ART PERFECTS NATURE
Benedict M. Ashley O.P
Since the Enlightenment modern culture has been obsessed with the notion of "progress" and "novelty." The "new" is always also the "improved." "Evolutionary progress" is assumed to dominate world history. This attitude contrasts to ancient, medieval, and even Renaissance thought that generally assumed that conformity to antiquity and tradition were the best guarantees of the truth and quality of human productions. The scholars of those times quoted previous authors as authorities, while modern scholarship quote them only to prove that the scholar has explored the past, found it wanting, and is ready now to improve on it.(1)
Hence for moderns "creativity" is exalted as the supreme value. In the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead "Creativity" is the first principle, superior even to that supreme actual occasion that is Whitehead's God. (2) Hence creation is not proper to God but is found in every quantum of reality. Only with the coming of so-called "post-modernity" has this infatuation with creativity come into question. For deconstructionists the interpretation of reality is without foundational principles but is an endless circular process of intertextuality so that it becomes difficult if at all possible to say that a thinker or artist is "original" since their productions are a mixture of sources that are always themselves such mixtures, etc., etc. (3)
A characteristic note of the thought of Aquinas is his opposition to the Neo-Platonic notion that creation is a power in which creatures participate. For him only God can create, because creation is to produce being ex nihilo and this is impossible for the the power of any creature since creatures are by definition finite. This thesis does not deny, however, that God shares his power with his creatures. Indeed it is characteristic of Aquinas' understanding of God that God always does through secondary causes whatever is possible for them. In that sense the modern usage of the term "creativity" of creatures can be justified but it is, it seems to me, misleading.
What place then does the "new" have in Aquinas' worldview? In Aristotle's astronomy change is perpetual but absolutely cyclical, yet it does not conform to the Neo-Platonic "myth of the Eternal Return" that Nietzche adopted, since, while the cycle repeats specifically, it does not repeat individuals. (4) Aquinas accepted this astronomy but only as an hypothesis that was excluded by the revealed doctrine of the origin of the universe at a finite time in the past. Yet for Aristotle more fundamental than the hypothesis of the eternity of the world was the truth that the sensible world exists only in change as ens mobile, becoming being. Thus even if its existence is perpetual it must also be teleological. The definition of nature is "the principle of change and stability." (5) Thus the sensible, changeable, material world has a stability that is not absolute but is achieved through change. This stability, moreover. is only relative, since it is always subject to further change. Even Aristotle's hypothetically perpetual celestial bodies move teleologically in that their stability is a stability as movers that again and again return to the same point. Thus natural change results from natures that predetermine the result of change and it is this that Aristotle understands as teleology in its most general sense. The universe is a stable system because the changes in it generally have a law-like character, that is, they are uniform and regular. Natura est determinatum ad unum.(6)
Modern science, although it seems to reject "teleology," agrees that there are natural laws that are its primary business to discover. It rejects teleology only because it thinks that it implies purpose in nature not simply law-like regularity, but this was not either Aristotle or Aquinas' understanding of teleology, since for them purposeful action is only one kind of teleological behavior although the most evident. (7) It is remarkable, however, that in the advance of modern science explanations that are simply in terms of natural law are being more and more superseded. The modern theory of biological evolution is not in terms of a "law of evolution" leading to a uniform and therefore predictable result, as was the now out-moded conception of Teilhard de Chardin. It is primarily an historical theory that uses natural laws to understand a past scenario without making any claim to predict, except in a very general manner, in what direction this history will continue. At each point of the history of biological evolution the direction it took was only conditioned by natural laws but was ultimately determined by the chance interference of natural forces with each other.(8)
This predominance of historical chance over law determined nature evident in modern biological evolution theories has now spread to the whole cosmos with quantum theory. Quantum theory provides natural laws always but only probabilistic ones. This probabilism is not merely a matter of our ignorance but of the very nature of material things. Far from this discovery raising a difficulty for an Aristotelian view of material things this follows necessarily from Aristotle's and Aquinas' view of sub-lunar matter the only kind that we know actually exists. (9) For nineteen century science "nature'" was the substance they called matter and natural laws were its properties that required it to behave in a mechanistically determined manner. But for Aristotle and Aquinas matter is only the potency of material things for change and as such can never be wholly actualized by form, hence, at least for terrestrial matter, chance interference of one natural efficient cause with another is always possible, and natural laws hold only in pluribus(10)
