June 27, 2005

Maker, Doer.

Interesting Stuff Here:

...how about those two paragons of reason and rectitude ? Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas? They provide a philosophical basis for Wilde's position by distinguishing between two types of human action: making and doing. Doing involves human choices, the way we exercise our free will. In the realm of doing ? or Prudence, as it has been called ? the goal is the perfection of the doer. In other words, in our behavior we are seeking to perfect ourselves as moral agents. But in making ? or Art, if you will ? the end is not the good of the artist as a person but the good of the made thing. The moment that art is made subservient to some ethical or political purpose, it ceases to be art and becomes propaganda. Art seems to require an inviolable freedom to seek the good of the artifact, without either overt or covert messages being forced into it. And history demonstrates that it is simply a statement of fact (to paraphrase Aquinas) that rectitude of the appetites is not a prerequisite for the ability to make beautiful objects. Thus our poisoner with his exquisite prose style. Or Picasso brutalizing the women in his life. Or the legion of artists and scientists who drank or drugged themselves to death.

Of course, the opposite must also be true: that being an jerk won't make you a great genius. I've known a few artists in my time who've tried and failed at that. And as far as propaganda goes, I was educated in an era that thought it could morally improve the world with the art object. I'm not entirely sure that we've shaken that off yet.

The conclusions in this essay are subtle and interesting. Be sure to find the links at the tail end too.

(image: the battle cry of Juan Carlos)

Posted by Dennis at June 27, 2005 7:19 PM

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