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Art & Politics in Philosophy
Transcript of Art & Politics in Philosophy
Art as Cultural Mythology
Art and Revolution
The Wagner-Nietzsche Debate
Plato's Exile of the Poets
PHI 476 Capstone Seminar:
Art & Politics
"a worthy and adequate expression of the public conscience."
Censorship of the arts
"For in the tragedy he found himself again, --nay, found the noblest part of his own nature united with the noblest characteristics of the whole nation" (34)
Thirty Years War
Art as Commodity
"This is Art, as it now fills the entire civilized world! Its true essence is Industry; its ethical aim, the gaining of gold; its aesthetic purpose, the entertainment of those whose time hangs heavily on their hands."
Revolution of 1848
"Appropriate Theatrical Institutions"
"The public art of the Greeks, which reached its zenith in their Tragedy, was the expression of the deepest and the noblest principles of the people's consciousness: with us the deepest and noblest of man's consciousness is the direct opposite of this, namely the denunciation of our public art."
"Thus we are slaves until this very day, with but the sorry consolation that we are all slaves together."
"Its very existence is opposed to the ruling spirit of the community"
Conservative vs. Revolutionary Art
"It is for Art therefore, and Art above all else, to teach this social impulse its noblest meaning..."
Enfranchisement of public art
Schiller's "Aesthetic State"
Lecture: Wed. April 3, 2013
The Good Person of Setzuan
Fort Point Theater Channel
Censorship of the Arts
The Satanic Verses
Fire in My Belly
Study in Perspective
Thursday, Feb. 28
Sontag on Suffering
Intention vs. Effect
Relational Aesthetics (1998)
But why would the artist prefer appearance…
“The tragic poet is an imitator, and therefore, like all other imitators, he is thrice removed from truth” (597)
“Which is the art of painting designed to be—an imitation of things as they are, or as they appear—of appearance or reality?” (598)
“…the good poet cannot compose well unless he know his subject, and that he who has not this knowledge can never be a poet” (598)
A similar illusion in poetry…
“Or, after all, they may be in the right, and poets do really know the things about which they seem to the many to speak so well” (599).
Or, consider this…
“Friend Homer…if you are only in the second remove from truth…and if you are able to discern what pursuits make men better or worse in private or public life, tell us what State was ever better governed by your help?
So let us ask…
Then we may infer…
“All poetic imitators, beginning with Homer, imitate images of virtue and all other things they write about and have no grasp of truth.”
-- Plato (The Republic)
"Let me not then die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some great thing that shall be told among men hereafter."
— Homer (The Iliad)
“In a like manner the poet with his words and phrases may be said to lay on the colors of the several arts, himself understanding their nature only enough to imitate them” (601)
So, does the artist deceive?
“…and other people, who are as ignorant as he is, and judge only from his words, imagine that if he speaks of cobbling, or of military tactics, or of anything else, in meter and harmony and rhythm, he speaks very well—such is the sweet influence which melody and rhythm have” (601)
And is the audience deceived?
One which imitates
One which makes
One which uses
“There are three arts which are concerned with all things” (601).
“The flute-player will tell the flute-maker which of his flutes is satisfactory” (601)
“…and that which is opposed to them is one of the inferior principle of the soul” (603)
“Then the better part of the soul is likely to be that which trusts to measure and calculation…”
“…and does not the latter—I mean the rebellious principle—furnish a great variety of material for imitation? (604_
“”And the other principle, which inclines us to recollection of our troubles and to lamentation…we may call irrational, useless, and cowardly…”
The Artist prefers the Irrational:
“We shall be right in refusing to admit him into a well-ordered State, because he awakens and nourishes and strengthens the feelings and impairs the reason of truth” (605).
“His creations have an inferior degree of truth”
He is also “ concerned wit han inferior part of the soul”
So, the poet is like the painter in two ways:
“But we have not yet brought forward the heaviest count in our accusation: --the power which poetry has of harming even the good (and there are very few who are not harmed), is surely an awful thing?”
