The Essence of Art

by Roger E. Bissell

Objectivity, Volume 2, Number 5, 1997

Since the concept of "art" has historically had a considerable range and variety of meanings, it is understandable that there has been much confusion and disagreement in discussions of esthetics or philosophy of art. These perplexities can be dispelled once art is viewed in terms of essentials.[1]

The Two Valid Concepts of "Art"

There are two basic, valid concepts of "art," which must be carefully distinguished and clearly defined. One is the more general one that encompasses all products of human skill, all man-made objects or states-of-affairs. This is art as human creation, the "artificial," the man-made. As Mortimer Adler has observed, it is historically the prior of the two concepts:

Until the end of the eighteenth century, the word "art" was very broadly used to cover all forms of human skill and all the things which men were able to produce by skilled workmanship. [2]

Within this broad category, there are many possible subdivisions. One in particular is that between the so-called "utilitarian arts" and "fine arts," the latter traditionally including painting, sculpture, literature, music, dance, and theater. Many people sense implicitly, and rightly so, that there actually is some fundamental difference between at least some "fine art" objects and all other man-made things.

This feeling apparently grew so strong during the nineteenth century that the word "art" came to be applied, more narrowly than before, to the "fine arts" only. [3] Yet, as we shall see, there is no firm, objective criterion for differentiating all of the so-called "fine arts" from the rest of human products. Nor can there be one.

Fortunately, however, there is one criterion that provides a sound basis for differentiating certain (but not all) "fine art" objects from all other man-made objects. This criterion is incorporated into the definition of the other valid concept of "art," the narrower concept of art as human re-creation.

In her writings on esthetics, Ayn Rand has given the fullest definition of this concept. She defines "art" as: "a selective re-creation of reality, according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments (by means of a specific material medium)." [4]

By selective re-creation, art isolates and integrates those aspects of reality which represent man's fundamental view of himself and of existence. Out of the countless number of concretes -- of single, disorganized and (seemingly) contradictory attributes, actions and entities -- an artist isolates the things which he regards as metaphysically essential and integrates them into a single new concrete that represents an embodied abstraction. [5]

By "selective re-creation of reality," Rand means the creating of an edited, stylized version or image of (some aspect of) reality, out of materials existing in reality. She does not use the word herself, but what she is clearly speaking of is the setting up within reality, using materials from reality, of a microcosm, an artist's conception of (some aspect of) reality. [6]

Such an image is constructed "according to one's metaphysical value-judgments." That is, it includes things regarded by its creator as metaphysically important and excludes things he or she regards as metaphysically unimportant. Thus, a selective re-creation of reality is, in effect, a concretization of a metaphysical view.[7]

In order to represent (concretize) a metaphysical view, furthermore, an image must necessarily present a metaphysical (existential) setting. Such a setting involves an entity (such as a man, still-life, or landscape) -- or some other discriminated existent (such as a musical tone or a shadow) that bears analogy to an entity, by virtue of its concrete existence, identity, and actions.

That is, a selective re-creation of reality that concretizes a metaphysical view must present an image of some intelligible subject, not just mere patterns of attributes. It must, in this sense, be "representational."

Or, to restate this in the contrapositive form: man-made objects presenting images that fail to include entities (or other discriminated existents) thus fail to represent a metaphysical view. (They do represent the absence of such a view, however, as do all other objects that are not art.)

Art as a Tool of Cognition

The reason that images that fail to include entities (or other discriminated existents) thus fail to represent a metaphysical view lies in the symbolic nature and function of art -- specifically, in the fact that art is a tool of cognition.

1. What is a Tool? In general, a tool is a human contrivance or discovery that serves as the means to fulfilling some requirement of human survival. [8] In some way or other, a tool serves an integrative function. A tool functions so as to help a human being preserve the integrity of his or her organismic structure (ultimately, at least, if not immediately).

In general, Nathaniel Branden points out, "An organism sustains itself physically by taking materials from the environment." It reorganizes them and achieves a new integration that converts them into the organism's means of survival. "We can observe an analogous phenomenon in the process by which a consciousness apprehends reality, on both the perceptual and conceptual levels." [9]

Branden further notes that:

Biologically, life is a state and process of integration: the physical integrity of an organism, and the integration of its actions in the direction of life-serving goals, are the pre-condition and essence of biological well-being -- of an organism's success at the task of survival. Any forces that work against integration, work against life; disintegration is motion toward death. [10]

Integration is also basic to the process of cognition. Cognition (i.e., awareness and knowledge of the facts of reality) is the fundamental biological function of the human mind. Since we must act, our survival requires that we apprehend reality, so that we may regulate our behavior accordingly. [11]

Any cognitively disintegrative mental processes hamper or prevent this basic task from being carried out. For this reason, cognitively disintegrative mental processes are contrary to one's biological well-being and are thus biologically disintegrative, as well. [12]

How is it, then, that tools serve an integrative function -- in general and, in particular, for cognition?

A tool, in the usual sense of the term, is an instrument (mechanical device or contrivance), especially one held in the hand (such as a hammer, saw, or file), for the purpose of performing or facilitating mechanical operations. [13] In a secondary sense, however, a tool is also anything used like an instrument of manual operation in order to do work or effect some result (such as a rock used in lieu of a hammer). [14]

More generally, a tool or instrument is a thing with or by which something is effected -- a means, an agency, by which one accomplishes some purpose or end. [15] This broader concept includes not merely things that transmit mechanical forces, but also those which help us to attain knowledge. These latter we will refer to as tools of cognition. [16]

2. Tools of Cognition. A tool of cognition is that which a human being uses to help fulfill the requirements of cognition, which is his or her basic means of survival. That is, a tool of cognition aids us in the activity of integrating our cognitive data.

In the physical realm, our primary tool is our hand, which (being prehensile) provides us with our basic means of physically grasping reality. Analogously, our primary cognitive tool is our conceptual abstractions or concepts -- including integrations of concepts into propositions, arguments, theories, etc. -- which provide us with our basic means of cognitively grasping reality.

Just as we grasp or apprehend reality in a physical manner with our hands, so too we cognitively apprehend reality with conceptual abstractions.

Secondary tools are those which constitute extensions of the primary tools. [17] Secondary tools amplify or refine what primary tools can do. Secondary tools extend the range of what is possible to us without them.

The secondary physical tools (that transmit mechanical forces) serve as extensions of one's hand. The secondary cognitive tools (e.g., language and art) are extensions of one's abstractions into the concrete, physical realm.

Primary and secondary cognitive tools can be conveniently distinguished by the terms abstraction and symbol. (Bear in mind that "abstraction" is short for "conceptual abstraction," and that it is to be distinguished from "emotional abstraction.")

Abstractions and symbols are mutually dependent on one another, just as are one's hands and one's manual tools. Abstractions have very limited usefulness without symbols. Symbols arise in order to implement abstractions and are otherwise cognitively useless.

The function and purpose of primary cognitive tools -- i.e., (conceptual) abstractions -- is to serve as the means of integrating our cognitive data. This expands our consciousness beyond the perceptual level characteristic of animals and small children. [18] Of course, in order for abstractions to fulfill the function of integrating cognitive data, what they integrate must be cognitive data.