The Aristotelian celestial spheres, although they were free from friction, continued in motion only by the efficient activity of disembodied spirits. With the elimination of that hypothesis by Galileo's telescopic observation of the sunspots, science holds that the whole universe is subject to chance and quantum theory locates this ultimately in every particle of material bodies. This entails the Second Law of Thermodynamics that states that in finite time the universe will arrive at an entropic equilibrium in which nothing but "quantum fluctuations" are possible. While, as Aquinas maintained, reason can never demonstrate that the time of the universe is finite, (11) current science does not see any way out of this ultimate entropic doom for the cosmos, even if there are a cycle of Big Crunches as well as Big Bangs. Thus quantum theory, even if it becomes a Grand Unified Theory or "Theory of Everything" will explains the history of the universe only in a very general manner. (12) Currently it is used to argue that the temperature of the universe after the Big Bang declined in a certain manner and some kind of aggregation of massive matter was inevitable, but this leaves many different possibilities and by no means predicts the inevitable emergence of life let alone of intelligent life. The Second Law of Thermodynamics permits the rise of complexity in small regions of the universe, but these will eventually disintegrate. The rate of entropic increase, however, is not definitely determined so there is no way to predict when ultimate cosmic equilibrium will take place.
Yet, although unpredictable by natural law, intelligent life and with it free causality has emerged in our universe. Some argue that there may be an infinite number of possible worlds, and that we intelligent, free beings exist in this world but not in others that have been or will be, or exist now independent of this world, is to talk about what we do not and cannot know. In what sense other worlds are "possible" is to talk about a free First Cause who make them possible and we could not know that God is free unless by analogy from our knowledge that we ourselves are free. Of course also many have argued that if we are free then there can be no God, since if there were a First Cause, it would take away our freedom. Aquinas, however, shows that since God's causality is only analogous to our causality, there is no contradiction in maintaining that God is the cause of our free actions, indeed of their very freedom. The divine causality is only analogous to our mode of causality and hence need not be coercive. (13) Thus we come to the conclusion that there are three modes of causality, nature, chance, and freedom. (14)
It is at the level of free causality that the teleology or predetermination of natural law and its negation by chance becomes purposeful. Intelligent beings can perceive the relation between means and ends and hence can act purposefully. Aquinas, however, shows, that this practical judgment of what means will serve to achieve a given end is generally not determinate. An end can be achieved by several alterative means, for each of which there are pro and con arguments, advantages and disadvantages, so that we are ultimately left free to choose among these alternatives. (15) Thus choice is not absolutely determined by knowledge, as Plato supposed, but by free will. (16) Hence, we require virtues that incline our wills to avoid wrong choices and to prefer good choices that conform best to our individual personalities and life situations. Thus "creativity" does enter into good human living.
Prudence and Art
Aristotle and Aquinas distinguish between the theoretical sciences whose conclusions are determined ultimately by the natures of things and hence are essentially determinate and the practical sciences whose conclusions involve an element of freedom. The practical sciences, on the other hand. are determined by the free choice of alternative means to given ends. Since some ends are fixed in human nature, this implies that some practical sciences are teleologically absolute, and free only with regard to the choice of means. This is the case with the ethical sciences, since human nature determines the needs that we must satisfy to attain happiness and happiness itself is determined by our nature. On the contrary, some ends are a matter of free choice as possible instruments that we can intelligently produce for satisfying human needs in a better way than is possible simply by nature and these pertain to "art" or technology. These arts, of course, should be subordinate to the ethically determined needs that they are designed to produce. Thus to use technology to produce effects that are harmful to human happiness as determined by human nature is to abuse technology. Thus human free practical activity, whether it is ethical or technological, must always respect nature and hence Aquinas' famous philosophical dictum that "art perfects nature." Analogously he also holds that "grace perfects nature" since grace is given to us by God to enable us to transcend the nature given us in creation without violating that lesser, but essential gift. If grace destroyed nature it would not be grace, since a gift that destroyed its recipient would not be a gift but violence.
