We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
...aesthetics are not science: aesthetics do not show the same inbuilt tendency to improvement. From the aesthetic point of view what comes after is not necessarily better than what went before, and is often worse, even much worse. Particularly in an age of progress, however, men are reluctant to admit that they cannot do better than their forebears; to admit it is to admit the heresy that beauty’s arrow, unlike that of time, does not fly in one direction only. A return to the pattern or design of the past – dismissed as pastiche, the worst of all architectural crimes, far worse than destroying an immemorial townscape – would indicate a deficiency of imagination, inventiveness and originality, all the qualities that make the artist, at least in the romantic conception of the artist. And architects, in their own conception, are above all artists: artists, moreover, when it is widely believed that the purpose of art is to challenge, to question, to transgress, never to celebrate, to harmonise, to console, to give meaning.
It's all interesting, but I think Dalrymple's larger point is that, in life, unpleasant things: poverty, ugliness, cruelty, dishonesty, etc. are the default settings. Special qualities are required to move the dial above the default setting, whether for an individual or for a society.
But back to the arts: there is no "progress" in arts. Just changes of fashion.
I learned quickly in my later-life tenure as a development consultant to leave the engineering to the engineers, but to consider architects merely as advisers and transcribers of what the owner has in mind.
I am a heretic. I am an Architect who makes things beautiful - that's our 3rd Law...currently VERBOTEN. The First is: keep your head dry. The Second: let gravity be your friend.
But "modern" architecture was anti-beauty from its inception. "It's superficial! Sentimental!" in line with other Marxist self-loathing....part and parcel of Marxism's nihilistic view of the West/Free Market. Nice as a one-off "sculptural object" in a civilized context (whether natural/rural or urban)...but THE DEATH OF MAN as an iron-fisted rule.
Modernism - still alive under any number of perverted aliases (as in liberal, progressive, bla bla bla) - must first be killed off for our civilization to once again strive for the beautiful.
--BD's comment reminded of the Heilein ''bad luck'' quote --the one instapundit prints ever so often. While looking for that, i stumbled onto the above URL, which --let me see if i can find the words --is so good it's ridiculous. Someone, whoever assembled the article and the photos, the photos! --engaged, at least this one time in his or her life, a 'labor of love'.
...and here's that quote:
Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
I was going to ask if the development of perspective in medieval (?) drawings and paintings was not an example of progress.
But then I remembered the statues os Akhenaten, King Tut's iconoclastic dad. For at least a century, he was considered to be a wierd-looking dude, with his statues showing a pot-bellied long-faced "androgenous" image. Then someone finally thought to look at them the way meant to be seen, at or below the feet, instead of head-on - and the strange features basically disappeared.
And the tapering of the columns in Egyptian temples so they would appear constant-size when viewed from the base.
These are uses of perspective too (and very good ones). Now I wonder why solid-form makers used perspective while flat-form (any Pharoahnic frieze) did not, for thousands of years. Possibly by the same artisans/artists.
So... Was adding it to flat-form "progress" or just doing away with stupidity? Or what?
Maybe 2-3% push civilization into a more comfortable future. A good list is the Nobel prize group, sans peace prize, but hardly the only list considering the moral foundation of Judeo Christian thought paid for in blood. An EBT card is the "bad luck" gods perched on your shoulder. And the arts reflect the times, if the behavior of the times seems a bit extreme then you need only look at performance art. Flush twice...at least.