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Title: Contemplation in art and aesthetic awareness
Author: Marriage, Alwyn
ISNI:       0000 0001 3619 276X
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 1983
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Abstract:
This thesis starts with a broad introduction to definitions of art and aesthetic awareness, out of which emerges the concept of contemplation as a recurring feature in the philosophy of art. It is claimed that, despite its presence in so many definitions, contemplation is not an essential component of aesthetic awareness nor a necessary requirement in the observer of a work of art. A definition of aesthetic awareness is therefore adopted which excludes reference to this feature. It is recognized, however, that there is a sub-category of art to which contemplation does apply and which may be called contemplative art. In order to determine a meaning for the term, contemplation is examined as the appropriate perception of and response to the world in Pre-Socratic and Platonic philosophy. The three major and consistent qualities perceived by these early philosophers to be inherent in the cosmos, which they also believed to be sought by the artist who wishes to produce beauty and the man who seeks virtue, are found to be i) order, balance and good proportion, ii) harmony, often necessarily achieved through conflict and the tension of opposites, and iii) love. In the context of Greek thought these three qualities all appear to involve an acceptance and celebration of reality. Defining contemplation in these terms necessitates an examination of what is meant by perception and how contemplation differs from other forms of perception. It is argued that Plato's criticisms of art stemmed from his realization that the nature of art was changing from its roots in contemplation towards mimesis, which aims at deception rather than truth. What Plato refused to accept was that the concept of art itself was expanding beyond the metaphysical understanding which rooted the whole realm of art in man's contemplative response to the world. However, the total demise of contemplative art, which he feared, did not occur, for the tradition of contemplative art has continued to this day. Since the early Christian church was a major producer of the arts and the cradle of much philosophy, the assimilation and integration of Greek philosophy by the patristic and mediaeval philosophers is examined and assessed, in chapter 5. One feature which developed in this period was 'light' which can be accomodated within the earlier requirements, as also can the growing interest in the experience of timelessness associated with contemplation. It is also suggested that the growth of empiricism towards the end of the Middle Ages has a bearing on the appreciation and celebration of reality. But the usefulness of the concept of contemplation would be limited if it depended entirely on a model of the world posited by the archaic Greeks or a theistic interpretation of events accepted by the early church. This problem is solved by an investigation of Kant's 'judgements of taste', which are seen to delineate a similar area to that under discussion in terms of contemplation. Kant's theory of the Imagination is clarified and offered as the vital link which allows us to use the word 'contemplation' without necessarily having recourse to a particular metaphysical belief system. These ideas are then examined in the light of more recent philosophy, art, physics and contemplative practices, to clarify and develop such concepts as 'love', 'truth', 'light' and 'timelessness' and to render them more useful in our approach to, and understanding of, art and aesthetic awareness. The thesis finishes with a more general discussion of some examples of contemplative art forms in relation to the features which have been outlined.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.331699  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Arts
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