Art & Philosophy

Front Cover
Prometheus Books, 1993 - Philosophy - 121 pages
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What is art? Can anything be art? Is there "value" or "truth" in art, or does it all come down to "how it makes us feel"? These questions have puzzled artists, curators, and connoiseurs as well as the general art-appreciating public. In Art & Philosophy author Timothy Taubes offers many insightful observations on these and other questions surrounding the objects in which we take an aesthetic interest. Art is the communication of ideas, and clearly some ideas are more important than others, just as some artists are adept at communicating their ideas and others are less capable. The language of art is learned in much the same way one becomes proficient in any language - through observation, application, adaptation, and retention. However, the datum of an aesthetic language is different from that of other communicative skills. The aesthetic vocabulary is comprised of living equivalents to common experiences that all humans share: i.e., transcendent ideals, such as love, humility, and justice, which keep works of art relevant for today. Participation in the experience of art helps us learn something about ourselves - we enter into communion with the world. This is the artwork's primary duty - to bridge the mysterious externality of existence separating the spirits of human beings one from another. Aesthetic contemplation is a learning experience: the learning of shared properties, values, and beliefs. However, such learning should never be compulsory: we should not feel obliged to study and memorize definitions, explanations, and symbols. Instead, learning acquired through art is without conscious effort; the psyche searches through conscious reality for its spiritual roots. Art is a livedexperience best exemplified by Greek civilization, wherein every facet of life was an expression of the aesthetic. Tragically, we have lost much of that lived quality in our own aesthetic experiences. Having become rationalized and narrowly defined, they only serve as limitations to a fuller experience of art. But we imposed these limitations on ourselves, and only we can remove them. Art & Philosophy assimilates the development of Western culture (and many Eastern views as well) into our collective lived experience as humanity approaches the twenty-first century. How does modern art compare with its primitive predecessors? In what sense are we still living according to the words of the pre-Socratic philosophers, and how might modern philosophers be leading us astray? Instead of dictating answers to these important aesthetic questions, Taubes suggests that an exploration of the communicative experience of art provides the means by which we can reach our own independent conclusions.

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Ethics and Aesthetics
Freedom and Convention in Art

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