An Introduction to the Philosophy of Art

By Richard Eldridge | Go to book overview

5
Originality and imagination

Genius and the pursuit of the new: Kant

In presenting a subject matter as a focus for thought and emotional attitude, distinctively fused to the imaginative exploration of material, works of art are evidently special. Where does this special character of art come from? Are successful artists a special class of people, with capacities the rest of us altogether lack? Or do they rather exercise in a special way an imaginative capacity in which we all have a share? What are the roles of training, artistic tradition, and common culture in the development of artistic ability? Can art be taught?

It is commonly thought, and especially widely so in modernity, that artworks are in some way distinctively new and original. Ezra Pound, translating a dictum of Confucius, titled his 1934 collection of critical essays on literature Make it New.1 John Dewey remarks on “the qualitative novelty that characterizes every genuine work of art.”2 In Plato's Ion, Socrates and Ion agree that though Homer and other poets “all treat of the same subjects, ” one of them—Homer—“speaks well and the rest of them speak worse, ” and this because Homer, like all the good poets, is “inspired, possessed.”3 Exactly what is going on in Homer that makes his poetry different and special? How does the sort of creative capacity that Homer displays have to do with making things that are distinctively new?

In a useful survey essay, Timothy Gould proposes that our own “modern and more unified concept of genius”4 arises out of a constellation of five conceptual elements evident in Greek thought, particularly in Plato,

____________________
1
Ezra Pound, Make it New (London: Faber & Faber, 1934).
2
Dewey, Art as Experience, p. 288.
3
Plato, Ion, 532a, p. 218; 533e, p. 220.
4
Timothy Gould, “Genius: Conceptual and Historical Overview, ” in Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, ed. Kelly, vol. ii, pp. 287–92 at p. 288A.

-102-

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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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