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Discuss the View That the Value of Art Is Its Capacity to Imitate or Represent Our Experience

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The value of art is an controversial concept. For example, some believe that we value art simply because of its formal qualities or because it provokes some kind of emotion within the viewer. Others hold the view that the value of art is in its capacity to imitate and or represent our experiences in life.

For Plato art is simply what he called mimesis, a simple representation or imitation of what is true to the eye. This comes from his theory of the World of ideas, which contains a perfect system of forms. These forms are the perfect, only true representation of objects E.g. the form of the chair.

All the objects we see in the world around us are simply copies of these forms. Therefore, painting, drawing or attempting to capture the contingent forms is effectively a copy of a copy. So Art should at least stay true to what the eye experiences. However, is it necessary that art only imitates? It seems that we can only admire art which imitates our experience for its likeness to life, however this may not be sufficient in terms of theatre, music and literature. Nothing is being imitated in these art forms, which would suggest these forms are not a work of art. It may be that art is valuable for its capacity to illuminate our experience for example presenting the ordinary in a different light, e.g. van Gogh's Chair which expresses the truth that everything is to be valued for its unique existence, a fact which we may overlook in everyday life. However, radical conventionalism insists that art does not have to resemble the subject in any way, shape or form. Our ideas of what it is to represent anything depend on the codes we develop in our culture e.g. a stick man or 3D drawing of a cube.

Building on this point, Aristotle argued that art is meant to disturb an emotional response. For example Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet', the audience would enter into the play with the characters experiencing emotional turmoil and once they experience the emotional response they then feel 'purged'. This is the view that there is some sadness within the art; it has intrinsic emotion which the viewer feels when they look at it. On the other hand, this theory ignores the fact that many people will have a different emotional response to the work of art. Some may feel anger at the ending of the performance of 'Romeo and Juliet', others may feel sad, and others may not be affected at all. Therefore, the idea that art can cause a predetermined emotion makes it subjective. This is because it cannot represent an emotion or emotional experience that the author has deliberately tried to capture.

In this case, perhaps the view that art is valuable because of its aesthetic beauty, Roger Scruton criticises modern art for its hideousness, its complete lack of careful, skilful form. Anyone who is not told the value of such art would surely find it difficult



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