Jacques Maritain Center

The Responsibility of the Artist

Chapter I

Art and Morality

Does it matter what one writes? What one writes is of no consequence: this was the motto, some twenty years ago, of those who advocated the so-called "gratuitousness of art." "To be able to think freely," André Gide said after Ernest Renan, "one must be certain that what one writes will be of no consequence."(1) And he went on to say: "The artist is expected to appear after dinner. His function is not to provide food, but intoxication."(2) And again, in a dialogue between himself and an imaginary interlocutor:

The interlocutor -- "Are you interested in moral questions?"

Gide -- "What! The very stuff of our books!"

The interlocutor -- "But what is morality, according to you?"

Gide -- "A branch of Aesthetics."(3)

Thus the problem of Art and Morality was posed in crude terms. Let us not try to escape the singular harshness of this problem. The fact is that by nature Art and Morality are two autonomous worlds, with no direct and intrinsic subordination between them. There is a subordination, but extrinsic and indirect. It is this extrinsic and indirect subordination which is disregarded both by the anarchistic claim that the artist must be completely irresponsible: it does not matter what one writes -- then any subordination whatever of art to morality is simply denied -- and, at the opposite extreme, by the totalitarian claim that the artist must be completely subservient: what one writes must be controlled by the state. Then the fact of the subordination being only extrinsic and indirect is simply denied. In both cases what is disregarded is the fact that the realm of Art and the realm of Morality are two autonomous worlds, but within the unity of the human subject.

2.

Before embarking on a discussion of the realm of Art, I should like to remark that in speaking of Art, we are speaking of Art in the artist, in the soul and creative dynamism of the artist, or as a particular energy, or vital power, which we have to consider in itself or to disengage in its nature, but which exists within man and which man uses to achieve a good work. He uses not only his hands, but that inner, specific principle of activity which develops in his own soul. According to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, Art is a virtue -- that is, an innerly developed, undeviating strength -- Art is a virtue of the Practical Intellect, that particular virtue of the Practical Intellect which deals with the creation of objects to be made.

But, in contradistinction to Prudence, which is also a perfection of the Practical Intellect, Art is concerned with the good of the work, not with the good of man. The Ancients took pleasure in laying stress on this difference, in their thorough-going comparison between Art and Prudence. If a craftsman contrives a good piece of woodwork or jewelry, the fact of his being spiteful or debauched is immaterial, just as it is immaterial for a geometer to be a jealous or wicked man, if his demonstrations provide us with geometrical truth. As Thomas Aquinas put it, Art, in this respect resembles the virtues of the Speculative Intellect: it causes man to act in a right way, not with regard to the use of man's own free will, and to the rightness of the human will, but with regard to the rightness of a particular operating power. The good that Art pursues is not the good of the human will, but the good of the very artifact. Thus, art does not require, as a necessary precondition, that the will or appetite should be straight and undeviating with respect to its own nature and its own -- human or moral -- ends and dynamism, or in the line of human destiny. Oscar Wilde was a good Thomist when he wrote: "The fact of a man being a poisoner is nothing against his prose." What does Thomas Aquinas state? "The kind of good," he says, "which art pursues is not the good of the human will or appetite [or the good of man], but the good of the very works done or artifacts. And consequently art does not presuppose straightness of the appetite [in the line of the human good]."(4)

Here we are confronted with one of the basic principles which hold sway over the issue that we are tackling. This principle needs to be correctly understood and correctly applied. It needs to be counterbalanced by other basic principles, which pertain to the field of morality; over and above all it has to be complemented by the consideration of the fact that the artist is not Art itself, or an impersonation of Art come down from some Platonic separate heaven -- but a man, the artist is a man using Art.

Yet the principle in question holds true and must never be forgotten. Art by itself tends to the good of the work, not to the good of man. The first responsibility of the artist is toward his work.

Let us observe at this point that in serving beauty and in serving poetry the artist serves an absolute, he loves an absolute, he is captive of the absoluteness of a love which exacts his whole being, flesh and spirit. He cannot consent to any division. A bit of heaven which he obscurely shelters in his mind -- namely creative or poetic intuition -- is the primary rule to which his whole fidelity, obedience and heedfulness must be committed.