A cognitive datum is a content of consciousness that arises when one's perceptual or conceptual faculty is directed toward some aspect of reality. The aspect of reality one is conscious of becomes the object of cognition. The cognitive content is in a cognitive correspondence to, and is cognitively identified with, the object of cognition. [19]

As one continues to direct, or refer, one's cognitive faculty toward reality, one's cognitive content is referred to the object of cognition. The object of cognition is thus the referent of one's cognitive content. In the same sense, one's cognitive content means the object of cognition, which is the meaning of that content. Thus, to be a cognitive datum, a given content of consciousness must have some aspect of reality as its referent.

Cognitive data on the abstract level are of one or the other of two types: (a) exis tential cognitive data and (b) psychological cognitive data. Or, concepts of existence (existential concepts) and concepts of consciousness. Or, extrospective concepts and introspective concepts. [20] (This distinction is merely intended to point to the difference between our conceptual awareness of physical and psychological phenomena. In no way does this use of "existential" to describe the former deny that both kinds of phenomena are aspects of reality that do exist.)

On the broadest levels of conceptual abstraction, we are concerned specifically with fundamental facts. In regard to the existential side of reality, we are concerned with the basic nature of the physical world and our relation to it. Such a fundamental grasp is what is referred to by the terms "metaphysical abstraction" or "metaphysical view." And this is to be distinguished abstractions about the basic nature of psychological reality (our mental processes, human consciousness) and our relationship to it -- what might be called "psycho-epistemological abstractions."

The function and purpose of secondary tools of cognition -- i.e., symbols and systems of symbols -- is also a cognitively integrative one. They are the means of physically implementing our primary, abstract tools of cognition (abstractions). [21] Symbols thus serve as concrete tools of cognition. They allow us to concretize and thereby retain the cognitive data integrated by our abstractive faculty into concepts, etc. [22]

In concretizing abstractions, symbols thus convert them and the cognitive data they integrate into the mental equivalent of a concrete. [23] Symbols are concretes that represent -- in the sense of serving or standing as physical proxy for -- some content of consciousness with which they are mentally equated. Symbols exist in a relation of correspondence to those mental contents.

A symbol has no cognitive meaning other than that possessed by the mental contents which it symbolizes (i.e., to which it is held to be mentally equivalent). Only if those mental contents are themselves cognitive data that refer to some aspect of reality, does their symbol have cognitive meaning, as well as mere symbolic reference. In particular, a given symbol's having cognitive meaning is dependent entirely upon its symbolizing a valid abstraction.

As similar as all symbols are in these and other respects, however, they are also clearly distinguishable into two basic types. The ways in which they differ allow them to perform separate, complementary roles as tools of cognition. Those differences show why art is uniquely suited for concretizing our metaphysical abstractions.

3. Cognitive Economy and Symbolic Division of Labor. The two basic types of symbols are linguistic symbols and esthetic symbols -- or language and representational art. All other types of symbols are either disguised instances of, primitive forerunners of, intermediate forms between, or combinations of one of the two basic types. [24]

A linguistic symbol is a concrete which represents an abstraction by means of automatized association. A mental association is arbitrarily established and automatized between the concrete and the abstraction in one's mind.

Linguistic symbols are employed primarily in a system of such concretes. Language is a code of visual-auditory (and/or tactile) symbols that serves the mental function of converting abstractions into the mental equivalent of concretes. [25] That is, by virtue of the act of automatized association, the mind treats the abstractions symbolized by language as though they were physical concretes, "out there," instead of locked up inside one's head.

An esthetic symbol is a concrete that represents a fundamental abstraction by means of stylized embodiment. The mental association between the concrete and the abstraction in one's mind is neither arbitrary nor automatized. It is sometimes called a "natural" abstraction.

Esthetic symbols are employed primarily in isolation, as individual concretes. (A notable exception to this would be a thematically related showing of artworks by the same artist or different artists -- or a similar concert of musical pieces by one or more composers.)

Representational art is a visual or auditory (and/or tactile) symbol that serves the mental function of converting fundamental abstractions into the mental equivalent of concretes. [26] That is, by virtue of the fact of stylized embodiment, which is automatically recognizable, the mind treats the fundamental abstractions symbolized by representational art as though they were physical concretes "out there," instead of locked up inside one's head.

For both linguistic and esthetic symbols, the various possible symbolic forms correspond to the various forms (i.e., modes or channels) of a conceptually conscious being's cognitive faculty: sight (written language and visual art), hearing (spoken language and music), and touch (Braille and sculpture). [27]

Literature is a special case. It uses linguistic symbols as a means (i.e., a medium) in which to convey esthetic symbols. Through the medium of language, literature conveys a sensory-perceptual set of images which embody fundamental abstractions beyond those conveyed by the language used per se. [28]

A linguistic symbol has a man-made (artificial) relationship to the abstraction which it represents. It is also an arbitrary relationship. Nothing in the nature of such a symbolic concrete necessitates that it be the one used to symbolize a given abstraction. The crucial factor is human volition, the conscious choice to associate a given concrete with a given abstractions.

An esthetic symbol, on the other hand, has a metaphysical (natural) relationship to the abstraction which it represents. It is also a necessary relationship. The relationship, that is, is inherent in the identity of the symbolic concrete and the abstraction symbolized. [29]

This is not meant to suggest that volition is totally absent with regard to esthetic symbols. Indeed, the person who so fashions an esthetic symbol that it is inherently able to symbolize an abstraction upon being perceived, has to do so through a (perhaps arduous) process of volitional thought. Neither the creator nor any other perceiver of the symbol, however, need volitionally automatize an association of the symbol with the abstraction it symbolizes.

Nor is this meant to suggest that an esthetic symbol actually is a symbol apart from some conscious person who employs it as such--nor, consequently, that the relationship between symbol and abstraction exists apart from someone who recognizes that relationship. It is not intrinsically a symbol, apart from someone's consciousness.

Rather, the esthetic symbolic concrete is so structured that it is inherently able to enter into a symbolic relation with an abstraction upon being perceived. An act of artificially assigning the symbolic concrete to a specific abstraction -- and of consciously automatizing the symbolic relationship -- is unnecessary. The abstraction is readily perceived and recognized as being already embodied in the symbolic concrete, in much the same way as if it were embodied in some non-symbolic aspect of reality.

How can two such radically different types of symbols exist? The reason lies in the nature and requirements of the human conceptual faculty.

We form abstractions or concepts, as a system of classification, whenever the scope of our perceptual data becomes too great for our minds to handle. Our conceptual faculty performs the task of reducing a vast amount of information to a minimal number of units. This process takes place according to the principle of unit-economy. [30]

A concept (abstraction) substitutes one symbol (a word) for the enormous perceptual total of concretes that it subsumes. In order to perform its unit-reducing function, the symbol has to function automatically in a person's consciousness. Only in this way will the enormous sum of a concept's referents be instantly available to his conscious mind without the need to mentally summarize or perceptually visualize them. [31]

This automatic function of unit-reducing is achieved by two radically different kinds of symbols and symbol-to-abstraction relationships. One is the automatized association of linguistic symbols. The other is the automatically recognizable, stylized embodiment of esthetic symbols.

These radically differing symbol-to-abstraction relationships are uniquely appropriate to the respective groups of abstractions the symbols are characteristically applied to. This permits linguistic and esthetic symbols to perform distinct but complementary roles in the division of labor by which our concepts are implemented.

