Paper Two; Pointless Ramblings I Decided (much too late at night) to Upload!

Morality, like art, means drawing a line someplace.
–    Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde equated sentimentality with emotional dishonesty.  “A sentimentalist is one who desires to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it.” He was quoted in saying. We are sentimental about a lot of things, not all of them obvious. It’s not just puppies and children and Christmas. We’re sentimental about our own way of doing things, about our habits and beliefs, our misconceptions and hatreds. We’re sentimental about ourselves, both as individuals and as a species, as well as our own choices in life.
Sentimentality was one of the chief factors in author Jonathan Franzen’s criticism of Oprah’s decision to make his (already popular) novel The Corrections a Oprah’s Book of the Month selection.  “I know it says Oprah’s Book Club… but it’s an implied endorsement, both for me and for her.” (Freund) The first book released under Oprah’s Book Club was a book entitled The Deep End of the Ocean.  This book could be called sentimental in many ways.  It portrays a family’s reaction when Ben, the youngest son is kidnapped and then found nine years later, living in the same town.  It’s intended to be filled with emotionally intense scenes that are designed to “pull at your heart-strings”.  Many people have said that the act of being sentimental reflects their nostalgia for their own self-fantasies and that being sentimental often results in life choice reaffirming thoughts (even denials).
One of these often overlooked reaffirmations is that we all think that when we wake up in the morning we can do pretty much whatever we want. We can choose to go to work. We can choose to stay home and watch “Oprah.” We can get in the car and drive to Taos. We can chop off our pinky fingers with a pair of good, sharp pruning shears. Certainly given all these choices we can make, we must have freewill. Not so, says Schopenhauer. Imagine that water is conscious. It can boil, become waves, evaporate, and turn to ice. What’s more, it remembers that it sometimes boils, sometimes becomes waves, sometimes evaporates and sometimes turns to ice. It therefore thinks it can do these things, and attributes its various states to its own voluntary decisions. But what the water doesn’t know is that it can only achieve these various states if conditions are right. It can’t, for example, turn to ice if the temperature is too high. Wittgenstein makes the same point by imagining a leaf falling in the autumn winds, thinking to itself: “Now I’ll go this way, now I’ll go that way.” In other words, merely because we think we are making free choices doesn’t at all mean that we are actually making free choices.
The apparently contrasting theories of free will and determinism have been an endless debate that has plagued philosophers for thousands of years. There are various definitions of free will, this has led to difficulty in applying it to human behavior. Philosophers such as Plato, Kant and Descartes have all acknowledge the existence of free will, to a varying degree. The exercise of free will consists of making choices from a genuine selection, free from coercion. As Hobbes suggests freedom means choice. It is only at the actual point of action that the final outcome will be determined. However, this does not imply that human behavior is uncaused or random; this would not be considered as free will in a viewed as a choice of the patient.
R.D. Laing (1965) developed the theory of ontological security and insecurity. (Wikipedia) Ontologically secure people have a positive sense of their own identity and their place within society. Ontological insecurity may develop as a result of a disturbed upbringing within the family. The person feels insecure and fails to develop a strong and confident sense of self. Essentially this means that the person has failed to develop a sense of free will and control over their actions, they fail to assert their selves and tend to be easily led by others, therefore failing to act freely. The traditional view is that of the compatibilists which states that freedom is the ability to act, or not to act, according to the determinations of the will. It is so defined to make it compatible with the theory of determinism, which essentially states that all actions have a causal explanation due to the state of the world in the moment previous. (SEP)
