their headaches actually worsened after sexual arousal and orgasm. </p><p>Evers suggested in his findings that the people who did not experience pain relief from migraines of headaches during their sexual activity did not release as large amounts of endorphins as those who did experience pain relief. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.sharecare.com/health/chronic-pain/chronic-pain-affect-immune-system" target="_blank">rheumatologist Dr. Harris McIlwain</a>, people who suffer from chronic pain have immune systems that are simply not functioning at full capacity - therefore, alleviating pain (through orgasm, as an example) can help boost the immune system. </p><p>Orgasms can also promote relaxation and make it easier to fall asleep. Serotonin, oxytocin, and norepinephrine are all hormones that are released during sexual arousal and orgasm, and all three are known for counteracting stress hormones and promoting relaxation, which makes it much easier for you to fall asleep.</p><p>There are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1233384" target="_blank">several studies</a> showing that serotonin and norepinephrine help our body cycle through REM and deep non-REM sleeping cycles. During these sleep cycles, the immune system releases proteins called <a href="https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity" target="_blank"><span id="selection-marker-1" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span>cytokines<span id="selection-marker-2" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span></a>, which target infection and inflammation. This is a critical part of our immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released throughout our bodies while we sleep, which proves the importance of a good sleep schedule to a healthy immune system.</p>
Masturbation promotes a high-functioning immune system; a healthy immune system prevents cold and flu.<p>The immune system is a balanced network of cells and organs that work together to defend you against infections and diseases by stopped threats like bacteria and viruses from entering your system. While there are many things we need to do to keep our immune systems functioning at optimal levels, masturbation (or other means of achieving orgasm) has proven to have positive effects on the immune system as a whole.</p><p>Just as bad habits (such as an inconsistent sleep schedule or harmful chemicals in your body) can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system. </p>
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.