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Thread: Science States Meaning while Art Expresses Meaning

  1. #1 Science States Meaning while Art Expresses Meaning 
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    Science States Meaning while Art Expresses Meaning

    A statement signifies a report of fact or opinion

    An expression signifies both action and its result.

    In letters to his brother Van Gogh often expressed his thoughts about things he saw and many of which he painted. “I have a view of the Rhone—the iron bridge of Trinquetaille, in which sky and river are the clear color of absinthe, the quays a shade of lilac, the figures leaning on the parapet, blackish, the iron bridge an intense blue, with a note of vivid orange in the background, and a note of intense malachite.”

    Further into the letter Van Gogh states “I am trying to get something utterly heart-broken” in my painting. This utterance can help us see the difference between the statements of fact versus the expressiveness he hoped to produce in his painting. The final result is in fact a confluence of the description of the scene and Van Gogh’s esthetic meaning in the picture itself.

    The question of the meaning of a work of art or of any experience is often ambiguous. In fact the meaning of “meaning” is highly ambiguous.

    Words and symbols representing objects and actions, in so far as they “stand-for” them, have made meaning easily comprehended. A sign board pointing the direction and stating the mileage to Florence has meaning. But the external reference, such as this sign or an algebraic formula for the law of gravity, is not the only sense in which “meaning” has meaning. A visit to Florence will create many meanings for Florence.

    “But there are other meanings that present themselves directly as possessions of objects which are experienced…the meaning is as inherent in immediate experience as is that of a flower garden…“Science” presents statements that contain meaning in this directional sense…Esthetic art as distinct from scientific, expression as distinct from statement, does something different from leading to an experience. It constitutes one.”

    The local map provides the direction to Trinquetaille, the tourist view provides another meaning for the bridge, and Van Goth’s painting provides another meaning for the bridge. All three perspectives give meaning and each creates a different meaning than the other.

    It seems to me that analytic philosophy tells us that there is only one meaning for this bridge and that is the symbolic statement. Any denial of meaning to a work of art would seem to signify one of two things: the work of art does not have a meaning conveyable by words or symbols or the work is meaningless, it is nonsense.



    Quotes from “Art as Experience” by John Dewey


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