Intelligent freedom is the specification of personhood and its teleology is self-transcendence. First we transcend ourselves by the fact that we seek to know the world around us. "All humans desire to know," said Aristotle, who is, as Dante said, "the Master of those Who Know." Our knowing is achieved through our senses and our intelligence. Our intelligence is dependent on the senses but connaturally is fitted to understand certain very general things about our material world directly and immediately. Most of what we know, however, must be acquired by reasoning from these connaturally evident first principles. We do not have, as Plato and Descartes thought, any innate ideas. Nor is there good evidence that what we know intellectually is determined by innate categories that constitute a priori conditions for knowledge as Kant claimed.
Because our intellects are properties of a substance that is matter informed by soul, this soul must also be immaterial. Yet as Aristotle showed, (17) though the human intelligence is finite in its powers it is not per se limited to a priori categories. It is true that it is dependent for specifying information on the senses and these have subjective limits. Yet even these limits are only negative. For example, we can see only six colors when in reality the spectrum is continuously varied. We do not, however, see any colors that are not in that spectrum. Our senses do not cause positive error. (18)
Moreover Kant's arguments to show that space and time are only the subjective conditions of sensation are inconclusive. Aristotle's whole argument in his Physics is to show that these and the other categories of natural science are not subjective but objective realities whose real existence is intellectually demonstrable from the data of sensation, primarily of touch. They are not imposed on phenomena but are inherent in sense phenomena and intelligible as such through the activity of our intelligence in distinguishing what is essential from what is non-essential in our changing world.
Since, however, reasoning from first principles is in a measure a free operation than can result in error, we need an art of logic or good reasoning. Logic is productive in the sense that technology is, and hence is only an "art" analogically since it deals not with real being but with purely mental beings, the relations between concepts. It is also only a theoretical science analogically since it does not deal with real being. Yet it certainly involves free choice, since I can will to make the effort to think logically or can impulsively rationalize with liability to error. Thus genuine " creativity" enters even into speculative thought, although its conclusions must ultimately be determined by the nature of things. Moreover, since out intellectual intuition depends on the adequacy of our observation and the perfection of the perceptual images that we form from observation, creativity is increased by the proper use of our internal senses or "imagination" in the general sense in which that term is used today.
This becomes especially apparent in what Aristotle developed in his Topics as the art of dialectics. We need this logical art to eliminate false hypotheses and to arrive at better hypotheses that will either make possible highly probable theories or in the best cases advance intuition from the level of generic to more specific definitions of natural things. With Galileo this dialectical art made a critical advancement in two ways. First, it extended the Pythagorean discovery, used by the ancients and medievals only in a very limited way, that mathematical models are very useful in the dialectical explorations of natural science. Aquinas recognizes the validity of this scientia mixta. The great clarity and certitude of mathematics is thus put to the instrumental service of natural science in its arsenal of dialectical arguments, although it arguments can be strictly demonstrative only of negative conclusions. What is impossible mathematically is impossible physically, but mathematical models only approximate physical reality and different models can all apply. Second, following the example of Galileo's use of the telescope and of the balls rolling on an inclined plane to assist in the elimination of chance in observation, the art of instrumental observation and controlled experimentation became a much more useful dialectical instrument.
