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Old 01-03-2018, 02:42 PM
Atomic Alex Atomic Alex is offline
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No poet, artist or composer in history has ever committed a calculated, first-degree murder?

I've just finished reading an interesting book, 'A Criminal History of Mankind' by Colin Wilson. In it the author makes the above claim, is it true?

I imagine the words 'calculated' and 'first-degree' leave a little definitional wiggle-room.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 01-03-2018, 02:47 PM
jayjay jayjay is offline
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Hitler, John Wayne Gacy and numerous other murderers painted. So that particular assertion doesn't even make it past the starting gate.
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Old 01-03-2018, 02:49 PM
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Carlo Gesualdo, a Renaissance composer of madrigals, murdered his wife and children. Strike two.
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Old 01-03-2018, 02:52 PM
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Gu Cheng, a Chinese poet, murdered his wife with an axe then killed himself in 1993. Strike three.
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Old 01-03-2018, 02:54 PM
Fretful Porpentine Fretful Porpentine is offline
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If we're not taking "artist" to mean someone who works specifically in the visual arts, John Wilkes Booth was a legitimately gifted artist, one of the foremost Shakespearean actors of his day.
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  #6  
Old 01-03-2018, 02:56 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is online now
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Bobby Beausoleil was a rock musician and actor, when he became part of Charles Manson's "family," and was convicted of the murder of Gary Hinman (apparently at Manson's direction).

Yeah, I think that the author's blanket statement is full of crap.
  #7  
Old 01-03-2018, 03:22 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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Originally Posted by jayjay View Post
Gu Cheng, a Chinese poet, murdered his wife with an axe then killed himself in 1993. Strike three.
I was thinking of that, too, but perhaps "calculated" and "first-degree" leave some wiggle room there, but I don't know much about the circumstances. Given that he hanged himself afterwards, I have a feeling it may not have just been a spur-of-the-moment sort of thing.
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Old 01-03-2018, 03:25 PM
Beckdawrek Beckdawrek is online now
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Phil Spector, Robert Blake, Charles Manson, OJ Simpson.
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Old 01-03-2018, 03:30 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols murdered his girlfriend Nancy Spungen (although he died before going to trial). This may stretch the definition of "composer" but he is is co-credited as writer on a few of the Sex Pistols' songs (and Spungen's murder was probably not calculated).

Last edited by Colibri; 01-03-2018 at 04:13 PM.
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Old 01-03-2018, 03:34 PM
Jacquernagy Jacquernagy is offline
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Robert Blake was not convicted of murder, and the exact circumstances regarding who actually pulled the trigger on his wife is not known. (I don't think murder is ever justified, but his wife was, frankly, a predator. Blake was also an idiot for getting sucked into her scam.)

Charles Manson didn't personally kill anyone.
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Old 01-03-2018, 03:40 PM
Ulfreida Ulfreida is offline
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Possibly Caravaggio.
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Old 01-03-2018, 03:45 PM
Asympotically fat Asympotically fat is offline
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Caravaggio is arguably one of the greatest painters ever, but was also known to be volatile and violent. At the height of his fame he killed a man in a brawl and was sentenced to death for murder. After a lengthy period on the lam he was eventually pardoned, but during this time he hardly kept his head down and almost killed another man in a brawl and was subject to an attempt on his life.
  #13  
Old 01-03-2018, 03:47 PM
manson1972 manson1972 is online now
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Originally Posted by Beckdawrek View Post
Phil Spector, Robert Blake, Charles Manson, OJ Simpson.
OJ Simpson was a poet, artist or composer?
  #14  
Old 01-03-2018, 03:53 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is online now
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OJ Simpson was a poet, artist or composer?
"Artist" from the standpoint of being an actor in movies and TV shows, at least. One *might* argue that being an athlete is a form of performance art, but in this case, I don't think that you'd have to.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 01-03-2018 at 03:54 PM.
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Old 01-03-2018, 04:07 PM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is online now
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Benvenuto Cellini killed a rival goldsmith, and basically got away with it because he was an admired artist and managed to get pardoned by the pope.

Possibly less calculated (and hence possibly not first-degree murder), his brother killed a member of the Roman watch, but was then mortally wounded by another member of the watch. Benvenuto then killed the second man, even though by Benvenuto's own admission he had been acting in self-defense. Since Benvenuto himself admitted it wasn't blood revenge, in the eyes of the legal system it was murder.