Be it added, parenthetically, that creative intuition does not make superfluous the rules of working Reason. On the contrary it demands to use them as a necessary instrument. When the resourcefulness of discursive Reason, and the rules involved -- the secondary rules -- are used as instruments of creative intuition, they compose the indispensable arsenal of prudence, shrewdness and cleverness of the life of Art. It is at this flair and patient guile that Degas pointed, when he said: "A painting is a thing which requires as much cunning, rascality and viciousness as the perpetration of a crime."(5) Do we have here that part of the devil of which Gide spoke when he said: The devil cooperates in a work of art? No. What Gide intended was quite different; we shall have to discuss it later. At the moment we have only to do, in any case, with a quite innocent devil, the devil of shrewdness and trickiness in applying the rules.

3.

I have just insisted that Art taken in itself tends to the good of the work, not to the good of man, and that its transcendent end is Beauty, an absolute which admits of no division.

Now we shall deal with the other side of the medal, the opposite aspect of our problem. No longer with the realm of Art, but with the realm of Morality. No longer with the order of Making, but with the order of Doing. No longer with the practical activity of the Reason as directed toward the good of the work to be made, but with the practical activity of the Reason as directed toward the good of human life to be reached, through the exercise of freedom.

What are the basic components of the realm of morality? The first notion which occurs is the notion of moral good.

The Good in general belongs to the order of transcendentals. Good is transcendental as Being is, and Good is coterminous with Being. Everything which exists is good to the extent to which it is, it possesses being. For the Good, or the Desirable, is fullness of being.

The notion I just stressed is the notion of metaphysical or ontological good -- not the notion of moral good.

Moral good is that kind of good which is peculiar to man and to human life, and to the exercise of the human will. That kind of good through which man is caused to be good, purely and simply good.

The next question is, of course: what is the determining factor which makes a man purely and simply good?

A man can be rich, successful, powerful, etc., a good businessman, a good political boss, a good rancher, and be at the same time a bad man.

A man can be endowed with exceptional intelligence and possess every kind of knowledge, he can be a great scientist or a great philosopher, and be at the same time a bad man.

A man be a great artist and be a bad man.

What causes a man to be purely and simply good is the goodness of his deeds as expressing his will; it is the action which achieves his being and emanates from him as a man, that is, as a person master of himself and capable of working out his own destiny, or as a free agent.

When we think of a man who endangers his own life to rescue perishing people, or of a man who endures persecution because he refuses to participate in injustice, or of a man who permits himself to be slandered and calumniated rather than betray a secret with which he has been entrusted, we feel a liking for this man, we envy him, we would like to act in the same way. Perhaps we are unable to do so -- under the same circumstances we would have yielded. (Those who lead a bad life do not fail to admire virtue, and sometimes they are the most exacting as to the virtue of others). For all that, we admire this man, we think that he is a good man, a righteous man. At this point we have grasped the notion of the moral good.

And by the same token we are confronted with the emergence of an order different from the whole physical or metaphysical order; we are confronted with the emergence of a new order or a new universe, the order or universe of morality. If human actions were mere events of nature, resulting from the interaction of the constellations of causes at work in the world, there would be only the universe of nature -- there would be no ethical universe, no universe of morality. But human actions are introduced into the world as the result of a free determination, as something which depends on an initiative irreducible to the casual connections at play in the whole world, and taken by another whole which is my self, my own person, in such a way that I am responsible for it. I myself am the author of my action, be it good or bad.

Let us come to a further point: what is the determining quality which causes my action to be good? Good means fullness of being. Now anything attains the fullness of its own being when it is formed according to the form required by its nature. And because man is an animal endowed with reason, the form which is essentially required by his nature for his actions to possess fullness of being is the form of reason. A human action is good, purely and simply good, or morally good, when it is formed by reason, or measured according to reason. Conformity with reason, or consonance with reason, that is, conformity with what causes a man to be a man, is what causes a human action to be good.

