Updated: Sep 19, 2021
Beauty Art and Value
Philosophy musings by Lee Tomlin
I make the claim that art plays a central role in the development of humankind, connecting us as humans.
This a view held strongly by Tolstoy and Michelangelo, so I feel I’m in good company.
Baumgarten, who came up with the word aesthetics, around the mid 17 hundreds claimed that we experience the world in two fundamental ways, logically and aesthetically. I maintain that we need both.
I do not believe that art has to be beautiful to have value, but it must have integrity and it must move us in a way that words do not.
An artist, such as Chegall, a composer such as Mozart and a poet such as Shakespeare achieves this. Not only do they have a gift and talent, but they’ve spent much time in determined and profound contemplation, time which most of us do not have spare, even if we have talent. Through their art they can give us a short cut to a place where we can be deeply moved or affected, a place where we can learn to SEE .
The best art, Emmanuel Kant argues, combines spirit or soul (this he calls the rich inventiveness of genius) with taste. ( I maintain that Kant is suggesting here that an artist is able through his depiction to connect individually with other human beings)
Kant was a great champion of the aesthetic experience and he synthesised the idea that the aesthetic was different to the logical.
As Ruth Lorand suggests in, ‘Defence of Beauty’; art can often depict chaotic or painful images, the artist often seeks to re order material , which has the possibility of helping reveal the significance for human experience.
A place where we can find stimulation for the emotions in a safe way, through art.
We could say that the artist is an enabler. Although offering through his art, the freedom to experience such feelings, the artist may have taken the risks, often engage in dangerous mind-altering activities, such as drugs.
This can connect us and possibly allow us to develop, not only on a personal level, but also on a universal level, and even an existential level, to a collective history of consciousness and feeling,
So I would suggest that art helps us to an understanding of where we fit, in a holistic manner, into this life of ours.
The earl of Shaftesbury, (he was British) said in the 17th century that we can love things for themselves, but valuing their beauty is a matter of taste where we connect on an personal emotional level. This could be said to be individual taste.
Until the nineteenth century it was not recognised that it was not just the marks they made, but the artist’s vision which moved and connected us.
My dad was a great artist, and I don’t say that lightly, he really was. He always said, if he had connected, in his art, with Just one person, his job was done.
Through the centuries there have always been critics of art, even people who say that art has no value at all. Hobbes claimed that all interest is self-interested and that we are ONLY interested in something for a reason or purpose, NEVER for the pleasure of it.
Plato also disagreed about the value of art, but in a different way. His view was that we can learn more about life from real life than from art, which he judged to be just an imitation of life which has no value.
but I maintain that we are not meant to learn about life from art, we are meant to learn about our- selves through art.
Although Aristotle says that art imitates reality, he also says that it arouses our feelings and teaches us the meanings of things.
In 2004 Miller said; The Platonic Philosophy of beauty considers that the experience of beauty is not sensuous, but intellectual, and to experience that beauty, one must transcend the senses by objectifying art, through intellectualisation and contemplation.
George Dickie in 1992, argued that art is whatever the “ARTWORLD” says it is, and maintains that art is now becoming intellectualised, in that critics are deciding what is art ,and often the price of art decides if it is good or bad, and Clive Bell claims, that only a beautiful creation can be a work of art.
These arguments appear to lead to the notion that art is being excluded from everyday life and it would seem , to be owned in some sense by people who presume to know what a beautiful creation is and can explain it on an intellectual level...
I begin to wonder if the true role of art, as I see it, could disappear, as it becomes compartmentalised and exclusive, and would its loss make us less sensitive and visionary human beings?
I would disagree with Plato's idea of objectifying and intellectualising art through contemplation, through my own experience, that after a ten day silent meditation retreat, my sensory engagement with the world around me was enhanced to such a degree that almost everything I looked at, became a work of art .
Great art and beauty can stop us in our tracks and make us stay in the moment temporarily, where it can help us question what our connection is to life.
I do maintain that Philosophy is not separate from art and is valuable in how we understand our appreciation of art and beauty and even ourselves to a certain extent
Art will always change and hopefully, will continue to create new ways of seeing and feeling. Philosophy must help us to keep evaluating the changes and the quality of art.
And to feel is an innate need in us as humans and it helps us understand the world we live in.
“The devil said it’s pretty, but is it art?”
- Rudyard Kipling -
The art above is all done by my father Keith Tomlin who passed on in 2015; ceramic, masks, painting, etchings, ink drawings and lettering.