February 12, 2009

Art as Incarnation

So after several revisions, I think my thoughts on art are clear enough to present to the public.

My initial assumption: Everything that is created has a Spirit behind it, every aspect of physical reality is incarnate. My definition of Spirit is incredibly broad in this context; it can refer to anything from individual’s will to physical laws.
Before I get into the definition of art, I will need to define Beauty (and prepare yourself for a roundabout definition). I find the ruggedness and dryness of the desert beautiful. This is personal taste and is subjective (there are plenty others who would disagree with me). But if I were the Sovereign Omnipotent Creator of the Universe my “personal taste” becomes objective in nature, it becomes Truth. Beauty is the taste of the one who is judging and it becomes an ethical standard (which can be subjective or objective).

Art and non-art are the two categories that all created things fall into. Beauty is the standard that separates them. The big problem with this system is that it ends up not being precise, exact, and mathematical because we have no way of accurately measuring and weighting the beauty contained within a created object. But just because it lacks preciseness doesn’t mean that automatically falls into the dreaded chasm of the subjective. The subjective/objective distinction is carried by what judge is used, and objective beauty ultimately comes from God as both the Creator and the Judge.

This understanding of art is helpful is several repects:
First, it establishes a context in which to view the existence of Beauty as a proof of the existence of God.

Second, it sheds light on the importance of the Incarnation.

Third, thought it is simple it can account for the myriad of objects that are labeled art by containing flexibility according to the taste of whatever is the judge while still maintaining an objective standard if using the right judge.

Fourth, it sheds light on man as a created, creative being (which allows for cool diagrams).

One thing I question is the relationship between the Spirit and the Form. From the top of the created order (God who has no creator) the Spirit must be the mover of the Form. But from somewhere in the middle of the created order it would seem that it is very possible for the Form to influence its Spirit. (Though there remains a normative hierarchy between the Spirit and Form because of the initial hierarchy from God.)


Joshua Butcher said...

I don't want to offer any overall evaluations yet, but I do have some pointed questions:

Preface: You consider beauty to be an ethical standard (good/bad), but you separate art into a metaphysical standard (art/non-art). You identify Beauty in both cases as the standard.

Q1. Was it your intention to mark art as both ethical and metaphysical in its definition?

Q2. By making Beauty both an ethical and metaphysical standard of judgment you entail a categorical equivocation. How would you distinguish the criteria for applying Beauty in each category so as to clear up the equivocal use of the term?

There are lots of interesting ideas in your post, but I'll just start with these questions.

Jacob Haynes said...

I was trying to place beauty more on the ethical side of things (art/non-art can be considered an ethical distinction as it is a value of something that already exists). But your confusion is not ill grounded, because at the level of the Initial Creator, metaphysics and ethics become a little intertwined. (God’s judgment creates ethics and His creations define what is good)

So to clarify, in order to ground beauty in the ethical, I would be apt to use language such as “That painting is artful or beautiful because …” Instead of saying “This painting is art, that painting isn’t art.”

Joshua Butcher said...

Thanks Jacob,

I'm not sure how art and non-art could be ethical distinctions (since what is not art cannot be evaluated as a good or bad instance of what it is not, namely, art).

I think that given your initial observation about the subjective nature of judgment, many folks will make ethical or metaphysical judgments on the basis of their assumptions.

It is harder to disentangle God's own sense of art (since He does all things for His own glory, which would seem to make all things, in some way or another, pleasing to Him, and perhaps artful?).

Anyhow, thinking about art or aesthetics is always a challenging endeavor, and usually a good Socratic exercise!