People are stupid 

But not you 

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What is art

There were varied answers to this question in my previous post. Since the days of Plato, philosophers and laymen have attempted to define art. In his book, What is Art, Tolstoy lists these various definitions by different schools.

To Tolstoy, art is the infection by one man of another or of others with the feelings experienced by their infector for example a feeling of delight. For something to pass as art, it must be able to infect others with feeling. He argues further, that art is not a handicraft, its the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.

He writes that good art is art that transmits the simplest feelings of common life- the art of a people- and this he calls universal art.

On what should be the aim of art, he argues that it should improve individuals, promote union with others, introduce a new feeling into the intercourse of life.

Counterfeit art, he argues, leads to perversion of men, pleasure which never satisfies and the weakening of man’s spiritual strength.

In the same book, he writes about science and notes that it investigates and brings to human perception such truths and such knowledge as the people of a given time and society consider most important and that art transmits these truths from the region of perception to the region of emotion. On the question of what is important is decided by the religious perception of the given time and society, that is, by the common understanding of the purpose of their lives possessed by the people of that time or society.

The end of science is in knowing what we should and shouldn’t believe in, knowing how the associated life and man should and shouldn’t constituted, how to treat sexual relations, how to educate children, how to use the land, how to treat foreigners, animals and much more that is important for the life of man. He continues to argue that science should demonstrate the irrationality, unprofitableness and immorality of war and executions or the inhumanity and harmfulness of prostitution, or the absurdity, harmfulness and immorality of using narcotics or eating animals or the irrationality, harmfulness and antiquatedness of patriotism.

He ends the treatise by arguing that art should cause violence to be set aside and that the highest aim of human life is love.

I think, many Christians living today would not consider Tolstoy a True Christian™. Jesus, to him, did not die for our sins, but rather died fighting for a truth he believed in. That the Old Testament, far from being divine inspiration, is a mixture of bad and good art. He believed strongly in a brotherhood of men.

In the book, What is Art, he argues and I am tempted t agree with him, that which we call art these days, works that can only be appreciated by the artist and an elite group whose tastes have been corrupted, are not art or are counterfeit art. They evoke no feeling in the great majority of people. Nothing would be lost if we repudiated all of it. On the contrary, we would be better for it. He argues also, that, the perversion of art began when the rich class started to patronize art and paid large sums for productions of paintings or plays so that whatever is expensive is considered good art.


Further readings

Tolstoy ( Excerpts)

Tolstoy (PDF)

Question time

I am hoping that you, fine people, could help me answer some questions that I have. You can choose anyone question or answer all of them.

  1. What is art
  2. is art universal
  3. what is beauty
  4. is there a relationship between what is beautiful and what is good
  5. what is truth
  6. is there a relationship between what is good, beautiful and true
  7. in political discourse, what does left and right stand for
  8. in discussions of culture, what is cultural appropriation?

Shakin’ the tree

Yours truly likes this song.

and for you my friend, yes you, here are the lyrics to the song

Souma Yergon, Sou Nou Yergon, We are shakin’ the tree
Souma Yergon, Sou Nou Yergon, We are shakin’ the tree

Waiting your time, dreaming of a better life
Waiting your time, you’re more than just a wife
You don’t want to do what your mother has done
She has done
This is your life, this new life has begun
It’s your day – a woman’s day
It’s your day – a woman’s day

Turning the tide, you are on the incoming wave
Turning the tide, you know you are nobody’s slave
Who can hear all the truth in what you say
They can support you when you’re on your way
It’s your day – a woman’s day
It’s your day – a woman’s day

Souma Yergon, Sou Nou Yergon, We are shakin’ the tree
Souma Yergon, Sou Nou Yergon, We are shakin’ the tree
Souma Yergon, Sou Nou Yergon, We are shakin’ the tree

There’s nothing to gain when there’s nothing to be lost
There’s nothing to gain if you stay behind and count the cost
Make the decision that you can be who you can be
You can be
Tasting the fruit come to the Liberty Tree
It’s your day – a woman’s day
It’s your day – a woman’s day

[ end of extra lyrics from 12″ remix ]

Changing your ways, changing those surrounding you
Changing your ways, more than any man can do
Open your heart, show him the anger and pain, so you heal
Maybe he’s looking for his womanly side, let him feel

You had to be so strong
And you do nothing wrong
Nothing wrong at all
We’re gonna to break it down
We have to shake it down
Shake it all around

Souma Yergon, Sou Nou Yergon, We are shakin’ the tree
Souma Yergon, Sou Nou Yergon, We are shakin’ the tree
Souma Yergon, Sou Nou Yergon, We are shakin’ the tree

The birth of tragedy

Out of the Spirit of Music

It is important to note that he wrote this book at the time when his friendship with Wagner was still at its highest. It is a tribute to the power of music in our daily lives and the role art, and by extension music, plays in our lives especially with regard to belief. He hopes that through this analysis we will be able to finally be able to connect again to the Greek high art that was disrupted by the RCC or generally through the development of christianity. I think the book is a good read.

