Facing Death; The Desperate at its Most Beautiful

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Abstract
Is there a distinction between “art” and “craft,” where the former is motivated by something like “genuine” or “authentic” creativity and the latter by, at best, skill and skill alone, and at a worst, a fumbling attempt to fit in with popular modes of expression? In this paper, I suggest that there does seem to be such a distinction. In particular, I attempt to show that genuine creativity, and so, genuine art—in varying respects—is motivated by a certain recognition of what we might understand as the most universal, and perhaps the most important property of all human beings: the brutal fact that our lives are limited; in the end, we all die. To show why I think this is the case, I have divided my paper into three parts. In the first, I briefly explain why we might view mortality as our most pressing issue and concomitantly, why we might understand it to be the driving force behind not only our desire to procreate, but also, to create. In the second part of the paper, I do something that is not strictly “philosophical”—I canvas a number of remarks by poets and writers who, like myself, are convinced that death is our primary muse, but not necessarily in a morbid, or despairing respect—in fact, we see that this is quite the opposite in some cases (c.f. Nabokov, 1966). Why do I do this? Because it seems obvious to me that we should ask the actual artists about what motivates them, rather than putting words into their mouths. In the third and final part of the paper, I offer a brief philosophical explanation of why and how—in light of sections one and two—we might begin to distinguish between genuine art and craft.
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Archival date: 2016-04-03
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