The Arts (Art)

by dhw, Monday, September 29, 2008, 18:39 (5630 days ago) @ dhw

In my post of 26 September, replying to jwarshawsky's comments on the evolution of music, I asked, "Why do we aestheticize, and why is it so important to us that we do so?" Here are a few more thoughts on the subject. - The British mountaineer George Mallory was once asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, and his immortal response was: "Because it's there." This seems to be a common human trait. We are driven to explore anything and everything, existent and non-existent. We go down holes in the earth, we climb up bumps, we scan outer space, we probe our own minds. And since we have a sense of hearing, we also try out different sounds, and we devise new ways of making sounds, and we experiment with rhythms just to see what we can do. This doesn't explain why we like some sounds and not others, but perhaps it sheds a little light on why something irrelevant to physical survival nevertheless takes on an evolutionary pattern of its own. We explore the potential "because it's there", and if we get pleasure out of it, we persist. - There is a kind of parallel in sport. Of all human activities this has to be one of the most popular, one of the most transient, and one of the least meaningful in terms of relevance to survival. I'm not referring to the importance of physical fitness or to the original need to train the body, e.g. for hunting, but to the procedures and aims of the games we now indulge in for their own sake. Complicated rules are devised (Tom Smith's guide to the laws of cricket fills a book of 336 pages), and riots, even deaths occur when for instance a ball is kicked into a net. Or someone hits a tiny ball into a tiny hole with a club, and earns more for doing so than a surgeon earns for a year's lifesaving work. The arts, sport and entertainment have no apparent link to the actual fight for survival ... in fact, we even aestheticize that fight through novels, plays, films etc. ... but they provide a source of pleasure, even in societies where the struggle is far more direct and painful than our own. The pleasure explains the survival and development ... we cling to and enhance things we enjoy ... but where did such "pleasure", "enjoyment" spring from in the first place? The same question has to be asked about all emotions and about consciousness itself. How does matter develop these attributes? - A camera and a TV set are both a mass of different materials, and through these materials comes the picture. But the materials have first to be put together and then sparked into operation, and the scene has first to exist before it can appear on the screen. I know that I am a mass of different materials, but do those materials actually create the scene of my emotions, consciousness etc., or are they just a medium?


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