Artistic Attitude



CANONICAL CONTENT? (yes);  PHENOMENOLOGICAL FINDINGS (yes); EXPLORING the connections within and between DISCIPLINES and how they ARE CONNECTED to each other? (yes)

Or how they may be put into each other’s service? or how they may even even merge with each other? (yes, yes)

OR is it the CULTIVATION of a NEW ATTITUDE? (maybe especially).

Great attitudes I have known and loved:



World views

As a matter of everyday routine, most of us maintain a ‘natural attitude’, grounded in our subjective experiences of an objective world and even of ourselves [1].  This is the world our senses give us access to.  We act to navigate this world based on these experiences and the expectations they engender. Experiences that fail to meet any part of the test of expectation create a stressful dissonance that we avoid with all the cognitive resources available—both nonconscious as well as elaborately calculated. We are deeply wired for error detection and our pursuit of knowledge is as much to test previous beliefs as they are to enlarge our worlds.  [look now at the A&O  notes on error-detection]


The artistic attitude, most simply put, involves our best effort at mindful aesthetics and a desire to experience and represent our state of mind about which we are motivated to progressively enhance our understand (a process enhanced by externalizing and assessing feedback from one’s self or others (the artist’s audience).

  • (EXPERIENCE is not limited to information from outside our selves that are detected by one’s senses … we also experience our selves! we savor our states of mind, scrutinize our thoughts, our feelings, and imagined as well as remembered worlds.)
  • (Error Detection is a fundamental principle in neurophysiology as well as in life (e.g., Gehring et al., 1993; & nice review in Völker et al. 2018 ).)   

ABOUT BIAS and ART! (from A&O notes on the ARTISTIC ATTITUDE)

IF WE ARE TO REPRESENT our UMWELT (“innerworld”).  ESCHEWING BIAS” may seem central, as it is in the ETHOLOGICAL ATTITUDE as well as the PHENOMENOLOGICAL ATTITUDE, but it’s not that simple: we want to enjoy/exploit/build on the UNIQUE perceptions of the ARTIST: 

The artist  can be construed as an imperfect LENS through which nature can be understood (Joseph Wood Krutch (1932) promoted the idea that “Even when it is most determinedly realistic, it is conceived in accordance with the laws and limitations of the human mind…..even the most desperately `naturalistic’ art…is, at its most literal, nature passed through a human mind….”  Echoing  Emile Zola’s (1866) famous comment (1866):[i] “Art is a fragment of nature seen through a temperament.”  About that time, John Ruskin wrote that “Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together.” (in “The Two Paths” (1859) Lecture 2).  Sir Francis Bacon about 1620 wrote that art is homo additus naturae, (“man added to nature”). This is less passive than Zola or Krutch: 

In his “Plan of the Great Instauration” Bacon comments on the impediments to progress, one of the most prominent of which is that the mind “in forming its notions mixes up its own nature with the nature of things” (p22). This evokes the Japanese concept of esoragato (“the admixture of invention (the artistic unreality) with the unartistic reality”) [ii]




ART is distinctive because it EMPHASIZES and AMPLIFIES specific cognitive competencies from amongst the many that overlap and interpenetrate in poth process (our nervous systems) and product, most significantly an urge to deeper self-knowledge which (in seeming paradox) most often involves communicating with others.   “TO KNOW” and “TO BE KNOWN” obeying some fundamental “law of connectedness”[1], define each other.   (A&O notes on ART as COMMUNICATION)

“For imagination is not just a mirror, nor are images merely the reflections to be seen in it.  The imagination is also active, the means by which the poet explores reality; and the image, as I have said, is also the poet’s way of reducing the real world to manageable proportions, and of revealing its patterns.  This is equally true whether the poet is exploring the external world or, as so often now, that inward world of man’s mind which Wordsworth called “the haunt and the main region of my song”.  Our world, our minds may be in a state of chaos.  But it is the business of the poetic reason to create order out of chaos: and, even if its business were merely to give an imaginative reproduction of chaos, it must still employ formal pattern to do so.” (CD Lewis)[i]


[i]. C. Day Lewis (1947) The Poetic Image. London, Jonathan Cape. p. 117.

[1] One of the godfathers of phenomenology, believed that a naturalizing attitude conceals a profound naïveté about reality.  “In the first decade of the 20th century, Husserl considerably refined and modified his method into what he called “transcendental phenomenology”. This method has us focus on the essential structures that allow the objects naively taken for granted in the “natural attitude” (which is characteristic of both our everyday life and ordinary science) to “constitute themselves” in consciousness. (Among those who influenced him in this regard are Descartes, Hume and Kant.) As Husserl explains in detail in his second major work, Ideas (1913), the resulting perspective on the realm of intentional consciousness is supposed to enable the phenomenologist to develop a radically unprejudiced justification of his (or her) basic views on the world and himself and explore their rational interconnections.” (stanford.encyclopedia of philosophy on husserl)

[2] if I dared to venture a “LAW OF CONNECTEDNESS” it would be that “ALL MEANING DERIVES FROM CONNECTIONS”: nothing has meaning in itself.  True, I believe, at every level of organization, but each level in its own way.  The ways things might be connected is a topic of exciting discussion and debate:  You could start with philosopher David Hume’s views (then how Katherin A. Rogers (1991) tempers them for an idea of the deep waters into which philosophy can lead us) & then Sigmund Freud’s views that established the connections between conscious and nonconscious mind.  As a researcher, I grew up with the neural connectionism of Donald Hebb.    

[i]. From my 1988 paper, “Art, Science, Arete”:  Emile Zola (writing of art) termed “fragments of nature seen through a temperament.” (Emile Zola (1886), “Proudhon et Courbet,” In Mes Haines (Paris: Bibliotheque- Charpentier, 1923). Originally published in 1886. “Une oeuvre d’art est un coin de la creation vu a travers un temperament” (p.25).   Zola later changed `creation’ to `nature’.     Zola quotes Claude Bernard in The Experimental Novel near the end of Part I: “The appearance of the experimental idea,” he says further on, “is entirely spontaneous and its nature absolutely individual, depending upon the mind in which it originates; it is a particular sentiment, a quid proprium, which constitutes the originality, the invention, and the genius of each one.” 

This view recalls Longfellow’s “Art is the . . . revelation of nature, speaking through man” (Hyperion, 1839).  It was recently reinvigorated by Joseph Wood Krutch (Experience and Art, N.Y.:  Collier Books, 1962


[ii] Esoragato:  “Why does such painting give us oftentimes more satisfaction than the scene itself which it recalls?  It is largely because of esoragoto or the admixture of invention (the artistic unreality) with the unartistic reality; the poetic handling or treatment of what in the original may in some respects be commonplace.”  

Japanese artists are not bound down to the literal presentation of things seen.  They have a canon, called esoragoto, which means literally an invented picture, or a picture into which certain invention fictions are painted.” // Every painting to be effective must be esoragoto; that is, there must enter therein certain artistic liberties.  It must aim not so much to reproduce the exact thing as its sentiment, called kokori mocha, which is the moving spirit of the scene.  It must not be a facsimile.  

“…the privileged departure, the false made to seem true.” … Horace understood this and lays it down as a fundamental principle in art:  “Quid libet audendi”  [ii]   The artist will oftentimes see from a point of view impossible in nature, but if the result is pleasing the liberty is accorded.”  –Henry P. Bowie’s translation of On the Laws of Japanese Painting…” P. Elder 1911   …