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The Aesthetic Realism method belongs to both science and art.

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"The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites," — Eli Siegel

One Aspect of a Unified Social Theory. Based on the Siegel Theory of Opposites in Relation to Aesthetics.

1. FACT / STRUCTURE. Every society has an underlying sameness-and-difference structure. And this is an aesthetic structure.

Every society is subdivided. And further, every subdivision has subdivisions. The United States is divided into different states, the states into different counties, and so on. Often, subdivisions of a society nest within one another.

For example, a Native American nation may be traditionally divided into clans, and each clan divides into lineages or bands. The Dakotas in the time of Crazy Horse were divided into local lineages or bands, and each band consisted of connected families headed by a relatives (notably, brothers).

Another example: The kind of extended family (of New York or Atlanta or Los Angeles) in which people merge into a single large group that comes to reunions, weddings, and funerals, is naturally divided into smaller families consisting of two-generation segments: parents and children, or three-generation segments: grandparents, parents, children (grandchildren). Each of these smaller families may be notablly different, live in a different place, have a different lifestyle. However, each "smaller family" also sees itself as having something in common with the others. It may be a common grandparent--"Our Grandpa." This might show in having a common last name like "the Pereys," which the other families don't have--the Pereys of Mt. Vernon, the Perey's of Manhattan, and the Pereys of El Paso. Meanwhile, the women of these different Perey families may feel a bond in common they do not share with the men, who seem more different (and vice-versa). These individuals would merge into "the Perey women." And this would be another kind of another division, called "cross-cutting." It is the opposite of the "nesting" kind of division.

As you can see, there is an interplay of sameness and difference, as people and groups in a society subdivide based on difference, and merge based on sameness.

Without exception, every organization (whether a society or an automobile motor) consists of different parts which merge or fit together as one thing, and therefore have sameness. Difference and Sameness then are underlying prerequisites for every organization, including every human society, to exist.

These opposites underly the particular way every society contains subdivisions. For example: For example, as Claude Levi-Strauss points out, in Native American tradition we may meet this: The members of the Turtle clan, the Beaver clan, and the Heron clan in a village are associated with water-dwelling animals that are hunted by other animals (that is, they have a sameness). They are recognized as one half of the village. The other half of the village is assocated with hunting animals: the Bear Clan, the Eagle Clan, the Wolf clan (and so they share the opposite idea in common). Men and women of one half can marry people of the other half but not of their own.

2. VALUE / GOODNESS or BADNESS. Does this mean that a society can be regarded as good, bad, or "middling" based on aesthetic criteria? I give one reason why the answer is yes. We need to ask, do the different divisions of society strengthen or weaken each other? If the men weaken the women, that much the society lacks in beauty or strength. If one kin group makes war on another and gets its victories from the pain of others, that much the society is cruel and ugly. It's the same with the forms and colors of a painting. If, as in a Vermeer, the forms and colors are different but intensify each others' meaning, that painting is good. In this painting, the window, girl, and pitcher enhance each other's meaning. Art critics have wondered over this.

If the shapes and colors in this painting clashed, didn't enhance one another, and weakened or impaired the overall effect of the painting--the painting would not be so good.

Like a critic of art looking at forms and colors in a painting, a social critic needs to ask if people--representing difference--add to each other, strengthen each other, in the society where they are joined. (Their junction is a form of sameness.) As much as they do, the society is working well because sameness and difference are enhancing one another. As much as they don't, the society is bad or has an admixture of social pathology. If one looks at a society where there was conspicuous poverty of one division and conspicuous wealth in another, like France prior to the Revolution of 1789, one sees an example of hurtful, unaesthetic, unethical, ugly composition. The same is true of industrial England in Dickens's time (see his novel Hart Times). The same criteria apply to societies today.

See Eli Siegel's Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?



Mission Statement How can people of diverse cultures understand and respect one another?

The Permanent Opposites are the Natural Units Anthropology Needs,

The Place of Contempt in the Failures of Anthropology

The Siegel Concept of the Ethical Unconscious

Overpopulation and Contempt for the Earth & People

Discussing the Philosophy of Culture Change-- & the Dynamic Ethics in Difference and Sameness

One Aspect of a Unified Social Theory. Based on the Siegel Theory of Opposites in Relation to Aesthetics.

The Same Mistake? No!


Critical Links

bulletAesthetic Realism Foundation bulletAesthetic Realism Online Library  
  bulletMy Weblog: "A New Perspective" bulletMy Weblog: "An Anthropologist Speaks"  
  bulletEllen Reiss on "Criticizing" John Keats (1818) bulletThe Theatre Company I Work With  
  bulletA Class I Attended, Conducted by Ellen Reiss bulletTerrain Gallery / Aesthetic Realism Foundation  
  bullet"Jobs, Discontent, and Beauty" bullet Aesthetic Realism vs. Racism  
  bulletEllen Reiss on poems of Robert Burns and Eli Siegel, & the prose of J.K. Rowling  


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