Image of virtue
- If ever I stop singing, it's because art died.
A hymn of praise in gratitude for the joy and consolations and
general usefulness of art might run as follows. Art is informative
and entertaining, it condenses and clarifies the world, directing
attention upon particular things. This intense showing, this bearing
witness, of which it is capable is detested by tyrants who always
persecute or demoralize their artists.
Art illuminates accident and contingency and the general muddle of
life, the limitations of time and the discursive intellect, so as to
enable us to survey complex or horrible things which would otherwise
appall us. It creates an authoritative public human world, a treasury
of past experience, it preserves the past.
Art makes places and open spaces for reflection, it is a defence
against materialism and against pseudo-scientific attitudes to life.
It calms and invigorates, it gives us energy by unifying, possibly by
purifying, our feelings. In enjoying great art we experience a
clarification and concentration and perfection of our own
consciousness and the art object conveys, in the most accessible and
for many the only available form, the idea of transcendent perfection.
Great art inspires because it is separate, it is for nothing, it is
for itself. It is an image of virtue. Its condensed, clarified
presentation enables us to look without sin upon a shameful world. It
renders innocent and transforms into truthful vision our baser
energies connected with power, envy and sex.
Iris Murdoch, from "Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals" (1992)