Well, the fact of a human action being good or bad constitutes its intrinsic moral value. This notion of moral value has nothing to do with that of aesthetic or artistic value. Virtue is spiritually beautiful, and the Greeks had a single word, kalokagathos, beautiful-and-good, to designate the moral good. But this intrinsic beauty or nobility of the good moral action does not relate to a work to be made, it relates to the exercise of human freedom. Furthermore it is not good as a means to an end, it is good in itself -- what the ancients called bonum honestum, good as right, the quality of an act good for the sake of good. Here we are not confronted with "a good state of affairs," meaning an advantageous or useful state of affairs, we are confronted with that goodness, beauty or nobility which comes to a human act from its conformity with reason, and which is an end in itself, a good in itself.

Artistic value and moral value belong to two different realms. Artistic value relates to the work, moral value to man. The sins of men can be the subject-matter of a work of art, from them art can draw aesthetic beauty -- otherwise there would be no novelists. The experience of moral evil can even contribute to feed the virtue of art -- I mean by accident, not as a necessary requirement of art. The sensuality of Wagner is so sublimated by the operation of his music that Tristan calls forth no less than an image of the pure essence of love. The fact remains that if Wagner had not fallen in love with Matilda Wesendonck, we would probably not have had Tristan. The world would doubtless be none the worse for it -- Bayreuth is not the Heavenly Jerusalem. Yet thus does art avail itself of anything, even of sin. It behaves like a god; it thinks only of its own glory. The painter may damn himself, painting does not care a straw, if the fire where he burns bakes a beautiful piece of pottery. The fact matters to the painter, however, because the painter is not the art of painting, nor is he merely a painter. He is also a man, and he is a man before being a painter.

*

With the notion of value we are in a static order, in the order of what Aristotle called formal causality. When it comes to the dynamic order, to the order of exercise or effectuation into existence, we are confronted with another component of the realm of morality -- with the notion of end, and of ultimate end.

For by necessity of nature man cannot exercise his freedom, man cannot act except in the desire for happiness. But what man's happiness is, what human happiness consists of, this is not inscribed in the necessary functioning of his nature, this is above this necessary functioning. Because man is a free agent. Thus he has to decide for himself what kind of supreme good his happiness consists of in actual fact, he must choose his own happiness or supreme good, and the fate of his moral life depends on the fact of his choice being made or not according to the truth of the matter.

Let us suppose a man confronted with a choice deep and serious enough to engage his whole personality, and the whole direction he is giving to his life. Say this man decides to commit a murder because he needs money. He knows that murder is bad, but he prefers to the moral good that good which is money and which will permit him to satisfy his ambition. He is carried along by a love for a good (an ontological good) which is not the good for the sake of the good, but a good for the sake of his own covetousness. At this very moment he makes his life appendent to a supreme good or ultimate good which is his Ego.

Now let us think of Antigone who decides to brave an unjust law and to give her own life to bury her dead brother. She chooses to do this good for the sake of the good. She sacrifices her life to something which is better and dearer to her than her life and which she loves more. At this very moment, because she prefers the good for the sake of the good, she directs her life, knowingly or unknowingly, toward a good which is supreme in a given order, namely the common good of the city (for the unjust law of the tyrant is destructive of this common good). Nay more, she makes, knowingly or unknowingly, her life appendent to an absolutely supreme good, an absolutely ultimate end which is the absolute good, the good subsisting by itself, the infinite transcendent good, that is, God. Any man who, in a primary act of freedom deep enough to engage his whole personality, chooses to do the good for the sake of the good, chooses God, knowingly or unknowingly, as his supreme good; he loves God more than himself, even if he has no conceptual knowledge of God.

If man existed in a purely natural order, or, as the theologians put it, in a state of pure nature, God, who is man's real supreme good and ultimate end, would not be, for all that, the absolute happiness or beatitude of man, for in the purely natural order there would be no absolute happiness or beatitude for man. His happiness, even beyond the grave, would be a happiness in motion, ceaselessly progressing, and never totally achieved.