Argument 5: The Poetry Corrupts Society Argument:
between philosophy and poetry
A defense of poetry?
“Notwithstanding this, let us assure our sweet friend and the sister arts of imitation, that if she will only prove her title to exist in a well-ordered State we shall be delighted to receive her…” (607).
Francisco de Goya
The Shootings of May 3
Liberty Leading the People
Giorgio Vasari, The Castration of Uranus (1560)
Imitation is a form of Deception
“The first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of fiction”
-Plato, The Republic, Book II
“these tales must not be admitted into our State” (Bk. II, 378)
Books II & III
The Nature of Imitation
The imitation of a bed
- The Artist
The individual bed
- The Carpenter
The Form of a bed
The Artist's Role in the State
The Death of Socrates
Jacques-Philip-Joseph de Saint Quentin
Argument 2: The Ignorance Argument
Argument 3 : The Three Arts
Argument 1: The Imitation Argument
Argument 4: Sense vs. Reason Argument
Ovid Banished from Rome
Taking Pleasure in Pain
"The soul [...] relaxes its guard over the lamenting part when it is watching the sufferings of somebody else" (606a)"
hymns to the gods
eulogies to good people
I will remember and not be unmindful of Apollo who shoots afar. As he goes through the house of Zeus, the gods tremble before him and all spring up from their seats when he draws near, as he bends his bright bow. - Homer
An Ancient Quarrel
French Revolution 1789-1799
Reign of Terror
Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Humankind (1794)
Beauty as a "play of the faculties"
Si c'est la raison, qui fait l'homme, c'est le sentiment, qui le conduit. - Rousseau
'If it is reason which makes man, it is feeling which guides him.' - Rousseau
Nature, State, and the State of Nature
"The verdict of the age does not appear to favor art" (2.3)
"The construction of true political freedom"
"If man is ever to solve the problem of political practice he will have to approach it though the problem of the aesthetic" 2.5)
"Everyone's gaze is fixed on the political." (2.4)
inclination <-> duty
The "Ideal Man" (4.2)
individual <-> state
sense <-> reason
"Man can be at odds with himself in two ways..."
"when feeling presides over principle"
"when principle destroys feeling" (4.7)
"The two extremes of depravity united in a single epoch" (5.3)
"crude, lawless instincts" (5.4)
lethargy, egoism, "proud self-sufficiency" (5.5)
"Sense and intellect did not rule over strictly separate domains" (6.3)
"The image of the human species is projected in magnified form into separate individuals" (6.3)
To blame?: Civilization
"The increasingly complex machinery of the State necessitated a more rigorous separation of ranks, and this severed the inner unity of human nature" (6.6)
State <-> Church
laws <-> customs
enjoyment <-> labor
Cultivating the Faculties
6th century BC Buddha statue in Bamyan, Afghanistan destroyed by Taliban in 2001
"It must be open to us to restore by means of a higher Art the totality of our nature which the arts themselves have destroyed" (6.15)
The State has been the "cause of evil" (7.1)
"We must continue to regard every attempt at plitical reform as untimely [...] as long as the split within man is not healed" (7.1)
Reason: "sapere aude!" (8.5)
"I have now reached the point to which all my preceding reflections have been tending. This instrument is Fine Art" (9.2)
Reason requires feeling: "The way to the head must be opened through the heart" (8.7)
"Humanity has lost its dignity; but art has rescued it and preserved it in significant stone" (9.4)
Artist as Moralist
"Surround them, wherever you meet them, with the great and noble forms of genius, and encompass them about with the symbols of perfection, until Semblance conquer Reality and Art triumph over Nature" (9.7)
"The seriousness of your principles will frighten them away..."
