The March Philosophy Book of the Month is Final Notice by Van Fleisher. Discuss Final Notice now.

The April Philosophy Book of the Month is The Unbound Soul by Richard L. Haight. Discuss The Unbound Soul Now

The May Philosophy Book of the Month is Misreading Judas by Robert Wahler.

What is Art?

Use this forum to have philosophical discussions about aesthetics and art. What is art? What is beauty? What makes art good? You can also use this forum to discuss philosophy in the arts, namely to discuss the philosophical points in any particular movie, TV show, book or story.
Post Reply
User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2387
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: What is Art?

Post by Hereandnow » August 21st, 2018, 2:06 pm

"an effort by an artist to convey some sense of what it is to be the artist emotionally or experientially in some way" is likely true, but it has a logical flaw. Art being an artist putting out artistic emotion begs the question, for you use in your definition the term that needs defining. Not to be a nudge, but this is like saying a physicist is someone who does physics.
And emotion, artistic emotion. What could this be? If it is the usual, fear, joy, anxiety, loathing, rapture, then is it that whenever we have these we are having an artistic response to something. I think not. But these certainly are artistic responses. It must be something about setting the object apart and seeing it AS art. But this simply does not tell us what it means for something thing to be interpreted AS art. What Am I doing, looking at this driftwood as art and not as driftwood plain and simple? There must be certain features that are ignored while others are underscored. Form, for example. I could be just emphasizing the color, lines, contrast and agreement, and so on. Is that it?

Jan Sand
Posts: 658
Joined: September 10th, 2017, 11:57 am

Re: What is Art?

Post by Jan Sand » August 21st, 2018, 2:26 pm

I am a very visual person and although I am, at best, a haphazard artist I can close my eyes and, at first after seeing a painting in a museum or gallery, see that same painting with my eyes closed but only momentarily, since my mind, automatically creates on this inner screen, and very rapidly, multiple variations of color and form of that painting with no conscious effort. I frequently have dreams of visiting an art show and seeing a hundred or so paintings done with skills far beyond my own that I could never reproduce. Are these art if nobody but me has seen them?

In many parts of the world sculptors have exhibited black cubes that they designed and had skilled workers create. Were they sculptures before the factory made them? If a composer writes music pieces but they are never played, are they are art before they have been played? The word Art is not all that easy to pin down.

User avatar
ThomasHobbes
Posts: 1122
Joined: May 5th, 2018, 5:53 pm

Re: What is Art?

Post by ThomasHobbes » August 21st, 2018, 5:11 pm

Jan Sand wrote:
August 21st, 2018, 1:27 pm
Simply, art is ....
Anything that follows such a statement is usually limited to a particular instance.
SImply, art is sometimes ...

OR

Simply, art can be ....

Would be more honest, since it is doubtful that statements about are or can be exhaustive.

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2387
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: What is Art?

Post by Hereandnow » August 21st, 2018, 6:35 pm

Not easy to pin down, Jan Sand-- you hit the nail on the head. But nothing, nothing at all, is easy to pin down in philosophy. It's nature is not to be easily pinned down. It takes up where common talk leaves off.
Could be that art is at a cross roads of sorts. Conceptual art, expressionism, impressionism, cubism, fauvism and on and on. As if it has to redefine itself every time someone does something different. One day physics will have redefine itself when it finds the way to encompass psychology, sociology, anthrpology--after all, these are just particles in physics in very specialized environments.
I think formalism is likely right, though the idea of what a form is and what an artistic response is, is highly debatable. Art as significant form that evokes aesthetic rapture (or....something) is the most malleable definition.

User avatar
Greta
Site Admin
Posts: 8270
Joined: December 16th, 2013, 9:05 pm

Re: What is Art?

Post by Greta » August 21st, 2018, 9:19 pm

Jan is trying to overcome the limits of language with poetic expression - which is perhaps not surprising for one creatively inclined like him.

I'm definitely in the anything-can-be-art camp. The art may be magnificent or it might be as profane and uninspired as a poop in a pond. Thus art may be good or bad, according to various majorities, the main ones being informed observers and popular opinion.

IMO the label of "art" or "artist" should not confer stature or status any more than "business" or "businessperson". A person might own a shop and be a businessperson but the shop might be doomed to close in short order because there was not enough skill in conception or execution. A wannabe.

If status is important - and it always is for people within certain age groups - then the status deserves to be conferred by quality rather than membership. Let the talentless hack declare him or herself an artist. Most times they will simply be ignored (along, alas, with many anonymous worthy artists and art works). There is a great deal of talent hidden in communities, along with unknown and anonymous works of high quality, suppressed by the exigencies of work, family and economic rationalism.

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2387
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: What is Art?