Christianity -- not philosophy -- Christianity has taught us that man is called to a supernatural life, which the Gospel terms eternal life, and in which, through divine grace, he participates in the very life of God. Then God, who is man's real supreme good and ultimate end, will also be his happiness or his beatitude, because man will possess God by seeing Him intuitively. Well, from the point of view of pure nature, we would have every reason to doubt that man can ever reach absolute happiness. The fact that we really can be absolutely happy, and that we are cut out to absolutely happy, is a datum of faith. The fact that every one of us, knowingly or blindly, craves for beatitude is an indication that we do not exist in a state of pure nature. This means that, in the order of exercise, which is the dynamic and existential order of final causality, the enforcement with respect to any choice engaging our whole personality and the whole direction of our life, of the moral good into actual existence, implies that we direct our life toward the subsisting Good as our supreme ruler of human life, nay more, according to Christian data, which is love for God as loving us first and causing us to participate in His own life.

Such is not the case with the realm of art. Art and Poetry tend to an absolute which is Beauty to be attained in a work, but which is not God Himself, or Beauty subsisting by itself. When Cocteau said,(6) at the end of Orpheus: "Because Poetry, my God, it's you," this did not mean that Poetry is God Himself, but that God is the prime Poet, and poetry receives all its virtue from Him. The absolute toward which Art and Poetry are directed is a supreme good and an ultimate end in a given order, in the order of the creativity of the spirit, it is not the absolutely ultimate end. What the artist, insofar as he is an artist, loves over and above all is Beauty in which to engender a work, not God as supreme ruler of human life nor as diffusing his own charity in us. If the artist loves Him over and above all, he does so insofar as he is a man, no insofar as he is an artist.

4.

I have said that reason is the form, or measure -- or the immediate rule -- of human actions. Now God alone is measure measuring without being in any way measured. Human reason, in order to measure human actions, needs itself to be measured. By what measure is reason Measured in this connection? By that ideal order, grounded on human nature and its essential ends, which Antigone called the unwritten laws, and which philosophers call the natural law. I shall not discuss natural law here; I should like only to insist that natural law is known to men, not through conceptual and rational knowledge (philosophers know and elucidate natural law in this way, but this is reflective knowledge, after-knowledge) -- natural law is known to men through inclination or connaturality, a kind of knowledge in which the judgment of the intellect conforms to the inclinations existing in the subject. And this natural knowledge of natural law has developed in mankind, from the primitive ages on, slowly and progressively, among an infinity of accidents, and will always develop.

The point I should like to make is that human reason knows what is good and what is bad to the extent to which it knows -- naturally or instinctively, that is through inclination -- natural law, and is able to deduce the consequences implied in the principles of natural law. Now what about the feeling of moral obligation? This feeling depends on the inner constraint exercised on our will by our intellect, from the very fact that it knows the good and the bad, that is to say, moral values.

For we cannot want to be bad, we cannot want to do evil insofar as it is evil. Hence, when we know that something is bad -- and therefore should be avoided -- by the same stroke we feel bound not to do it. Moral obligation does not proceed from social taboos. Moral obligation is a constraint exercised by the intellect on the will. At this point a basic distinction must be made. When we consider things in an abstract and theoretical manner, we see human actions in their pure and universal moral essence, separately from what we are at a divine moment, and from the tissue of concrete circumstances in which we are involved at this given moment. We see for instance that murder is bad. This murder which fits my anger is bad; if I do it I shall be bad, and I cannot want to be bad. This vision binds me. I am "bound in conscience." This is moral obligation, which takes place at the level of the abstract consideration of moral essences taken in themselves.