""...but in the play of your semblance they will be prepared to tolerate them" (9.7)
The Sense Drive
The Formal Drive
limits the sense drive and the form drive
"We have been led to the notion of a reciprocal action between the two drives" (14.1)
"The play drive, as the one in which both the others act in concert, will exert upon the psyche at once a moral and a physical constraint; it will, therefore, since it annuls all contingency, annul all constraint too, and set man free both physically and morally" (14.5)
"Reason makes the following demand: Let there be a play drive, since only the union of reality with form, contingency and necessity, passivity and freedom, makes the concept of human nature complete" (15.4)
"With the good and the perfect, man is merely in earnest; but with beauty, he plays" (15.8)
"Beauty produces no particular result, neither intellectual nor moral. It discovers no individual truth. It is in short unfitted to provide a firm basis for character. Nothing more is achieved by aesthetic education, then, than that man is enabled to make himself what he will—that the freedom to be what he ought to be is completely restored to him" (21.4)
"The more general the mood and less limited the bias, the nobler that art and the more excellent that product will be" (22.4)
Form over Content
"In a truly successful work of art the contents should do nothing, the form everything; for only though the form is the whole man affected, through content, only individual functions" (22.5)
But it is a contradiction to say that fine art has a didactic or moral role; nothing is more at odds with the concept of beauty than a definite bias of art. (22.5)
Art with Content
"But it is not a proof of formlessness if the work of art affects solely through its contents. This may be evidence of a lack of form in the one judging. [...] A moral or material interest in a work entails that it is not an aesthetic interest (22.6)
"The transition from passivity to activity cannot take place except via aesthetic freedom. There is no way of making sensuous man rational except by first making him aesthetic" (23.2)
An easy transition
"Aesthetic man needs often no more than the challenge of a sublime situation to make of him a hero or a sage."
"To obtain the same results from sensuous man we must first alter his very nature" (23.5)
"This is brought about by means of aesthetic education, which subjects to laws of beauty all those sphere of human behavior in which neither natural laws, nor yet rational laws, are binding upon human caprice, and which, in the form it gives to outer life, already opens up the inner" (23.8)
The Aesthetic State
"Taste alone brings harmony into society, because it fosters harmony in the individual. All other forms divide, because they are divided between the sensuous and the spiritual." (27.10)
"No autocracy is tolerated where taste rules" 27.11
But does such a state of aesthetic semblance really exist? As a need, it exists in every soul; as a realized fact, we find it only in some few chosen circles where conduct is governed by the aesthetic nature we have made our own. Men are free of the compulsion to infringe on others’ freedom and the necessity to shed dignity to manifest grace.
"Can education through beauty really counteract the twofold straying of man?" (10.1)
"Many feeble minded men accept the social order because they take flight in the better vision afforded by art" (10.4)
"Wherever we turn in history we find taste and freedom shunning each other" (10.4)
"To watch over these drives and ensure they do not transgress on one another is the proper task of culture. It preserves sense by developing a capacity for feeling, and secures personality by developing our capacity for reason" (13.2)
"Where both these aptitudes are conjoined, man will combine the greatest fullness of existence with the highest freedom" (13.3)
" Is beauty not degraded by being made to consist of mere play and reduced to the level of frivolous things?" (15.6)
"It is in play alone that all man's states and conditions make him whole and unfolds both sides of his nature all at once" (15.7)
Instrumental <--> Independent
"This lofty equanimity and freedom is the mood that a genuine work of art should produce in us" (22.3)
"We have to turn from mere observation of experience to the transcendental way that explains this possibility" (10.7)
Monument to the Third International
Revolutions of 1848
Marx & Socialism
Revolution throughout Europe and Prussia
Carlsbad decrees of 1819
plight of the post-revolutionary artist
"...the Grecian spirit, at the flowering-time of its art and polity, found its fullest expression in the god Apollo, the head and national deity of the Hellenic race" (32)
- The Artist
"proclaimed the utterances of godlike wisdom" (33)
- The Individual
- The Artwork
The Downfall of Art as Mythology
"As the spirit of Community split itself along a thousand lines of egoistic cleavage, so was the great united work of Tragedy disintegrated" (35)
Philosophy wins the "Ancient Quarrel"
"To Philosophy and not to Art belong the two thousand years which, since the decadence of Grecian Tragedy, have passed till our own day"
Loss of Communal Expression
"Never more was [art] the free expression of a free community"
"in attempting to heal this severance could only bring to light the falsehood of the reconciliation" (39)
Bourgeois patronage of art
The "Mutual Lie"
Art as Entertainment
Art as Utility
"The Revolution of February deprived the theaters of public support"
an "industrial workshop" of art
"The public art of the Greeks, which reached its zenith in their tragedy, was the expression of the deepest and noblest principles of the people's consciousness" (47)
Public character of art
Art of the Future
Love and Beauty
The Birth of Tragedy (1872)
"New Mythology" in Music
"The Case of Wagner" (1888)
Bizet vs. Wagner
- a "masterpiece"
- "emancipates the spirit"
- "brutal, artificial, and unsophisticated"
Wagner as Savior
The Ring - "It is also the history of a salvation except that in this case it is Wagner himself who is saved" (p. 6)
Art as Revolution
The malaise of modernity
"Only with morbid music can money be made today" (p. 8)
"the restlessness of its optics"
"Wagner does not give us enough to masticate"
"For it is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that existence and the world are eternally justified."
