Deus Ex Machina

"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan

Random Philosophical Thought of the Day

I always find the idea of turning to art to find “authenticity” to be outright absurd. After all, what is the root word of “artifice”, “artificial”, but “art”? Art, as the imposition of human will and intentionality upon the order of nature to shape it out of its “natural” state into an artifice, set apart from world by a stage, a frame, an exhibition, is by definition artificial. (I think I framed this thesis in a Romanticism mod in NUS when I argued that the contradiction of the English Romantics is that on the one hand they want to “turn back to nature” and turn their backs on science, but yet on the other hand, their advocacy of art as the location of “truth” as opposed to science which actually does describe nature “as it is” contradicts their exaltation of nature which of course is precisely untouched by human artifice.)

Perhaps in a sense, art is always the attempt precisely to transcend nature, to draw the world out of its “natural state” and into, dare I say, platonic rational realities which soars above nature “as it is”. Perhaps idea that the location of art is the place for “true” human authenticity is simply the echo of the sense human reality cannot simply dwell in the state of nature as it is but must wax and flex their will to shape nature in conformity to the human will, in sort, in the human reality, authenticity is the exercise of its will over the natural passions.

In that sense, the relationship of the Christian faith to art is often ambiguous. Christ, as Isaiah reminds us in Chapter 53, “had no beauty whereby we might desire him”. What is the Crucifixion after all, but the imposition of the human will upon the divine will? In the sense in which the divine will transcends the human will, it is always a dubious attempt to identify any human artifice and human will, with the divine and by deduction, human art with divine art.

Yet the uniqueness of the incarnation, whereby the human will of Christ acts in union with the divine will (I think the denial that there are “Two wills” in Christ is an obscure heresy in some Eastern Orthodox circles) does seem to suggest that there might be a case for the edification of the human will, and thereby human art. Yet this suggestion exists in dialectical tension with critique of human will and human art which the Crucifixion reveals, and so we have here perhaps the roots of the Romantic-Reformed-Puritan exaltation of “nature”, i.e. creation as divine art over and above the “artificiality” of the human art shaped by the human will, and thereby the “austerity” of Puritan churches and worship.

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This entry was posted on December 26, 2012 by in Uncategorized.
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