Art surpasses philosophical thought and actual life

[…] it is usually through artistic expression that the highest values acquire permanent significance and the force which moves mankind. Art has a limitless power of converting the human soul—a power which the Greeks called pyschagogia. For  art alone possesses the two essentials of educational influence—universal significance and immediate appeal. By uniting these two methods of influencing the mind, it surpasses both philosophical thought and actual life. Life has immediate appeal, but the events of life lack universal significance: they have too many accidental accompaniments to create a truly deep and lasting impression on the soul. Philosophy and abstract thought do attain to universal significance: they deal with the essence of things; yet they affect none but the man who can use his own experience to inspire them with the vividness and intensity of personal life. Thus, poetry has the advantage over both the universal teachings of abstract reason and the accidental events of individual experience. It is more philosophical than life (if we may use Aristotle’s famous epigram in a wider sense), but it’s also, because of its concentrated spiritual actuality, more lifelike than philosophy.

Werner Jaeger, Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture. trans. Gilbert Highet

One thought on “Art surpasses philosophical thought and actual life

Post a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s