What is art? Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 18 August 2016

What is art?

David is mistaking if he thinks that murder is an art. The concept of murder is different from the concept of art. As the definition of art changes as the dominating members of the society changes and it also changes as more arguments are presented, the performance of killing people cannot possibly fall under any definition of art. Even though art need not conform to the moral and ethical that we have today, the concept of murder cannot be considered as fine art. I will tackle the definition of art to prove my argument that killing people is not an art.

We have several definitions of art today. These definitions were presented by various philosophers through time. They vary from one another for they have different views on how they look at art. These philosophers looked at things differently. I will tackle some of it here for us to clearly understand the notion of art generally. I believed that putting the different definitions of art presented by different philosophers through time is the best way to disprove David’s claim that murder is an art. The paper will tackle various definition of art that was based on different things.

Art have been given various meaning through time. In the early times, the value of art is dictated by institutions that set our moral and ethical norms. These institutions are what we call religions. Religions are institution which greatly dictates their lives in those times. In these times, the church greatly controls the society to conform to their teachings. And anyone who contradicts them is considered as bad. They believed in the trinity of good, beautiful and truth. This belief led to the discrimination of objects made to be art because it is not beautiful.

The concept of beautiful was an equal of good and truth which the church adhere so much. Therefore, if your work does fall under the values the church had set, then your work is not good. Equally, if an art is not good then it is not beautiful. Thus, it is not an art (Tolstoy). Evidently, philosophers and artist in these times had greatly contradicted this sorting of art. Leo Tolstoy, a novelist and a philosophers have also gave a contradiction to this notion of trinity. In Tolstoy’s ‘What is art? ’, he argued the difference between the trinity and presented the proof that they are not equal (Tolstoy).

This is what I think David is thinking. That is the art need not to be good or beautiful to be considered art. He believes that to contradict this notion of art of religious is to conform to the true meaning of art. However, this belief is wrong for it does not necessarily mean that contradicting something is right. Being right, in the context art, is still highly objective and less objective than he thinks. Even though, Tolstoy proves the notion of art for this era is wrong to some extent. It is still not a proof to place murder in the ranks of art.

After the times of religious belief subside and people of high are no longer that affected by the church, the definition become more solely based on beauty. It is seen in Tolstoy’s arguments that these people had defined art as something that is beautiful. The notion of beautiful is obviously related to something that gives pleasure. Thus, Tolstoy argue that the definition of art now conform to the taste of a certain circle of people (Wartenberg 104-105). I believe Tolstoy’s arguments are good enough to prove this definition is wrong.

However, this definition was used as basis on several other definitions that were presented in latter times. It is evident that we use this definition to disprove David’s arguments. Obviously, murder would not fall down in this definition for it is not pleasing to the majority of people including people in high places. We can now arrived to a conclusion that murder is not an art with respect to the this definition and other definition that comes after it which is based on the notion of beauty and pleasure. Tolstoy disputed this idea that art comes from beauty and pleasure.

He presented various arguments that disprove this claim. He suggests that philosophers should spend more time devising definitions of art independent to the concept of beauty (Wartenberg 104). This is because the definitions of beauty mean that the definition they will give is a subjective meaning, not the objective one that philosophers always strive at. Although, the concept of beauty is needed to remove from the basis of art, philosophers and aestheticians have little success for the defining art independent from beauty.

This is because most scholars and artists firmly hold the concept of beauty as the basis of good art (Wartenberg 104). The sorting these definitions induce would fall on the questions of what is pleasurable or not, not with question what will fit or not. The problem will always occur on the definition since the basis is subjective. Thus, the definition will always be subjective and philosophers with a different view of things would always disagree on it. On the context of murder, the murderer will only claim that murders are art if he thinks that it is pleasurable or beautiful to him and other murderers before him.

In line with this, their definition of art is confined on their views of what is art. Additionally, they are still conforming in the concept of beauty as basis. Although, they say that murders are not beautiful to others but on the back of their minds they consider their work as beautiful. Also other murderers, if they find it pleasing to them, would say that the murder is beautiful. Ultimately, their definition of art is wrong and imprecise to say that their performance is an art. In his work as I presented here, Tolstoy proposes his own definition of art as he found it necessary.

This is due to his analysis that shows that the definition of art lack on certain areas that he believed to be very significant. He first explains that anything done by a human can be defined by understanding its meaning and significance. In order to this, he proposes that we examine the activity from the basis of its cause and effect, not with pleasure we derive from it. This is because if you define art with respect to the pleasure we receive from it, then as stated above it will be false.

Additionally, if we perceive pleasure as the aim of art then we cannot derive its meaning and purpose (Wartenberg 105). Tolstoy gives some definition of art made by other philosophers which he considers as major definitions that were presented to define art. However, he also admitted that there is no precise meaning art in books made by millions of philosophers all over the world and time (Wartenberg 105). This definition needed to be tackled in this paper to give different views philosophers have with regards to their definition of art.

The following definitions were found on their works but for the sake of better referencing we consider how Tolstoy perceived their definitions of it is evident that he derive the idea of his own definition from this three of which he especially chose to present in his own work. Additionally, it will be better for us to understand Tolstoy’s definition if we understand the different views he look upon before he derive his own definition which I believed is the more comprehensive of all. Thus, his definition is the basis of my argument against murder as an art in the line of definitions of art which is independent of beauty.

The first definition he gave is from Schiller, Darwin and Spencer. They view art as an activity which emerges in the animal kingdom out of the pleasure of sexuality and tendency for play and it is accompanied by a pleasant excitation of the nervous system. This is said to be imprecise since it only constitute the origin of art not its essence (Wartenberg 106). However in this definition, murder is still out of the question for the performance of it does constitutes such pleasant excitation of the nervous system for this applies for both sides, which is the audience and performer.

