An Introduction to the Philosophy of Art

By Richard Eldridge | Go to book overview

1
The situation and tasks of the
philosophy of art

Who needs a theory of art?

For almost all people in almost all cultures, either the fact (as in dance) or the product (as in painting) of some commanding performance that is both somehow significant and yet absorbing in its own right (rather than as an immediate instrument of knowledge or work) has raised strong emotions. The dramatic rhapsode Ion, in Plato's dialogue, reports that when in performance he looks “down at [the audience] from the stage above, I see them, every time, weeping, casting terrible glances, stricken with amazement at the deeds recounted.”1 Richard Wagner finds nothing less than salvation in the experience of art.

I believe in God, Mozart and Beethoven … I believe in the Holy Spirit and the truth of the one, indivisible Art … I believe that through this Art all men are saved, and therefore each may die of hunger for Her … I believe … that true disciples of high Art will be transfigured in a heavenly veil of sun-drenched fragrance and sweet sound, and united for eternity with the divine fount of all Harmony. May mine be the sentence of grace! Amen!2

Yet such commanding performances, their products, and their effects in their audiences are puzzling. They often seem to come into being, so Socrates claims, “not by skill [techne] but by lot divine.”3 Mysteriously, poets and dancers and composers “are not in their senses” when they do their work and “reason is no longer in [them].”4 Whatever considerable thought is involved in making art, it seems to be not exactly the same kind

____________________
1
Plato, Ion, trans. Lane Cooper, in Plato, The Collected Dialogues, ed. Edith Hamilton and Huntingdon Cairns (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1961), 535e, p. 221.
2
Richard Wagner, “Ein Ende in Paris, ” Sämtliche Schriften 1:135, cited in Daniel K. L. Chua, Absolute Music and the Construction of Meaning (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).
3
ibid., 536d, p. 222.
4
ibid., 534a, 534b, p. 220.

-1-

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An Introduction to the Philosophy of Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments viii
  • 1 - The Situation and Tasks of the Philosophy of Art 1
  • 2 - Representation, Imitation, and Resemblance 25
  • 3 - Beauty and Form 47
  • 4 - Expression 68
  • 5 - Originality and Imagination 102
  • 6 - Understanding Art 128
  • 7 - Identifying and Evaluating Art 150
  • 8 - Art and Emotion 183
  • 9 - Art and Morality 205
  • 10 - Art and Society: Some Contemporary Practices of Art 231
  • 11 - Epilogue: the Evidence of Things Not Seen 259
  • Bibliography 264
  • Index 277
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