Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

“What Is Art For?”


Even though the article I’ll feature today focuses on the art of painting, it’s easy to see its argument as applicable to writing.

So, an appropriate subtitle for this post could be “What Is Writing For?”.

I went searching my past posts for something that might echo some of the sentiments of today’s article and found six posts that revolve around the social responsibility of the writer (and, by extension, the responsibilities of any artist.).

I’m sure there will be a reader or two of this post who will disagree that a writer (or, artist) needs to deal with social responsibilities

Let me quote John Armstrong, philosopher and senior advisor to the vice chancellor at the University of Melbourne, Australia:

“For decades, Western culture has been reluctant to assign an inherent value or a purpose to art—even as it continues to hold art in high esteem. Though we no longer seem comfortable saying so, our reverence for art must be founded on a timeless premise: that art is good for us. If we don’t believe this, then our commitment—in money, time, and study—makes little sense.”

That quote is from Armstrong’s article in City JournalWhat is Art For?

He underpins his ideas with the premise that art should be therapeutic

And, while admitting that therapy is a culturally conditioned word relating mostly to medicine, its roots mean “ministering” and to be “attendant”.

Mr. Armstrong:

“If one agrees with Hegel that art is the sensuous presentation of the idea (or ideal), it remains to be explained why such a presentation is valuable. What is the nature of our troubles or aspirations, such that art is something that we need?”

He then lists various things art (or, writing) can be that serve as therapy:

A corrective of bad memory

A purveyor of hope

A source of dignified sorrow

A balancing agent

A guide to self-knowledge

A guide to the extension of experience

A tool of re-sensitization

Naturally, his full article gives reasons for why those qualities are valuable in art.

One more quote from the article (bolding by me):

“This understanding of art has been in abeyance in recent decades, but it is, I believe, the only plausible way of thinking about art’s value. Other approaches, as we have seen, must tacitly assume it, even when they deny it. To consider art from a therapeutic point of view is not to abandon profundity but to embrace it and to return art to a central place in modern culture and modern life.”

Do read the full article

And, do, please, share your thoughts or feelings in the Comments
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One response to ““What Is Art For?”

  1. Pingback: Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #40 — The Book Designer

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