Language covers the full range of conceptual knowledge. A system of linguistic symbols based on images or pictures that embodied the abstractions would be woefully inadequate for handling the sheer bulk of the knowledge accumulated by the ancient Sumerians, let alone our present-day culture.

The history of the development of written language is one of gradually more and more economization of linguistic elements. As languages evolved, the total number of distinct marks that have to be made decreased. At the same time, the number of different uses for each mark increased. Thus, mankind arrived at the phonetic-alphabetic system we use today. [32]

Yet, the picture is the basis of all written language. [33] The picture came about because speech and gesture -- the earliest and most universal means of communication available to human beings -- are even more inadequate to our cognitive needs than are pictures. [34]

Granted, speech and gesture allowed mankind to make the giant leap from the perceptual level to the conceptual level of awareness of reality. They suffer, however, from two chief disadvantages: (1) Speech and gesture can be used only in communication between persons more or less in proximity to each other and are, therefore, restricted as to space. [35] (2) Speech and gesture are of momentary duration and are, therefore, restricted to time. As soon as the word is uttered or the gesture made, it is gone and cannot be revived except by repetition. [36]

These two factors gave rise to a need for a way of conveying thoughts and feelings in a form not limited by time and space. This led to the development of methods of communicating by means of objects and markings on objects. [37]

The use of objects for communication most commonly took the form of mnemonic signs. These were used mainly for primitive keeping of accounts and recording of statistics -- e.g., wampum, counting sticks, etc. It was too impractical to develop into a full system of communication. [38]

Communication by means of markings on objects began with pictures. [39] Pictures are the most natural means of communicating ideas for human beings in the primitive stage of development, whether of babies or prehistoric human beings. "Most natural," because of the symbolic relation of embodiment. Being close in appearance to the concretes they represent, they do not place an additional mental demand on a person using them. [40]

In the course of time, simple pictures no longer sufficed. Human cognitive development -- of each individual child and prehistorically of the entire human race -- demands more than pictures can provide. [41] Gradually, "the picture developed in two directions:

    • toward pictorial art, in which pictures continued to reproduce more or less faithfully the objects of the surrounding world in a way independent of language; and
    • toward writing, in which signs (whether they retained their pictorial character or not) ultimately became conventional symbols for linguistic elements (syllables, words)." [42]

There is an intermediate stage between pictorial art and writing called pictography or ideography. [43] It shares some attributes of each. It is "a system of visual communication which conveys ideas, thoughts, etc., but without using linguistic elements, such as words." [44]

On the one hand, like pictorial art and unlike even the most primitive forms of written language (logography, sometimes also referred to as "picture-writing"), ideography is relatively independent of spoken language, in three respects: (1) the message is expressed by a scene, with no convention as to whether the elements of the scene are sequential, or whether the number of elements of the scene corresponds to the number of words in the message; [45] (2) "the meaning is conveyed without any convention regarding order;" [46] and (3) the sign stands for not only the meanings that are habitually and conventionally associated with it, but for "a certain idea with all its related ramifications." [47]

On the other hand, unlike pictorial art and like writing, ideography achieves efficiency of communication "through the omission of all details not necessary for the understanding of the symbol." [48] Also, unlike either pictorial art or writing, ideography provides no opportunity to communicate basic abstractions, as pictorial art does through stylized embodiment.

So, ideography developed in two very different, but complementary directions:

    • Written language developed from ideography, because the sheer bulk of human abstractions became too great to be handled by a non-conventional system of pictorial symbols.
    • Pictorial art developed from ideography, because our most basic abstractions were too broad to be fully useful to us in the conventionalized form of written language, in which all the concrete, stylizable detail was abstracted away in favor of streamlining and efficiency. We need a more adequate form of communicating those abstractions than speech or gesture.

Pictorial or representational art, in general, covers the domain of our abstractions concerning existence, consciousness, and our relation to them. These fundamental abstractions are also dealt with, although in a linguistic manner, by philosophy. The task of philosophy is to provide us with a comprehensive view of life, which we need as a base, a frame of reference, for all our actions, mental or physical, psychological or existential.

One's metaphysical and epistemological abstractions are of prime importance to one's motivation and moral values. They are involved in every choice one makes, every action one takes, and every emotion one feels., [49, 50] "...all value-choices [and value-responses and seeking of values] rest on an implicit view of the being who values and of the world in which he must act." [51]

However, if the basic abstractions provided by philosophy are to be a usable frame of reference for our actions, we must be able to deal with them. We must be able to retranslate those abstractions into the perceptual concretes for which they stand--to reconnect the abstractions to reality -- and hold them all in the focus of our conscious awareness. [52]

Yet, qua abstractions, these basic abstractions are very difficult (if not impossible) to hold in one's immediate conceptual awareness, for two main reasons:

    • They are diffuse and hard to isolate from the rest of one's contents of consciousness. They are experienced more as feelings than as thoughts.
    • They are inclusive of too many factors for one to be able to hold them fully in one's immediate, focal awareness at a given time. [53, 54]

Also, since qua abstractions (or concepts), they do not exist as such -- but are only our means of viewing that which does exist (which is necessarily concrete) -- one's grasp of them can become extremely precarious at times:

Amidst the incalculable number and complexity of choices that confront a man in his day-by-day existence, with the frequently bewildering torrent of events, with the alternation of successes and failures, of joys that seem too rare and suffering that lasts too long -- he is often in danger of losing his perspective and the reality of his convictions. [55]

Even a rational person, with a fully developed, explicit philosophy, needs this experience. It is not a matter of verification or validation of one's philosophical views. It is a matter of seeing actual instances of those views, especially when much of one's environment seems to contradict them. It provides those philosophical views with an extra dimension of connectedness to reality, in much the same way that a model does in relation to a blueprint. [56]

Fundamental abstractions, in order to "acquire the full, persuasive, irresistible power of reality," [57] must be concretized (i.e., objectified) and open to one's direct contemplation. This is vital, in order for one to retain one's abstractions -- and the perspective of existence and of consciousness which those abstractions constitute.

There is no way to integrate such an immense sum of abstractions through language alone. We need a way to project them in the form of an integrated concretization that illuminates them and makes them intelligible. So, from the standpoint of cognitive economy, a picture is worth a thousand words, when it comes to symbolizing our fundamental abstractions.

Art, Nature, and Reality

Esthetic symbols, or artworks, are capable of embodying abstractions in reality-like fashion. The specific aspect of an artwork that performs this function is the likeness or image or semblance of the artwork. An esthetic symbol presents a semblance of reality, an imaginary microcosm. This is why we may properly refer to a representational artwork as a "re-creation of reality."

There are two related theories of the nature of art that are based on this notion of art as an imaginary microcosm. One is the ancient theory of art as imitation of nature, and the other is the more modern one of art as re-creation of reality.

These two theories are similar in several key ways:

    • The standard formulations of them are radically misconceived.
    • The standard criticisms leveled against them are, accordingly, misdirected.
    • They can both be used to formulate a proper concept and definition of "art" and, in so doing, to show why and how artworks must be representational.

1. Art as Imitation of Nature. The imitation theory is traditionally said to maintain that an artist copies or reproduces things, people, and events from reality. In so doing, he makes an image that is an "imitation" of them.

