Jump to content


Photo

Are there absolutes in art?


  • Please log in to reply
24 replies to this topic

#1 Josh Hurst

Josh Hurst

    Already broken for thee.

  • Moderator
  • 4,916 posts

Posted 14 July 2003 - 10:23 PM

Here's a question that stems from a conversation I just had with a friend. Is artistic merit ever absolute, or is it strictly a matter of opinion?

In other words, does one ever come across a work and have the right to say, "EVERYONE should appreciate this"? Or is there always room for someone to argue against even the finest piece of music, film, etc.?

Not sure if I'm making any sense here; let me know if I need to try rephrasing this.

#2 Darrel Manson

Darrel Manson

    Detached Existential INFP Dreamer-Minstrel Redux

  • Member
  • 6,571 posts

Posted 14 July 2003 - 10:40 PM

Are there absolutes in anything? Even if we say there are absolutes, can we know what they are?

Art is a medium of communication. If it fails to communicate to someone, what appreciation can they have of it? I doubt anyone can find a way to communicate so that everyone gets the message.

#3 Overstreet

Overstreet

    Sometimes, there's a man.

  • Member
  • 16,787 posts

Posted 14 July 2003 - 11:13 PM

A few quick-draw responses, and then I'm off to bed.

And like all true believers, I am truly skeptical of all I am about to say.

In that there is an aspect of crafstmanship and skill in art, then yes, there are absolutes. 2+2 does not equal 5. Are there absolutes in chair building? Yes. A chair is not a chair unless someone can sit on it. A story is not a story without a beginning and an end... (preferably a middle as well, but I don't think that's absolute.) A comedy must do certain things to qualify as a comedy, of course.

But within the basic confines of an art's definition, there is a lot of room to maneuver. As soon as an artist decides upon the framework for their work, more absolutes come into play. The more specific the intention, the more specific the absolutes they must follow to achieve what they intend.

Insofar as art expresses beauty and truth, then yes, it reflects the absolutes of God.

#4 Peter T Chattaway

Peter T Chattaway

    He's fictional, but you can't have everything.

  • Member
  • 28,843 posts

Posted 14 July 2003 - 11:50 PM

Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:
: A story is not a story without a beginning and an end... (preferably a
: middle as well, but I don't think that's absolute.)

Just my two bits here: I think it bears emphasizing that films are not necessarily stories. Hence, while it is true that a film must start at some point and must stop at some point (being a linear artform that moves through time, etc.), it is not necessarily true that a film must "begin" or "end" in the way that a story does. Some films are more like songs or poems than stories; do poems have "beginnings" and "ends"?

#5 Darrel Manson

Darrel Manson

    Detached Existential INFP Dreamer-Minstrel Redux

  • Member
  • 6,571 posts

Posted 16 July 2003 - 04:32 PM

For a bit of fun on what makes good art and how one judges art, check out http://www.philosoph...tney_spears.htm

#6 LoneTomato

LoneTomato

    Member

  • Member
  • 151 posts

Posted 23 July 2003 - 01:51 AM

I wish this question was in a place where more people would see it because it's a tough, important, and very interesting question.

On the one hand, I'd like to agree with Jeffrey and say that there are absolutes when it comes to art because...well because I was brought up with the modernist point of view that says that God-given absolutes govern everything and art certainly falls into that category.

On the other hand, if there is an absolute standard for art (or even more problematic, what separates good art from bad) then I have not idea what it is. There are no Ten Commandments for creativity (I am the Lord, thy God. Thou shalt not portray me as a whimpy looking white male) and standards for beauty vary wildly around the world in a way that basic moral principles do not.

Again, I wish there were a way to get more eyeballs to this topic. I clicked on the "Leftovers" link out of sheer curiosity (and as a way to postpone exercising). I'd love to see more comments on the subject.

#7 DanBuck

DanBuck

    Bigger. Badder. Balder.

  • Member
  • 2,419 posts

Posted 23 July 2003 - 11:52 AM

I wish this question was in a place where more people would see it because it's a tough, important, and very interesting question.



