Aesthetics and Knowing

Alexandr Solzenhitsyn
In 1970, Alexandr Solzenhitsyn won the Nobel Prize in Literature “for the
ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of
Russian literature.”
Drafted into the Red Army in 1941
Was arrested for a personal letter that contained passages critical of Stalin
and sentenced to eight years in a labor camp.
Novels: The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (best
Critic of Communist totalitarianism in Russia. Expelled from S.U. in
Died in 2008, age 89
Nobel Prize speech is one of the most famous ever given, due to its passion
plea for the Arts, their power, and their necessity among human beings.
Is art created with the motivation of exposing
corruption on a collective scale more meaningful than
art that communicates to the individual?
Is art that is commissioned (ex: ceiling of the Sistine
Chapel) still ‘art’?
Aesthetics and Knowing
The Philosophy of Beauty
All Areas of Knowing?
Artistic Creation
While history combines all areas/ways of knowing to answer: How did we get to
Art combines all ways/areas of knowing to create representations of the present, to
pose questions about the future, to pose questions to the individual and collective
knowledge, and to answer: Where are we headed? Why do we matter?
History Vs. Art
While History is often recorded by those in power, Art is
often created by the marginalized.
How do History and Art use the WAYS of knowing
Are we “hard wired” to appreciate Art?
Write a minute
For one minute, come up with as many different forms
of artistic creation as you can:
What are some of the purposes of art? In other words,
what work in meaning does art do?
To expose hypocrisy
To represent a system of values (religious or otherwise)
Questions to Ponder in this
How does artistic creation serve to illuminate the
human condition?
Why do we tear art apart? We analyze literature,
critique artworks—can’t art just be there to enjoy?
*Remember that Reuben Abel (Man is the Measure) argued
that the Human Condition was Verstehen…to understand.
More Questions to Ponder
Does ART bring us closer to TRUTH? Collectively,
individually, both?
If it does can we apply reason and logic to art? Are there
syllogisms regarding what makes ART…ART?
Always keep in mind:
What QUESTIONS is a piece of art asking us to
consider? Don’t look for the answers…look for the
Edvard Munch “The Scream
But WHY do we create?
Why Man Creates (1968 Oscar Winning Short Film)
Socrates believed that Art served a purpose in regards
to Truth, Belief, and Knowledge because it functions in
metaphor, which is the closest representation of Truth
we can find in symbol or language.
Rene Magritte
“This is Not a Pipe”
Interestingly, Magritte painted a series in the 1930’s entitled The Human Condition
Some words…
Advant-Garde: new, different, progressive; a new way of
experiencing the world. Can apply to any area of
artistic creation. Deeply metaphoric.
Kitsch: Feel good art, often replicas of classic paintings
or theater/dance that is brought back to the stage time
and time again to appeal to mass audiences.
Who decides what “kitsch” is?
Art and Areas of Knowing
Mae Jemison: Teach Science and Art Together (21
When art leads to invention. Which came first,
necessity then creativity, or creativity then necessity?
What are some other words we use to describe art or to
“talk Aesthetics”?
International Mindedness
The desire to create aesthetically pleasing objects and
experiences exists in every culture ever studied.
Write a minute…
Come up with a list of personal requirements for you to
consider art beautiful. What are your standards of
What do you believe are our societal standards for
Are there global standards for beauty?
Good Art
Bad Art
What about Banksy’s Art? Is it Art or Act?
The Philosophers on Beauty
and Art
Plato: Art weakens our ability to live rationally by
focusing too heavily on emotion and not enough on
Aristotle: Art helps us cleanse ourselves of emotions
that could potentially be hobbling us. (Catharsis).
Nietzsche: Regarded the significance of art to lie not in
l’art pour l’art (art for the sake of art), but in the role
that it might play in enabling us positively to revalue
the world and the human experience.
Sarte: There is no genius other than that which is
expressed in works of art. Existentialism is the road to
What does Pinker say? See text book.
Context and Artist
Can you remove a piece of art from the artist and/or
the time/place in which the art was created?
Can/should art be able to stand on its own?
Example: can we fully understand or appreciate The Sun
Also Rises without knowing Hemingway’s WWI history,
his time spent in Spain, or the love that he lost with a
woman he met there?
Art and Knowledge
Works of art contribute to our knowledge of the world
and of other people.
Paradox of Fiction: Fiction is sometimes better able to
communicate deep truths about the human condition
than non-fiction.
Noam Chomsky: “We will always learn more about
human life and human personality from novels rather
than scientific psychology.” Agree/Disagree?
Too Much Knowledge
D.H. Lawrence: “Knowledge has killed the sun making
it a ball of gas with spots.”
