Sunday, October 7, 2007


It’s clear that one of the reasons for our art malaise is that we have no definitions for art and, in fact, resist any discussion about what our expectations of art are. I wrote about this in a piece called The Wow for Review in 1999, and now, re-reading it find, sadly, that it hasn’t lost currency for being nine years old. In a further effort to define art in our times—for an article or book, I don’t know yet—I’m delving into what others are writing and have written and will collect what I find here.

I'm currently purusing the second volume (1815-1900) of Art in Theory: An Anthology of Changing Ideas. This, found on pp. 17-18 is a snippet of Originality and Genius by Arthur Shopenhauer (1788-1860) from The World as Will and Representation:

Whilst science, following the restless and unstable stream of the fourfold forms of reasons or grounds and consequents, is with every end it attains again and again directed farther, and can never find an ultimate goal or complete satisfaction, any more than by running we can reach the place where the clouds touch the horizon; art, on the contrary, is everywhere at its goal. For it plucks the object of its contemplation from the stream of the world’s course, and holds it isolated before it. This particular thing, which in that stream was an infinitesimal part, becomes for art a representative of the whole, and equivalent of the infinitely many in space and time. It therefore pauses at this particular thing; it stops the wheel of time; for it the relations vanish; its object is only the essential, the Idea. We can therefore define it accurately as the way of considering things independently of the principle of sufficient reason….

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