Wednesday Philosophical Query: Art and Self-Understanding
From Gadamer’s great Truth and Method:
The pantheon of art is not a timeless present that presents itself to pure aesthetic consciousness, but the act of a mind and spirit that has collected and gathered itself historically. Our experience of the aesthetic too is a mode of self-understanding. Self-understanding always occurs through understanding something other than the self, and includes the unity and integrity of the other. Since we meet the artwork in the world and encounter a world in the individual artwork, the work of art is not some alien universe into which we are magically transported for a time. Rather, we learn to understand ourselves in and through it, and this means that we sublate the discontinuity and atomism of isolated experiences in the continuity of our own existence. For this reason, we must adopt a standpoint in relation to art and the beautiful that does not pretend to immediacy but corresponds to the historical nature of the human condition.
In graduate school, some ten years ago, I held vociferously to a notion that art should be separated from any essential relation to truth, flashing the divorce papers in my fellow students’ faces whenever the opportunity presented itself. Yeah, I was obnoxious back then too. Since then, my reading of Paul Ricoeur and Gadamer has inspired me to celebrate the remarriage in my mind of art and the understanding of truth–including and especially the creatively evolving truth of who and what I am.
What about you? Do you hang in or around the art for art’s sake camp, bear the standard depicting the union of art and truth, or position yourself somewhere in the middle or elsewhere?