Monday, May 29, 2017


CONVERSATIONS is a new weblog begun 1 May 2017. The target audience, in a broad sense, is anyone with an active interest in words and language. More specifically, it is a weblog for wordsmiths.

Each Monday I post anew. Every four weeks I introduce a new theme. This post marks the start of the second four week cycle. The theme for the month is AESTHETICS. Commonly, all postings are a page or so long with the exception of the fourth when I use a sample of my work that might run three or four pages.

Starting this Thursday, I introduce a new feature. Dawg will have his day. Dawg Sez will provide a brief (usually half page) commentary on some curiosity of language. The ampersand for example.

Aesthetics, curiously, is also spelled 'esthetics'. The Greek 'æ' creates some confusion. This digraph is used in Latin (and many other languages) to represent the sound of the dipthong 'ae', and is usually pronounced like the 'i' in 'fine'. But not always. Sometimes ... well, nevermind. This CwHD is not about digrams. It is about aesthetics.

The artist Barnett Newman defined the term this way: Aesthetics is for the artist as Ornithology is for the birds.1 Yes, and No. Ornithology leans on science. Aesthetics does not. Perusing the 1934 Webster's, one finds this definition for the word:

The branch of philosophy that deals with beauty and the beautiful ... the sensations and emotions that have the fine arts for their stimulus.

In an essay of some years ago, I argued that homo sapiens were nothing if not pattern seeking creatures.
We seek what I termed harmonious arrays (HAs). HAs, of course, relate directly to the beautiful. Beauty by definition might be considered a harmonious array and, as I noted in the essay, we often have those aHA moments when arrested by beauty.

If no HA happens, we analyze. This is science. And we continue to analyze until a workable theorem
presents itself. If our analysis is fruitless, we despair.

This reasoning has brought me to the notion that the primary purpose of words and language is to please both aesthetically and/or intellectually.

A word on arguing logically: repetitive ideas in phrases are known as tautologies. For example: This is like deja vu all over again. So said Yogi Berra (former catcher for the New York Yankees known for his malaprops). 'Beauty' and 'harmonious array' are similar ideas, but remain distinct. If an argument contains tautologies, it becomes no argument at all. Here's another well known example (a cliché, in fact) also from Yogi: It ain't over 'till it's over.

It's over.

1 Newman (1952), quoted in: C. Greig Crysler, ‎Stephen Cairns, ‎Hilde Heynen (2012). The SAGE Handbook of Architectural Theory. p. 123

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