But there is another level, purely practical this time, the level of the actual choice, of the act of freedom. Then I can make a choice contrary to my conscience, and contrary to moral obligation. Because then I do not consider murder, for instance, in its pure and universal moral essence, but with respect to what I am, and desire, and love, and prefer, here and now. I can say: this act is bad and forbidden by the law, but my good and that which I love most is to satisfy my anger; I make murder be what I love best -- and so much the worse for the universal law! Then I choose murder not because it is bad, but because in respect to concrete circumstances and to the love which I freely make prevalent in me it is good for me. But not morally good! And in order to choose it, it is necessary that at the very instant of my act of choice, I divert my eyes from the vision of this action as morally bad, or, as Thomas Aquinas puts it, that I divert my eyes from the consideration of the rule. Thus it may be said, no doubt, that, as far as my act of choice is concerned, when I commit a deliberate moral fault I prefer to be bad (morally bad); but it is is because (having voluntarily diverted my attention from the moral law at the instant of free choice) I have made a good other than the moral good into my own not-being-bad. And the fact remains that I cannot want to be bad (morally bad) as far as the judgment of my conscience is concerned, or as far as my intellect considers the standards of man's conduct in their own right.

To sum up, my contention is that moral obligation, which does not deal with existential choice, but with moral essences taken in themselves, depends on our vision of values, not on our movement toward the ultimate end. I shall miss my true end if I do evil. But I am not morally obliged to avoid evil because I shall miss my end if I do evil. In such a case I act against the moral obligation which binds me. The fact remains that I am morally obliged. And I am morally obliged to avoid evil because, as far as the judgment of my conscience is concerned, if I do evil I shall be bad, and because I cannot want to be bad. By virtue of the very nature of my will, I feel bound in conscience, or in my apperception of the abstract and universal moral essence of human acts, not to do what would make me bad.

That which takes place with regard to the moral conscience of man as man is exactly what takes place with regard to the artistic conscience of the artist, as well as with the medical conscience of the physician or with the scientific conscience of the scientist. The artist cannot want to be bad as an artist, his artistic conscience binds him not to sin against his art, for the simple fact that this would be bad in the sphere of artistic values. Tell a Rouault or a Cézanne to change his style and do more pleasing painting, bad painting, in order to be accepted at the annual Exhibition of French Artists and make a living and support his family, and fulfill his moral obligations towards his wife and his children; even assuming that his family is starving, he will answer: get out and leave me alone, you fool! To follow such advice would be against his artistic conscience, his conscience as a painter. To support his family an artist may have to become a farmer, or a customs officer, as did Hawthorne or Henri Rousseau, or even to give up art. He can never accept to be a bad artist, and spoil his work.

I knew a great writer who also had an extraordinary gift for drawing. When he was a young man he made drawings which had some kinship with those of William Blake. But he felt that in doing so he obeyed a sort of dark inspiration, with so to speak a forbidden ease; he thought he was guided by the devil. He gave up drawing completely. It was possible for him to do this. It would not have been possible for him to spoil his drawings by betraying his vision.

At this point a serious issue arises, which we shall discuss later on; and a remark which seems quite important to me can be made right now: for an artist to spoil his work and sin against his art is forbidden by his artistic conscience. But what about his moral conscience also, his conscience as a man is here on the alert. For moral conscience deals with all the acts of a man; moral conscience envelops, so to speak, all the more particularized kinds of conscience -- not moral in themselves, but artistic, medical, scientific, etc. -- of which I just spoke. There are no precepts in natural law or in the Decalogue dealing with painting and poetry, prescribing a particular style and forbidding another. But there is a primary principle in moral matters, which states that it is always bad, and always forbidden, to act against one's own conscience. The artist who, yielding to ill-advised moral exhortations, decides to betray his own singular truth as an artist, and his artistic conscience, breaks within himself one of the springs, the sacred springs, of human conscience, and to that extent wounds moral conscience itself.(7)

We have spoken of values, which refer to the order of formal causality and of specification -- of the ends and the ultimate End, which refer to the order of final causality and of exercise -- of moral law and moral obligation. Now by what means does man become able to enforce in actual existence moral standards and moral regulations, or to make his actions consonant with Reason?

Here we are confronted with the notion of moral virtue. Virtues, as perennial philosophy sees them, are stable dispositions or inner forces developed in the soul, which perfect its operative powers in a certain line or direction. Moral virtues -- say, the four cardinal virtues, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance, recognized by the Graeco-Roman philosophical tradition -- perfect and fortify the intellect, the will and the appetitive powers in the line of morality. They are connected with one another, but the principal of them, the queen of moral virtues, is Prudence, that is, practical Insight and Wisdom, because it has to do with the Intellect and the command of our actions.

