Archive for the ‘Art Philosophy’ Category

Greek Philosophy & Art: Plato & Socrates

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Plato & Socrates \"The School of Athens\"

Plato and Socrates, two of the most famous philosophers of all time, were figureheads with the birth of philosophy, generally claiming to be born in Ancient Greece.  Plato considered Socrates to be his mentor and, thusly, much of what is known about Socrates and his philosophies comes from Plato himself.  These two had a great deal to propound on the nature of the world, not limited to the purpose and functions of art.

It has been proposed that Plato might have been a poet before he came under the influence of Socrates and became a philosopher.  Many of his Dialogues have a very poetic nature to them and he is a wonderfully crafted storyteller.  However, while seeming to hold art in a very high esteem, these two also considered art to be a very dangerous thing.  Art is a strong influence on the character of a man and in an ideal society; the arts themselves would have to be closely monitored.  Naturally, this idea causes a great deal of conflict and strife with artists.

Art is something, which imitates reality. While Plato believed that the world itself is an imperfect copy of the true Ideal, art is an imperfect imitation of that original imitation.  Now, while art can be an inspired, great work, it can also be incredibly dangerous.  Art is something, which stirs the senses and brings emotion about in the viewer. Since it makes such an influence on a man’s character, it must be carefully monitored toward exactly the type of art that a man ingests.  At least in the early stages of the life, Plato was a staunch believer that only “good” forms of art are presented for consumption.


What is Art? – Leon Tolstoi

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

One of the most famous novelists of all time, Leo Tolstoy made some resounding contributions to the world of literature.  Many of his works are considered to be masterpieces and are widely studied even today.  His novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina are considered, with their vivid depiction of life in 19th Century Russia, as one of the very best examples of realist fiction.  His novels were not his only contributions to the world, however, for he was also an accomplished essayist and playwright, writing a number of essays on philosophy and art.

“What is Art?” became one of Tolstoy’s best-known musings on the nature of art.  He argues against the theories that art is merely defined by the good, truth, and beauty.  Tolstoy fully believed that much of the art of his day was corrupt and that artists had been seriously misled in their paths.  His platform was that true art needed to connect the artist and the audience through a special emotional bond, which would continue to live on within the members of the audience.  By relating a specific emotion through the work of art, a true artist could inspire that emotion within the others and by this virtue the act becomes true art.

Tolstoy’s views on art expanded into his morality, however.  He considered good art to be something, which inspired feelings of the unity of brotherhood with one’s fellow man.  Bad art was something, which inhibited those feelings.  Therefore, in order to be good art, one’s work needed to bring feelings of unity and peace into the world.  All other forms were merely chaotic and bad art.


Objectivism – The Role of Art

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Art and Objectivism - Ayn RandA form of personal philosophy which was born over the 20th Century by the novelist Ayn Rand, Objectivism takes the views that man is a heroic being whose only true moral purpose during life is his own happiness.  The philosophy expands on the idea that reality is independent from consciousness and that individuals are only in contact with that reality through their sensory perceptions.  Concept formation is how individuals will begin to understand and interpret that reality into their own lives.  Art itself is an important part of Objectivism, as it is how man can transform large, metaphysical ideas and ideals into a tangible, physical form to which they can react and understand.

Rand chose the name Objectivism for her philosophy, basing it off of musings of other philosophers, such as Kierkegaard and Sartre, who helped establish and define Existentialism.  She felt that her idea sprang forth from Existentialism but that her ideas were a little more specific.  Knowledge and ideals are objective, not intrinsic or subjective.  These values do not make a part of the reality, which actually exists, but at the same time, those values are not defined on a person-by-person basis.

The role of art is an important one with Objectivism, for it allows human beings to understand concepts as if they were perceptions.  The art becomes a selective representation of reality based on the artist’s particular viewpoint of metaphysical judgments.  Objectivism itself considers art as an ethical way to convey an idea or a moral for its purpose is not to educate but merely to project a certain set of ideas. In fact, Objectivism says that art should be uplifting and that is should show things that uplift. Good Art should represent the rational man, and the ideals that are associated with human reason.

Photo: Infiltec


George Dickie – Art and Audience

Monday, January 19th, 2009

People Visiting Art MuseumGeorge Dickie, a professor of philosophy at the University of Illinois in Chicago, postulated a theory about the relationship between art and the audience meant to receive it.  His theory set about to define what art actually is and the context in which it applies to society.  According to Dickie, art is something that is consciously presented to an audience with the intention of it being art.  He does not seek to determine how this art is made; he gives no qualifications about what it takes exactly to make something art.  What is important is the person presenting the piece.  If they do not present the piece as art, the piece is not art.  It is only based on the intentions that a work can become art.