Commenting on the imitation theory, philosopher Susanne Langer says:

It is natural enough, perhaps, for naive reflection to center first of all round the relationship between an image and its object; or a graphic description as an imitation of reality...The problem of "imitation," or reproducing the appearance of a model, has harassed philosophers ever since Plato censured art as a "copy of a copy." [58]

Such a traditional view of esthetic imitation is also presented by Monroe C. Beardsley:

[T]he famous aesthetic judgment...of the picture on Achilles' shield...hints at the beginning of wonder about imitation, i.e., the relation between representation and object, or appearance and reality...Plato seems also to regard paintings, dramatic poems, and songs as imitations in a narrower sense: they are images...One kind of making is imitation, which Aristotle seems to take fairly straightforwardly as representation of objects or events. [59]

Against such a view of imitation, one cannot better begin than with the well-known words of Aristotle himself: "In general, then, art in a sense completes what nature is unable to finish, and in a sense imitates nature." [60]

John Herman Randall, Jr., further explains:

Aristotle does not mean that art "mimics" nature: art does not imitate nature's products -- that would be quite could not possibly make an oak tree or beget a man. Rather, art does imitate nature's productive activities. It must be remembered that "nature" for Aristotle is a way of acting, and what art imitates is that way...Art does better, more successfully, just what nature does or tries to do; it brings that which is possible in materials to a realization, and thus "completes nature." [61] [emphasis added]

Aristotle, of course, was applying the concept of "imitation" to art in the very broad sense of techne. In this sense, "imitation" applies equally to shipbuilding, for instance, as it does to painting or sculpture. Shipbuilding is a systematic activity directed toward a goal toward which it tends and in terms of which it is defined. Thus, in this sense, human making in general is an imitation of nature.

There is a narrower way to apply Aristotle's concept of "imitation," specifically to the "fine arts." By clarifying it, we will see how to avoid the standard way in which "imitation" is misinterpreted.

Gilbert and Kuhn relate how painters of the Renaissance viewed their art. They studied mathematics, anatomy, etc., in order to arrive at "a total philosophical treatment of nature" that would enable them "to compose a second nature, thus following after God's way and partaking in his perfection." [62] [emphasis added]

In his article on Baumgarten, Giorgio Tonelli says that: "The [fine] artist is not an imitator of nature in the sense that he copies it...he imitates nature in the process of creating a world or a whole." [63] [emphasis added]

These writers are touching on a crucial idea for the philosophy of art: the concept of a microcosm. This is the notion, dating back to the ancient Greeks, that "the structure of the universe can be reflected on a smaller scale in some particular phenomenon..." [64]

Tonelli says that cosmology, the theory of the structure of the universe, is very likely the basis upon which the ancient Greeks developed the doctrine of art as imitation of nature. To see this, however, we must "take imitation in its literal and true meaning, not as the duplication of isolated things, but as the active attempt to participate in a superior perfection." [65] [emphasis added]

In their thinking about cosmology, the ancient Greeks sought a "Unique Principle which should bind together all possible objects within [their] horizon and show them as related expressions of a fundamental law." [66] They typically sought to arrive at "a general theory of the world which puts man and nature into intimate relations with each other and which judges the world in the light of human procedures and values..." [67]

On such a man-oriented cosmology, the notion of "imitation" was bound to be applied to the relation between art and nature. To the ancient Greeks, art was nothing less than a concrete embodiment of their cosmological or metaphysical view of man and existence.

Following Gilbert and Kuhn and Tonelli, we can see that the imitation of nature present in all art (as techne) takes on an added dimension when it occurs in the form of a work of "fine art." Aristotle did not say it explicitly, but it is clear that certain imitations of nature present a man-created microcosm that embodies basic abstractions.

This interpretation of "fine art" as imitation is closely related to the proper view of the re-creation theory of the nature of art. I will now proceed to elucidate the re-creation theory.

2. Art as Re-creation of Reality. Like the imitation theory, the re-creation theory is often misunderstood as saying that the essence of art is the copying or reproducing of things, people, and events from reality. The image of these copied or reproduced things is the "re-creation," according to the standard view.

Again, it is Susanne Langer who provides what seems to be a telling critique:

[An] object that already exists -- a vase of flowers, a living person--cannot be re-created. Besides, a picture is neither a person nor a vase of flowers. It is an image, created for the first time out of things that are not imaginary, but quite realistic -- canvas or paper, and paints or carbon and ink. [68] [emphasis added]

Her remarks are echoed by John Hospers, who writes:

"Art is a re-creation of reality" -- but is all art a re-creation of something, even music? (One would have thought that it was the creation of something, that is, a series of tonal relationships that never existed in that order before the composer created them.) And in what sense does music deal with reality? [69] [emphasis added]

The first thing to note about these criticisms is that they are directed specifically toward a naive, concrete-bound form of the re-creation theory. They focus on things from reality. They are dubious arguments, revolving on an ambiguity in the meaning of the term "re-create." More importantly, they fail to deal with the literal sense of art as a re-creation of reality.

What exactly does "re-creation of reality" mean? As opposed to the re-creation of an aspect of reality, that is. A conceptual analysis of the terms involved is definitely in order.

"Re-create" means: to create anew. [70] Analyzing this definition in turn yields an important distinction. First of all, "create" means: to bring into existence. [71] Secondly, "anew" has two distinct meanings: (a) again, and (b) in a new form. [72] Thus, "re-create" can mean either:

    • to bring into existence again (that which no longer exists); or
    • to bring into existence in a new form (that which exists, existed, or will exist, in some other form).

In the fundamental philosophical sense of the term, "reality" means: that which exists independently of ideas concerning it. [73] In alternate terms, it also means: that which is real [74] or (since "real" means: being an actual thing with objective existence): [75] that which is an actual thing with objective existence.

Thus, reality is the universe, the totality of that which exists. Reality is the concrete, actual world of entities, their actions and attributes.

Since this objective reality does exist, "re-creation of reality" cannot mean: bringing reality into existence again. First, reality is everything which exists, and it exists now. So anything additional which comes to exist is merely an augmentation of reality, not a re-creation of it, in this sense.

Secondly, such an attempt to bring reality into existence again could not be made from a void, but only from previously existing elements of reality. Thus, it is actually not a re-creation of reality, but rather the bringing into existence of a duplicate of a previous state of reality, minus those elements taken to construct the duplicate. (This is necessarily one-half of that previous state.)

Such an unlikely state of affairs is, therefore, not the simultaneous existence of two realities -- the old one and a new one. Instead, it is only one reality, consisting of two identical halves, one of which has been constructed from what were previously elements of the now-diminished other half.

So, instead, "re-creation of reality" must mean: bringing reality into existence in a new form. But in what other form than its concrete, actual form might reality exist?

The answer is found in the area of psychology dealing with our cognitive awareness of reality. We are capable of narrowing our mental focus to some aspect of reality, some segment of our field of awareness. We are able to regard that aspect or segment as if it were a world or universe, a reality as if nothing else existed, as if it were all that existed. This attitude or mental set is a psychological pre-condition of esthetic experience. [76]

It is further possible that a given segment of reality may display what a person regards as most fundamentally significant or important about reality. (This means that a vast number of less relevant or significant aspects of reality will somehow be absent.)