The main point to be made with regard to Prudence is that Prudence is (like Art, though in the sphere of Doing, not of Making) a virtue of the Intellect, of the Practical Intellect, but is in no way a science, even a practical science. Prudence is not a set of ready-made general truths and general rules -- particularized as they may be -- for applying moral rules. There is no fixed and ready-made rule to apply the rules. The only definitive measure is the very rectitude of the appetite. The act of moral choice is so individualized (both by the singularity of the person from whom it emanates and by that of the context of contingent circumstances in which it takes place) that the practical judgment in which it is expressed and by which I declare to myself "This is what I need," can only be right if actually, hic et nunc, the dynamism of my willing is right and tends toward the genuine good of human life.

So much for the ruling and dominating part, the royal part played by the virtue of Prudence, both intellectual and moral, in human life.

But we know that Art is another virtue -- intellectual, not moral -- of the Practical Intellect, and that is concerned with the good of the work, not with the good of man.

At this point appears the relationship -- and the conflict -- between Art and Prudence. The artist as an artist has ends which deal with his work and the good of his work, not with human life. The artist as a man has ends which deal with his own life, and good of his own life, not with his work. If he took the end of his art, or the good of his artifact, for his own supreme good and ultimate end, he would be but an idolater. Art in its own domain is sovereign like wisdom; through its object it is subordinate neither to wisdom nor to prudence nor to any other virtue. But by the subject in which it exists, by man and in man it is subordinate -- extrinsically subordinate -- to the good of the human subject. As used by man's free will art enters a sphere which is not its own, but the sphere of moral standards and values, and in which there is no good against the good of human life. Whereas Art is supreme with respect to the work, Prudence -- that is, moral wisdom, the virtue of right practical decision -- Prudence is supreme with respect to man.

What makes the conflict bitter is the fact that Art is not subordinate to Prudence by virtue of their respective objects, as science, for instance, is subordinate to wisdom. As concerns its own objects, everything comes under the purview of Art, and of Art alone. But as concerns the human subject, nothing comes under Art's purview. Over anything made by the hand of man Art and Prudence each claim dominion. From the point of view of poetic, or, if you will, working values, and of the moral regulation of the free act, Prudence alone is competent, and there is no limitation upon its rights to govern.

When he reproves a work of art, the Prudent Man, standing squarely upon his moral virtue, has the certitude that he is defending against the Artist a sacred good, the good of man, and he looks upon the Artist as a child or a madman. Perched on his intellectual virtue, the Artist has the certitude that he is defending a no less sacred good, the good of Beauty, and he looks as though he were bearing down on the Prudent Man with the weight of Aristotle's maxim: "Life proportioned to the intellect is better than life proportioned to man."

From the point of view of Art, the artist is responsible only to his work. From the point of view of Morality, to assume that "it does not matter what one writes" is permissible only to the insane; the artist is responsible to the good of human life, in himself and in his fellow men.

Thus, what we are confronted with is the inevitable tension, sometimes the inevitable tension, sometimes the inevitable conflict, between two autonomous worlds, each sovereign in its own sphere. Morality has nothing to say when it comes to the good of the work, or to Beauty. Art has nothing to say when it comes to the good of the work, or to Beauty. Art has nothing to say when it comes to the good of the work, or to Beauty. Art has nothing to say when it comes to the good of human life. Yet human life is in need of that very Beauty and intellectual creativity, where art has the last word; and art exercises itself in the midst of that very human life, those human needs and human ends, where morality has the last word. In other words it is true that Art and Morality are two autonomous worlds, each sovereign in its own sphere, but they cannot ignore or disregard one another, for man belongs in these two worlds, both as intellectual maker and as moral agent, doer of actions which engage his own destiny. And because an artist is a man before being an artist, the autonomous world of morality is simply superior to (and more inclusive than) the autonomous world of art. There is no law against the law of which the destiny of man depends. In other words Art is indirectly and extrinsically subordinate to morality.

