The Nature and Function of Art
A Quick Look at Aesthetics
Throughout the ages, art has played a crucial role in life. Today, when you speak of culture, thoughts of expensive paintings, beautiful sculptures, and Italian operas spring to mind. While culture certainly comprises more than art, art has played a dominant part in culture. Why? Why is art so important? It is because art is powerful—it can convey so much information without using language. In fact, it transcends language and is truly universal, a point which I will come back to later. And, art is everywhere. From the houses we live in (architecture) to the movies we see (theater) to the books we read (literature), art is a part of our daily lives. Nearly everyone has got some piece of artwork in their homes, from paintings to sculptures to literature. Art even encompasses some of the things we hear (music).
Given the prevalence of art, it is surprising that we know so little about it. Ask an average person what art is and he will mumble out some generalities and, more likely, some specific pieces. Ask an average intellectual and he will disdain the very heart of the question—that there are things that are art and there are things that are not. Similarly, if you asked the average person about aesthetic judgment, he will have no problem with it. You show him a painting of, say, the Mona Lisa and he will say what a beautiful painting it is. Ask the intellectual and you get the same contemptuous answer as before: there are no standards for judgment!
But there are. It hinges on a proper understanding of the nature and function of art. Once you understand the objective nature of art and the profound necessity of it to the metaphysical requirements for man's survival, you will have such a proper understanding. And that is the focus of this essay, to ground art in reality—finally defending it as an objective need—and to show how modern (or postmodern) art does not fit this category and, ultimately, fails to...