Art as Expression

In class when we were dichotomizing Science and Art, I really wanted to label art ‘expressive’. I think that Patrick was a little resistant to do so because, from an artist’s standpoint, that can connotate a specific school or philosophy of what art should be.

I’ve been examining that urge I had and testing its validity. By test I guess I mean examining the context and seeing if I still want to stand by the urge. And I think I do. here’s why:

When I say ‘art is expressive’ in a non-normative way, it becomes an art-historical or art-praxeological thesis. It means that there is something to uncover within art that is tied back to the artist (and/or to many other things like culture, through their manifestation/effect upon the artist). Now this thesis can be taken simply and yield unuseful statements like “Dutch art’s focus on the common man was an expression of that culture’s disenchantment with aristocracy and embrace of a nascent democracy.” This overgeneralization is not inherent to the thesis. In fact, it is interesting to look at how all art historians might be commenting on art as expressive of something. The something varies from psychological states to racial identities to a rejection of some aspect of art itself. The frame is imperfect, but seems insightful.

With this built out a little, we can now turn it to science. It seems “science is expressive” can similarly be taken as a thesis about the act of science.

So the urge I had was really to advance a thesis: Human Action is expressive. The thesis posits an inferable something that is being expressed through actions. How would a research program built around this proceed? Who is already operating under these assumptions? (Gould and Collins come to mind, though with different flavors of inference)

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