The Bayreuth Festspiel
"Equal rights for all!" (p. 10)
Art and Class Consciousness
"Author as Producer" (1932)
Autonomy of the Artist
- Standard: Political effect
Writes on behalf of the proletariat
- Standard: Aesthetic quality
“a work which exhibits the correct tendency must necessarily exhibit all other qualities.”
"The correct political tendency of a work includes its literary quality because it includes its literary tendency"
Starting Point: Marxist Analysis of Social Production
"Materially-determined social relations"
Relations of production
Two relations to consider:
"how a literary work stands within the relations of productions"
"His mission is not to report, but to struggle: he does not play the role of spectator, but actively intervenes"
Art and Intervention
"all that doesn't have much to do with literature"
"we stand in the midst of a powerful process of the transformation of literary forms."
"gains in breadth what it loses in depth"
Expectations of Readers
Production of Press
Model of Bourgeois Press:
Model for Soviet Press
Alternative to "left-wing intellectuals" in Europe
"...however revolutionary this political tendency may appear, it actually functions in a counterrevolutionary manner as long as the writer experiences his solidarity with the proletariat ideologically and not as a producer"
of the means of production
- Merely transmits apparatus of production
"activist" = "hack"
(Relations of Production)
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis'
Signs of Promise:
-dismantle hierarchy of skills
- close gap between artist and audience
- find a new "apparatus" of production
- combine artistic forms (e.g. photo/music/text
- get rid of the "masterpiece" mentality
part of the "apparatus"
"He succeeded in transforming the functional relation between the stage and the public, text and production, director and actor."
Single Demand of the Artist:
"The chain of thought whose conclusion we are approaching only presents the writer with a single demand, the demand of reflecting, of thinking about his position in the process of production"
state distribution of resources
"Commitment" vs. "Autonomy"
"Why Write?" (1947)
Subject - Object Dialectic
Writing for Others
Reading as Creating
Writing as Appeal to Freedom
Generosity toward reader
Reading as Appeal to Freedom
Realism and Formalism
Aesthetic Joy and Aesthetic Humanism
As for me who read, if I create and keep alive an unjust world, I cannot help making myself responsible for it. And the author's whole art is bent on obliging me to create what he discloses, therefore compromise myself. So both of us bear the responsibility for the universe. (66).
You are perfectly free to leave that book on the table. But if you open it, you assume responsibility for it. For freedom is experienced not in the enjoyment of free subject of functioning, but in a creative act required by an imperative (56).
"Thus, reading is an exercise in generosity, and what the writer requires of the reader is not the application of an abstract freedom but the gift of his whole person, with his passions, his pre-possessions, his sympathies, his sexual temperament, and his scale of values (58).
Generosity toward writer
“Thus, reading is a pact of generosity between author and reader. Each one trusts the other; each one counts on the other, demands of the other as much as he demands of himself. For this confidence is itself generosity.” (61)
"existentialism is a humanism"
"the individual is condemned to be free"
"the first effect of existentialism is that it puts every man in possession of himself as he is, and places the entire responsibility for his existence squarely upon his own shoulders
“Thus it is not true that one writes for oneself” (51).