Some online references also say he shot an innkeeper dead but I don't know the details of that incident.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benvenuto_Cellini

Richard Dadd was a Victorian artist who brutally murdered his father, though this is possibly not first degree murder due to Richard Dadd's mental illness (he was convinced his father was actually the Devil). He spent the rest of his life in mental institutions, where he created some rather spectacular art.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Dadd

Last edited by engineer_comp_geek; 01-03-2018 at 04:08 PM.
  #16  
Old 01-03-2018, 04:10 PM
Czarcasm Czarcasm is offline
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Colin Wilson was a writer of science fiction and fantasy who occasionally dabbled in "real" world events...like ghosts, demons, the paranormal and sensationalized/lurid pieces of history. I would take his "facts" with a large grain of salt.
  #17  
Old 01-03-2018, 04:15 PM
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The "wiggle room" is rather interesting, because fundamentally very few people kill in a calculated way. They might calculate after the event to obscure the evidence, but often the murder itself is a spur-of-the-moment act of passion, rage, and/or mania. If you pick any profession that has only a very small number of people in it ("composer" is quite different to "musician") and you will likely have a rather difficult time finding a match. There are only a few working professionally at any one time and that means that you would need to delve into history, where the records are a lot poorer.

There has probably been no puzzle designer that has ever committed a calculated, first-degree murder, for example. Similarly for chick sexer or food technologist, they'll probably come out clean. It says less about those professions than it does about how people murder each other.

Last edited by Sage Rat; 01-03-2018 at 04:17 PM.
  #18  
Old 01-03-2018, 04:17 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is online now
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Originally Posted by Sage Rat View Post
Similarly for chick sexer or food technologist, they'll probably come out clean.
I used to work with food technologists. Homicidal loons, the lot of them.

Also: Jeffrey Dahmer, at the time of his arrest, worked at a chocolate processing plant (though, IIRC he was a factory worker, and certainly not a trained food technologist.)

Last edited by kenobi 65; 01-03-2018 at 04:18 PM.
  #19  
Old 01-03-2018, 04:19 PM
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Muybridge, if you count a photographer as an artist.

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Originally Posted by Wikipedia
In 1872, Muybridge married 21-year-old Flora Shallcross Stone. In 1874, Muybridge discovered that a drama critic known as Major Harry Larkyns might have fathered Flora's seven-month-old son Florado. On 17 October, Muybridge went to Calistoga to track down Larkyns. Upon finding him, Muybridge said, "Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here's the answer to the letter you sent my wife", and shot him point-blank. Larkyns died that night, and Muybridge was arrested without protest and put in the Napa jail.
But even a moment of pondering should have you rolling your eyes at the author's claim.
  #20  
Old 01-03-2018, 04:21 PM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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Originally Posted by jayjay View Post
Hitler, John Wayne Gacy and numerous other murderers painted. So that particular assertion doesn't even make it past the starting gate.
The assertion might be more interesting if limited to people who actually made a living as painters (or composers or poets). In other words, eliminating murderers who dabbled in the arts as a hobby.

Did Hitler ever manage to support himself via his paintings? I don't recall.

For that matter, certainly he was a genocidal dictator, but did he ever personally commit murder?
  #21  
Old 01-03-2018, 04:23 PM
Starving Artist Starving Artist is offline
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Charles Manson didn't personally kill anyone.
Neither, as far as I know, did Hitler.

Well, apart from himself and possibly Eva Braun, that is, but I doubt those are the type of killings the OP is wondering about.

Manson was actually something of a musician himself. The Beach Boys recorded an altered version of one of his songs, the writing of which was credited to Dennis Wilson. Manson was highly pissed and, IIRC, even threatened to shoot Dennis for having taken credit for it. Cite
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Old 01-03-2018, 04:28 PM
Jack Batty Jack Batty is offline
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Academy award winning actor Gig Young killed his wife and then himself in 1978.
  #23  
Old 01-03-2018, 04:36 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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Alice Sheldon, who wrote science fiction as James Tiptree, Jr., shot her husband and herself to spare his suffering further when he was 84. It was certainly calculated.

But a writer is not an poet, artist, or composer. So that doesn't disprove the claim any more than an actor or photographer does.
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Old 01-03-2018, 04:42 PM
Starving Artist Starving Artist is offline
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I'm surprised to hear you say that. I certainly regard writers as artists (at least the kind who write stories, novels, screen plays, etc., as opposed to technical writing and so forth.) . Acting and certain kinds of photography are art as well.