These additions to dialectic art, however, have not been without disadvantages. This growing separation between observation by our natural senses that its connatural to human intelligence and the dialectical concepts intended to enhance quickly lead modern science to abandon the foundations Aristotle has so carefully laid in his Physics. In its place science adopted the mechanism of Democritus that Aristotle had soundly refuted. When at the beginning of the last century Einstein showed the inadequacy of mechanism, new foundations were sought in Kantian apriorism. Today there is again much confused debate over the meaning of the most basic concepts of physics such as "space, "time," "energy," "matter," "causality." Current physics is marvelously successful in predicting the observable results of its pragmatic use of its extremely artificial experiments, but is unable to give a physical interpretation of the significance of these measurements that is no filled with paradoxes. For example, physicists speak of "empty space" and at the same time of the photons, gravitons, and neutrinos that fill it to the brim. (19)
Dialectical creativity, moreover, enters into speculative thought not only in the formation of scientific theories, but in a very different, yet analogous way into the fine arts. Aquinas shows that beauty is a relation of fit between the object known and the subjective condition of the knower. "A thing is received according to the condition of the receiver." Thus what is clear, specific, and illuminated to the sense of sight appears beautiful because its unity in diversity is immediately grasped by the eye. This makes possible an intellectual intuition of an object as "beautiful" as mathematicians declare of certain mathematical truths. Our connatural first principles are too vague and unspecific to be very beautiful although they fit the intelligence; but as these become increasingly specified they become beautiful, and the conclusions of reasoning that specify them are thus also beautiful. There is, therefore, in all the sciences a degree of beauty.
This intellectual beauty is most manifest in the theoretical sciences, where truth can shine in its necessary clarity. Aristotle declares that "all humans desire to know" and that the goal of human life is the contemplation of divine things that are the causes and therefore the explanation of all things. It is in this contemplation that humans transcend themselves through a wisdom that make them participants in the divine. Plato agreed, although he gave a less satisfactory account of how the weak human intelligence can hope for this wisdom.
The fine arts are arts that in one sense pertain to the practical and can be classified as technological, since they produce an objective work of art that is sensible. Yet their purpose is not ultimately practical but contemplative, since they these works are not useful except as objects of contemplation.(20) Surprisingly, therefore, they have a special relation to the art of logic, because it is logic that constructs mental relations between concepts that serve to promote intellectual intuition. Thus the fine arts produce real, sensible objects that serve the imagination in forming more specific concepts that serve contemplation. Thus the modern scientist is in a way a fine artist in making sensible as well as conceptual models that serve theory building. Science fiction has become not only an entertainment but a way in which the non-scientists can appreciate the results of science and I suspect scientists themselves can enliven their theory building imaginations.
Intelligent, free human persons transcend themselves not only by coming to know the material universe, but also by coming to understand that the material universe must be the effects of immaterial causes, ultimately of God, the First Immaterial Cause, but also of the human intelligence itself and very likely, or even certainly, of other created spiritual beings. Thus what it is best to know and contemplate are other persons in whom the material universe is included through knowledge. For human beings, at least, the acquirement of knowledge is, as Aristotle says, a social achievement. Each of us would b ignorant indeed without others to teach us and to share their knowledge with us. Moreover as every teacher knows we learn best when we teach others. Thus human nature is social and political not only at the level of practical life but at the level of contemplation. While Aquinas rejects the Neo-Platonic view that the good necessarily diffuses itself, he strongly endorsed the view that the good tends freely to communicate itself. This becomes the analogue by which best to understand the inner nature of God that is hidden from human reason, namely, that God is a Trinity of Persons that in communio divine nature and necessary existence. This free sharing of one's happiness is love in its fullest sense that surpasses mere eros or desire for one's own good. thus the ultimate teleology of the intellectual free creature is the glory of God that is, as Von Balthasar has shown, the participation of all creatures in God's self-contemplation as infinite Beauty.