This question is addressed regularly in different venues. Most recently in the Film Criticism as Narcissism thread. So poeple may not be answering here because they've already battled it out elswhere.

#8

  • Guests

Posted 04 August 2003 - 08:32 PM

Something that may be a related question: Is hell more an outright rejection of God or an inability to recognize Him? Or what combination of both?

#9 BethR

BethR

    Getting medieval on media

  • Member
  • 2,809 posts

Posted 06 August 2003 - 10:15 AM

QUOTE
It depends--is art self-expression or communication?


I don't think it has to be either/or. I don't think it should be. (Typical answer from me wink.gif ) But it probably should be both/and--if someone's self-expression doesn't communicate, then it's not art. Sorry. Or it's ineffective art. Sound your "barbaric yawp" all you want, but unless you're Walt Whitman or Allen Ginsburg, nobody or very few people are really going to care. (Uh-oh...)

Not every work of art has to communicate in the same way, however, in my (and others') opinion. According to a list of "aesthetic principles" I came across in Critical Thinking by Moore & Parker, people usually expect a work of art to do at least one of the following:

1. convey important meaning or teach general truth
2. convey values or beliefs central to the culture or tradition in which it originates
3. have the capacity to help bring about social or political change
4. cause pleasure as you (or others) experience or appreciate it
5. produce emotions we should value, at least when the emotion is brought about by art rather than life

Works for me.

#10 J.A.A. Purves

J.A.A. Purves

    Chestertonian, Rabelaisian, Christian

  • Member
  • 2,887 posts

Posted 06 November 2010 - 06:36 PM

Looks like this is a nice old split-off thread for one particular question that's been coming up recently.

Here's a question that stems from a conversation I just had with a friend. Is artistic merit ever absolute ...

Yes, particularly when art represents/reflects divine absolutes.

... or is it strictly a matter of opinion?

Not quite. There is a difference between my own opinion and preferences for what art I personally like (and want to go visit or hang up on the wall of my living room), and value judgements of what art has more value, reflects universals, is more skilled, or is more beautiful than other art (or attempts at art).

In other words, does one ever come across a work and have the right to say, "EVERYONE should appreciate this"?

Yes. If there is such a thing as divine truth, goodness, or beauty, then we can reasonably believe that anything that reflects or represents such attributes "ought to" appeal universally to everyone.

Or is there always room for someone to argue against even the finest piece of music, film, etc.?

No. Well, perhaps in a political sense, you are free to argue against anything. But logically, there isn't always room to argue against anything (and still be reasonable). For example, there really isn't room to argue that music of Mozart isn't art, isn't skilled, ought not to be appreciated, or isn't any better than the music of Britney Spears, etc. This doesn't mean there isn't room to argue about Mozart, which of his works are superior to each other, which are more beautiful or sublime, whether Mozart or say Wagner did particular things better than each other, etc.

This topic strikes me as more controversial than it should be.



#11 Brother David

Brother David

    Member

  • Member
  • 17 posts

Posted 06 November 2010 - 09:15 PM

What about cultural difference? A person who grew up in Asia with only the music of his or her people might not like Mozart at all.
Or what about a culture who finds a nude vulgar?

Another thing... if portrayal Divine Absolutes give merit to a picture than it is merit of Thought, not Art. Does a Stick figure Jesus on a cross have the same artisitic merit as Dali's crucifix?

On another note, I had this discussion with my best friend once and he said the Crucifix was inherently beautiful. However, to someone who doesn't know what it means to Christianity and only knows Crucifixion was the worst capitol punishment available in its day, the Crucifix has about as much beauty as a photograph of a dead body in an electric chair.

Edited by Brother David, 06 November 2010 - 09:27 PM.


#12 J.A.A. Purves

J.A.A. Purves

    Chestertonian, Rabelaisian, Christian

  • Member
  • 2,887 posts

Posted 06 November 2010 - 10:24 PM

What about cultural difference? A person who grew up in Asia with only the music of his or her people might not like Mozart at all.
Or what about a culture who finds a nude vulgar?

The short answer to that is that a rudimentary look at the history of art proves that different masterpieces very often transcend all different cultures and time periods. A great work of art, from a different culture, thousands of years ago, that conveys universals, ought to still be appreciated by us today.

