Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Can a "moral premise" be "art"?

A reader (John Conley) writes:

How true does the following Moral Premises seem to you?
1) "A Society that denounces Art and practices Falsehood collapses; but a society that celebrates Art and Truth flourishes."
Or simply put:

"Denouncing art and practicing falsehood leads to a collapsed society; but the celebrating art and practicing truth leads to a flourishing society."  
These have potential but (at face value) are problematic because of how people can casually interpret "art."  

Too many people interpret "art" as "whatever I like."  I had a friend that is an artist that had a show once that exhibited a number of paintings of a dark and grotesque society. They were depressing and I couldn't wait to leave the exhibit. On the other hand I have seen paintings and photography of the poor and homeless, and the artist has discovered the dignity of the person in the painting and  elevated the viewer's interpretation to one of hope.  (Bestow Hope!)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church helps us here understand why some art is popular and others are not. Where the art lifts up human dignity and truth people will flock to it:
Indeed, art is a distinctively human form of expression; beyond the search for the necessities of life which is common to all living creates ... art is a form of practical wisdom, uniting knowledge and skill, to give form to the TRUTH of REALITY in a language accessible to sight or hearing. ( CCC 2501. c.f. CCC 2500-2513)
As artists (screenwriters are artists) we seek what is good, true, AND BEAUTIFUL... not just because such works have an opportunity at box office success, but also because working on such things gives us a healthy satisfaction that our life counts for something meaningful to others. 

So, John,  in that respect, if "art" is presented in that uplifting and dignified manner, your statements ring true. I'd also be careful that the virtue and vice are true psychological values and not physical acts, and that the moral premise statement can be easily applied to an individual as well as society. So, I might  revise the statements in this way:

The demeaning of true art, leads to falsehoods, which leads to collapse;
but elevating true art, leads to truth, which leads to vitality.

J.C. also asked if this moral premise statement sounded true:
"Leaving your health in the hands of others leads to death; but taking your health into your own hands leads to life."
Yes it does. It is very similar to the moral premise statement I came up with for A BEAUTIFUL MIND:

Depending only on others for our well-being leads to impotency; but
Taking personal responsibility for our well-being leads to productivity

Thanks for the good questions, J.C.... they get me to blog.


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