However, the definition is clearly inadequate due to the fundamental flaws of determinism and its failure to account for deliberation or personal choice. A superior alternative is offered by the theory of agency, but is more commonly known as libertarianism. Determinism states that humans have no free will to choose what they wish. That seems real extreme and harsh. Even though this is what determinism is, doesn’t mean that the determinists past events, doing the same thing he did in the past, right or wrong. He cannot change his behavior, unable to let out his emotions. The man has become a puppet, being controlled and restricted. And in everyday life, determinism does not exist in most lives. It is logical and reasonable to say that the all of free will is a measure of our humanness. Whatever we choose will affect our future. But we will base our decisions on what we feel is right, taking in our moral feelings. Free will is a measure of self-determination that people feel themselves to possess and by which they make moral judgments.
It is not unusual to find oneself with a conflict between your aesthetic interests and these moral judgments. Presume, for example, someone was trying to persuade you that The Merchant of Venice is not meant for tragedy, that Shylock is intended to induce laughter and ridicule (rather than to develop an argument which starts with anti-Semitic premises but builds to a conclusion which complicates and questions existing Elizabethan stereotypes of Jewish greed and malice).
Such tension gives us a prima-facie reason to suppose that there are two distinct sorts of value, moral and aesthetic; and they at times come into conflict. Plato felt this conflict, believing that the superficial claims of representational art (as generally practiced) stood at odds with the truth-bearing, transcendent object of morality.  This leads me to the immortal artistic genre “Tragedy.”
When fabricating a tragedy; the lead character must be neither evil nor flawless, for in the first case the audience will likely find a bad end well deserved, and in the second case a bad end will move the audience not to pity, but to anger. If these certain characters are placed into the tragic scenarios tragedy will not gain the effects that are generally wanted for it. That is, tragedy will fail on its own terms when the characters are of the wrong type. This failure will be aesthetic in the sense that it is a failure of tragedy in being a tragedy. And the focus of the disappointment may be that the author has invited the audience to share a faulty moral perspective.
Take example of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel, American Psycho. What was intended to be a satirical story of the gluttonous eighties in the United States; failed to elicit the appropriate response because of the explicit brutality of the serial killings the novel described. Readers were unable to get past the violence and gore to enjoy the parody.
This, I think, is clearly an aesthetic failing—the audience was unable to respond in a manner appropriate to social and political satire—but what is more, this aesthetic failure revolves around a moral mistake, since American Psycho appears to suppose that the continued, straight-faced, clinically detailed dismemberments it presents to the reader could be taken in a comically removed manner.
Given that American Psycho failed on to elicit the kind of aesthetic response it was designed to draw out – the novel can be said to be aesthetically faulty; and because this fault is due to a moral misunderstanding; the belief that graphic serial murders could be funny in their own sake. 
We can further argue that moral flaws can count as aesthetic flaws even when they go undetected. The reasoning here is that anyone suitably positioned, with regard to the flawed moral standpoint of a given work ,would have a hard time taking up the planned reaction, were they aware of the blemish at the time. This is analogous with the fact that overlooked aesthetic flaws – such as the originally unnoticed weaknesses in Van Mecgeren’s forgeries of Vermeer – are flaws none the less.
In summary, I’ve shown that some could call Oprah’s Book Club participants ontologically insecure, preceded to mock one of Shakespeare‘s best plays, coupled with the supposition that humans aren’t capable of free will.  Also, I argued against one of my favorite books (American Psycho) all in the name of Aesthetics!  The focus at the onset of this paper was sentimentality however, in my view, our free will picture and determinism is a key factor in our notion of sentimentality so I felt it needed to be expanded on.

Sources Cited:
Capasso, Nick. “A Sentimental Journey, or How Did We Get Here?.” Traditional Fine Arts Organization Jan 26 2005. Nov 25 2008 .

“Causal Determinism.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Jan 23 2003. 25 Nov 2008 .

Freund, Charles P. “Franzen’s Folly: The novelist vs. high art’s Dark Other.” Reason Online Jan 2002. Nov 25 2008 .

Irving, John. “In Defense of Sentimentality.” New York Times Nov 25 1979. Nov 25 2008 .

Kennedy, Louise. “A modern-day sentimental journey can be laced with cynicism or longing.” The Boston Globe Feb 13 2005. Nov 25 2008 .

Mitchard, Jacquelyn. The Deep End of the Ocean. Penguin, 1999.

“Ronald David Laing.” Wikipedia. 25 Nov 2008 .

Originally wrote (typed?) November 25, 2008

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