A longer answer is given by Roger Scruton on pages 61-65 of Beauty -

Other eras and cultures often have had no use for the contemplative attitude towards the natural world. During many periods of history nature has been harsh and inhospitable, something against which we must fight for our livelihood, and which offers no consolation when contemplated with the cool eye of the beholder ...

Certain thinkers in the Marxist tradition add a further twist to that argument. When the followers of Shaftesbury presented their theories of disinterested interest they were not, such thinkers suggest, describing a human universal but merely presenting, in a philosophical idiom, a piece of bourgeois ideology. This 'disinterested' interest becomes available only in certain historical conditions, and is available because it is functional. The 'disinterested' perception of nature, of objects, of human beings and the relations between them, confers on them a trans-historical character. It renders them permanent, ineluctable, part of the eternal order of things. The function of this way of thinking is to inscribe bourgeois social relations into nature, so placing them beyond the reach of social change. In seeing something as an 'end in itself,' I immortalize it, lift it out of the world of practical concerns, mystify its connection to society, and to the process of production and consumption on which human life depends.

More generally the idea of the aesthetic encourages us to believe that by isolating objects from their use, and purifying them of the economic interests, we somehow see what they truly are and what they truly mean. We thereby turn our attention away from the economic reality and gaze on the world as though under the aspect of eternity, accepting as inevitable and unchangeable what ought to be subject to politically organized change. Moreover, while rejoicing in the fiction that both people and things are valued as 'ends in themselves,' the capitalist economy treats everything and everyone as a means. The ideological lie facilitates the material exploitation, by generating false consciousness that blinds us to the social truth.

I have condensed into those paragraphs [above] a tradition of difficult, often flamboyant, argumentation. Readers may wonder why they should be troubled by the attempt to dismiss this or that aspect of our thinking as 'bourgeois ideology,' now that the Marxist concept of the 'bourgeoisie' as an economic class has been exploded. However, it would be naive to approach the subject of aesthetics as though the Marxist tradition had played no part in defining it. Versions of Marxist critique occur in Lukacs, Deleuze, Bourdieu, Eagleton and many more, and continue to exert their influence over the humanities, as these are studied in English and American universities. And in all versions the critique presents a challenge. If we cannnot justify the very concept of the aesthetic, except as ideology, then aesthetic judgement is without philosophical foundation. An 'ideology' is adopted for its social or political utility, rather than for its truth. And to show that some concept - holiness, justice, beauty, or whatever - is ideological, is to undermine its claim to objectivity. It is to suggest that there is no such thing as holiness, justice or beauty, but only the belief in it - a belief that arises under certain social and economic relations and plays a part in cementing them, but which will vanish as conditions change.

In response we should transfer the burden of proof. It is true that the word 'aesthetic' came into its present use in the eighteenth century; but its purpose was to denote a human universal. The questions I have been discussing in this book were discussed in other terms by Plato and Aristotle, by the Sanskrit writer Bharata two centuries later, by Confucius in the Analects and by a long tradition of Christian thinkers from Augustine and Boethius, through Aquinas to the present day. The distinctions between means and ends, between instrumental and contemplative attitudes, and between use and meaning are all indispensable to practical reasoning, and associated with no particular social order. And although the vision of nature as an object of contemplation may have achieved special prominence in eighteenth-centure Europe, it is by no means unique to that place and time, as we know from Chinese tapestry, Japanese woodcuts, and the poems of the Confucians and of Basho. If you want to dismiss the concept of aesthetic interest as a piece of bourgeois ideology, then the onus is on you to describe the non-bourgeois alternative, and in which people would no longer need to find solace in the contemplation of beauty. That onus has never been discharged. Nor can it be ...

There is something plausible in the idea that the contemplation of nature is both distinctive of our species and common to its members, regardless of the social and economic conditions into which they are born; and something equally plausible in the suggestion that this contemplation fills us with wonder, and prompts us to search for meaning and value in the cosmos, so as with Blake

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a wild flower ...