Nietzsche however doesn’t think highly of the book and in the version I read, it starts with self-criticism he wrote a few years after publishing the book  from which this is extracted,

Let me say again: today for me it is an impossible book — I call it something poorly written, ponderous, embarrassing, with fantastic and confused imagery, sentimental, here and there so saccharine it is effeminate, uneven in tempo, without any impulse for logical clarity, extremely self-confident and thus dispensing with evidence, even distrustful of the relevance of evidence, like a book for the initiated, like “Music” for those baptized with music, those who are bound together from the start in secret and esoteric aesthetic experiences as a secret sign recognized among blood relations in artibus [in the arts] — an arrogant and rhapsodic book, which right from the start hermetically sealed itself off from the
profanum vulgus [profane rabble] of the “educated,” even more than from the “people,” but a book which, as its effect proved and continues to prove, must also understand this issue well enough to search out its fellow rhapsodists and to tempt them to new secret pathways and dancing grounds.

I think one is beholden to read the book to come to their own conclusions about the book regardless of what he or his contemporaries thought of and how they received the book.

Dear friends, before we look at what Nietzsche has to say in this book,I would like to start with a digression to introduce you to a little bit of Greek architecture and what we living today thank them for. This post is not about architecture, it is about music. The Greek civilization didn’t last for so long  as compared to lets say the Roman Empire[ high Hellenistic culture was around for about 400 years compared to the Roman which dominated the world for almost 800 years].

The wikipedia entry on Greek Architecture has this to say

Ancient Greek architecture is best known from its temples, many of which are found throughout the region, mostly as ruins but many substantially intact. The second important type of building that survives all over the Hellenic world is the open-air theatre, with the earliest dating from around 350 BC. Other architectural forms that are still in evidence are the processional gateway, the public square surrounded by storied colonnade, the town council building, the public monument, the monumental tomb and the stadium.

The only reason I introduced Greek architecture is because in our current book our philosopher friend deals with Greek art. I think it is important that while we are looking at music and tragedy we also have a brief idea of other aspects of art among the Greeks and architecture falls rightly in place. The Greeks were so much ahead of their time. They had conceived of public squares where they had  public discourses, stadiums where they had games and plays and they developed the classical orders in architecture that are still employed today in many buildings around the world and which also influenced Roman Architecture. When in Greece please find time and visit the Parthenon.

In art [music] and drama, the Greek gave us tragedy, and it is from their art as Nietzsche ably demonstrates in the book,  which has a direct relationship to myth and by extension the belief in the metaphysical. In the Greek theatre, the spectator is part of the chorus and in this way their experience of music and drama was so much different from ours. In this book again you discover Nietzsche the music genius/ critique. He brings music criticism to a level all lovers of music can understand and combines it with philosophy which takes it to a deeper level of understanding.

In this book he demonstrates that the death of tragedy in music is also the death of myth. There are two experiences in music, that is the Apollonian drama[devoid of tragedy] and the Dionysian drama[full of tragedy].

He then introduces us to one of the greatest[at least according to yours truly] philosopher of all time, Socrates. It is in the hands or should I say through the actions of Socrates that the Dionysian art died. We learn from Plato through Nietzsche that he[Socrates] did not attend theatre during the performance of Greek tragedy and we must thank him for the development of science. It is through his actions that science has developed. He sounded the death-bed of myth[tragedy] and proposed that nature could be understood through logic.

He says of Socrates, that when he consulted the Delphic Oracles [you can find this in Apology] they[the Oracles] agreed that Socrates was the wisest man alive and second was Euripides. I think I agree with the Oracles’ assessment.

He poses the question whether the theoretical man can prevent the rebirth of tragedy and by extent, the belief in the metaphysical. In his words,

At this point we are concerned with the question whether the power whose opposition broke tragedy has sufficient force  for all time to hinder the artistic reawakening of tragedy and the tragic world view. If the old tragedy was derailed by the dialectical drive for knowledge and for the optimism of science, we might have to infer from this fact an eternal struggle between the theoretical and the tragic world view, and only after the spirit of science is taken right to its limits and its claim to universal validity destroyed by the proof of those limits would it be possible to hope for a re-birth of tragedy. For a symbol of such a cultural form, we would have to set up Socrates the player of music, in the sense talked about earlier.

And here we have Socrates as the first true scientist and rationalist.

By this confrontation I understand with respect to the spirit of science that belief, which first came to light in the person of Socrates, that nature can be rationally understood and that knowledge has a universal healing power.

As I have said of the other books, there is a great deal in this book making it such an interesting read for anyone with an interest in understanding the Greek culture as it has been revealed to us through the works of Homer, Euripides and other great Greek poets and musicians.