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Art and Freedom. History and Relationship Essay

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Updated: Oct 9th, 2021


The origin of the aesthetic sense of art is quite recent. Art in ancient Latin has the connotation of a specialized form of skill, such as carpentry, smithying, or surgery. Additionally, the Romans and Greeks did not also have a conception of what is now generally regarded as art as something different from craft. To them, what we now call art was regarded as a group of crafts, like the craft of poetry. According to Collingwood (1958), those people who interests themselves in art philosophy fall roughly into two classes; those with a leaning towards philosophy, and those philosophers who have a taste for art.

The art of the early modern English, just like art in medieval Latin, borrowed both word and sense to include such other meanings as logic, grammar, astrology, or magic. Clearly, this was still its meaning even at the time of Shakespeare; ‘lie there, my art’ (Collingwood 1958). The renaissance, first in Italy and later elsewhere, helps re-establish the old meaning of art. Consequently, the renaissance artists, just like their counterparts in the ancient world thought of themselves as craftsmen.

It was only in the seventeenth century that the conceptions and problems of aesthetics started being entangled from the philosophy and technique of craft. By the end of the eighteenth century, this entanglement was so advanced to the extent of creating a distinction between the useful arts, and the fine arts. Back then, fine art meant not vastly skilled art or fragile, but beautiful ‘arts’ nonetheless. In art, there is always a distinction between that which is expressed on the one hand, and what is expressed on the other hand.

There is also a distinction between the maiden desire to paint, write or compose, and the finished picture, poem, or music. Additionally, there is also a distinction between the experience of an artist from an emotional element point of view, and what could be referred to as an intellectual element (Collingwood 1958).

Fine art and beauty

When the technical theory of art is abandoned, this also means abandoning a term that helps describe art properly; ‘fine art’. The implication of this term is that genus art is composed of two species, the fine arts, and the useful arts. Useful arts consist of such crafts as weaving, metallurgy and pottery (Danto 1997). In other words, useful arts are the crafts that are normally devoted towards the making of that which is useful as such; the implication is that the genus art is often conceived as craft.

On the other hand, fine arts are used in reference to those crafts that are devoted towards the making of that which is beautiful, that is fine (Danto 1997). This then means that the terminology in question intends to entrust its users to art’s technical theory. Art, as well as its criticism, while also taking into consideration the analogies of philosophy and its criticism, fails to acquire their special importance, or even elicit their gratitude and distrust (Cavell 1979). Like an artist or a philosopher, the critic of art is not in discounting of his prejudice, the need for opinion and eloquence, but in its inclusion for purposes of mastering it.

Consequently, the work of a critic outlasts the arguments and fashion of a certain age. This, according to Cavell, is the beauty of art (Cavell 1979). In order to arrive at a discursive perception of self with respect to an existing and revolving set of practices, coupled with their distinctive remainders and resistances, according to Cavell, is to participate in “ a self’s judgment forming of itself, as that has to be either possessed, or overcome” (Cavell 1979).

Through art, one hope to seek unity with self, and in relation to others in a protected mastery of fully liable practice- sometimes through the acceptance of the ordinary and the legibility within it; sometimes through a departure, gesturing towards a more ideal ordinary, and daring to say. Nevertheless, escaping form this is almost futile, as in either seeking absolute freedom or absolute knowing (Collingwood 1958). Sentiments held by men regarding deformities of any kind or beauty often differs, even in instances where they have similar general discourse.

In his book ‘out of taste’ David Hume (1965) observes that among a thousand opinions that different men may entertain regarding a given object, it is only one such sentiment that holds true. Hume further opines that no sentiment really represents that which is really in the object, but only serves as a mark to relation between the objects and the mind’s faculties, and the absence of which would not have allowed for the existence of such sentiments in the first place.

Hume observes that beauty only exists in the mind that is able to reflect it. As such, different minds will often perceive different beauties. Whereas one individual may perceive deformity in a certain object, another will perceive a different beauty in the same object. According to Hume (1965), seeking real deformity or beauty is as futile as trying to ascertain real bitter or sweet. When we fail to have a recollection of thought, a perfect mind serenity, and fail to give due attention to an object, then it becomes hard for us to judge universal beauty.

The relation between form and sentiment is, to an extent, difficult to understand, thus requiring greater accuracy in order to trace and distinguish it. The influence of this relationship is ascertained from durable admiration in attendance to these works, as opposed to the operation of each particular beauty (Hume 1965). Such a durable admiration will have often survived all fashions and styles, as well as all the mistakes of envy and ignorance. From this perspective, one can then hypothesize in the midst of all the notions of taste and variety, certain general principles blame that have an influence on the mind’s operation.

Some objects, by virtue of the structure of the mind, could naturally be designed to give pleasure. Nevertheless, it would be futile to expect that such a pleasure would be felt by everyone. Certain situations and incidences occur, and these either sheds a false light on an object, opposed the true from assigning to the imaginative part of the mind the proper perception and sentiment.

Image making

Poetry, music and dance were classified by Aristotle as imitation. However, the usage of the term by Aristotle has been shown to have been used as a way of condemning poetry (Rorty 1992). In the works of Plato, the word ’mimesis’ is usually understood to involve deception. In addition, its usage is as a criticism of arts and crafts, which Plato often views as being either inferior, or harmful. In the book ‘X of the Republic’, Plato seems to understand mimesis differently.

