Propositional Language, Reality and the Necessity of Art

The argument for the relevance of the Arts is an argument oft-made. That argument often originates in the benefits accrued to the maker of the art…the natural subjective sensation received from the personal manipulation of stuff and the likewise subjective feeling of ecstatic release experienced in the orgasm of self-expression. Similarly, the argument addresses the benefits of those experiencing an artistic production…the experience of the uniquely considered production and the affinity for another self found resonating in that expression. Art offers a place uniquely suited to the habitation of and congress with oneself and other selves. This benefit of Art is not to be overlooked or belittled.

That said, my interest in Art is not this. I would also add that there exists a more fundamental benefit of art beyond its role in the realm of subjectivity. It is a process through which and a place in which Objective Reality is tasted.

In a section of summary considerations at the conclusion of Chapter II of “Process and Reality,” Alfred North Whitehead writes:

“The dominance of Aristotelian logic from the late classical period onwards has imposed on metaphysical thought the categories naturally derivative from its phraseology. This dominance of his logic does not seem to have been characteristic of Aristotle’s own metaphysical speculations. The divergences, such as they are, in these lectures [which form “Process”] from other philosophical doctrines mostly depend upon the fact that many philosophers, who in their explicit statements criticize the Aristotelian notion of ‘substance,’ yet implicitly throughout their discussions presuppose that the ‘subject-predicate’ form of proposition embodies the finally adequate mode of statement about the actual world. The evil produced by the Arostotelian ‘primary substance’ is exactly this habit of metaphysical emphasis upon the ‘subject-presicate’ form of proposition.” (p. 30)

I would posit that more than the expression of subjective experience, the general area of the Arts (understood as the exploration of human Creativity) is precisely the exploration of the structures of expression beyond proposition logic which access an ever-better portal to an understanding of the actual world. The panoply of possible portals maps over the subjective efforts of personal expression, but not every expreasion offers access to the same degree or depth. The overwhelming majority are simply as decribed at the beginning of this essay and offer no more benefit than individual benefit on either side of the calculus. A small number explore with great acuity expressive access points to the actual world opened by others previously and either only hinted at or poorly understood or developed. But the great works of Art — those great works open modes of expression that offer avenues of understanding akin in objectivity to mathematics and science. They explore expressive modes beyond the proposition that access the Actual.

Art is expressive structure beyond proposition rooted in individual experience of the actual world.It is then that Art becomes fundamentally significant.