Reflections – Paul Graham, Value of Art and more

Contrary to focused philosophy essays, this article contains small snippets of reflections. From big ideas to personal niches, I have reached a point of saturation and need to expel these.

Previous posts – Thoughts – Niranjan Krishna

Paul Graham and Writing – Paul Graham is an American computer programmer and entrepreneur, most prominently recognized as the founder of Y Combinator1. Besides running a successful startup accelerator, Graham maintains an active blog. More than the tech endeavors, his essays captivated me. The essays cover various topics but focus mainly on technology, entrepreneurship, and life advice.

His essays are extremely simple. There are instances where uncommon vocabulary is used, nonetheless, they still are understandable. As revealed before, a firm intention resides behind this writing philosophy2. Such simplicity elicits a feeling of sublime beauty. Hence, I’m consciously trying to make my writing simpler.

I have been criticized before for making things needlessly complex, and rightfully so3. However, I believe I must use complex stylistic choices in some situations. Simplicity depends on the constraints of the piece. For Example, one subject-agnostic constraint is that my writing should inspire action, evoking a feeling of beauty in the reader. To quote Nietzsche

Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only that one thinks it but also feels it.

Friedrich Nietzsche

The Value of Art – What makes art good? Despite popular claims, it is not subjective. Even the supporter of subjectivity, practically, behaves as if there is a shared agreement about the quality of Art. For instance, we agree that Picasso and Van Gogh were exceptional artists, better than most. However, It becomes difficult to determine if Van Gogh is superior to Picasso.

As a side note, people also experience cognitive dissonance when it comes to moral subjectivity. Those who claim morality is subjective still rely on certain moral principles in their actions. Certain moral truths are naturally part of human nature.

This is personal to me, not just a philosophical question. I enjoy writing fiction and creating short films4, and I want to do more of it. However, I carefully analyze my actions to ensure they are optimal, philosophically. And this has strongly influenced the time spent on art.

I used to believe that if the quality of art is entirely subjective, then it becomes meaningless. I have been trying to find a way to objectively value art, but I realized it is impossible. For if the standard of art can be measured, it loses the quality of creativity. As is the same in anything else.

Consider Mathematics. As a system, it only values whether a proposition is true or not. For it, both the Riemann hypothesis5 and the myriad of proofs of the Pythagorean theorem6 have equal value. For Mathematicians, the same cannot be said. The greatest mathematical minds are ranked by the creativity and beauty of their work. A non-objective, inter-subjective evaluation by the community. Paul Erdos, a famous 20th-century mathematician, had a concept called “The Book of God.” A book containing the most beautiful proofs in mathematics.

Perhaps we can arrive at an inter-subjective evaluation of art. With novelty as the primary criterion. We know that derivative art lacks value to us. However, art shouldn’t be indecipherable or foreign. It must be Novel – it’s new and non-repetitive, but also not completely unfamiliar. As such all great works of art must be novel. However, further ranking of them seems impossible.

Lately, I realized that I’m unstimulated by the art I usually see. Whether it’s movies, songs, or anything else. The only solution I could think of to address the problem is by creating art that stimulates me – myself. Perhaps the greatest artists thought the same too. They used art to express themselves, justify their suffering and affirm life itself.

Art is essentially the affirmation, the blessing, and the deification of existence.

Friedrich Nietzsche

The monotony of people – Recently, I went on a car ride with someone. During the trip, they just kept asking questions about me that we both already knew the answers to. Even the same questions in successions, paraphrased differently. Almost like ironical rhetoric. Even though this is an extreme example, I believe there is a common pattern to notice.

I claim that most people are defined by a limited set of propositions. Their identities implications of those propositions only. Including thoughts, ideologies, and character traits. However, not all humans necessarily share the same propositions. For Instance, Liberals and Conservatives each have a few propositions that represent themselves, but they don’t share any.

Some common examples that come to mind are:

  1. Pursuit of Happiness
  2. Everyone can have their own thoughts and beliefs, and it’s important to show respect for them.
  3. Moral Subjectivity: What is considered right or wrong can vary from person to person.

This makes out humans to be almost robotic, but is that not the case? Almost all the people I interact with appear robotic except for a few, maybe 3 or 4, humans. I don’t think it’s their intellectual ineptitude that causes this. Rather a reluctance to embark on the uncomfortable, scary process – The Transvaluation of All Values7.

  2. Graham, P. (n.d.). Write simply. Retrieved from
  3. Notably for the article Letters from an Anti-Stoic. Niranjan Krishna. (2023, February 20). Retrieved from
  4. To Someone. (2023). Directed by Niranjan Krishna, starring Abhay Santhakumar. Retrieved from
  5. Riemann hypothesis. Wikipedia. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  6. Around 371 of them. Bogomolny, A. (n.d.). Pythagorean Theorem and its many proofs. Retrieved April 13, 2023, from
  7. Transvaluation of values. Wikipedia. (2022, December 27). Retrieved from

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