What is Art?

And it is upon this capacity of man to receive another man’s expression of feeling and experience those feelings himself, that the activity of art is based.” Tolstoy, What Is Art #5

Tolstoy speaks about the infectiousness of art as it relates to the union of man to man. If the work of art does not create a union of feeling between the viewer and the artist, regardless of the feelings be good or bad, it cannot dare to call itself art. The test of infectiousness can be conducted by the meeting of three conditions: the individuality of the feeling, the clearness of the feeling and the sincerity in which the artist felt the feeling. If these three conditions are not met, and there is no union between the viewer, the artist and the others who have looked upon the work, then the subject cannot begin to reach the definition of true art.

Like Aristotle, Tolstoy speaks on art as if it is reflective of universal truths, and yet it needs to reflect the universal truth that art is the greatest form of communication among man. The reason for this may as well be that feeling is the great equalizer among man, capable of bringing together bands of revolutionaries and villains alike. All action must have feelings behind it to be considered valid, and the same can be said of art. The feelings invoked must create some kind of bond between the artist and the viewer, even if only for a moment – a bond formed on the basis of feelings can be considered the strongest bond of all.

Just look at all the people who take vows because they share a bond over their feelings of love for the other.

The decision of art as art based on its ability to create shared feelings within men is indeed a useful tool for evaluating art. Communication is the greatest tool of man, capable of starting or ending wars, creating or destroying relationship, and being the difference between life and death. Therefore if a piece of art must be judged solely on its capability to create a link of communication between man and man, then so be it. Regardless of the feeling being a good one or not, you and the artist both felt the same thing. That’s good art.

Word Count: 367

eXistenZ

“Moreover, I said, you must not wonder that those who attain to this beatific vision are unwilling to descend to human affairs; for their soul are ever hastening into the upper world where they desire to dwell; which desire of theirs is very natural, if our allegory may be trusted.”
Plato, The Republic: Book VII

In a world where the only thing you know to be real is that nothing in that world is true, when do you start to lose sight of reality? Maybe it’s the moment where you delve into a game programmed to be a part of another game. It could also be when you kill a man in one game, and still see him in the next game.

Though it’s probably when the man you’ve been playing all of these games with turns to you and mentions that his real endgame was your death. The death that so many fellow gamers have been seeking since you first slipped into the virtual reality of the gaming world.

Plato offers an allegory of a cave, where a group of prisoners have been imprisoned since birth, where the only thing they know to be real is the shadows cast along the wall for they are unable to look at those who pass in front of the cave. Their reality has been carved from what they have rationalized to be real based on the reflections of the world cast on a stone wall in the form of shadows. To be able to make out shadows in the darkness – is that not a false reality because the darkness in which they have been imprisoned encompasses them? Their reality lies within the darkness.

One prisoner is released and set out in the world that is the true reality – he adjusts to this strange new world slowly, misled and misinformed about the things that he can see. The shadows are merely reflections, slats of darkness where the visible thing blocks out the light of the sun that illuminates this real world within his eyes. Is that not reminiscent of the filter cast upon the world by the reality of games?

There is solace to be found when you slay a man within a game – for he is not real and there is no guilt to be found. But how do you know this to be true? Do you know that you have not become disillusioned so that everything you see is merely a figment of your imagination, that your reality is not a fallacy within itself?

The reality of eXistenZ was the false reality of tranCendenZ. And tranCendenZ was the false reality of the “real” reality. Or was it?

That’s a question for you to answer, based on your perception of reality.

Word Count: 460

 

Ethics of Belief

“Belief, that sacred faculty which prompts the decisions of our will, and knits into harmonious working all the compacted energies of our being, is ours not for ourselves, but for humanity…It is desecrated when given to unproved and unquestioned statements, for the solace and private pleasure of the believer; to add a tinsel splendour to the plain straight road of our life and display a bright mirage beyond it; or even to drown the common sorrows of our kind by a self-deception which allows them not only to cast down, but also to degrade us.” (Page 5, Paragraph 2)

Clifford’s argument, written in standard form
P1: Entertaining a belief without sufficient evidence or investigation will lead to negative results that the party who held the belief is always responsible for.
P2: If someone entertains an untrue belief but holds that belief after thorough investigation, they have the right to hold that untrue belief.
P3: A belief without sufficient evidence can be spread to other unknowing beings and therefore that invalid belief becomes widespread.
C: It is wrong to hold and act on a belief without sufficient evidence period.

Clifford’s argument is valid so long as his premises are valid: everyone is responsible for their beliefs and the investigation of them thereof, an untrue belief that has been investigated is more likely to be accepted as valid, and an untrue belief can be widespread regardless of investigation. This lack of investigation can have negative outcomes on both the responsible party and those s/he spreads this belief unto. Therefore the conclusion that a belief based on insufficient evidence is indeed valid.

By that same reasoning, Clifford’s argument is also sound as both the premises and conclusion have logical validity. Believing something without any evidence to back it up leads to an ignorance that can be spread to the collective. Upon that ignorance spreading, the collective no longer holds any power because their beliefs can be questioned and proved invalid.

There are no fallacies to be found within Clifford’s argument. A widespread and unfounded belief could easily be the undoing of a society.

Word Count: 349