By the same token, however, the audience, which receives the artwork, is just as important.  In order for something to be truly art, it needs to be shown to a group of people who have the ability to understand it and the intentions of the artist.  They do not necessarily have to understand the theme of the work or, even to truly accept it as art.  Having the potential to accept the work as art, though, is important.  Without the audience, the work simply remains as a work and does not truly become art.

This definition is actually rather broad in what it aims to accomplish.  It simply states that unless an artist is consciously presenting a piece as art, it is not that.  By turn, if the audience is not able to accept the piece as a work of art, it is not art.  Therefore, a painting submitted to a field of cows is not art, but the same painting in a gallery would be.

Photo:  Courtesy of Hibino


Kant – What is Art

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Kant - What is ArtImmanuel Kant, a famous German philosopher who published a very influential work called Critique of Pure Reason, which was an investigation into the nature of reason itself.  He felt that only by understanding the true limitations of human understanding and knowledge could one begin to pose valuable metaphysical questions.  Kant posed that a mind can only think about things based on its own experience with them and that since the mind is wired toward the idea of causality, everything that we encounter comes to be thought of as either a cause or an effect.  This, however, stops man from understanding some basic things, such as the nature of the world itself.  It can only be experienced during the span of a man’s life and therefore, one will never know if the world has indeed existed forever and, if not, what might have actually caused it.

His views on fine art stretch to the idea that it must be intentionally produced.  Additionally, art is something, which must be experienced through intuitions and sensations instead of concepts, which are already known.  Therefore, each work of art is meant to be experienced as a completely unique piece, independent of every other work of art in the world.

Kant believed that art needed to be beautiful and pleasing because good works of art would stimulate the mind into reacting to that beauty.  This viewpoint is rather limited in today’s art world, however, for modern art will often produce works, which are neither.  Instead, Kant believed that to truly be successful, a work of art has to be judged immediately, in the form, as it exists to the viewer.


Schopenhauer – Art Definition from Philosophy

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Portrait of Shopenhauer by Angilbert GobelArthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher most active during the middle 1800s.  His work set about to examine whether reason could answer any questions about the world and his primary target of concentration was on man’s motivations, which he referred to as the “will.”  His studies led him to conclude that man’s basic physical, emotional, and sexual desires can never be fulfilled and that abstaining from trying to fulfill these desires was the best possible course of action.  He consequently greatly supported art as a way of being able to escape an oppressive servitude to the will as it allowed an artist the means to stop lusting after the earthly desires they were feeling and to enter a realm of purely mental satisfaction.

Schopenhauer believed that the will was not something to be indulged for failed attempts to fulfill the will only led to sorrow in man.  If man succeeded in fulfilling the will, they were only led on to either boredom or new desires.  An endless cycle would be started that would leave man being unsatisfied for the majority of his life.    Art could, however, save everyone by providing a place of escape.  Salvation could be attained through aesthetic experiences.

Geopolitical Child Watches The Birth Of The New Human by Salvador Dali

Schopenhauer was responsible himself for the eventual movement of the Symbolists.  Art was accomplished for art’s sake, therefore rejecting the idea that good art was something, which could be capitalized on.  Through Schopenhauer’s beliefs, art was something, which could remove much of the pain and sorrow from the world, as it was something, which could remain elevated over it all.


Martin Heidegger – What is Art?

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Portrait of Philosopher Martin HeideggerMartin Heidegger was a famous German philosopher from the early to mid 20th Century.  His philosophical views were largely based on investigating not what it mean to be a being, but what being in itself means.  He believed that all of the questions which philosophy had attempted to answer over the preceding 2,000 years were about all the beings which could be found in the world, but that no one had bothered to question what “being” itself implicated.  Heidegger believed that philosophy got started on the wrong foot and as a result, most of the discoveries made in philosophy were erroneous.

Julian Beever and his Work - BatmanHis views on art took the approach that a work of art not only defined the way that a culture understands art, but it actually creates that same truth to a degree.  The truth, which a work of art represents, will actually become the way that a society will understand that truth.  Furthermore, at any time that an artist introduces a new work of art into society, the entire definition of truth behind the meaning of existence is slightly changed.

Heidegger believed that both artworks and the artist could not exist without each other.  While artworks would not exist without an artist, it was the work itself, which made one into an artist.  At the same time, art itself was something, which is separate from both artworks and artists.  The concept of art is something, which needed to be understood to appreciate artworks, but without artworks, the concept of art did not exist.  Heidegger fully explained that his beliefs were a paradox, which could not be appropriately answered, but that his responsibility was in describing the riddle.


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