“To whatever degree he may have desacralised the world,” noted religious historian and philosopher Mircea Eliade in 1957, “the man who has made his choice in favour of a profane life never succeeds in completely doing away with religious behaviour”. Having in the last chapter explored how human beings find their need for meaning addressed through religion, we will in this chapter explore an alternative way of addressing this same meaning, namely art and the aesthetic experience. The claim we are to examine is: the aesthetic experience, similarly to the religious experience, also addresses the need for meaning.
In his 1938 book The Principles of Art, R.G. Collingwood elaborated his theory of aesthetics. One of the consequences of his theory appears to be that artworks are fundamentally private, subjective experiences. There is no such thing as the Guernica, the Black Square, or the Fountain — there are only subjective experiences of these respective works of art. A possible problem with this view is its resemblance to the so called ideal theory of art. This charge was famously put upon Collingwood by Richard Wollheim, in turn criticised by Aaron Ridley.
This text will explore Collingwood’s theory of aesthetics…
Maja Malmcrona is a visual artist from Sweden, based in Switzerland.