Dignity of Art

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Submitted By Rayrawlv
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The philosophers tell us that art consists essentially, not in performing a moral act, but in making a thing, a work, in making an object with a view not to the human good of the agent, but to the exigencies and the proper good of the object to be made, and by employing ways of realization predetermined by the nature of the object in question.
Art thus appears as something foreign in itself to the sphere of the human good, almost as something inhuman, and whose exigencies nevertheless are absolute: for, needless to say, there are not two ways of making an object well, of realizing well the work one has conceived -- there is but one way, and it must not be missed.

The philosophers go on to say that this making activity is principally and above all an intellectual activity. Art is a virtue of the intellect, of the practical intellect, and may be termed the virtue proper to working reason.

But then, you will say, if art is nothing other than an intellectual virtue of making, whence comes its dignity and its ascendancy among us? Why does this branch of our activity draw to it so much human sap? Why has one always and in all peoples admired the poet as much as the sage?

It may be answered first that to create, to produce something intellectually, to make an object rationally constructed, is something very great in the world: for man this alone is already a way of imitating God. And I am speaking here of art in general, such as the ancients understood it -- in short, of art as the virtue of the artisan.

But where the maker of works especially becomes an imitator of God, where the virtue of art approaches the nobility of things absolute and self-sufficient, is in that family of arts which by itself alone constitutes a whole spiritual world, namely the fine arts.

There are two things to be considered here. On the one hand, whatever the nature and the…...

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