The Way of Art or the Aesthetic Life

In this paper I discuss the nature of art or the aesthetic view of life, by examining the thoughts on this subject of several respected authorities in different branches of the humanities. First, I survey those who recommend an aesthetic attitude to life as a guide to conduct. These writers all tend to subsume the ethical attitude to the aesthetic. By and large they argue that it not only leads towards experience of beauty, but also to wholeness. I then take up Jung’s argument, which I support with that of Sri Aurobindo’s, that the aesthetic way is not enough, but that a strong moral effort is required to give sustaining power to life.

I conclude by arguing that individuation requires a broad perspective, the psychological, in order to integrate all the different noble instincts of the psyche. The way of art, still valid, then, becomes subordinated to the art of life.

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