*

A last question must be tackled, which matters essentially to the realm of morality -- namely the question: what does the perfection of human life consist of? Our preceding considerations make us expect the answer that Thomas Aquinas offers. Anything, he says, is called perfect insofar as it reaches its proper end, for in the attainment of the end consists the ultimate perfection of a thing. Now it is through charity that we are united with God, who is the ultimate end of man, because, as St. John puts it, "God is love, and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God in him." Therefore it is in charity, when there is no longer any obstacle to its expansion in the soul, that the perfection of man consists.(8)

Thus St. Thomas teaches that perfection consists in charity, and that each of us is bound to tend toward the perfection of love according to his condition and insofar as it is in his power. All morality thus hangs upon love. The love of the One Who is better than all goodness, and of the creatures He has made in His image, is that in which man attains the perfection of his being. That perfection does not consist in supreme accuracy in copying an ideal. It consists in loving, in going through all that is unpredictable, dangerous, dark, demanding, and insensate in love; it consists in the plentitude and refinement of dialogue and union of person with person to the point of transfiguration which, as St. John of the Cross says, makes of man a god by participation, "two natures in a single spirit and love."

If the perfection of human life consisted in some stoic athleticism of moral virtue, and in a man-made righteousness achieved to the point of impeccability, all of us, and especially the Artist and the Poet, would be in a rather sad predicament in this regard, and we would have to despair of the possibility of a single wise man, as the late Stoics did. But if the perfection of human life consists in a ceaselessly increasing love, despite our mistakes and weaknesses, between the Uncreated Self and the created self, there is some hope and some mercy for all of us, and especially for the Artist and the Poet.

The fact remains that the Prudent Man and the Artist have difficulty in understanding one another. But the Contemplative and the Artist, the one bound to wisdom, the other to beauty, are naturally close. They also have the same brand of enemies. The Contemplative, who looks at the highest cause on which every being and activity depend, knows the place and the value of art, and understands the Artist. The Artist in his turn divines the grandeur of the Contemplative, and feels congenial with him. When his path crosses the Contemplative's, he will recognize love and beauty.

I am sorry that I was obliged to refer to matters which go beyond philosophy, and pertain to the theological sphere. But I could not do otherwise, because the realm of morality deals with man as he is not only in his abstract essence, but also in his concrete and existential condition; and, because, as I have previously noticed, the existential condition of man is not purely natural. In relation to this existential condition there are certain data the knowledge of which depends on theology, not on philosophy. One of these data has to do with the virtues which come into play in the conduct of human life, and with that love of Charity of which I previously spoke. As a matter of fact there are other virtues besides moral virtues to be taken into consideration: these other virtues, which are Faith, Hope and Charity, are God-given virtues, and are called theological virtues, for God Himself is their object. And the greatest, as St. Paul said, is Charity.

Thus it is that, fortunately for man, and fortunately for the artist, Prudence is indeed the queen of moral virtues, but this queen has been made into a servant with respect to Charity. The only real queen of all virtues is Charity, or that God-given love for God and our fellow men which is God's love itself communicated to us. In the order of nature, there is no friendship possible, as Aristotle observed, between Jupiter and man, because friendship presupposes a kind of equality. But in the order of grace, precisely because grace raises man to share in the very life of God, there is between man and God real friendship, with that relationship from person to person and that community of goods which friendship implies. This love of friendship uniting God and man is grace-given Charity.

Charity does not cancel the need for Prudence and moral virtues, It requires them -- in one sense it carries them along with itself in the soul -- and it perfects them. But Charity transfigures moral life and changes the picture entirely, because it makes man intrinsically good and it makes him love the law, since he has become the friend of the author of the law. Thus moral law, which condemns us and is our enemy, as long as we are wicked, becomes itself our friend and our road to freedom. And in the end, when Charity has transformed man, Charity makes man accomplish the law without being enslaved to the law, because he does freely, by love, what the law prescribes. Though Charity does not abolish the conflict between Prudence and Art, yet it enables man, if it takes hold of him, to solve this conflict in freedom, and to have Art, quickened by live, accord with Prudence, not as an enemy queen, but as a friendly servant of Charity.


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