Such a segment of reality is thus a microcosm: a particular phenomenon that reflects the structure of the universe on a smaller scale. (The frame of reference, of course, is a given person's own, perhaps tacit, view of the universe.) Were a person to view that segment of reality, that microcosm, he would have the distinct impression that he were viewing reality itself.

Note that this is not a reality which is being created, but the reality which is being re-created. It is the (one and only) reality, shown in an enhanced and clarified manner, purified of elements that a given person holds to be irrelevant and distracting.

Of course, this impression is just that: an impression, a seeming-like or semblance of the reality. It is (the one and only) reality in semblance-form, rather than the actual-form (in which it already exists as an unrepeatable and thus literally unre-creatable form).

Even if what the segment of reality displays does not reflect a given person's own view of the universe, he may well perceive it as reflecting someone else's view, or at least a possible view for someone. Thus, the esthetic function of the segment of reality is the same, regardless of one's quite differing evaluation and responses to the reflected views themselves.

Human beings are capable of creating entities that are semblance-forms of reality. That is, we are capable of creating reality in a semblance-form or image. Since this created image of reality is a new form of existence, different from that of which it is an image, we speak of it as a "re-creation of reality." (From this, it is only a short step to Ayn Rand's definition of art as "a selective re-creation of reality, according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments." [77])

Now we can see what is wrong with Langer's critique of the naive formulation of the re-creation theory. It is now clear that even though it is not the primary re-creation in the picture, the vase or the living person is indeed re-created. The sense of "re-create" that Langer correctly attacks, "being brought into existence again," is only one of the possibilities.

The other sense of "re-create" is that of being brought into existence in another form. In this latter sense, the vase and the living person certainly are re-created.

On a secondary level, then, the picture is at once the creation of an image of a person or vase (as Langer maintains) and the re-creation of a person or vase (as Langer denies. On the primary level, similarly, the picture is both the creation of an image (microcosmic version) of reality and the re-creation (a microcosmic version) of reality.

The embodied abstraction represented by the artwork is not the concept of the entity presented within the symbol's image. It is, rather, the abstract meaning embodied in that entity's image.

Thus, an artwork differs from pictographic symbols in a very precise, specific way. A pictograph uses an image of an entity in order to convey the abstraction or concept of the entity itself. An artwork, on the other hand, uses an image of an entity in order to convey another, broader abstraction exemplified by that imaginary entity.

For instance, a painting of a man might convey an abstract view of the heroism possible to human beings and of the world as being benevolently open to human effort. A pictograph, on the other hand, would merely convey the concept of "man" itself. In each, the image of a man is presented. The difference lies in what is represented, which is only possible by means of a re-creation (the creation of an image) of reality.

We can deal with Hospers' criticisms in a similar manner, although it is somewhat more difficult to do so. The question of what aspects of reality can be found as secondary re-creations in music is not so easy to answer. Once we exhaust the trivial category of onomatopoetic effects (e.g., the call of the cuckoo, the rumble of the thunderstorm, the murmur of the brook, the ring of the anvil, etc.), we seem to be left with patterns of sound.

The answer seems to lie in music's ability to give rise to sensory and mental processes that have qualities and inter-relationships similar to those in other very specific experiences. Similarities are commonly experienced between certain kinds of musical passages and visual experience and our mental grasping of a goal-directed series of events.

The impressions which these conscious processes give rise to can, under ideal conditions, be quite vivid. They are the natural basis of program music, such as Beethoven's 6th Symphony, Richard Strauss' Alpine symphony, and the Anvil Chorus -- and applied program music, such as opera and movies and television soundtracks.

To the extent that one's mind experiences the musical sounds in a way analogous to its experience of goal-directed progressions, the musical sounds are the creation of an image of such events and the re-creation of such events. Again, on the primary level, the musical work is both the creation of an image of reality and the re-creation of reality -- to the extent that it functions as a microcosmic context for the musical sounds. [78]

Thus, we see that, even in the difficult case of music, all art is a re-creation of reality, insofar as it lends itself to be perceived as a semblance-form of reality, a microcosm, a world-in-miniature. To that same extent that his work may be so regarded, an artist may be said to engage in the imitation of nature.

In this respect, it does not matter what specific "imitations" or "re-creations" are found in artworks. The essence of art is the microcosm that contains some "re-creation" or other, some "imitation" or other.

The theories of art as "imitation of nature" and "re-creation of reality" are thus seen to be intimately related. They are complementary, fundamental theories of the nature of art.

If there is any preference for one theory over the other, it is for the more modern, re-creation theory. There are two reasons for preferring it to the imitation theory:

    • The re-creation theory more explicitly highlights the microcosmic nature of art.
    • The re-creation theory avoids the anthropomorphic connotation of Nature as a conscious or goal-directed Creator.

The Invalid Category of "Fine Art"

I have just identified two valid concepts of art. I will now examine one of the other, non-essential, invalid notions and classifications of art: "fine art" (as opposed to "utilitarian art.")

1. Art as Human Creation (a valid concept). Art in the sense of the artificial or the manmade is a concept that pertains to the product of human activity: a thing or state of affairs which is the end-result of conscious, purposive human activity. Frequently, the activity and the capacity, "know-how," or skill to engage in that activity are also denoted by the term "art" in its more general usage.

In Aristotelian terms, we may regard capacity (potential) and product (actualization of potential) as being mediated by activity (actualizing of potential). If we then proceed by reference to "art as activity," we may define the different aspects of human creation as follows:

    • "Art as skill" is: the capacity to engage in art-as-activity.
    • "Art as product" or "artwork" is: the end (result, product) of art-as-activity.
    • The central term, "art as activity," is: the skilled, purposive human rearranging of certain elements in reality. Or, more simply: human creation.

Since all three of these aspects of the broader meaning of "art" are so directly related, the above choice of "art as activity" as the central one is somewhat optional. The important point to bear in mind is that they are all aspects of the broader concept of "art."

The real problems begin with attempts to single out a smaller class within this wider genus of skillfully man-made objects. The difficulty is to find a justifiable way to refer to this smaller group as "art," in a sense distinct from and narrower than art-as-human-creation. As John Hospers writes:

Art is a term of which definitions are inevitably persuasive. The word "art" has a favorable emotive meaning, at least to those who practice the arts and talk about them. And thus anyone who has cherished ideals on the subject will want to use the word "art" to denote whatever kind of product he venerates most highly. Semantically, this makes the situation extremely confused, though of course it is quite understandable. [79]

Whether "referentialist" or "formalist," "representationalist" or "non-represen- tationalist," "objective" or "abstract," many esthetic theoreticians define "art" in this "persuasive" manner. They take the position that if a given man-made object does not fulfill the requirements met by their theoretical approach to art, then such an object is not an artwork, by their view. Instead, they refer to it as "false art" or "non-art" or "junk" or whatever term they wish to use in denoting that which does not agree with their own "stipulative" definition.

This arbitrary elitism about art, however, is not the only alternative to the all-tolerant egalitarianism of the avant-garde. One can also rule out certain man-made objects according to one's theoretical view of art, if one arrives at one's concept of "art" objectively, as Ayn Rand has done.