The second definition is that art is manifestation of experiences of a person using external signs like lines, colors, gestures, sounds or words. But Tolstoy disputed this as lacking the communion with the audience (Wartenberg 106). In this definition, murder is still not part of the definition because murder is not an external sign that can be use to express experience. The third definition is art is the act of producing a permanent object or a passing action which pleases both the artist and the audience, but the act must be apart from any personal advantage that can be derived from it.

It is said to be imprecise because many performances is included to the definition which is not considered art by anyone (Wartenberg 106-107). In this definition, murder is still not an art since it is not pleasurable to its audience. In these definitions, Tolstoy argues that art is based on the pleasure we derive from it, not with its purpose in life of the men. He proposes that consider art as not something that gives pleasure but something that we need to continue living. He argues that art must result to a certain communion between audience and the producer of the art.

The communion he talks about is like a language that coveys thoughts to from one another. But in this communion the conveyed message is much feelings or emotions which the producer experience. This is based on the fact that a man can feel an emotion sent to him via audio and visual channels by the producer. Thus, he defines art as an activity or object made to convey emotions or feeling experienced by the maker and makes the audience to feel the same way as he experienced it. This is on the purpose of communion among the all people.

That is to improve understanding of each another via art (Wartenberg 107). In this definition Tolstoy argued, murder will obviously be excluded in this definition. The reason to this is that murder does not add up on the communion of mankind but contradicts the very purpose of art Tolstoy propose. It only put the understanding of some people into more chaos. If you had lost someone because of murder, the first question that goes into your mind is why. To answer that question, you will think that it could anger, hate, or joy for some. However, they will never think that it is art.

And in line with the Tolstoy definition, the family of the victim, which is obviously included as audience, will not ever understand what feelings the killer conveys. Additionally, it is inconceivable to what emotions or feelings the murderer want to send while killing people. In these definitions, as presented in the paper of Leo Tolstoy, the definition denies the inclusive of murder as an art. The definitions presented were a part of a process where a philosopher rebuts another philosopher’s view of art. Therefore, these follow the same logical line which leads to the definitions Tolstoy gives.

However, Plato had established a meaning of art different mentioned above so to complete the argument I presented we must consider this case to totally prove that murder is not an art. This time I will tackle a definition of art different from the perspective of other philosophers. It is independent of beauty. It conforms to the Tolstoy’s initial argument that the meaning of all things is on its purpose or on its effects on the audience. However, their conclusions on the purpose of art are quite different as Tolstoy said that art helps on the communion of all people while Plato said otherwise.

Plato defines art as imitation of imitation. As the so called supreme philosophic stylist, he suspects the arts as dangerous because in his view of things, art appeals to the emotions not on the intellect. In his written dialogue, The Republic, Plato presented the dialogue between his philosophical-hero, Socrates, and his fellow follower, Glaucon. In this dialogue, Socrates explains to Glaucon why artists should be excluded from the ideal state the two of them are imagining. Socrates states his reasons as the nature of the art itself and its effects it has on its audience.

Socrates asserts here that art does not have a place in a perfect society he perceived. In line with this, Plato view things of this world as not ultimately real. He argues that things like tables and chairs are not perfect instances of its kind and that these things come into being and passes away as they admit change. These things is not completely real since they lack the properties of the Forms which is the timelessness and unchangeable. In line with this, Plato proposes his theory of art based on his theory of forms. He defines art as an imitation of imitation.

In the Socrates’ dialogue with Glaucon, he makes use of painter and poets as makers of art and describes the problem he found in their works. Socrates explained first the background of the argument as stated as above. He argues that chairs and tables are just imitations of the original chair and tables which God made. He then argues that craftsmen who make chairs and tables must fully know what a chair and table is (Wartenberg 13). Additionally, he said that a craftsman cannot make one if he don’t know one. However, he also states that some craftsmen make use of advice from the user of chairs and tables in making the chair and table.

Thus, the user of such things is more knowledgeable than the makers. Ultimately, you must know much about a thing before you make it. He then argues that poets and painters must everything about this world for they write and paint on about everything. He then argues that what poets write and what painters paint is just an appearance of the things they make. Therefore, what they make is just a part of the whole being and not the being at all. Consequently, as Socrates argued, painters and poet pretend to know the things the make.

Ultimately, they make use of art to appeal to emotions of the audience in order to deceive them they know the things they are making. Thus, Socrates and Plato criticize art as dangerous and it promotes a misunderstanding of the world. This contributes to chaos that hinders the society in its quest to a perfect society (Wartenberg 15). They fear that art as whole does put a rational argument to convey meaning but constitutes an emotional appeal to the people to believe what is wrong. They propose that art to be banished so that the attitude and understanding of all people will be influenced by the inappropriate information.

Therefore, art is very dangerous and it appeals to us to distract the community from the reason (Wartenberg 17). In Plato and Socrates’ theory of art, they said that it is a copy of copy. In line with the topic of this paper, for murder to be art, it must be appearance of something which is copied from an original which God made. This argument is very problematic for God does not commit murder, but He denounces it as seen in ancient writings. Thus, murder is not an art for God does commit murder. Here, we have completed both sides of which I considered two sides of the definition of the art.

In this paper, I continuously put murder in every definition I discussed to fully understand that murder is not an at all for it does fall on the any definition given by renowned philosophers and aestheticians. Even though, these definitions are not that precise, considering the sides of which takes art as something that helps the world and the other side that considers it as dangerous, I think it will be sufficient to prove that murder is not an art. Works Cited Wartenberg, T. The Nature of Art: An Anthropology. United States of America: Cengage Learning, 2006 Tolstoy, L. What is Art?. United States of America: Hesperides Press, 2008

Free What is art? Essay Sample


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  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 18 August 2016

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