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An Inquiry toward the Nature of Art

Art is the ultimate form of expression. Human beings have the natural propensity to communicate feelings and emotions, first done through a basic and instinctive behavior – through speech and communication. Art comes next as a subjective interpretation of individual emotions and world-views, utilized through different techniques and methods of creation while following a strict format. Art structure (e. g. music – melody, harmony) limits certain faculties of the physical form but does not ultimately limit the creative faculty.

Thus, by employing the strict forms of structure, all the while reaching beyond the limits of creativity, a piece of work can be considered an art. The conception process of art is differentiated from the work of art itself, wherein the work of art either defines a period in the development of human history or art as a single unifying factor in the course of development in human progress.

Thus, we look into two philosophical ideologies concerning the nature of art in relation to the progression of human history. Hegel and Heidegger Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, one of the important philosophers in modern philosophy, tackles the development and ‘philosophy’ of history. In his work, Lectures on the Philosophy of History, Hegel argues: “the mutations which history presents have been long characterized in the general, as advancement to something better, more perfect.

The changes that take place in Nature – how infinitely manifold so ever they may be – exhibit only a perpetually self-repeating cycle” (Hegel, 2004, p. 8). History, contrary to prior knowledge wherein world progress is identified through a linear cycle, is identified through cyclical progression – that history develops and ‘repeats’ itself through the assimilation of knowledge from past experiences in order to move forward. However, Hegel argues on the presence of reason or geist (Ger.

‘spirit) on the cultural environments of different societies. According to Hegel: “It [spirit] is not of such a nature as to be tossed to and from amid the superficial play of accidents, but it is rather the absolute arbiter of things; entirely unmoved by contingencies, which, indeed it applies and manages for its own purposes” (Hegel, 2004, p. 9). Reason or Spirit becomes the governing body of history; reason then dictates the course of events that shape history and it acts upon itself to adapt to changes made in culture.

Hegel also stresses the importance of world history rather than a biased outlook on specific cultures or countries which would only eventually develop a nationalistic overview of human history rather than an absolute representation of history itself. In addition, world history is the ultimate expression of human freedom: “represents the development of the spirit’s consciousness of its own freedom and of the consequent realization of that freedom” (Hegel, 2004, p. 1). In relation to art and aesthetics, Hegel relates art as a specific product of different cultures.

In relation to the notion of absolute spirit, each culture uses freedom in order to determine its history while such development helping to contribute towards the foundation of the totality of world history. The function of art in culture is specified on the first stage of spirit formation. Art, as a form of expression, is unique and different in corresponding cultures; but art, as part of human history, also becomes a part toward the contribution of the absolute spirit. Thus, aesthetical appreciation does not fall under individual subjectivity but is characterized through objective appreciation.

Art is a part of the development of history, specific to a culture; history in turn, moving under the influence of reason and the absolute spirit, views history as the total development of all cultures. On the other hand, Martin Heidegger argues on the concept of art as different ideologies of truth and being. Heidegger’s views on art categorically shares the same similarities as that of Hegel’s viewpoint; for Hegel, art is a representation of culture, which in turn contributes toward the totality and development of history.

For Heidegger, art is a collective understanding of a culture. Its function is not entirely limited to a cultural representation or a method of revelation of truth but art itself is created ‘out of its own sake’ in order to provide an opportunity for change. Each work of art created by a specific culture changes the meaning of the work itself and the meaning of its existence in society. Heidegger presents the nature of art in his essay The Origin of the Work of Art as art and the artist separated as two inter-dependent bodies: “Neither is without the other.

Nevertheless, neither is the sole support of the other” (Heidegger, 1976, p. 15). Art cannot be created without the artist and vice-versa. However, it does not mean that art heavily relies on its work or the artist relying on art itself. Rather, both entities exist for their own purposes. Art, as a concept then becomes a force of control that utilizes the artist’s skills for its own purpose. Heidegger’s view on art also implicates the knowledge of hermeneutics or interpretation.

For Heidegger, aesthetics falls under a hermeneutical paradox; art cannot be understood as a whole without knowledge of its components and only understanding of the components, the whole cannot be comprehended. In relation to art and artist, art cannot be understood without identifying its main essence and in turn, without knowledge of the artwork itself, the essence cannot be found. This circle Heidegger identifies as a ‘virtuous’ circle rather than a ‘vicious’ one since aesthetics lies on the pursuit of true and real beauty.

Art then produces a world in itself as part of the “World” (Heidegger 1976, p. 17) which opens up to different cultures and histories of the present and past (e. g. Greek Art, Medieval Art), while the essence of art perpetuates the world (Earth) as a representation of materials used in art (e. g. color, palette, light, etc. ). Art then changes over time but is unified through Heidegger’s notion of the world. Habermas and the Public Sphere On a different note, Jurgen Habermas’ social critical theory lies on the understanding of the Public Sphere as a perennial approach toward art and aesthetics.

Habermas notes: “Art is supposed to become an effective in place of religion as the unifying power, because it is understood to be a ‘form of communication’ that enters into the inter-subjective relationships between people” (Habermas 1990, p. 45). Habermas centers his thought on a social critical level and tackles the function of art as a part of society but not a representation of either history or culture. “Art itself is the medium for the education of the human race to true political freedom.

This self-formative process is not related to the individual but to the collective life-context of the people as a whole. If art is to be able to fulfill its historic task of reconciling modernity at variance with itself, it must not merely impinge on individuals but rather transform the forms of life that individuals share” (Habermas, 1990, p. 46). Habermas relates art as a part of the public sphere as a communicative act that affects the course of societal interdependence rather than an influence or a part of the development of history.

Art as a communicative act enables individuals to form public spheres in order to discuss rather than to debate on aesthetical appreciation and individual subjectivity. Art’s function is societal, that it serves as an avenue of communication that is dependent on cultural and societal issues at hand. Man, Art, and History All philosophers present the idea of art either as a representation of development, a symbol of cultural truth or an opportunity for communication toward different spheres in the community.

In conclusion, art is an integral part of the society, as well as a landmark in the progression of human development. Art symbolizes culture, the art interdependent on the artist yet both provide the source for art’s conception. And as culture and history moves forward, art follows such advancement and adjusts to the present state of culture or society. However, art is created out of its own sake. As Habermas and other social critical theorists would argue, art cannot be created in order to satisfy economic demand or to serve the benefit of the popular culture.

Through such notions, the essence of art is lost and is merely reduced to a cheap commodity that can be appreciated through popular assent. Rather, art serves its own purpose and the aesthetic objectivity of art lies on the notion that every nation produces its own art unique to its own culture. But aesthetics provide the opportunity to rid of bias as art functions as a universal truth in all cultures around the world. References Habermas, J. (1990). Excursus on Schiller’s “Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man” in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures. C

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