Art for Whose Sake?
There is a fundamental aesthetic aspect to everything in the realm
of human perception and action. Nothing passes through our minds without
some feeling tone, and the moment experiences pass into memory we are
already abstracting information from them to clarify it and to match
it with the schemata and scripts we have already developed. In our planned
and executed actions as well as in our interpretations, we proceed according
to our cognitive contents (the aforementioned schemata and scripts)
we can't do otherwise and thus even while ramifying
our understandings we are conforming our existence to them. These understandings
have a fundamentally aesthetic aspect, as they contain feelings and
evaluations which have been metacognized and abstracted. In our actions,
thus, there is always the potential and to some degree the inclination
for being what might be called "artistic."
How did art qua art evolve? The most "primitive"
artifacts available to us are elaborations of functional objects for
the purpose of beautification of conforming them to our more
aestheticized schemata. Naturally, not everything is equally aestheticized.
Those actions which permit of the most deliberateness in execution are
those which are most prone to being deliberately aestheticized. Moreover,
there is the most motivation to aestheticize when one is trying to impress
one's superior, one's god(s), one's lover, or even oneself. Actions
are in this case conformed deliberately to the most strongly feeling-toned
schemata in order to be appropriate to an object which is itself strongly
feeling-toned and occupying a significantly symbolic position in the
actor's cognition (as evidenced by the need to impress though
when one aims to impress oneself, it is more on the order of proving
one's worth, an act of self-ennoblement as one attempts to approximate
one's being to the abstractions of value one holds). To the extent that
there is always some degree of this (though it's often small, or so
usual as not to be noticed), we may speak of life as being "for
art's sake," although of course the mainstream definitions of "art"
refer more specifically to its institutionalized, or ostended qua
When we are doing "art for art's sake," trying to get down
to the most basic act of producing aesthetic objects without any aim
other than the production of the object or even just the doing
or making of it we are in a most basic and thoroughgoing way
conforming our behaviour as exclusively as possible to the abstractions
that guide us (and, though I haven't mentioned this, to the cognitive
underpinnings of those abstractions, the "operating system"
of our mental "software," as it were). It is art, as always,
for our reality's sake, and also for the sake of those aspects of our
cognition which are the most strongly valuated our guiding lights,
as it were. One might toss in that these most powerful nodes (one might
even make a comparison with the gravity of physical objects by saying
that these loaded abstractions are stars or black holes), poles
perhaps even (or complexes of poles), are in the realm of the numinous,
unavoidably related to whatever is or most approximates
the divine in one's cognitive universe, and so we could say, in a not
entirely flippant way, "art for god's sake."