What distinguishes her concept and definition of "art" from those which are merely persuasive or stipulative is that she has arrived at them in full regard of cognitive necessity, including the relevant facts about human value, human needs, and human consciousness. This is so in much the same manner that an objective validation of the laws of logic renders them unchallengeable axioms, rather than merely "stipulative" or "persuasive" (i.e., arbitrary) prescriptions.

The laws of logic are prescriptions, true -- but only because first and foremost they are descriptions of the facts of reality. As objective prescriptions, the laws of logic -- as well as all valid definitions and narrower scientific and moral laws -- tell one to act in accordance with the facts they describe, if one wants to act successfully. [80]

Other theorists have used an esthetic criterion of some sort or other as their basis for differentiating man-made objects into various categories of art. But as we shall see for several more familiar instances, none of these provides a clear-cut means by which an observer can determine objectively (i.e., by reference to the facts) whether or not a given man-made object falls in one category or another.

Such difficulties have led some philosophers to advocate that we no longer refer to any category of artificial objects as "art" -- at least, not without some qualification. Notably, there is Mortimer Adler, who advises us that:

[W]e would do well to return to the traditional and broad use of the term "art" to cover every form of human skill and everything that man can effect by means of skill. Then within this broad meaning, we can distinguish different types of art and at the same time recognize what is common to all of them. [81]

This, however, would be a counsel of despair. It would lend support to the skeptic, conventionalist position. It would be a surrender to the notion that no objectively superior criterion can be found (since none has yet) for isolating one group of man-made things from all the rest. One can certainly agree that it would be unfair and arbitrary to select one of the criteria offered thus far as a basis for singling out any subgroup of artificial things, calling them and only them "art."

If that were the only option open to us, we would properly avoid it in the interest not merely of egalitarianism or "fairness," but of objectivity and respect for the facts. If that were the situation, we would be well advised to follow Dr. Adler's suggestion and use the unmodified term "art" only for the broadest sense and use qualifiers (e.g., "liberal," "servile," "utilitarian," "fine," "commercial," "industrial," "decorative," etc.) to modify any narrower applications of the term.

With this last, I am certainly in sympathy. The last thing I wish to do here is to endorse the Fallacy of the Frozen Abstraction. [82] That is, I would not want to freeze a concept to a shrunken state that includes only some of its legitimate units. Also, from the standpoint of linguistics, it sounds considerably more graceful to say "utilitarian art" or "the commercial arts" or "a work of decorative art," rather than to say, for instance, "the utilitarian object- making skill" or "the commercial object-making area of activity" or "a decorative man-made object."

So, on the one hand, I see no compelling reason to abandon or ignore the broader use of the term "art," nor to avoid qualifications of it such as the above. But, on the other hand, I do not share the belief of Adler and others that we must restrict ourselves to it.

First of all, it has been observed (by Adler himself) that the term "art" has within the past 200 years become widely applied, primarily for esthetic reasons, to the specific case of the so-called "fine arts." Some or all of these "fine art" creations were thought -- in some strongly felt, but hard to specify manner -- to be the ultimate products of creative human imagination. At the very least, they were believed to be essentially different, different in kind, from other human products.

Secondly, if the respect by which "fine art" objects can be objectively isolated and defined, then our culture's persistent usage of the term "art" in both a broad and a narrow sense can be validated. And it is, in fact, the narrower concept of "art" -- art as selective re-creation of reality, according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments -- that provides such an objective basis for justifiably using the term "art" in the narrower sense than pertains to the "fine arts."

Thirdly, there is little danger of confusion between the wider and narrower usages. The wider one is seldom used as an unqualified term, except for such obviously broader usages such as "the art of playing bridge," "the art of love," "the art of logic," etc. Such qualified instances of the broader usage are easily distinguishable from the narrower one.

One way to fully appreciate the unique appropriateness of the differentia "selective re-creation of reality" is to examine and analyze faulty differentia that have been proposed in the past. The most noteworthy and frequently encountered of these is the one associated with the traditional distinction between the "utilitarian" and "fine" arts.

2. The Fine Art/Utilitarian Art Distinction. The so-called "fine arts" have been held to be distinct from other human products in that they were non-utilitarian objects -- specifically, esthetic objects. Rather than intended for practical, everyday use, they were specifically intended for contemplation.

The reason this distinction does not hold up under scrutiny is twofold:

    • "Fine art" does serve a practical need -- a need of human consciousness. It is invalid to limit the concept of "practicality" to actions directed toward one's physical survival. The survival and maintenance of one's consciousness is just as important and practical as the survival and maintenance of one's body.
    • More importantly, any object in the world -- artificial or natural, let alone "fine" or "utilitarian" -- can become an object of contemplation.

As John Hospers points out, in regard to the latter:

Much confusion results from the failure to remember that "the esthetic" refers [primarily] to a kind of attitude rather then the objects toward which that attitude is taken...Confusion enters when we ask whether the...objects...are in themselves esthetic; actually what is esthetic is our attitude toward them--and this can be esthetic in some occasions and not on others...I see no theoretical limit to the number of objects toward which it is possible to take the esthetic attitude. [83]

This rules out any classification based on an object's actual contemplative function or the viewer's attitude. What if, instead, we base it on the creator's attitude or intent -- i.e., the contemplative function for which the man-made object was intended? What if we say that "fine art" objects are those which are (primarily) intended as esthetic, contemplative objects, rather than as utilitarian objects?

This criterion, too, provides a field-day for subjectivism. Only here it is the subjective whim of the creator, instead of the viewer, that determines what is or is not to count as a "fine art" object. Far from delimiting the "fine arts" (painting, sculpture, music, dance, theater, literature) from other man-made objects, it again blows our category of "fine art" wide open.

According to this definition, anyone with absolutely no talent or training can come along and create some nondescript object and call it "art." On this criterion, he would be justified in doing so merely because he intended it primarily as a contemplative (rather than utilitarian) object. This view is the wellspring from which have oozed forth such "artworks" as a bale of hay painted in blue-and-white polka dots, or two strips of black tape running along a museum floor parallel to the wall, or a "musical composition" consisting of several minutes of silence.

Not only that: someone could make what would normally be a utilitarian object-- e.g., a table, an automobile, a pencil, etc. -- and exhibit it in a museum, calling it "art."

This has, in fact, been done, which shows that the suggested definition not only renders the category of "fine art" so broad as to be meaningless, but also makes it useless for distinguishing between "fine art" and "utilitarian art" objects.

Such is the result of trying to define and delimit a subcategory of man-made things according to someone's attitude, rather than according to the nature of the things themselves. Such is the result of failing to specify a clear, objective criterion for differentiating all or some "fine art" objects from the rest of man-made objects.

The remedy for such debasing of the world of art is objectivity. We must look at the nature of the various entities involved and focus on the things they do and the characteristics they possess. Otherwise, search as we might, we will never find a non-arbitrary way to distinguish paintings, sculpture, etc. from other things and to call the former, and only the former, "art."

People have, in fact, made such a distinction for centuries -- arbitrarily. They were relatively safe, until the "non-objective" or "abstract art" people moved in and succeeded in battering down the flimsy, ostensive-definitional walls that had been set up to segregate the "fine arts" from the rest of human products.

In the final analysis, this was a beneficial thing to have happen. It keeps "objective" or "representationalist" art advocates honest. It requires us to be explicit and conceptually precise in our defense of representational art. The merely arbitrary and subjective will no longer suffice in this issue.

