Re: Extropic art: symbolism, interpretation & association

Max More (
Wed, 19 Mar 1997 12:23:18 -0800

At 09:27 PM 3/18/97 -0500, T.O. Morrow wrote:
>In a message dated 3/18/97 11:49:49 PM, Max More wrote:
>>[T]o clearly be extropian writing it must
>>embody extropian attitudes. Otherwise "extropian" would be utterly without
>To the contrary, one can meaningfully define "Extropian writing" so as to
>include writings that do not embody Extropian attitudes. An anthropologist
>studying Extropian culture would almost certainly include in her sample set a
>variety of writings--such as those that routinely appear on this list--that
>constitute mere chatter or jest. She could quite justifiably call these
>"Extropian writings", as they reveal much about Extropian culture (if not

I disagree. The anthropologist would be mistaken, *unless* she noted that
she was including non-extropian writings of well known extropians to
satisfy the curiosity of readers. If an Extropian writes something clearly
not extropian, then it doesn't become extropian simply because they wrote it.

As I noted, there are fuzzy areas where something is compatible with
extropian attitudes but not particularly expressive of them. I think the
only sensible argument would be whether "Extropian writing" refers to
writing with an obviously extropian content, or should include writings by
an Extropian that does not obviously embody extropian ideas (so long as it
does not embody unextropian ideas like glorification of death). The same
points apply, mutatis mutandis to Extropic Art.

Put it this way: Let's say Painter A typically paints in a Cubist style.
You're producing two art history books, one on Cubism and one on Abstract
Expressionism. (If these are not the best examples of a sharply differing
contrast please substitute appropriately.) Painter A did one or two
paintings in Abstract Expressionist mode. Would you include those in the
Cubism book? Or in the Abstract Expressionist book? Clearly they belong in
the latter book. The fact that Painter A has usually been a Cubist does not
make a piece of Abstract Expressionism into a Cubist work.

What I'm saying is that a source-based definition is not a basic
definition. It's only an approximation. Someone who could reasonably be
called a Cubist generally produces Cubist Art. So we can usually say the
works of this Cubist are Cubist. But this won't always be true. It's the
content (or, rather, the style in this case) that makes them Cubist. It's
the content that makes Extropic Art extropic, not the source.

>Oh, I agree absolutely. The point of my comments has been to offer an
>alternative approach to the problem of defining Extropic art. A
>source-based definition can give fairly clear boundaries, I think, and avoids
>mystification. Nonetheless, I for now remain agnostic about whether one
>ought to embrace a content-, intent-, or source-based definition. It
>, for present purposes, to understand that "define it by content or not at
>all!" constitutes a false dichotomy.

No it's not a false dichotomy. The source-based definition is parasitic on
the content-based definition. To deny this is to cut loose any
comprehensible understanding of a genre. Work by an Extropic Artist can
generally be assumed to be extropic because the source is extropian. But
sometimes it may not be. The way to decide that is to check the contents.
The answer to "Is this piece of work extropic?" may not always have a clear
answer but trying to answer it is the only way to determine the
extropicness of the art. Extropic ideas are consistent, people are not always.

The definition and explanation of Extropic Art in Natasha's Extropic Art
Manifesto seems to me to do a fine job of defining the genre in terms of
its content. The great value of the Manifesto is in its potential to spread
our ideas through new avenues, and to affect people on levels other than
the analytical.


Max More, Ph.D.
President, Extropy Institute, Editor, Extropy,
(310) 398-0375