The World of Art

The World of Art

The World of Art

The World of Art

Excerpt

Statements about art--even thoughtless and idle observations --usually sting. Quite often they provoke violent argument; sometimes they prompt reassessment, often of others and occasionally of oneself. Like expressions of opinion in politics, sports, and religion, they are felt to touch on questions of vital concern, revealing what excellence is believed to be and therefore what men should do, and what it is they deserve. Implicit in all these expressions of opinion is the judgment that those who disagree must have misconstrued man's achievements and promise, and therefore must be defective in insight, intelligence or virtue. He who says that Communist China should be admitted to the United Nations, that our Olympic team was merely lucky, that the Muslims might be right, or that Kandinsky is a great painter, is felt to offer a judgment, not only about these matters but also about what men ought to do. If Communist China should be admitted, then strategic and optimistic considerations should be given precedence over those that are morally grounded and restrained by caution. If successful teams are merely lucky, the outcome of games has nothing to do with native capacity and self-discipline, and one need not train or work to be victorious. If the Muslims might be right, Christianity could be wrong, and conformity to Christianity's codes and commands, even when buoyed by prayer, might be foolish and even harmful. If Kandinsky is a great painter, he who would be great need not strive for verisimilitude, obtrusive harmony, or the preservation of tradition.

Judgments expressed on art, politics, sports and religion are highly charged because they relate to issues which are of fundamental importance to all. But politics, sports and religion, while calling on all of a man's energy and attention, do not help him get a better grasp of the world in which he lives. They deal with him primarily as a part . . .

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