From the earliest drawings in the Lascaux caves to the landscapes of Cezanne, the poems of Guido Gezelle and the music of Messiaen, art has searched for meaning in the natural world.

And therefore, great works of art transcend cultural (and historical) differences.

#13 Holy Moly!

Holy Moly!

    Member

  • Member
  • 862 posts

Posted 15 November 2010 - 05:16 AM

It's more accurate to say that great works of art both transcend and reflect cultural and historical differences---as well as differences in power.

#14 J.A.A. Purves

J.A.A. Purves

    Chestertonian, Rabelaisian, Christian

  • Member
  • 2,887 posts

Posted 23 November 2010 - 07:33 PM

It's more accurate to say that great works of art both transcend and reflect cultural and historical differences---as well as differences in power.

Well, of course, they can. But poor or non-works of art can also reflect cultural and historical differences. I think the point is that only great works of art transcend those differences.

Differences in power? I don't see what you're getting at there.

#15 Hugues

Hugues

    Member

  • Member
  • 944 posts

Posted 18 January 2011 - 03:12 AM

Here's a question that stems from a conversation I just had with a friend. Is artistic merit ever absolute, or is it strictly a matter of opinion?

In other words, does one ever come across a work and have the right to say, "EVERYONE should appreciate this"? Or is there always room for someone to argue against even the finest piece of music, film, etc.?

Not sure if I'm making any sense here; let me know if I need to try rephrasing this.


There is no absolute in a work of art if it's a way of saying that everyone HAS TO like it one way or another. But one can consider that work absolute and consider that anyone can like it one way or another. Not "should" or "has to", but "can".

More than the idea of an absolute work of art that anyone has to like, I'm more irritated by the idea that anyone can get a different opinion of anything and stand by it, without any effort of understanding other opinions. What's meaningless about the idea of "every value is strictly a matter of opinion", is that it doesn't seem to be aware of the fact that one's opinion can always change or evolve, as well as what we call "taste".

We all have different opinions, but these opinions can be different even coming from the same person. It's a reflection deeply tied to perceptive faculties. A work of art is a subject of perception. Thousands of points of view are only describing the diverse aspects of that same subject that is the work of art, not to speak of the fact that the artist itself didn't even plan to express those thousand things perceived by the people. That's what art is about: it's a work of expression that even leads the artist somewhere else, and himself/herself ends to follow the road of his work.

I also think that a work of art doesn't exist without an audience. It can be discovered in thousand years or never. If it's never discovered, it will never exist. If you save the fact that the work of art exists for the artist who created it, at least. But this artist (if he ever exists himself, in the world and to his own eyes) will never know the merits of his own work.

Just some various thoughts of mine. :gandalf:

#16 J.A.A. Purves

J.A.A. Purves

    Chestertonian, Rabelaisian, Christian

  • Member
  • 2,887 posts

Posted 19 January 2011 - 08:12 PM

There is no absolute in a work of art if it's a way of saying that everyone HAS TO like it one way or another. But one can consider that work absolute and consider that anyone can like it one way or another. Not "should" or "has to", but "can".

But who would ever argue that no one CAN like something? Anyone can like good art, bad art, or non-art. But the fact that anyone can like it says absolutely nothing about the work itself. Your first problem is that you are confusing "absolute" as a noun (your first sentence) with "absolute" as an adjective (your second sentence). To say that a work of art is absolute (adj.) is to describe it, to say it is pure, complete, or unadulterated in some way. Webster's Dictionary defines absolute as a noun as "something that is not dependent upon external conditions for existence or for its specific nature." Therefore, to say that a work of art possesses an absolute (n.) is to enter St. Thomas Aquinas territory and say that it contains or reflects a truth that also exists in the outside, objective world.

More than the idea of an absolute work of art that anyone has to like, I'm more irritated by the idea that anyone can get a different opinion of anything and stand by it, without any effort of understanding other opinions. What's meaningless about the idea of "every value is strictly a matter of opinion", is that it doesn't seem to be aware of the fact that one's opinion can always change or evolve, as well as what we call "taste".

