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Aesthetic Theory

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PL20-2948 Professor Fellenz

Assignment #2
Aesthetic Theory

What in fact is the nature of art? Is aesthetic experience more abstract and subjective or does it possess elements of tangibility? Is art something that a healthy human population could live without or is it an integral part of our moral fiber? They say necessity is the mother of invention. It is apparent over the course of human history that as our capacity for knowledge expanded, so did our need for different avenues of expression. Most people say art imitates life. Oscar Wilde was wise enough to see that after a while, life begins to imitate art. So which is more important to the other? Art to life or life to art?

Logically art would never have existed without the human catalyst. That concept is easy enough to understand. It is a little bit more difficult for us to be able to see how far human beings have come because of art, as well as how various artistic mediums can speak volumes about us as a people and society. Art is extremely important when considering things such as this. In a way it is like the chicken or the egg debate. Do the things we own (or create) end up owning (or creating) us? Or do we, in all of our cognitive glory, have total control? Artists can portray this delicate relationship in a way that would otherwise be blurry. Art is special is this kind of debate because almost all forms of it depend on something artificial in its creation. Just by virtue of that one could argue that right off the bat we are slaves to the things we make. Even if the artist was trying to prove that human thought and willpower was strong enough to sort of break down that idea, they would have started off on shaky ground. The thing is, most artists are savvy enough to realize this. They are not trying to prove themselves wrong, to make their craft seem less valuable. They know what humanity has been reduced to and their response to it is very deliberate and calculated in nature. So whether or not an artist designs a piece in direct parody of life, they still have a tremendous respect for the fragile balance between life and art. Or is it art and life. Maybe the order in which you put the two is more than a simple matter of taste at this point. An artist would certainly argue that it was.

The bond between moral and ethical judgments and art is apparent to any bystander. On the surface at least I think it is problematic to say that the aesthetic value of a piece should have anything to do with whether or not is morally repugnant. Something that strikes you as immoral would most certainly be able to conduct if nothing else a small amount of aesthetic value. However there is an intrinsic feeling about things that you cannot palate on a moral level and it is most certainly not a positive one. Everything in your being can be telling you to view something as objectively as possible. If you can’t get past the moral implications that may compromise your beliefs, it is nearly impossible to be able to see something as a work of art. For instance it was extremely hard for people to look at the photograph of the man jumping out of the World Trade Center on 9/11. I know I could not stand looking at it for more than a few seconds. That was everyone’s initial reaction to it. I do not think that anyone who could stare at a man whose life was about to end in probably one of the most horrific ways imaginable for more than a few seconds could be considered in good mental health. Now it is easy enough to come to that kind of a conclusion based on the art at hand. Is there an aesthetic value that we can attach to the same piece of art though? Can we walk away with something more than a horrible image burned into our brain? There is unequivocally value in a piece like this. Without getting too broad, it can be taken as a symbolic representation of what human life has come to in the past century. A testament to how we should take strides to prevent things like this happening in the future. Now while it does not offer any kind of answer to these queries, it does (hopefully) open up a can of worms that people would otherwise reserve for thinking about on the 9/11 anniversary every year. One would have to assume of course that there was no ulterior motive or money making scheme involved in art of this nature. It simply exists to create an uncomfortable feeling and ignite passion in people to make sure that they can be the change they want to see in the world around them.

So in the end it can be said that yes, in general art can be a good barometer as far as how we ought to be living our lives. There are exceptions of course (Zombie Death Metal generally does not generally cater to having a healthy moral outlook) but on a whole art imitating life has taken on positive role in moral development. For example look at the late 60’s in The United States. Art imitating life was really taking on a whole new meaning. Festivals like Woodstock were centered around music and poetry (prevalent forms of art) that spoke volumes on where that generation’s moral values were going. Mediums like music and poetry are easily some of the best ways to express an idea or the willingness of a group of people to change an idea because of lyrics. Music is generally a little less abstract than most other forms of art, but as a musician myself I can attest to the effectiveness that song can have on the way you can perceive something. Artists undoubtedly have a responsibility to not necessarily tell us how to live our lives, but they must respect the power they have to elicit a response from society. There are a lot of impressionable people out there and if you paint a picture with bright enough paint or have a catchy enough hook in a chorus, you may just start a revolution!…...

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