This is why I love blogging. I thought I had said all I had to say about objectivity and art, over the last week or so, in a series of blog posts, starting here. Then Ttony and Part Time Pilgrim left comments on one of my posts, pushing me, and making me take my thinking further. I was already dimly aware of my underlying thoughts here: the criteria of truth and beauty refer, and some of the comments on Twitter also, about the recognition of beauty, really resonated.
So here is where I am up to...
I maintain that my approach is not gnosticism but rather its opposite. That is, I believe one can discern that there is a Natural Aesthetic similar to Natural Law. It is written in our hearts, but obscured by Original Sin, miseducation, current intellectual fashions etc. Hence the educational programme is firstly wide exposure and the stripping away of the barriers.
Thus my posts on criteria were more like a primitive jurisprudence. We recognise the Natural Law intuitively, if we are both honest and undamaged. We know it is wrong to lie, to commit adultery, to murder and so forth. But it can get complex and there are certainly moot points, or at least points worthy of discussion (the issue of lying to expose evil in abortion clinics was one such recently). So jurisprudence is developed over the years: the collected wisdom of generations in determining how law applies in particular cases, and the extrapolation of broader principles from that, always subservient (if it is good jurisprudence) the the Natural Law and (if it is Christian jurisprudence) the Divine Law.
Likewise, I think that we recognise beauty and truth intuitively, if we are both honest and undamaged (or healed). We know that admiring the wonder of the stars, the mountains and valleys, the oceans and landscapes, in which we find ourselves, or the dewdrops on a spider's web, the snowdrop peeping through the snow, the snowflake itself, and so many more things in between, is not a mere subjective notion. These things are worthy of admiration, because they are the artistic works of the Creator. Human art is sub-creation, as Tolkien was keen to point out, and as such when it works, it reflects Him and His work.
All my attempts to identify or define good art are really groping towards that fundamental truth. I have decided to call this approach Artisprudence, for the obvious reason.
I am not the first to coin the term but can only find two prior uses of it. One is in Scholae Academicae an account of changes in the University of Cambridge during Victorian times, by Christopher Wordsworth, published in 1877. He uses the term once and does not seek to define it. The other use is as the title of a short story, written c. 2004 by Christopher Rowe, and revised in 2008. I have not read either work, but believe I can adopt the word to my use for the obvious etymological reasons.
I would also suggest that our nervousness around this topic, that terrible fear of snobbery, elitism and so forth, is very much a product of our current intellectual and moral climate; and that we should not be afraid to stand up for absolute truth and objective reality in this sphere, any more than in any other - though we must necessarily be humble about claiming that we know what it is.
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