Last edited by Starving Artist; 01-03-2018 at 04:45 PM.
  #25  
Old 01-03-2018, 04:46 PM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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It's a rather silly statement -- there's so much 'wiggle room' that it's pretty meaningless.

First is Sage Rat's note of the small sample fallacy. Even if you said "No Noble Prize winner ..." you'd probably have to modify it to "No Noble Prize winning scientist ..." to exclude the Peace Prize ones, some of whom are questionable.

But beyond that, it would soon involve 'no true Scotsman' fallacy.
For example, I could say the Emperor Nero was a poet, but also killed a whole lot of people.
You could argue that he wasn't really a poet.
I could point out that he won some ancient poetry competitions.
You could argue those competitions were fixed so that he would win.
And so forth...

Not a very meaningful quote.

Last edited by t-bonham@scc.net; 01-03-2018 at 04:47 PM.
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Old 01-03-2018, 04:49 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Originally Posted by Starving Artist View Post
I'm surprised to hear you say that. I certainly regard writers as artists (at least the kind who write stories, novels, screen plays, etc., as opposed to technical writing and so forth.) . Acting and certain kinds of photography are art as well.
If the broad definition of "artist" was the one intended, then one wouldn't need to include the words "poet" or "composer." Because of this, I assume that "artist" in the OP refers to visual artists (painters and sculptors) only, and excludes writers, actors, etc. Likewise, "composer" excludes singers or musicians who do not compose their own works.
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Old 01-03-2018, 04:50 PM
Xema Xema is offline
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Interesting how these implausible blanket assertions essentially always have exceptions.
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Old 01-03-2018, 04:51 PM
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The charge was second-degree murder and he was acquitted, but at least worth noting that Carl Andre, the minimalist sculptor, was tried in connection with the death of his wife.
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Old 01-03-2018, 04:52 PM
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I am curious what the context of the book author's statement was. What was the author trying to get at exactly?
  #30  
Old 01-03-2018, 04:57 PM
Xema Xema is offline
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Originally Posted by Jacquernagy View Post
Charles Manson didn't personally kill anyone.
Well, he was never charged with or convicted of directly killing anyone. But (as Googling shows) a number of people - including Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys - said that he did, and others heard him claim to have done so.
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Old 01-03-2018, 04:58 PM
Starving Artist Starving Artist is offline
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If the broad definition of "artist" was the one intended, then one wouldn't need to include the words "poet" or "composer." Because of this, I assume that "artist" in the OP refers to visual artists (painters and sculptors) only, and excludes writers, actors, etc. Likewise, "composer" excludes singers or musicians who do not compose their own works.
Good point, and a good explanation for the surprising (to me) comment by Exapno. Thanks.
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Old 01-03-2018, 04:58 PM
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Colin Wilson was a writer of science fiction and fantasy who occasionally dabbled in "real" world events...like ghosts, demons, the paranormal and sensationalized/lurid pieces of history. I would take his "facts" with a large grain of salt.
Martin Gardner's review of two Colin Wilson articles in The Oxford Companion to the Mind:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1989...companionship/


Mr. Wilson fires back...but Mr. Gardner gets the last word:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1989...-poltergeists/

"The former boy wonder, tall and handsome in his turtleneck sweater, has now decayed into one of those amiable eccentrics for which the land of Conan Doyle is noted. They prowl comically about the lunatic fringes of science, looking for ever more sensational wonders and scribbling ever more boring books about them for shameless publishers to feed to hungry readers as long as the boom in occultism lasts."

Poor Colin....
  #33  
Old 01-03-2018, 05:32 PM
Atomic Alex Atomic Alex is offline
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I am curious what the context of the book author's statement was. What was the author trying to get at exactly?
Its part of the authors contention that the 'left brain' and 'right brain' are complementary but need to be balanced correctly to function as intended and much of the criminal acts in history are because people have been letting the logical left-brain take control. I could post a scan of the page and link to it from imgur if that's allowed though I'm not sure how much more enlightening it would be.

Its one of the weaker aspects of the book in my opinion but then again it was written in the late 1970's, one other eye-brow raising part from a modern perspective is that the author casually assumes that the person reading his book is a man and not just in the use of pronouns.

