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Art and Knowledge

This positive tradition which follows the western philosophical thoughts loves to believe that art is largely emotive rather than informative. To illustrate, according to people like Ayer (1952, p.54), the sources of empirical knowledge should be synthetic propositions the truth value of which can be determined. In addition, logical relationships should be derived from analytic propositions which are open to manipulation (ibid). Does art provide knowledge? The historical discussion Admittedly, this traditional belief that art has nothing to do with epistemology arose from the fact that arts are mainly aimed at arousing emotion. In fact, people seek out arts mainly to get oneself lost into the imaginary world created by the arts. Thus, one can easily point out that arts are primarily meant to reach a natural high which is often the result of ones sensory responses. Thus, traditionally, arts and sensory experiences were interlinked and inseparable. Thus, Plato (1992, p. 113) argued that the sensory side of human experience is primary in the arts. According to Stolnitz (1992, p. 191), the argument is that senses are a hindrance to the achievement of the high state in which reality can be understood. In fact, the weights and chains of the prisoners incarcerated in Plato’s caves were really surrogates or proxies for the distractions that our senses imposed upon whatever our rational mind could possibly muster. Thus, one can see that the stimulation of senses, which takes place through arts, is rather misleading. As John (2001, p.330) reflects, instead of making one reach critical thinking and rationality, arts lead one away from truth which can only be derived through critical rationality. And as time passed, there arose two extremes in the cognitive triviality of arts (ibid). The opinion of Plato was contradicted by Aristotle (2008, p. 45) in Poetics through the argument that poetry is capable of conveying the knowledge of universals to people. Thus, there arise two classes of thought; one that believes in the aesthetic value of art, and one that believes in the cognitive value of art. Admittedly, it is possible to develop a third class of thought; that is, aesthetic cognitivism. This class of thought claims that art can give knowledge, and also that this knowledge can enhance the aesthetic value of art. According to cognitivists, it is possible for art to impart knowledge. In order to substantiate their claim, cognitivists rely on philosophical knowledge as derived from various works of literature. The gist of their argument is that though moral philosophy manages to provide an outline of what is good; works of literature are useful and at times necessary to understand the application of the same in various situations. As McKeon (2001, p.241) comments, Aristotle comes up with three types of knowledge; theoretical, practical, and productive. The theoretical knowledge refers to the knowledge about things that are fundamental in nature (ibid). An example of this knowledge is the products and processes of nature. Practical knowledge refers to the knowledge that teaches what to do to address certain contingencies. Thirdly, productive knowledge teaches one how to make new things. Admittedly, the question arises as to how art can introduce productive knowledge. Thus, one gains the insight that the meaning of the word ‘knowledge’ itself is likely to change according to the nature of the problem one pursues (ibid). Based on the traditional view of scientific knowledge, knowledge is supposed to come along with evidence regarding the truth. In other words, knowledge is the ability to provide warranted assertions. In other words, the term ‘ ...Show more

Summary

. Traditionally, art has been viewed as ornamental or emotional in character. One can see the presence of this ideology in the work of Plato which argues that the appearance of poetry as a source of knowledge is rather deceptive…
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