Post by Hereandnow » August 21st, 2018, 10:48 pm

Dewey thought we are all in some measure artists, or should be, and in more hands on, down to earth environments, our artistic nature naturally reveals itself. An artist, is just one of us who is especially good at working with physical media, but the problem is art has become a pedestaled prerogative of the best, leaving everyone else to think art doesn't really belong to their practical lives. Dewey was responding to the dehumanizing effects of the scientific management of time and labor that turned people into machines in the early 20th century, and was nostalgic for the fading culture of home made artifacts. He believed this was art: that consummatory event that comes on the completion of producing a chair, or a broom, or anything that has a beginning, middle and an end; even thoughts well conceived were inherently aesthetic, i.e., consummatory.
I always liked this account because Dewey wanted people's dignity meaning in life to be restored, but thought its failing lies with identifying aesthetic responses with consummatory experiences. The latter are just too limiting to describe all possible artistic responses.

Jan Sand
Posts: 658
Joined: September 10th, 2017, 11:57 am

Re: What is Art?

Post by Jan Sand » August 22nd, 2018, 2:10 am

To understand anything one must first understand one's self because nothing exists without one's self. And each of us is different since nature is a very old fool who wanders through the laboratory of this crumb of matter we call this planet and stumbles over its mistakes lying dead on the floor and upsets a beaker of acid or a jar of some strange sticky liquid and odd fumes arise and fascinating sweet scents fill the room and nature thinks, "Hey! That's not so bad." and Shazam, there is Adam and Eve. Evidently nature had no idea of the mess it had started.

One of the major biological differences between humans and other animals is the extensive time it takes humans to attain maturity. Out of necessity for survival a great many other animal species produce young with the basics for survival almost immediately after birth. Whereas humans require about a year to learn to walk ungulates can run almost immediately. The human brain is still developing even to the end of the teen years. As dangerous as this may be for survival it permits the mental flexibility of creating the human individual understanding of the nature of its environment much more sophisticated than other creatures and it probably is one of the bases for permitting humans to survive in extreme environmental conditions throughout the entire planet and even off planet. The brain is essentially a guessing machine to attempt to predict current and future problems and this huge range of possibilities provided makes each of us somewhat unique, a product that encourages theoretical activities in science,art, culture, technology and basic survival necessities. One of the reasons behind the difficulties of nailing down precisely what each of these domains of activity may be is their fundamental dynamic diversity which grows from fundamental biological adaptability. Every artist, scientist or almost everything else is somewhat unique and has constructed a personal reality out of personal experiences which differ widely, even in twins with the same DNA which is activated by personal experience.Especially in English which is a chimera language with several definitions for many single words, a huge advantage in humor such as Groucho Marx's observation that time flies like an arrow and fruit flies like a banana.

User avatar
Greta
Site Admin
Posts: 8270
Joined: December 16th, 2013, 9:05 pm

Re: What is Art?

Post by Greta » August 22nd, 2018, 2:33 am

Population pressure is the core issue. Societies reach a certain threshold where those who specialise can gain significant competitive advantage, as was noticed and acted upon by Frederick Taylor and Henry Ford. The rest is history.

It is now incumbent upon people to find expression in their own spare time, which has also been eaten up by overcrowding and rationalism. We are heading globally towards a climax of chaos as would have been the case in Europe just before the black plague, with the growing pressures leaving little time, opportunity or even taste for creative hobbies and expression.

As with everything, that's being left to the "experts", who are increasingly just well promoted rather than especially gifted or creative, reducing general aesthetic expectations in the public to the limits prescribed by rationalist bean counters. Survival rather than thrival is increasingly the focus.

I wonder to what extent new art will reflect the changes and how much will reflect the denialism of economic rationalists.

Jan Sand
Posts: 658
Joined: September 10th, 2017, 11:57 am

Re: What is Art?

Post by Jan Sand » August 22nd, 2018, 3:02 am

Never fear. Whoever runs the universe seems not to have a spare meteor available but human cleverness with carbon excesses and nuclear devices have come to the rescue. The permafrost in arctic reasons is vanishing at optimistic speed to release all those methane excesses within five years or so to turn the planet into a baked potato.

User avatar
ThomasHobbes
Posts: 1122
Joined: May 5th, 2018, 5:53 pm

Re: What is Art?

Post by ThomasHobbes » August 22nd, 2018, 3:46 am

Jan Sand wrote:
August 22nd, 2018, 2:10 am
To understand anything one must first understand one's self because nothing exists without one's self.
Slightly self defeating statement as you cannot understand yourself without a referent. a

Since you cannot understand yourself with only reference to yourself, you have to refer to others, and things outside yourself. Thus understanding is process which necessarily includes not only the self but all things to which the self can refer.

For some art is the outward expression, for others it is for inwards reflection, for most it is both.

Jan Sand
Posts: 658
Joined: September 10th, 2017, 11:57 am

Re: What is Art?

Post by Jan Sand » August 22nd, 2018, 4:13 am

In general, understanding one's self is so close to impossible that the world is currently committing suicide under the most powerful leaders in history. The old observation that absolute power corrupts humanity is nonsense since there is no obligation to use it. Actually, humanity corrupts absolute power since humanity is inherently corrupt. Every gift of understanding from nuclear energy to the internet has been overwhelmed by human corruption and since psychotics, from the very beginnings of society to the present have always been in control, it is no surprise that the millions of dollars that now pass as a value judgement on art have twisted the understanding about art values into total confusion.

User avatar
ThomasHobbes
Posts: 1122
Joined: May 5th, 2018, 5:53 pm

Re: What is Art?

Post by ThomasHobbes » August 22nd, 2018, 9:26 am

I have on my desk a genuine 1959 "cents copy" of DC Comics "Adam Strange" no.19, in better than FV condition.
On the one hand it is just a bunch of pulp paper scattered with ink making test and image.
It is much like any old yellowing DC Comic, which you could buy for a fiver, 10 bucks, or 8 EU.

So what elevated this particular item to a value of over £300?

The economics of nerdery. No different from the absurdity of spending millions on a Warhol.

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2387
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: What is Art?

Post by Hereandnow » August 22nd, 2018, 10:49 am

Jan Sand:
To understand anything one must first understand one's self because nothing exists without one's self. And each of us is different since nature is a very old fool who wanders through the laboratory of this crumb of matter we call this planet and stumbles over its mistakes lying dead on the floor and upsets a beaker of acid or a jar of some strange sticky liquid and odd fumes arise and fascinating sweet scents fill the room and nature thinks, "Hey! That's not so bad." and Shazam, there is Adam and Eve. Evidently nature had no idea of the mess it had started.



Almost needles to say, I like this very much. It is an deep and terrible irony, this humanity; and you make the point with flare. I like this, but there is a critical argument missing. My thoughts take up where yours leave off (forgetting about art for a moment):

One should note that there is a paradox that is almost never squarely faced: causality is the culprit, for it is an amoral concept, and there is nothing in the principle that every effect must have a cause that addresses our tragedy, nevertheless, we place our affairs to one side, and relish the scientific rule. Your parable does precisely this. Two phenomena in the world, ethics and causality. The latter is your old fool. Why it she a fool? Because she "knows" nothing, has no intent or purpose. She is causality personified, wickedly stupid about the possibility of right and wrong, ethically speaking, within her own nature (for the laboratory is, of course, not so much where she is, as if her affairs could be contained "elsewhere", but part and parcel of what she is). The former is us. The paradox is that the tragedies and ecstasies of our existence and the presence of terrible suffering and profound bliss, and everything in between that attend, should be accounted for in a simple natural principle.

This is what your metaphors express, but note what makes it so interesting is the absurdity it rests on. It is absurd because it places the the breadth and depth of being human in an explanatory court presided over by a fool. Causality is a foolish notion vis a vis our humanity.
One resolution is to ignore being human and put the whole tamale is the fool's hands, that is, acknowledge only the causal insistence of an effect and bite the bullet about that part where this is supposed to explain everything about war, hunger, torture, disease, love, pizza, and so on. The trouble here, the part that is, I will say willfully ignored, is that there is nothing in causality, in the fool's mentality, that is commensurate with the observed world of being human, for this world has an ethical dimension and nature's causality does not.

There is only one authentic solution, and that is to make an attempt to reconcile the two. Keep in mind that causality is just a term for something we observe in the world. It is a theoretical term, it is a Kuhnsian paradigm waiting for the anomaly to confound normal science, and we are that anomaly. So the authority of causality is provisional, certainly not absolute. Add to this that causalty is conceived through a human agency of perception and is therefore a localized event itself, that is, a localized event about things in general.

An any rate, just a few thoughts on the matter.

Jan Sand
Posts: 658
Joined: September 10th, 2017, 11:57 am

Re: What is Art?

Post by Jan Sand » August 22nd, 2018, 11:30 am

I am quite uneasy in dismissing causality since any development of understanding is a matter of understanding cause and effect. Any professional and otherwise skill is based on confidence in an action resulting from a known cause. Massive problems do arise when an expected effect does not occur from a familiar cause and that is the business of science to discover why and thereby revise knowledge.

Also it should be noted that the process we call life is radically different from the randomness of action and reaction in nature since life is oriented to survive and if it does not then that version no longer reproduces. That is the essence of intent.

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2387
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: What is Art?

Post by Hereandnow » August 22nd, 2018, 12:12 pm

Dismissing causality? That would be disingenuous, as much so as using causality as a foundation for interpreting the world. No, there is causality, there is ethics. These need to be made commensurable. One way to do this is to dismiss biased religious terms that personify and mythologize ethics, terms like 'god' that place undue burden on affirming ethics in its own right (as if one has to explain through the idea of god to get to an affirmation of what is simply and intuitively apparent). Once we can look plainly at the world, it is not god that rises to affirmation, but ethics-in-the-world.
Causality is not what we think it is when we take science as an exclusive model. This model is terribly biased simply because science has no ethical dimension. It's a familiar story, like trying to explain growing old by talking about degenerate tissue, and dismissing the pain, the fear of extinction, the wonder of being born to suffer and die, and the like. These latter are part of the growing old, like oxygen is to air.

Post Reply