"It is through human reality that there is being" (48)
"In short, reading is directed creation" (53).
"a synthesis of perception and creation" (52)
Appeal to reader
“thus, the writer appeals to the reader's freedom to collaborate in the production of his work” (54)
Freedom of reader
“Indeed, one cannot address oneself to freedom as such by means of constraints, fascination, or entreaties” (55).
"the writer should not seek to overwhelm...if he wishes to make demands he must propose only the task to be fulfilled" (56)
Artistic vs Natural Beauty
"our freedom is never called forth by natural beauty" (59)
The writer "also requires that [the reader] return this confidence which eh has given them, that they recognized his creative freedom, and that they in turn solicit it by a symmetrical and inverse appeal" (58).
"It matters little whether the aesthetic object is the product of 'realistic' art or 'formal' art" (62).
Purpose of Art
"For this is quite the final goal of art: to recover this world by giving it to be seen as it is, but as if it had its source in human freedom” (63).
- averts means/ends distinction
- creates an awareness of freedom
- both writer and reader are essential
“To write is thus both to disclose the world and to offer it as a task to the generosity of the reader” (65).
world as it is
world as it should be
- as fact
(for Sartre this is impossible)
- as imagined
"...the aesthetic modification of the human project" (65)
"The writer, a freeman addressing freemen, has only one subject--freedom” (68)
"...any attempt to enslave his readers threatens him in his very art" (68).
"The art of prose is bound up with[...] democracy" (69)
"A day comes when the pen is forced to stop, and the writer must then take up arms" (69)
Writing is not:
- A "tool" to be used for an end
- "Art for art's sake"
“For the sake of political commitment, political reality is trivialized: which then reduces the political effect” (185).
Commmitment vs. Autonomy
The Great Dictator
Waiting for Godot
(+) Art is separate from reality
(+) Art is conjoined with reality
(-) Art is complacent with reality
(-) Art is indifferent to reality
- Appeals to conservatives
- Easily assimilated
- Effectiveness irrelevant
“This hostility to anything alien or alienating can accommodate itself much more easily to literary realism of any provenance, even if it proclaims itself critical or socialist, than to works which swear allegiance to no political slogans, but whose mere guise is enough to disrupt the whole system of rigid coordinates that governs authoritarian personalities” (179).
- Denies signification
- Avoids "meaning"
"By contrast, when the social contract with reality is abandoned, and literary works no longer speak as though they were reporting fact, hairs start to bristle" (180)
What remains is merely the abstract authority of the choice enjoined, with no regard for the fact that the very possibility of choosing depends on what can be chosen” (180).
“it is not the office of arts to spotlight alternatives, but to resist by its form alone the course of the world, which permanently puts the pistol to men's heads” (180).
“In order to develop his drama and novel beyond sheer declaration–whose recurrent model is the scream of the tortured–Sartre has to seek recourse in flat objectivity, subtracted from any dialectic of form and expression, which is simply a communication of his own philosophy. The content of his art becomes philosophy, as with no other writer except Schiller” (181–2).
"This 'thesis-art' earned him great success in the culture industry. His vision prevents him from recognizing the hell he revolts against. “The idea that decision as such is what counts would even cover the Nazi slogan that “only sacrifice makes us free” (182).
“His attempt to reconstruct reality of society thus led first to a false social model and then to dramatic implausibility. Bad politics becomes bad art, and vice versa” (187).
"Preaching to the Choir"
“Nevertheless, the process of aesthetic production that he pursues for the sake of political truth, in fact gets in its way” (183).
“His method, to make immediately apparent events into phenomenon alien to the spectator, was also medium a formal construction rather than a contribution to practical efficacy” (185).