The Modern Divorce of Art and Prudence form Nature
It would seem, therefore, that the modern obsession with creativity and the new is really an advance over the ancient obsession with the past. Unfortunately it also has a dark side, namely, that it has become a divorce of art and prudence from nature. I will not here enlarge on the neglect of the natural law basis of ethics and therefore of prudence, since that is a much discussed topic. Nor will I take up the question of ecology and environmentalism that concerns our cultures failure to respect the principle that art or technology should perfect nature not pollute or waste it. But I want to say something about the divorce of the fine arts from nature, because this is much less recognized as a problem.
For Aristotle the fine arts are mimesis the "imitation of nature" a notion that again seems at odds with modernity's insistence on creativity as a remaking of nature in which the natural is overcome.(21)
If we look to the history of art after the rise of Christianity we see that it first breathed a Christian meaning into the art of paganism that was based on mimesis. Then under the combined influences of Jewish iconoclasm and Neo-Platonist dualism it developed the symbolic art of Byzantine icons that respected nature but saw init only a symbol of the true spiritual world. (22) In the Middle Ages, however, the incarnational principle of grace perfecting nature began to emerge. In the Renaissance this was again combined with technologically advanced representation and the classical models in an idealizing art. With Protestant iconoclasm and the Enlightenment withdrawal from faith genre painting, landscape, and other secular subjects came to dominate yet often retained at least a moral symbolism. Finally in the nineteenth century the spiritual meaning of art tended to fade away. It was first replaced by Realism that in a positivistic way simply represent the facts of life without any deeper meaning. (23)
As Realism it advanced it became Impressionism in which he object evaporated into mere phenomena that, in order to distinguish itself from photography, became more and more subjective. Finally at the beginning of the twentieth century Modern Art appeared in which representation of the object no longer governed the work of art but rather the subjectivity of the artist in Expressionism and the arbitrary rearrangement of objects in Cubism. This ultimately led to Abstract or Non-Objective art and ultimately to simple geometrical areas of color. A similar evolution took place in modernist literature. The dictum of Theodore Gautier that "the arts tend to the musical" is true in the sense that music has a formal beauty that by its association with the dance and the wordless sounds of the singing voice that accompany the dance is emotionally expressive. (24)
Thus modern art criticism attacked representation and often settled for a meaningless formalism. Thus, as is evident in the work of perhaps the greatest of modernist painters, Picasso, who never succumbed to pure abstraction, what the modern art work really says is the assertion of the artists absolute freedom in creativity. Picasso worked in many media and changed his styles many times in order to show that he could do anything he wanted. (25) Thus a limitless freedom and meaningless novelty came to dominate the art of the twentieth century.
In postmodernism this exaltation of novelty has collapsed in styles that are rhetorical rather than artistic in that their intent is to move the audience to political acts or at least to shock their complacency. Aristotle had insisted that the end of fine art is contemplation while persuasion to action pertains to the quite distinct art of rhetoric. (26)
The conclusion of this historical sketch is that fine art must return to its own purpose of contemplating the true as it is rendered beautiful, that is accessible to our intuition through the senses. As we are learning that an abuse of technology leads to a destruction of the environment, the human body, and hence of the human community and the shared happiness of its members, so the abuse of the fine arts leads to a manipulation of paint and metal whose only meaning is the glorification of the novelty of the artist's imagination or enslavement to political agenda. There must be a return to mimesis.
Mimesis, or the "imitation of nature" that extends also to the imitation of human free action must not be thought of as simple photography or cinematic recording. It was that kind of "realism" that initiated the modern decline of the arts. What Aristotle intended by the word "imitation" was the perfecting of nature. This perfecting results from processes similar to the dialectic phase of the sciences, since it seeks to prepare for an intuition of the essential aspects of the world. The painter, for example, seeks to find the form of the object as it distinguishes the object from other objects. Sometimes the artist does this by caricaturing exaggeration, sometimes by an idealization, but what the artist seeks is the significant form freed from its meaningless, accidental features. This is especially evident in so-called "primitive" art such as that of Africa or Central America in which what the artist seeks to reveal is the awesome power of the gods.