Right, opinions and personal tastes are subjective and thus subject to change. But a Christian believes that there are also, for example, truths out there that are not subject to change. The question thus turns upon whether any work of art can accurately depict or express an objective truth or quality. It is Biblical to say that creation does (and creation is God's work of art), so can God inspire human artists to also create art that interacts with His own attributes? If God can do whatever He wants, the answer is yes.

We all have different opinions, but these opinions can be different even coming from the same person. It's a reflection deeply tied to perceptive faculties. A work of art is a subject of perception. Thousands of points of view are only describing the diverse aspects of that same subject that is the work of art, not to speak of the fact that the artist itself didn't even plan to express those thousand things perceived by the people. That's what art is about: it's a work of expression that even leads the artist somewhere else, and himself/herself ends to follow the road of his work.

So, there can be thousands of opinions about what one work of art expresses. But, can't a mere opinion be sometimes incorrect? Can't some people get the idea that an artist is expressing wrong? Sure, the Mona Lisa can have some special significance for a person that da Vinci would never have thought of. But to then say that a work of art can mean anything is equivocating. My own little subjective feelings about the Mona Lisa say something about me, but not necessarily anything at all, objectively, about the Mona Lisa itself.

I also think that a work of art doesn't exist without an audience. It can be discovered in thousand years or never. If it's never discovered, it will never exist. If you save the fact that the work of art exists for the artist who created it, at least. But this artist (if he ever exists himself, in the world and to his own eyes) will never know the merits of his own work.

Um ... this entire train of thought is going down a philosophical road that, again, will end with denying that a work of art can ever have any objective worth of it's own. I would suggest that this could possibly be true if there was no God, but in a universe created by God, there are universal and objective things that exist no matter what. Even God himself has created works of art that perhaps will be seen by nobody but Himself. But, if say, the Venus de Milo was completely destroyed before anyone other than the artist could see it, that would not mean that it still could not have been said to be objectively beautiful.

Just some various thoughts of mine. :gandalf:

Keep 'em going. This is a fascinating subject for anyone interested in Art and Christianity to explore. The idea that has given me a sense of awe that I never used to have is the idea that there are some works of art out there that, if I don't like them, are not in any way diminished by my not liking them. There is truth and beauty out there that my not appreciating says something more about my own limitations than it does about truth and beauty. The possibility that God can use both a Rembrandt and a finger painting by a 5-year-old to awaken something inside a man is easily granted. But the possibility that God can specifically and divinely inspire particular artists AND speak to us through them, to create works that accurate reflect some objective truth about His character or attributes that appeals to some universal need that exists in the heart of every man ... well, that possibility is breathtaking. And, over time, I have grown to believe in it.

Edited by Persiflage, 19 January 2011 - 08:13 PM.


#17 Hugues

Hugues

    Member

  • Member
  • 944 posts

Posted 24 January 2011 - 02:33 AM

Therefore, to say that a work of art possesses an absolute (n.) is to enter St. Thomas Aquinas territory and say that it contains or reflects a truth that also exists in the outside, objective world.


What kind of truth? What's objective? Can the man see, hear, smell, touch, taste the world as it is? How can the man, with his animal senses I mentionned above, reach or feel a kind of absolute? You know, what we see is just what we can see. Who says that our view is objective? I say "our" for us, of the Human species. A lot of animals out there feel things differently.

But a Christian believes that there are also, for example, truths out there that are not subject to change. The question thus turns upon whether any work of art can accurately depict or express an objective truth or quality. It is Biblical to say that creation does (and creation is God's work of art), so can God inspire human artists to also create art that interacts with His own attributes? If God can do whatever He wants, the answer is yes.


Isn't that only a matter of belief? Some artists are Christians, some others aren't. There are a lot of great artists who made great works of art, but didn't say they made it through God. Actually I prefer the word "Faith" which is broader and is fine by me on this forum. :) Because what makes artists great at what they are is a kind of Faith (well, not always either, but I like to think so). Not necessarily a Christian one.

So, there can be thousands of opinions about what one work of art expresses. But, can't a mere opinion be sometimes incorrect? Can't some people get the idea that an artist is expressing wrong? Sure, the Mona Lisa can have some special significance for a person that da Vinci would never have thought of. But to then say that a work of art can mean anything is equivocating. My own little subjective feelings about the Mona Lisa say something about me, but not necessarily anything at all, objectively, about the Mona Lisa itself.