Art in Public:
Public Funds vs. Free Market
X Portfolio Series
Holy Virgin Mother Mary
Exposition No. 1
Artist as Genius
Art as cultural vanguard
"for good or ill"
"autonomy of art"
"Pure/Partial Public Goods"
"Modernism" vs "Postmodernism"
"What is Postmodernism?" (1979)
An Incomplete Project" (1980)
"A Period of Slackening"
against aesthetic autonomy
Critique of Realism
“For all those writers nothing is more urgent than to liquidate the heritage of the avant-gardes” (73).
“...passing off the most cynical eclecticism as a way of going beyond the fragmentary character of the preceding experiments” (73).
“This is the way the effects of reality, or if one prefers, the fantasies of realism, multiply” (74).
“If they too do not wish to become supporters of what exists, the painter and novelist must refuse to lend themselves to such therapeutic uses. They must question the rules of the art of painting or of narrative as they have learned and received them from their predecessors” (74).
“In the absence of aesthetic criteria, it remains possible and useful to assess the value of works of art according to the profits they yield” (76).
“the rule that there is no reality unless testified by consensus between partners over a certain knowledge and certain commitments” (77).
Lack of Reality
The Kantian Sublime
“presents the fact that the unpresentable exists” (78).
Caspar David Friedrich
Wanderer above the Sea of Fog
“undoubtedly a part of the modern” (79).
"a rejection of grand narratives..."
"an aesthetics of the sublime [...] it allows the unpresentable to be put forward only as the missing contents..." (81)
"puts forward the unpresentable in presentation itself; that which denies itself the solace of good forms..." (81)
transition from past to present
“…there emerged out of this romantic spirit that radicalized consciousness of modernity which freed itself from all specific historical ties" (4).
The Discipline of Aesthetic Modernity
Revolt against normativity
"Modernity lives on the experience of rebelling against all that is normative" (5)
Culture vs. Society
- Stable Institutions
"The cult of the new"
Cultural Modernity and Social Modernization
The Neo-con Red Herring
“The neoconservative does not uncover the economic and social causes for the altered attitudes toward work, consumption, achievement, and leisure. Consequently, he attributes all of the following—hedonism, the lack of social identification, the lack of obedience, narcissism, the withdrawal from status and achievement competition—to the domain of ‘culture’” (7).
“But the occasions for protest and discontent originate precisely when spheres of communicative action, centered on the reproduction and transmission of values and norms, are penetrated by a form of modernization guided by […] standards of rationalization quite different from those of communicative rationality on which those spheres depend” (8).
The Project of Enlightenment
Domains of expertise
All or nothing?
"Should we try to hold on to the intentions of the Enlightenment, feeble as they may be, or should we declare the entire project of modernity a lost cause" (9-10)
The False Programs of the Negation of Culture
The promise of happiness
"This modernist transformation was all the more painfully realized the more art alienated itself from life and withdrew into the untouchableness of complete autonomy" (10)
"an emancipatory effect does not follow" (11)
"Instead of giving up modernity and its project as a lost cause, we should learn from the mistakes of those extravagant programs which have tried to negate modernity" (12).
From Situationist International to Punk
Society of the Spectacle
2. of self
3. of "species being"
4. of society
“The object which labor produces confronts it as something alien, as a power independent of the producer.”
“Estrangement is manifested not only in the result but in the act of production—within the producing activity itself.”
In tearing away from man the object of his production, therefore, estranged labor tears from him his species life.”
“The estrangement of man, and in fact every relationship in which man stands to himself, is first realized and expressed in the relationship in which a man stands to other men.”
•Use Value– (qualitative) the utility of the thing; exists only in the form of commodity, and is independent of the amount of labor required to produce it. •Exchange value– (quantitative) the proportion in which a commodity is exchanged for the use of another; specific to capitalism
“the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
May 1968 Student Protests - Paris
"a moment of life concretely and deliberately constructed by the collective organization of a unitary ambiance and a game of events." - Debord
"Dead Kennedys and Black Flags"
Signs and Styles
Punk and High Art
The Politics of Punk
"They argue that in the wrong hands beauty can have quite the opposite effect."
"this literary tendency can be found in the progress or regression of literary technique"