Here, Plato uses the example of image productions in a mirror as an illumination of a painter’s production of images and in turn, poems production by such poets as Homer and the tragedians. At this point, Plato drops his earlier difference between descriptive and non-descriptive form, and helps criticize any form of poetry. Through this painter-poet analogy, Plato hopes to drive the point home that mimesis would be deceptive if at all it makes an audience believe that the knowledge of its subject serves as its basis (Rorty 1992).

In this regard, would it not be absurd therefore, for a capable bridle illustration painter to try and convince us that he did know of how such a bridle should be made if it is to serve its purpose? As such, Plato opines that the same argument could as well hold for a poet. in both poetics 2 and 25, Aristotle’s has made use of the poets to painter analogy to emphasize the point that it is possible to represent objects as they are, just the same, or worse than they already are.

Aristotle views mimesis through form and color in the same way that he views mimesis through rhythm, speech, and melody. Nevertheless, he does not think that it is possible to represent different objects in different media and still achieve different effects. It is thus possible to observe that painting, for instance, is less well adapted to character of mimesis that poetry is. However, painting is better adapted for the conveying of information.

Art and freedom

Cavell (1979) has been able to discover ways of responding to our continued tasks of enacting and finding our freedom, of soul guiding, or self from the imprisonment of self towards either the light, or freedom instinct. In his book, ‘The world viewed’ Cavell (1979) has picked an explicit and guiding theme regarding film; that of not only giving significance to specific necessities and possibilities of film’s physical medium, but also the placing of significance on these.

As such, the fundamental acts of a film, according to Cavett, are the film’s director and the critic (could as well be the audience) of such a film; coupled with the idea that the constituent elements of a film medium remains unknown before the direction and criticism have been discovered. It is this reciprocity between significance and element that Cavell has called the cinematic circle.

According to Cavell (1979), the exploration of this circle then could as well be viewed at as the exploration of a film’s medium. Additionally, Cavell has shown that objects that are projected on a screen tend to be inherently reflexive, occurring as self-referential, while also reflecting on their physical origin. In a statement that may seem rather confusing, Cavell has noted that the presence of such objects refers to their absence, while their location is elsewhere.

Cavell further opines that if human beings, in relation to those objects that are capable of such self-manifestation are either crushed by the fact of the beauty that is left vacant, or are reduced in significance, then this could possibly be due to their attempts at having dominion over the world, or trying to aestheticise the same world, the individuals are trying to refuse participating with it. Like a jewel, the architecture of the altarpiece, the frame of a panting, and the installation in which a certain Painting is set, appears according to Danto (1997) to have a common logic.

Danto further opines that such a scenario defines the pictorial attitudes that are to be taken towards a painting. On its own, such a pictorial attitude does not suffice for the fulfillment of these purposes. It is possible to view contemporary art as either pure, or non-pure with respect to the haunting memory of modernity. In the book, “critic of judgment”, Kant (2005) has used an analysis of aesthetic pleasure as a way of exploring human connection with the world.

This connection, according to Kant, is a measure of the extent to which we may consider ourselves as being involved in, belonging to, and favored by a familiar nature. Moreover, it is also an indication of the extent to which we as individuals must regard ourselves as being elevated, as well as independent of the power of nature. Further, Kant has argued that in the aesthetic consciousness, hints are usually presented to feeling that reason and nature have both been rooted in the same ‘supersensible substrate’, underneath phenomenon experience, and on the level of thing in itself.

In sections of the book entitled “analytic of the beautiful” and “deduction of pure aesthetic judgment”, Kant (2005) has managed to curve off from our dull aesthetic reflection and pragmatic concerns. Thus, Kant has shown that a taste judgment may seem unable to be either false or true. Kant has discussed imagination, aesthetic genius, and the nature of fine art that to this day, still remains influential.


In the history of the roman, Latin and the Greeks, what we today refer to as art was in fact viewed at as being craft. Consequently, the renaissance artists considered themselves as being craftsmen. Such philosophers as Cavell (1979) have recognized the place of critical art that tends to outlive fashion. Through art, one hopes to find their true self, and ways of responding to our continued tasks of enacting and finding our freedom, of soul guiding, or self from the imprisonment of self towards freedom instinct. Through the aesthetic beauty of objects of art, we as individuals participate in the act of living and in the process, tend to find freedom and fulfillment.


Cavell, S. (1979). The world viewed. Harvard: Harvard university press. 2008. Web.

Collingwood, R. G. (1958). The principles of art.Oxford: Oxford university press. 2008. Web.

Danto, A. C. (1997). After the end of art. Massachusetts: Princeton University press. 2008. Web.

Hume, D. (1965). Essays: moral, political and literary. Oxford: oxford university press, pp. 231-55.

Kant, E. and Bernard, J.H (2005). Critique of judgment. New York: Barnes & Noble. 2008. Web.

Rorty, A. (1992). Essays on Aristotle’s poetics. Massachusetts: Princeton university press. 2008. Web.

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