Ross School - Senior Project 2007-08
Mentor: Dr. Sacks
Title: “The Mob Of Sages Circumventing Zeus”
For my senior project I decided to explore the philosophy of art, and how art is product of morality. I wanted to find a way to prove that art is not just made for pleasure, and that the idea behind art has the power to balance man's reason and passion, an act that many philosophers believe lead man to truth within the self. I wrote a paper attempting to find philosophical hope for art. I also explored the role of the artist conceptually by creating my own works of art. I used Friedrich Schiller, Plato, Marcuse, and Theodor Adorno as influences.
My project, “The Mob Of Sages Circumventing Zeus” is a philosophical inquiry into the work of art. In studying aesthetics (the philosophy of art) I questioned the way in which the work of art is to effect our ability to reason, if it was to serve as a tool with which to better our reasoning and bestow us with philosophical enlightenment, or if it was simply a means to effect our disposition and senses. I looked at the work of art in light of ideal, and with this view searched for a way that art could set man on the path to good. Along with writing an essay that addresses the work of art as a philosophical tool, I explored the ideas presented in my essay artistically in a mixed media painting on the process of art effecting man.
In my essay I used four texts to provide an argument as to art and settle the dispute between art and philosophy. The first text, Plato's book X in “The Republic” I used as a text to contradict. In book X Socrates finds that art is harmful to our development of reason because the artist only depicts idea instead of creating idea. The title of my project, “The Mob Of Sages Circumventing Zeus” is also taken from Plato's book X when he is describing the ancient war between philosophy and art and expresses that it is like a “Mob Of Sages Circumventing Zeus”.
The second text that I used was Friedrich Schiller's letters “On The Aesthetic Education Of Man”. Schiller's letters served as the cornerstone to the argument in my essay, and through the letters I found the hope that I was looking for within the work of art. In Schiller's letters he examines the characteristics of man and art, finding similar properties within the two. He finds the work of art to be a tool with which our natural self finds equilibrium with our inner moral self, without canceling out the two extremes. The work of art, in Schiller's letters becomes a tool with which to bestow humanity in man.
The third text that I used for my project was Herbert Marcuse's “The Aesthetic Dimension”. “The Aesthetic Dimension” although written from a modern standpoint of man, shares the same insight as to how art is to effect us as Schiller found in his letters. In my essay, this text gave strength to the ideas presented by Schiller onto art and man, elaborated and added to Schiller's ideas.
The fourth and final text that I used was Plato's “Timaeus”. The “Timaeus”, although about the creation of the universe, provided the definition and principle from which man and art derive in my essay. Timaeus says that the universe was born when reason tamed chaos, and in this way humanity is born in man when reason tames necessity through aesthetic form, play impulse, and what Timaeus calls “chora”; an equilibrium between what always is and what always changes.
I depicted the ideas of Schiller, Marcuse, and Plato artistically in a painting that shows the process of man maturing when influenced by art, providing visual interpretation of what it is to be bestowed with humanity, and find the path to the good. The larger man in the painting symbolizes our natural selves, the hand above him taken from Schiller's view that nature guides us until we find need to mature and explore the good. This hand is not removed until sufficient balance is placed between our inner morality (the blue tinted man emerging from natural man) and our exterior reality, when nature releases its hold on man. I attempted to portray the idea that man is not whole until he finds this equilibrium by splitting the yellow painted man in half, with one half of him on the bottom of the painting and the other placed at the top.
Of all the texts that I read in doing this project, Schiller's letters presented me with the most difficulty. Fully interpreting his letters and doing them justice in my summaries was a daunting task. In general I found that writing about philosophy is an art in itself which requires the interpreter to maintain a balance between enticing the reader while being informative. In doing this project I learned how best to approach a text and stay calm when levels of confusion reach extremely high. I started to learn how to write about philosophy, although its a process that I think will take much time and practice. Although I primarily studied aesthetics, I learned basic principles of philosophy as a whole through my readings.
acrylic paint, charcoal, gold leaf, and encaustic.
Dimensions- 3 ft x 6ft.
Burke, Edmund. A Philosophical Enquiry. Ed. Adam Phillips. New York: Oxford UP, 1990. 1-161.
Foucault, Michael. Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology. Ed. James D. Faubion. Trans. Robert Hurley. Vol. 2. New York: The New P, 1998. 1-478.
Fullerton, Mark D. Greek Art. Hong Kong: Cambridge UP, 2000. 1-169.
Heidegger, Martin. Poetry, Language, Thought. Trans. Albert Hofstadter. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. 1-229.
Plato. Plato Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper. Indianapolis: Hackett Company, 1997. 1-1733.
Plato. The Symposium. Trans. R.e Allen. Binghamton: Vail-Ballou P, 1991. 1-169.
Sartre, Jean P. Being and Nothingness. Trans. Hazel E. Barnes. New York: Washington Square P, 1993. 1-807.
Schiller, Friedrich V. On the Aesthetic Education of Man. New Haven: Yale UP, 1954.
Community Member (Details)
Outside Consultant- Monique Passicot was my outside consultant for my project. She is a painter and sculptor, and studied aesthetics in college. I chose Monique to be my outside consultant because she had studied aesthetics and I thought she could provide me with some interesting insight into the subject. I was also very intrigued by her work, as it is both conceptual and beautiful.