Does too much knowledge deplete our appreciation of
Art as Imitation
“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”—Oscar Wilde
Claim: Art mimics reality.
Counterclaim: Is this true about a symphony? What part of reality
does it imitate?
Art can subjtly influence the way we experience the
worldempirical (experiential) knowledge is the closest to truth?
Great art helps us see the world with new eyes by drawing
attention to previously unnoticed features of reality, even if it
“reinterprets” reality.
Literature/poetry/song lyrics: “This is exactly how I feel.” Art can
represent our “internal” reality.
Art as Communication
Claim: The goal of art is to is to communicate to the
Counterclaim: Creativity is for self-fulfillment; if an
audiences connects to it, that’s a perk.
Art can amplify man’s short time on this earth by enabling
him to receive from another the whole range of someone else’s
lifelong experiences with all their problems, colors, and flavors.
Art recreates in flesh experiences that have been lived by other
men, and enables people to absorb them as if they were their
own.” Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
Art as Education
Moral Provocation
Empathizing with other people
Fighting/Encouraging nationalism, ethnocentrism, racism
Communicating the inside of another person’s experience
to us, a great novel or play can move and inspire us in a way
that purely factual descriptions cannot.
Are these artists?
A chef in a five star restaurant
A teacher
A wedding dress designer
An architect
A wine maker
A perfume maker
Judging Art: Intention of
Intention of the artist
Evoking an aesthetic response
Is art an answer to a question/questions the artist is
Does the artist intend to convey truth?
Does the artist have a responsibility to his or her
Judging Art: Quality of the
Technical Competence. What does this mean?
What is the motivation? Is it an informed stance? Does
this matter?
Judging Art: Timelessness
Does a piece need to speak across generations and
Is the meaning of art static of fluid across time and
Is art created or discovered?
The Prisoners
Judging Art: Response of
Art needs an audience to complete it. True or false?
How are liking art and aesthetic judgment different? Which
is more important?
Are we all equal when it comes to judging art?
Can we use reason/logic to come up with a rational way for
judging artistic value or talent?
Art connects us.
The Canon
Where is this list? What do you think is on it?
The Value of Art
How should art be priced?
Should governments use taxpayer money to purchase art for
Should governments provide stipends for artists (novelists,
dancers, actors, etc)?
Why is some art so much more valuable than other art?
Original copies of novels sell for thousands.
BBC: Nazi Looted Art Found in Munich ($1 Billion!)
TOK Art Gallery
Write down these questions:
What do you see?
What do you feel?
What do you think?
Gut Reaction: do you like it or dislike it?
What do you assume/interpret?
What do you need to know?
What are the personal and shared perspectives?
What Ways/Areas of knowing are used?
What is one question being asked by this artwork?
How does this piece help us understand our perspective of the world?
Answer these questions in reference to the following set of artistic endeavors.
Ai WeiWei Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995)
Inukshuk—Inuit Sculpture
Frizzell. Wine Country. 2012.
Terracotta Warriors of the Emperor Qin. China.
Maud Lewis, Cat and Two Kittens, 1952
Simone Martini, The Annunciation. Italy. 1333
8. Andy Warhol. Marilyn. 1962
Artemisia Gentileschi’s “Judith Slaying Holofernes”, 1620
David. Italy.
Tiles, arabesque
pattern, Mosque of
Cheykhoun. Egypt.
Salvador Dali, Hallucinogenic Toreador, 1970
Yang Fuhua Shanghai Red Square, 2009
15. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 21 Andante
16. Bach, Toccata and Fugue in D minor, organ
As we discuss, have these notes
Purpose of Art:
Judging Art:
Intention of artist
Quality of Work
Timelessness/Global applicability
Response of audience
Art Final Project
Find the remaining two pieces of art.
Include a description, link, or image so that I can
see/hear/experience it.
Respond in the same way that you responded to the
other pieces of art.
Due: Monday, Dec. 16
Art and the Ways of Knowing
What might it mean to say that emotion is the
universal language of the arts?
Could artistic creation be described as the use of
imagination within a framework of reason and logic?
Is there an area of arts that uses all of the senses at
once? How can perception create, simultaneously, an
individual and collective experience in the arts?
Is there a language of the arts? Does art transcend
Art and the Areas of Knowing
Human Science—
Is the “human experience” presented in art ‘true for all’, and
that is why we like the arts? (gold packet pg. 208)
Art Therapy
Ethics—are the arts too full of value judgments to be
considered “true” or “certain”?
Is it fair to compare art to other art? Can works be taken out
of historical context to make meaning in the present?

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