Its value, in other words, is that it spurs us on to provide a rational, objective basis for our distinction of certain "fine art" objects from the rest of man-made things. It challenges us to put a firm foundation in place of the traditional emotionalistic grounds which are so easily and justifiably rejected by anyone with a speck of intellectual self- respect.

Note, however, that it also pushes us to the recognition that the "fine art" vs. "utilitarian art" distinction is non-fundamental and of limited cognitive import. Whatever limited value there may be in viewing human productive activity according to this classificatory scheme dwindles rapidly, once a clever skeptic comes along and turns the screws tight enough to shatter such a non-objective classification.

Of course, there is always some knowledge -- however limited its application or importance -- to be gained from studying intent or attitude or other psychological factors involved in art. But if we are to carry out our original program of providing a fundamental differentia by which to classify man-made objects, then it is to the attributes of the objects that we must refer.

Just such a differentia has been offered here. It sets "representational fine art" objects apart from all other man-made things (including "non-representational fine art" objects that do not embody a basic abstraction). We can now objectively examine, and accept or reject, the asserted purpose of the creator and the asserted experience of the viewer, in terms of what is actually there in the object:

    • If a creator claims to have re-created reality in terms of his metaphysical value-judgments, but cannot specifically show or explain by reference to his creation exactly what metaphysical aspect of reality he views therein, then we know that he is either a poor artist or worse: a person trying to undercut and destroy the field of art.
    • If a viewer claims to have viewed a re-creation of reality according to the artist's metaphysical value-judgments, but cannot specifically show or explain by reference to the object viewed exactly what metaphysical aspect of reality he views therein, then we know that he is either deluded or worse: someone trying to delude us.

For an object to be a re-creation of reality, it must present something (i.e., some content) somehow (i.e., by some means). And if the aspect of reality allegedly presented is claimed to be more "abstract" or difficult to grasp, but no one can demonstrate that it is really there, we can and must presume that it is not.

Art as selective re-creation of reality, according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments, is the only fundamental and objective criterion that allows an intelligent observer to judge what is or is not art. It is also the only way of validly retaining the traditional "art as fine art" formulation, even in part. It entails a recognition of the nature, fundamental value, and purpose of fine art: namely, as a representational symbol.

To summarize: there may be some usefulness in viewing human creative, productive activity according to the fine art/utilitarian art distinction. As a cognitive classification, though, it is disastrous -- as skeptics are quick to show us. By failing to specify the essence of certain man-made objects, as against all other man-made and natural objects, this distinction provides no justification for claiming the philosophy of art to be anything narrower than the study of human, productive activity in general. For this purpose as well, then, the narrower concept of art as "re-creation of reality" is cognitively indispensable. It is the only way to get at the essence of art and, in so doing, provide the foundation for a valid theory of esthetics. [84]


1. This essay is adapted from "The Nature of Art, Deriving a Rational Esthetics," the third chapter of an unpublished manuscript, Esthetics, Objectively, which was commissioned in 1971 by Equity Incorporated (Milo A.Schield, Joel Myklebust, and Douglas B. Rasmussen) and completed in 1991. I appreciate very much their generous financial support of the research and writing that went into the manuscript--the present essay appearing here with their permission--as well as their providing me the opportunity to present portions of my work at a series of Equitarian Associates conferences they sponsored around the Midwest between 1971 and 1974. I also gratefully acknowledge the editorial assistance of Stephen C. Boydstun in preparing this essay for publication in Objectivity.

2. Mortimer Adler, Great Ideas from the Great Books, New York: Washington Square Press, Inc., 1961, p. 229.

3. Op cit., p. 230.

4. Ayn Rand, "The Psycho-Epistemology of Art" (1965), The Romantic Manifesto, 2nd rev. ed., New York, Signet, 1975, p. 19. The bracketed material is from ibid., "Art and Cognition" (1971), p. 78.

5. Op cit., pp. 19-20.

6. It should be noted that while Leonard Peikoff appears to have first made explicit use of this concept in discussing Rand's view of art in his lectures on The Philosophy of Objectivism in 1975-6, my use of it in reference to her ideas dates back to 1972 and is drawn from other sources, noted below. I find it ironic and unfortunate that an earlier version of this essay was rejected for journal publication in 1974, when an anonymous screener claimed that the concept of a "microcosm" did not provide significant clarification of Rand's view of art. But perhaps it is not so surprising, after all, since Peikoff himself hardly gives the idea more than passing mention in his lecture and his book, Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand, New York, Dutton, 1991, p. 417. Part of the mission of this essay, then, is to create a wider awareness of the pregnant possibilities of this concept.

[Special note, April 2000: in this essay and a later piece, "Music and Perceptual Cognition," originally published in Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 1999, I simply assumed without bothering to confirm that Peikoff used the term "microcosm" in his 1976 lecture, since his 1991 book based on that lecture used the term. However, I recently acquired a set of the tapes of his 1975-76 lectures on Objectivism and found to my great chagrin that the word "microcosm" appeared nowhere in his lecture on art. The upshot of this, beyond the uncomfortable revelation of my own scholarly shortcomings, is that Peikoff's altogether correct use of the term appears to be not the result of Rand's prompting and/or approval, but of Peikoff's own further analysis of and insight into the nature of art. This both adds to Peikoff's intellectual stature and removes this particular observation from the body of "official" Objectivism. What did appear in Peikoff's 1976 lecture that echoed my own 1974 wording was the observation that "re-creation of reality" means to create reality anew, and not in the sense of creating another reality in the same form as the original (matter out of a void, according to many religious cosmologies), but creating reality in a different form (out of materials existing in this reality). That "different form" is a symbolic image or "semblance" (Susanne Langer's term) of reality -- an imaginary world, as it were. This particular formulation, using the word "anew", did, it appears, have Rand's approval.]

7. See Rand, "The Psycho-Epistemology of Art," p. 20.

8. American College Dictionary, New York, Random House, Inc., 1964.

9. Nathaniel Branden, The Psychology of Self-Esteem, Los Angeles, Nash Publishing Co., 1969, p. 27.

10. Op cit., p. 95.

11. Op cit., pp. 27, 91.

12. Op cit., p. 91.

13. American College Dictionary.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. To my knowledge, Rand first used this term in "For the New Intellectual," For the New Intellectual, New York, Signet, 1961, p. 55, in her statement that "Emotions are not tools of cognition."

17. American College Dictionary.

18. See Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (1966-67), expanded 2nd ed., New York, Meridian, 1990, pp. 5-21, 62-65.

19. For the realist theory of intentionality on which I base this analysis, see Francis Parker and Henry B. Veatch, Logic as a Human Instrument, New York, Harper & Row, 1959, pp. 13-29, and W. P. Warren, ed., Principles of Emergent Realism, Philosophical Essays by Roy Wood Sellars, St. Louis, Warren H. Green, 1970, pp. 20, 22.

20. Rand, "Concepts of Consciousness," Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 29.

21. In "The Cognitive Role of Concepts," Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 69, Rand says that "Language is the physical (visual-audible) implementation" of our concepts. I hereby extend this usage to both kinds of symbols considered in this chapter.

22. Ibid., where Rand says that "Concepts and, therefore, language are primarily a tool of cognition..." Rand further says that "Language is the exclusive domain and tool of concepts." in "Concept-Formation," Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 10.

