A preliminary definition of art
both somehow significant and yet absorbing in its own right (rather than as an immediate instrument of knowledge)
Art and social justice don’t go together. In fact, both sides of the political “spectrum” tend to perceive aesthetic appreciation as a form of gluttony. If it can’t help the political cause then it’s useless. Even beyond that it’s worse than useless, you’re perceived as a bad person if you’re not helping the cause and instead “dawdling” with some more or less apolitical novel or something.
What is there in life? Fine art is one of the things that life is worth living for. Sure, it can be political. Arguably though, the best kind has an intrinsic value that does not relate to politics at all. It’s only after you appreciate the intrinsic value that you can then extrapolate to politics. If you want your political order to be a work of art then you first have to know what a work of art IS.
There’s a Bataillean expenditure quality to aesthetic appreciation
Perhaps art is, as the English philosopher Stuart Hampshire once remarked, ‘‘gratuitous,” in being connected with no central problems or interests that attach to humanity as such.
There’s something over-abundant, or excessive about it.
Art is more closely connected to a few of the seven deadly sins than one tends to realize.
It’s a question of being a cog in the machine. It’s greedy to decide not to be a cog. And when you’re experiencing art for how it can be used politically you are being a cog.
One reason I myself make people irate is because I have this attitude about philosophy. I do not study it in order to be a cog of the state. They see it as gluttonous, greedy, and proud. I’m doing it just to do it, I’m not your cog. The same logic can be applied to art immersion.
And yet, again, works of art — products of human performance with powerfully absorbing effects — are there in all human cultures, and some of them have seemed to some of their audiences to be as important in life as anything can be.
This is because when you’re a political animal you are being an object, a means to an end. When you appreciate art outside of politics, or philosophize free of the state, you are being an end in itself, and that seems to be one of the main points of life. That’s what people look for also in friendship and love. If someone is just using you then those words lose their meaning. When you subordinate your energies to politics you are voluntarily letting yourself be used. Nothing against politics, that’s an important part of life too. I’m just trying to show you there’s a distinct difference between pure aesthetic appreciation and political activity. We need both to be human. This point is connected with the idea of leisure. You should be able to enjoy yourself. When you’re constantly thinking about politics while reading an Epic, say, you can’t fairly call that “enjoying yourself”. You’re thinking about the outside world, what you can do to “help”. Why not help yourself and enjoy yourself? See how many will see you as a glutton for this? “You want to live in your own bubble and forget about the sufferings of the world!” Yeah, because I’m the world too and I suffer too. People don’t tend to think like this. It’s possible for art and philosophy to be “useless” where the word useless does not have a pejorative meaning.
I honestly believe most people are walking corpses because they’ve only consumed lowbrow material all their lives. It’s not a question of whether they’re “starving” for something more, it’s that they’ve already starved to death and that’s normal life for them. Now, whenever they talk, it’s like hearing a zombie’s groans. If you have surrounded yourself with ugliness (or cosmetic beauty) all your life your soul has been like a sponge that’s absorbed dirty water full of bacteria and decay. And when you squeeze yourself out into the sink of public discourse what else do you expect your soul to produce besides what it absorbed?
Here’s the novelist-philosopher Iris Murdoch
Our emotions and desires are as good as their objects and are constantly being modified in relation to their objects . . . There is no unattached will as a prime source of value. There is only the working of the human spirit in the morass of existence in which it always and at every moment finds itself immersed.
Are you a lazy cow that absorbs the dirty water of “tweets” all day? Reminds me of those kids who, in a swimming pool that’s a third urine, spray a fountain with their mouth with the water at each other. The chlorine can be the figurative banning for wrongthink, sterility. So that’s what you’re all splashing each other with. Your emotions and desires are as good as their objects.
So to summarize, there’s not much point in even talking about aesthetic appreciation when all people tend to absorb is lowbrow non-art. “I’ll appreciate that better now, thanks.”