While it is true, as the formalists emphasized, that good art always seeks out "formal" that is mathematical relations, this is because mathematical relations, as in the models used by physicists, are the best analogates we have for significant non-mathematical relations. Thus even a painting of Modrian that seems as purely non-objective as it is possible to produce actually has emotional symbolism. (27)
What I am arguing, therefore, is not that the modern art of the twentieth century was bad art, since much brilliant work was produced, but that its tendency has led to a dead end, because it more and more separated itself from nature. Thus like our technology that has failed to respect ecology, and our morality that has failed to respect the natural law, all in the name of creativity, that our goal is simply the "new" as if this is always the "improved," art has ended in deconstruction of reality not its perfecting, in the chaos of chance rather than of true freedom.
Making a Life
Human freedom best participates in God's true freedom when it is used to "create" the only reality that is entirely under human control, namely, the deliberate decisions that constitute a moral or immoral human life and determine its final destiny. Freedom of choice is usually been alternative means whose relation to some previously -chosen end is intellectually understood. But a commitment first has to be made to this already chosen end, or summum bonum. That good is formally determined by human nature to be happiness and, according to Aristotle and Aquinas, consists in a hierarchical ordering of the goods required to satisfy the needs of human nature, physical, familial, social, and intellectual. (28) Our supreme need is to know and love God and for the sake of God to seek the common good of all creatures according to the order of our social relationship. Creaturely freedom reaches its climax, therefore, in a firm commitment to that true goal. On the contrary a commitment to some illusory form of happiness, although free, entails eventual enslavement to vice and personal destruction. For angels, because of the clarity of their knowledge, this free choice of true or false happiness is final and everlasting. For us humans, with our weak intelligences, it can be wavering. True freedom is to make that right commitment as firm as possible and our choices of means to it as consistent as possible. (29) For us this is true freedom, true creativity, true perfecting of human nature and on it all other freedom, in science, in technology, in the fine arts depends.
1. On the causes of this see my Theologies of the Body: Humanist and Christian, 2n ed. (Boston:National Catholic Bioethics Center, 1996) pp. 51-100..
2. Process and Reality ( (New York: MacMillan/ Free Press, 1969, originally 1929), pp.25-2, pp. 36-39.
3. For introduction to the leader of this philosophical movement, Jacques Derrida, see Christopher Norris, Derrida (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987), p.236.
4. The notion of any "eternal return" goes back at least to the Greek Neo-Platonist commentator on Aristotle Simplicius. Since for Aristotle and Aquinas the principle of individuation is matter related to a quantity, the cycles of material change can never exactly repeated themselves.
5. S.Th. I, q. 29, a. 1, ad 4, quoting Aristotle, Physics, II, lect. 1, n.295. this defintion is often cited as "the intrinsic principle of motion and rest," but this is as regards the simplest form of change. Since natural change is teleological, the goal of all change is stability, that is relatively permanent existence.
6. S. Th., I, q. 41, 2 c.
7. 7. For Aristotle the final cause (telos) as such implies no "purpose" intrinsic to change, nor does it imply a vitalistic type of efficient cause, but only that an efficient cause is pre-determined to produce a regular stable effect. This, of course, is presupposed to the very notion of "natural law" in physics. Thus to say that gravity tends to cause massive bodies uniformly to move toward each other according to definite natural law is to speak of their "teleology" in Aristotle's sense. See my articles in The New Catholic Encyclopedia on "Final Causality" (5:162-166) and "Teleology (13:979-981).
8. Teilhard de Chardin accepted Henri Bergson's notion that evolution proceeds inevitably toward greater and more unified complexity and calls this the "Omega Point." But as is evident from the debate between Richard Dawkins The Blind Watchmaker (London: W. W. W. Norton 1985) and Michael J. Behe, Darwin's Black Box (New York: Free Press, 1996) Teilhard's concept of scientific evolution is obsolete.
9. Aristotle, followed by Aquinas, posited an essentially different type of matter for the celestial spheres that was subject only to change with respect to position but not with respect to the other categories that are the necessary properties of the bodies within the sphere of the moon.