I'm not sure that anybody is incorrect at feeling what he feels from any work of art. And whatever the artists has expressed through his art, I'm not sure he succeeded in any kind of rightness, but rather by the quality of the work itself. He can certainly be motivated by a message, he can certainly mean something deep or strong or powerful to him, but what he did as a work is only something that will be appreciated by thousands different eyes (or ears, or minds, etc). To some extent, the work of art doesn't belong to the artist once it's done. It's something for everyone.

That said, I suppose that if the artist has explained thoughfully what he meant to do, he's the closest to the truth of his art, and certainly to the way to do it.

in a universe created by God, there are universal and objective things that exist no matter what. Even God himself has created works of art that perhaps will be seen by nobody but Himself. But, if say, the Venus de Milo was completely destroyed before anyone other than the artist could see it, that would not mean that it still could not have been said to be objectively beautiful.


That is coherent with the Christian belief. I'm of those very few people on this forum who don't believe in God (in the sense that a belief is something serious, and that I've never seriously thought about this kind of question - do we have to believe in something in the first place? I've never needed to. I guess it's matter of culture. I think France is the most atheist country of Europe, if not of the whole world - I've read that once on Wikipedia).

The idea that has given me a sense of awe that I never used to have is the idea that there are some works of art out there that, if I don't like them, are not in any way diminished by my not liking them.


I can't see a beauty where I don't see it. I just think that there is some beauty seen by other people that I don't see, and I think that if some people can see it I can see it too (it's matter of approach, of "point of view"), one day, or never, but I could. If there is any truth, we need a lot of people to get around it. And we can only get around it. Is that what we could call an objective truth? I don't know.

There is truth and beauty out there that my not appreciating says something more about my own limitations than it does about truth and beauty.


I absolutely agree. But now, I suppose that there is some "work of art" out there that is really bad, but it's always a relative thing. Is it absolutely bad? (not that i mean to confuse the adjective with the noun again!) Usually critics say "this is better than this, why losing his time with something weaker, etc, etc" (well, an observation from the music world at least, as someone who listens to hundreds of CDs a year).

#18 Hugues

Hugues

    Member

  • Member
  • 944 posts

Posted 24 January 2011 - 10:00 AM

I think France is the most atheist country of Europe, if not of the whole world - I've read that once on Wikipedia).


Sorry for being off topic, but I have to correct this. Wikipedia says that:

A November–December 2006 poll published in the Financial Times gives rates for the United States and five European countries. The lowest rates of atheism were in the United states at only 4%, while the rates of atheism in the European countries surveyed were considerably higher: Italy (7%), Spain (11%), Great Britain (17%), Germany (20%), and France (32%). The European figures are similar to those of an official European Union survey, which reported that 18% of the EU population do not believe in a god. Other studies have placed the estimated percentage of atheists, agnostics, and other nonbelievers in a personal god as low as single digits in Poland, Romania, Cyprus, and some other European countries, and up to 85% in Sweden, 80% in Denmark, 72% in Norway, and 60% in Finland. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 19% of Australians have "no religion", a category that includes atheists. Between 64% and 65% of Japanese are atheists, agnostics, or do not believe in a god.


So, Scandinavia and Japan beat France easily by their number of non-believers it seems.

#19 Ryan H.

Ryan H.

    Riding the crest of a wave breaking just west of Hollywood

  • Member
  • 5,227 posts

Posted 24 January 2011 - 12:16 PM

But a Christian believes that there are also, for example, truths out there that are not subject to change. The question thus turns upon whether any work of art can accurately depict or express an objective truth or quality. It is Biblical to say that creation does (and creation is God's work of art), so can God inspire human artists to also create art that interacts with His own attributes? If God can do whatever He wants, the answer is yes.

Isn't that only a matter of belief?

Sure. But I think it's fair, on this forum, to say that some basic Christian principles can be taken for granted. It's obvious you're not on the same page, but it's clear that Persiflage is interested in wrestling with this question from a specifically Christian POV.