Thank you for the answers everyone

Last edited by Atomic Alex; 01-03-2018 at 05:33 PM.
  #34  
Old 01-03-2018, 05:45 PM
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Robert Blake was not convicted of murder, and the exact circumstances regarding who actually pulled the trigger on his wife is not known. (I don't think murder is ever justified, but his wife was, frankly, a predator. Blake was also an idiot for getting sucked into her scam.)

Charles Manson didn't personally kill anyone.
The OP said committed not convicted.
Manson may have committed murder before the Sharon Tate murder. I can't cite, but I recall a doc.show about it. And Spector; everyone knows he shot the chick in the face.
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Old 01-03-2018, 05:55 PM
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I am an artist, on occasion I feel murderous.
  #36  
Old 01-03-2018, 06:49 PM
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The assertion is certainly wrong as many have stated, but it's a nice example of a "no true Scotsman" proposition: "He wasn't REALLY an artist...she didn't REALLY calculate the murder..." and so on.
  #37  
Old 01-03-2018, 07:21 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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Nobody has come up with a true counterexample. Carlo Gesualdo killed his wife and her lover when he found them in flagrante. Caravaggio was in a brawl. Gu Cheng killed two decades after the book came out. Other examples were not poets, artists, or composers.

I have trouble believing that the claim is true, especially since I'm sure Wilson couldn't be familiar with all the world's cultures. But he stated it narrowly and sensibly.

What's happened since is the usual thread drift, in which people totally ignore the OP and post anything that has some words in common. That's not argument; it's bar trivia.
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Old 01-03-2018, 07:37 PM
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didn't Emperor Nero write plays and songs? And star in the plays.
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Old 01-03-2018, 08:06 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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didn't Emperor Nero write plays and songs? And star in the plays.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Tildrum View Post
The assertion might be more interesting if limited to people who actually made a living as painters (or composers or poets). In other words, eliminating murderers who dabbled in the arts as a hobby.

Did Hitler ever manage to support himself via his paintings? I don't recall.

For that matter, certainly he was a genocidal dictator, but did he ever personally commit murder?
I'd exclude Nero on Tom Tildrum's grounds. He dabbled in the arts, but wasn't an artist by profession.
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Old 01-03-2018, 08:11 PM
JRDelirious JRDelirious is online now
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Originally Posted by TSBG View Post
The assertion is certainly wrong as many have stated, but it's a nice example of a "no true Scotsman" proposition: "He wasn't REALLY an artist...she didn't REALLY calculate the murder..." and so on.
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
Nobody has come up with a true counterexample. Carlo Gesualdo killed his wife and her lover when he found them in flagrante. Caravaggio was in a brawl. Gu Cheng killed two decades after the book came out. Other examples were not poets, artists, or composers.

I have trouble believing that the claim is true, especially since I'm sure Wilson couldn't be familiar with all the world's cultures. But he stated it narrowly and sensibly.
I refer you to:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sage Rat View Post
The "wiggle room" is rather interesting, because fundamentally very few people kill in a calculated way. They might calculate after the event to obscure the evidence, but often the murder itself is a spur-of-the-moment act of passion, rage, and/or mania.
I share with Sage Rat the feeling that when it comes down to it, the vast majority of killings is not the classic "premeditation, malice aforethought and special circumstances" that we think of when we say Murder One. Heck, I would not be surprised if a lot of the actual prosecutions for Murder One in a place like the USA are only at that degree due to a statutory provision for "special circumstance" to mandatorily ratchet up the charge (killing a Law Enforcement Officer; Terrorist threat; use of poisons; Felony Murder Rule; ambush; etc).

So it turns out that creative artists who murder, like the majority of those people who do murder, do so "in the heat" or while "not in their sound mind", rather than plotting it in cold blood. That's not news and provides me little useful information. ISTM that would be about as significant as saying it's unknown for a fine auteur to rob the First National Bank at gunpoint ... when hardly anyone ever robs the First National Bank at gunpoint. Tells me jack about how having a creative artist's brain affects your criminal inclinations.
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Old 01-03-2018, 08:30 PM
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Francois Villon apparently killed a priest, but accounts differ on the circumstances. It may have been self defense. Villon was one of the most famous French poets of the Middle Ages, best remembered for the line Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan? translated as "Where are the snows of yesteryear?"
  #42  
Old 01-03-2018, 09:48 PM
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Johnny Cash "shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die". Does that count?
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Old 01-03-2018, 10:18 PM
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What happened to Nancy is debatable aside from the "she died" part
And sid was not actually a professional musician, didn't know how to play guitar, so i guess he is off the hook 2 ways?
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Old 01-03-2018, 10:25 PM
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I'd exclude Nero on Tom Tildrum's grounds. He dabbled in the arts, but wasn't an artist by profession.
That would exclude anybody who happened to be born into the upper classes.
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Old 01-03-2018, 10:37 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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Tells me jack about how having a creative artist's brain affects your criminal inclinations.
So go to CS and start a thread about general creative types committing general crimes for general reasons.