10. S.Th., I, q. 103.
11. In Phys. VIII, lect. 2, nn. 2041-2058.
12. See Steven Weinberg Dreams of a Final Theory (New York: Pantheon Books, 1992). He says, however, that "I do not mean to suggest that the final theory will be deduced from pure mathematics….It seems o me that our best hope is to identify the final theory as one that its so rigid that it cannot be warped into some slightly different theory without introducing logical absurdities like infinite energies….A final theory will be final in only one sense---it will bring to an end a certain sort of science, the ancient search for those principles that cannot be explained in terms of deeper principles,." Pp. 17-18. An Aristotelian might say that we have such a final the four, namely, the four causes that are the principles of all material changes. These of course are utterly generic principles subject to specification, but that we will ever understand their specifications completely is doubtful. See also David Lindley, The End of physics: The Myth of a Unified Theory (New York:Basic Books, 1993)..
13. S. Th. I-II, q. 10, a. 4.
14. S. Th. I, q. 19, a. 6.
15. S. Th. I-II, q. 10. a. 2; II-II, q/ 47, a. 15.
16. S. Th. I-II, q. 59, a. 2 . Aristotle Eth. VII, 2, 1145 b 23-1146a9. S;. Th. lect 2, 1313.
17. Illud quod primo cadit in apprehensione intellectus est ens; unde oportet quod cuicumque apprehenso per intellectum, intellectus attribuat hoc quod est ens. De Veritate, q.21, a 4, ad 4, thus human intelligence is open to all being although it may not have the power to achieve knowledge of particular beings, and must achieve some forms of knowledge indirectly by arguments from effects to cause.
18. Contra Gent. III, c. 107.
19. On the paradoxical character of current physics see Lewis Wolpert, the Unnaural Nature of Science (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univeristy Press, 1993) and David Lindley: The End of Physics, note 12 above.
20. Aristotle in his Poetics and Rhetoric carefully distinguishes the aims of these two disciplines. On the history of this see Pierre Conway, O.P. and Benedic Ashley, O.P., St.Thomas and the Liberal Arts (co-authored with Pierre Conway, O.P. (Washington, DC: The Thomist Press, 1959). Aristotle indicates the contemplative character when he says, "Poetry is something more philosophic and of graver import than history, since its statements are of the nature rather of universals, whereas those of history are singulars." Poetics c. 9, 1451b 5. Here"philosophical" means not practical but theoretical, contemplative knowledge.
21. While commentators on the Poetics differ in their explanations of mimesis, it is from the preceding note that Aristotle understood this as a representation of the essential (universal) nature of a subject and its actions as they manifest this essence..
22. See Aiden Nichols, O.P., The Art of God Incarnate: Theology and Imag ein Christian Tradition (New York" Paulist Press, 1980, Chapter 5, "The vindication of the Icons," pp. 76-104.
23. See Lind Nochlin, Realism (New York: Penguin Books, 1971).
24. See my article," The Significance of Non-Objective Art", Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, 1965, 156-165.
25. See Brigette Leal et al., The Ultimate Picasso (New York: Abrams, 2000).
26. For Aristotle the art closing associated with the political is rhetoric, the art of persuasion to action, Rhetoric I, c. 1. It is paradoxical that critics attacked Soviet "realism" in art as mere propaganda lacking all artistic merit; yet, now that Communism, once the religion of bohemia, is dead, they praise art for its rhetorical promotion of political causes.
27. For discussion on this issue as it was seen in the last part of the twentieth century see Dore Ashton, A Reading of Modern Art, rev. ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1971).
28. On this see my article, "What is the End of the Human Person: The Vision of God and Integral Human Fulfillment," in Moral Truth and Moral Tradition: Essays in Honour of Peter Geach and Elizabeth Anscombe, ed. by Luke Gormally, (Dublin and Portland, OR: Four Courts Press, 1994)., pp. 68-96.
29. S.Th. I, q. 64, a.2.