The questions you're asking get at more fundamental questions about epistemology and faith and it's hard to bring those into this specific conversation without hopelessly derailing it. If those are the questions that compel you, though, it might be worth building a separate thread to explore those issues. I'd certainly be interested in seeing what some of the A&F crew would have to say in response, especially since our community features individuals from many different traditions.

Edited by Ryan H., 24 January 2011 - 12:25 PM.


#20 J.A.A. Purves

J.A.A. Purves

    Chestertonian, Rabelaisian, Christian

  • Member
  • 2,887 posts

Posted 25 January 2011 - 02:40 PM

What kind of truth? What's objective? Can the man see, hear, smell, touch, taste the world as it is? How can the man, with his animal senses I mentioned above, reach or feel a kind of absolute? You know, what we see is just what we can see. Who says that our view is objective? I say "our" for us, of the Human species. A lot of animals out there feel things differently.

These questions of yours can be, as Ryan said, a completely different discussion (we could make a new thread on the forum). Every Christian (even if his thought has been damaged by reading the likes of Soren Kierkegaard) still believes in absolute truths. There is a knowable reality that we discover objective truths from. Reality is the outside environment that mankind collectively and repeatedly perceives, interacts with and remembers. This is not to say that people have different experiences. But you cannot confuse the word "experience" with the words "truth" or "reality." That said, if all of that is simply wrong, then there can be no absolutes in art. If it is right, then there can be absolutes in art, the the next question is how do we go about exploring and recognizing them - which seems basically the point of this thread.

Isn't that only a matter of belief? Some artists are Christians, some others aren't. There are a lot of great artists who made great works of art, but didn't say they made it through God. Actually I prefer the word "Faith" which is broader and is fine by me on this forum. :) Because what makes artists great at what they are is a kind of Faith (well, not always either, but I like to think so). Not necessarily a Christian one.

Let's make this clear. There are self-evident truths that exist that will exist no matter what we puny little indecisive humans decide we want to believe about them. And thank God for that. But let's also get another thing clear. No one in the Arts & Faith community would argue that an artist has to be a Christian in order to be a great artist. Great works of art can be made by nonChristians. What THIS thread is touching on is that there must be some objective measure for what makes particular works of art "great," and that would be capturing some truth or beauty about objective reality that universally appeals to the hearts of any man or woman, in any historical time period, in any culture or country of the world. Are there works of art that do this? I think so. But, if I didn't believe in God, I probably wouldn't think so, because I wouldn't really believe that there were any universal absolutes that appealed to the hearts of every man in the first place.

I'm not sure that anybody is incorrect at feeling what he feels from any work of art. And whatever the artists has expressed through his art, I'm not sure he succeeded in any kind of rightness, but rather by the quality of the work itself. He can certainly be motivated by a message, he can certainly mean something deep or strong or powerful to him, but what he did as a work is only something that will be appreciated by thousands different eyes (or ears, or minds, etc). To some extent, the work of art doesn't belong to the artist once it's done. It's something for everyone.

Of course, feelings and emotions are not true or false in any objective sense. That would be logical nonsense. But there are ideas that are true and ideas that are false (no matter what I happen to feel about them). It's just as possible for an artist to convey a false idea through a work of art as it is for an artist to express a universal truth in a work of art. Just because a work of art is made for others does not mean it still doesn't express an idea, whether a good or a bad one. Great works of art will convey absolutes to man, appealing to desires and yearnings that we all share together. Therefore, as I have had to learn over time, sometimes if a great work of art doesn't convey anything at all to me (it doesn't make me think or feel anything at all), that means that something is dead inside me. It took years for me to be able to get anything at all out of the music of Johan Sebastian Bach, but again, that was my own fault, not Bach's fault.

I'm of those very few people on this forum who don't believe in God (in the sense that a belief is something serious, and that I've never seriously thought about this kind of question - do we have to believe in something in the first place? I've never needed to. I guess it's matter of culture. I think France is the most atheist country of Europe, if not of the whole world - I've read that once on Wikipedia).

So do you describe yourself as an Agnostic then?