The arts as means to experiencing "objective truth"
This is from Gary Panetta, the culture writer and resident philosopher at the Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star. He offers further commentary on this morning's post. It's too good to get lost in the comments. Thanks, Gary. -- J.S.
Thank you for this post and for raising the issue again.
"Truth" can be broken down in several ways.
(1) What's logically true or true by definition, i.e. mathematics. Start with certain premises and certain conclusions must follow.
(2) What's empirically true, i.e. what is factually the case. The standard here is "true beyond reasonable doubt." No history can claim to be the definitive, once-and-for-all time account of an important event. But some histories are more factually accurate than others, some histories are better informed than others. Just because we lack godlike, absolute knowledge doesn't relieve us from the responsibility of making reasoned choices about what we believe.
(3) What's morally or ethically true, i.e. what reflects the deep truths about what makes us human and what helps us succeed or fail to live together.
This kind of truth is difficult because it doesn't exist in the abstract -- it is always embodied in the concrete. Unless I've experienced a loving act or deed, abstract discussions of love will do me no good. Unless I can embody love or justice in my own life, just thinking about such things abstractly is pointless.
This is why the arts, especially theater and storytelling are so important. They put flesh and blood into what are otherwise abstract discussions about conscience and struggling with conscience, with guilt and the need for atonement, generosity and tight-fistedness, etc.
Such things can't be embodied in our lives or in the arts once and for all -- they have to be embodied again and again. We have to discover what they mean again and again.
Notice the word "discover." I may think I know what it means to love or to sacrifice, but experience is going to teach me whether I was correct in my presuppositions. In other words, there is such a thing as "objective truth" although we humans have a hard time grasping it.
We forget sometimes the continuity of human experience. King David is a product of an ancient, alien culture that I don't understand. But his temptation to lust and murder is perfectly contemporary. Non-Western societies have no trouble grasping the essentials of Shakespeare. There is something called collective human wisdom -- so much the worse for us if we ignore it.
Bloggers We Love
Bridgette Redman and Lansing Theater
Drew McManus' "Neo Classical" at the Partial Observer
Marc Moss (Missoula, MT artist)
Mary Louise Schumacher's "Art City"
Other Great Sites
American Composers Orchestra
Arts & Letters Daily
Center for Arts and Culture
Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive
National Arts Journalism Program
NEA Arts Journalism Institute for Dance Criticism
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater & Musical Theater
New Music Box: American Music Center
USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program
AJ BlogsAJBlogCentral | rss
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog