Various schools of thought have come up with a variety of definitions of an art. There are many distinct theories that try to explain what art represents. This paper aims at describing two theories of the art from distinct schools of thought. The theories have opposing views in the definition of an art. In this paper, we’ll look at the mimetic theory of art and the pragmatic theory of the art (Gebauer 240).
Mimetic theory of art asserts that art is a representation or just an imitation of the nature. This school of thought comprises the views of philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato who argued that mimesis meant a representation of the nature. According to the two philosophers, every artistic object or creation is simply a form of imitation of that which was created by God. Plato on his argument says that tragedians, painters and even musicians are just imitators of imitation.
On the other hand, Aristotle asserts that art is mimicry of nature essentially and that paintings should look just like what they really represent. In music, art is like a mirror, counterfeiting, perceptual equivalence or just idealization of what really exists. Art captures exactly what the world is in real sense. According to Plato, art is a mere mimicry and therefore potentially dangerous and useless (Elam 121).
In the mimetic school of thought, Plato is fully convinced that all art work just form a natural grouping and share a single common form. That is to say, all that which arts share only by virtue in common is that which is recognized as an art and is an art by virtue. According to Plato, arts are linguistically gathered together due to their metaphysical reality.
Literary works have been taken to reproduce realities deemed external while other schools of thought think that arts do not really reflect on the reality as asserted. According to the mimetic school of thought, artists are regarded as imitators. In this school, Plato and Aristotle argues that the work of the painter is thrice out of essential nature, and that what the painters make is merely a faint copy of the ideas of real things (Davis 130).
On the other hand, Aristotle has a perception that imitation is just a human basic faculty that is normally expressed using a wide range of arts. According to Aristotle, imitating is not the same as producing a copy or even a reflection of certain real things. According to Plato, art ordinarily affects the audience in a bad way as it only represents full thoughts and not even a single truth at all.
Art merely nourishes the audience feelings and does nothing to their art of reasoning. Aristotle thinks that although the world real, it is not complete and the artists strive to make it complete through imitation. Art involves complex reality of mediation. For instance, in a tragic accident or incident, artist makes an imitation of the actions that were performed by the people but not the characters displayed during the incident. As opposed to Plato’s argument, artists are both creators and imitators.
To the artists in this school of thought, imitation is less important compared to purpose. Pragmatic school of thought makes a presumption that imitation is just an instrument that is used in getting to the destination in order to delight and teach the readers. Hence they have more of Pragmatic theory in them rather than the Mimetic theory (Gebauer 243).
Pragmatic theory on the other hand emphasizes on the functional capacity of the art. This theory was addressed by philosophers such as William James and Charles Sanders among others.
This school of thought asserts that art makes optimistic contribution to the individuals’ well being in the society. Arts of religion constitute most common kind of pragmatic art with its goal of spiritual condition enhancing the audience of the art. This school of thought differs from the Mimetic school of thought in what each of them allege as the real function or purpose of the art.
Pragmatic theory asserts that art is a particular end whether that particular end is the communization of the world or the titillation of the senses of the nations or the conversion of the belief of the human kind in God or the moral tone of the viewer or reader. In each particular case, art is viewed as a means to particular end beyond itself. Therefore in the final analysis, what counts is not really the nature of art itself but rather the impacts on the audience whether they are cognitive, religious, moral, social or sensory effects (Elam 124).
The pragmatic school of thought believes in the progressing knowledge possessed by human kind. They claim that that knowledge and ideas are the tools whose significance and validity are established while people acclimatize and test them in their social and physical settings.
According to the pragmatists, the knowledge of the art demonstrates their value as they enhance the human experience. They look at art as something constructed to attain the impacts on the audience. Such effects may be for the kind of emotion, instruction or even aesthetic pleasure. They believe that the objective of all the arts is basically to uplift the life of human kind to the highest perfections (Davis 132).
In my opinion, I would merge both the Pragmatic theory and Mimetic theory of art in developing my own point of view. As the Mimetic theory of art asserts, art is a representation or just an imitation of the nature. On the other hand, Pragmatic emphasizes on the functional capacity of the art. In this school of thought, art makes optimistic contribution to the individuals’ well being in the society.
Therefore in my point of view, I think art is really an imitation of what already exist in the natural environment with a functional capacity of what it represents. Both the two schools of thought had arguments from distinct philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato and William James among others. This gives the two theories a good foundation to address the points. In summary, every artistic object or creation is simply a form of imitation of that which was created by God.
I would argue that every tragedians, painters and even musicians are just but imitators of imitation. I would therefore conclude that art is like a mirror, counterfeiting, perceptual equivalence or just idealization of what really exists. It captures exactly what the world is in real sense. Therefore art is a mere mimicry and therefore potentially dangerous and useless (Elam 79).
Davis, Michael. The Poetry of Philosophy: On Aristotle’s Poetics: Indiana, St Augustine’s, 1999
Elam, Keir. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama: New York, Methuen. 1989
Gebauer, Gunter. Mimesis: Culture—Art—Society: London, University of California, 1995.