As long as we're here in GQ and the OP asked if a very specific claim is true or not, answer it with specifics because the thread's posters' ramblings about other subjects tell me jack about generally everything.
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Old 01-03-2018, 11:16 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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That would exclude anybody who happened to be born into the upper classes.
I'd exclude anyone who wasn't primarily engaged in the mentioned activities, and who wasn't best known for that.
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Old 01-03-2018, 11:41 PM
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Muybridge sure sounds to me like he meets every particular. The first noun used to describe him in his Wikipedia article is "photographer", and even if we narrow "artist" to mean only "visual artist", then that still includes photography. And traveling to another city with a gun to find one's target, and then to introduce oneself to him by shooting him in the face, meets any reasonable definition of premeditation.
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Old 01-04-2018, 12:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
So go to CS and start a thread about general creative types committing general crimes for general reasons.

As long as we're here in GQ and the OP asked if a very specific claim is true or not, answer it with specifics because the thread's posters' ramblings about other subjects tell me jack about generally everything.
jayjay answered the question in post #2. John Wayne Gacy was a painter, who carried out premeditated murders.

The argument that we're only talking about artists who supported themselves through art gets back to the "no true Scotsman" thing.

I mean, Van Gogh never supported himself through art, which I suppose is why his paintings don't hang in museums. Thomas Kincade's paintings are trash, therefore we can discount him as an artist.

I will stipulate that neither Kincade nor Van Gogh ever murdered anyone...as far as we know.
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Old 01-04-2018, 12:19 AM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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jayjay answered the question in post #2. John Wayne Gacy was a painter, who carried out premeditated murders.
The claim wasn't that no one who has done paintings hasn't committed murder, but that no "artist" has. I wouldn't consider Gacy an actual artist. If you count kindergarten, pretty much everyone has done some painting, even if it was just finger paints. It's obvious that Colin Wilson's claim was based on his ideas about people with actual artistic abilities, not simply artistic pretensions. Now you can quibble about who's an artist and who isn't, but Gacy is clearly not the kind of person Wilson would have had in mind.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
What's happened since is the usual thread drift, in which people totally ignore the OP and post anything that has some words in common. That's not argument; it's bar trivia.
It would have been helpful if the OP had been clearer about the point that Wilson was trying to make. But yes, people have been expanding the definition well beyond what Wilson evidently meant.

Last edited by Colibri; 01-04-2018 at 12:21 AM.
  #50  
Old 01-04-2018, 12:47 AM
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The claim wasn't that no one who has done paintings hasn't committed murder, but that no "artist" has. I wouldn't consider Gacy an actual artist. If you count kindergarten, pretty much everyone has done some painting, even if it was just finger paints. It's obvious that Colin Wilson's claim was based on his ideas about people with actual artistic abilities, not simply artistic pretensions. Now you can quibble about who's an artist and who isn't, but Gacy is clearly not the kind of person Wilson would have had in mind.

It would have been helpful if the OP had been clearer about the point that Wilson was trying to make. But yes, people have been expanding the definition well beyond what Wilson evidently meant.
My sense is that "the kind of person Wilson would have had in mind" is entirely dependent on the respondent, and perhaps Wilson himself was clearer. Perhaps someone who has read the book will enlighten us on Wilson's intent and expand upon the context.

However, you're the one who made the point that we should only be considering artists who made it their profession. If 2017 Van Gogh lived next door to you, I suggest that far from someone who made a profession out of art, you would consider him a ne'er-do-well with fantasies of being an artist--just as you would dismiss neighbor Gacy.

I'm not here to argue for Gacy's talents or even Van Gogh's, but I point out again that absent some more rigorous definition from the Wilson book, which we don't have and I feel under no obligation to search for, the assertion as given is meaningless.

Also, Exapno's point about Gu Cheng's murder of his wife occurring "two decades" after is book was published strikes me as no-true-Scotsmanning on an exalted level. What's the statute of limitations on being a poet?
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