23. See Rand, "Concept-Formation," p. 10, and "The Psycho-Epistemology of Art," p. 19.

24. The material on the next two pages owes much to the insights of Parker and Veatch in their Logic as a Human Instrument, pp. 13-29. The formulations and applications to esthetics, however, are my own.

25. Rand, "The Cognitive Role of Concepts," p. 63.

26. This is an adaptation to the case of art from Rand's preceding remark about language.

27. This is adapted and expanded from Rand's remarks about the forms of art, "Art and Cognition," pp. 46, 73.

28. See Rand, "Art and Cognition," pp. 46-7.

29. This distinction was inspired by Rand's essay "The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made," (1973) in Philosophy, Who Needs It, Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., 1982, p. 33. The application, however, is my own.

30. Rand, "The Cognitive Role of Concepts," pp. 63, 65.

31. Op. cit., p. 64.

32. I. J. Gelb, "Writing," Encyclopedia Britannica, 1972, vol. 23, p. 819.

33. Gelb, "Pictography," Encyclopedia Britannica, 1972, vol. 17, p. 1053.

34. Gelb, "Writing," p. 817.

35. Ibid.

36. Ibid.

37. Ibid.

38. Ibid.

39. Gelb, "Pictography," p. 1053.

40. Gelb, "Writing," p. 818.

41. See Rand, "Concept-Formation," p. 13.

42. Gelb, "Pictography," p. 1053.

43. Ibid.

44. Op. cit., p. 1055.

45. Ibid.

46. Ibid.

47. Ibid.

48. Op. cit., p. 1054.

49. Rand, "The Psycho-Epistemology of Art," p. 19.

50. Branden, The Psychology of Self-Esteem, p. 186.

51. Op. cit.., p. 201.

52. Rand, "The Psycho-Epistemology of Art," p. 23.

53. Op. cit., p. 19.

54. Branden, The Psychology of Self-Esteem, pp. 103, 186.

55. Rand, "The Psycho-Epistemology of Art," p.23.

56. Op. cit., p. 21. Also see Ayn Rand, "The Goal of My Writing," The Romantic Manifesto, p. 169.

57. Rand, "The Psycho-Epistemology of Art," p. 23.

58. Susanne K. Langer, Feeling and Form, New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1953, pp. 46, 76.

59. Monroe Beardsley, "Aesthetics, History of," Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. I, ed., Paul Edwards, New York, Macmillan, 1967, pp. 18, 20, 22.

60. Aristotle, Physics II, 8.199a, 10-18.

61. John Herman Randall, Jr., Aristotle, New York, Columbia University Press, 1962, pp. 275-6.

62. Katherine Everett Gilbert and Helmut Kuhn, A History of Esthetics, 2d ed.; New York, Dover Publications, Inc., 1972, p. 175.

63. Giorgio Tonelli, "Baumgarten, Alexander Gottlieb," Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol., I, p. 256.

64. Gilbert and Kuhn, p. 6.

65. Tonelli, "Baumgarten," p. 256.

66. Gilbert and Kuhn, p. 3.

67. Op. cit., p. 5.

68. Langer, p. 46.

69. John Hospers, "Aesthetics, Problems of," Encyclopedia of Philosophy, I, p. 52. Considering his close association with Ayn Rand in the early 1960s, it is both puzzling and disappointing that Hospers did not cite her (or anyone, specifically) as a proponent of this theory--puzzling, because of the quote marks around the sentence; disappointing, because it does not give credit to one of the most outspoken advocates of this theory, nor any indication of where readers could go to read and evaluate it for themselves.

[Special note, April 2000: in the original version of this essay, I mistakenly said that John Hospers was involved with the 1961 University of Michigan Creative Arts Festival at which Ayn Rand spoke on esthetics. I was inaccurately recalling the now notorious 1962 Harvard University event where Hospers critiqued Rand's talk on art and sense of life, the result of which was a permanent breach between the two. (See Nathaniel Branden's account of this falling out in Judgment Day, My Years with Ayn Rand.) That error being remedied, it is still the case that Dr. Hospers was associated with Rand since early 1960 and discussed her esthetic views with her privately and over the Columbia University radio station; and it is still the case that it is puzzling and disappointing that his essay "Problems of Aesthetics" mentions no one, least of all Rand, as a proponent of the "art as re-creation" theory. Moreover, although in his 1982 book Understanding the Arts, Dr. Hospers laudably cites Rand's views on art and sense of life (pp. 255-6), he again refers without attribution or even explicit preamble to the falsity of the view that music is a "re-creation" (p. 177). What might explain this sudden appearance of the term is the context being a discussion of representation in art and Dr. Hospers' apparent equation of "re-creation of reality" with the ancient doctrine of art as "imitation of nature, and his interpretation of the latter as being a view that art represents nature. If this analysis is correct, then Dr. Hospers and others seem to be operating on the basis of such a double equation as the following: re-creation of reality = imitation of nature = representation of reality. And if music, for instance, does not represent reality, then it cannot be a re-creation of reality, which is the claim made by Hospers in his 1982 book and suggested rhetorically in his 1967 essay. However, as I have argued in this essay, such a claim rests on the naive, concrete-level versions of the imitation and re-creation theories and is not at all supported by the more fundamental version of art as microcosm or world-in-miniature. That this broader view pertains even to the problematic case of music is explored at length in my later essay, "Music and Perceptual Cognition," originally published in Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 1999.]

70. American College Dictionary.

71. Ibid.

72. Ibid.

73. Ibid.

74. Ibid.

75. Ibid.

76. See John Hospers' comment quoted on p. 24 below.

77. Ayn Rand first publicly presented this concept of art in 1961 in a lecture on esthetics at the Creative Arts Festival at the University of Michigan. It first appeared in print as quoted in Branden, Who is Ayn Rand?, New York, Paperback Library, Inc., 1964, p. 74.

[Special note, April 2000: this book was originally published in 1962.]

78. I discuss this in detail in "Music and Cognition," a (yet unpublished) 1971 essay on the nature of certain errors in Rand's view of the nature of musical perception and experience.

79. John Hospers, "Problems in Esthetics," in Introduction to Philosophical Analysis, 1st ed., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, 1953, p. 516.

80. Ayn Rand, "Duty vs. Causality," (1970) in Philosophy, Who Needs It, p. 119.

81. Adler, p. 230.

82. See Rand, "Collectivized Ethics," The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 51. Also see my essay "On the Thawing Out of Frozen Abstractions," originally printed in Equitas (a publication during the early 1970s, in connection with Equitarian Associates) and forthcoming soon on my Internet website--

83. Hospers, Meaning and Truth in the Arts, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, University of North Carolina Press, 1946, pp. 7-8.

84. I gratefully acknowledge the generous efforts of Michelle Kamhi and Louis Torres in critiquing an earlier version of this essay, as well as their encouragement to develop for publication its central core--the comparison of the imitation and re-creation models of art. No doubt, we still have differences in approach and conclusions, even after my availing myself of various fine suggestions they offered me; but we are in full agreement that public attention to and critical analysis of Ayn Rand's esthetics views is long overdue. This and other essays (in preparation), as well as Kamhi's and Torres' What Art Is (forthcoming), are aimed at remedying that situation.


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