Here is our second philosophy paper posting. This one is by "Gem."
A philosopher of the 1900’s, William James, defined philosophy as "an unusually stubborn attempt to think clearly." ("The Aesthetic Revelation and the Gist of Philosophy," PG 1) After taking this class I have come to whole-heartedly agree.
Of the five major fields in philosophy, I have been particularly interested in Aesthetics. A German philosopher, Alexander Baumgarten, first used the word “aesthetics” in 1744 to mean "the science of the beautiful."(Aesthetics in Discipline, PG 1) This is the branch, which raises questions about art and beauty. As my future occupation I plan on teaching within the (visual) arts. Therefore this topic raised many questions about my art and art itself. Does Baumgarten’s statement then mean that art has to be beautiful? If so, what is “beautiful”? Who gets to decide the definition of ‘beauty’? Does beauty actually exist if it changes from one person to the next?
One of the things that we were asked to do in philosophy class was to define in our own words: art and beauty. The definition for art that I created is: “Art is something that one creates that is either visual or audible; made thoughtfully with some amount of work, skill, and passion.” My conclusion for “beauty” was that it is subjective. Although we cannot all agree upon one definition or example of beauty, we all share a general concept of the term. Therefore, it is more an opinion than actual being.
The definition that I came up with for art seems vague; it leaves room for nearly anything made to be considered “art”. Such as: a microwave. Work, skill, time, motive was obviously involved in the making of it. Does this mean then that the microwave is art? Again, more questions are raised. What sets art apart from any other object? Is art set apart at all? Does art have to meet some higher standard from an ultimate creator? Is man’s definition of art alone a high enough standard? Does there have to be a standard at all? Or is it art just because we (man) proclaim it to be so? Does the motive for which art was made play into whether or not it is art or if it is beautiful?
My personal belief as a Christian is that everything we do, including our art, needs to glorify God. Therefore art has a purpose. If it is not fulfilling its purpose I feel that it is then not art. What is the teleology, or design and purpose, of art? Is its only purpose to glorify God, or does it have other aspects that art should achieve?
I believe that we do not live in a pure world. Rather, we live in a fallen world that has been transformed, and given a human angle. Our world is absorbed with people’s attitudes towards it; our needs, ideas, aims, ideals, joys and sufferings. This world is the vortex of our existence. We fill our world with what we create, which is our art. If we were to remove this human factor (our art) from the world, I feel we would be confronted by a time where everything was unsympathetic to everything else. The whole endless range of our relationships to the world stems from the sum-total of our interactions with it. We interact to the world with our words, pictures and creations, otherwise known as our art. We need and use art to express ourselves, to communicate when there are not words to convey how we feel or what we think needs to be said or remembered.
What happens when we use our art to communicate and describe how we are feeling, but what we describe is not pleasing to the Lord? Can our art ever be good if we are a fallen imperfect people creating it?
Art is what we make to express, communicate, remember, and fill our time with when we need something to do or to feel proud of. What we consider beautiful or worth looking at or listening to is what separates one piece from another.
Michelangelo once said: “The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” What I take from this quote is that our art is a gift from God. In order for it to be true we must reflect His perfection and therefore glorify Him through our work. So I challenge you as we compare art now or in the future to ask yourself some of the questions I have discussed. I also challenge you to study your actions and make sure that your actions and art glorify the one that lovingly created you in His Image.
Gem also had arranged a slide show of her own photography to accompany this paper. The images are available below.