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The radio network presents all this Huxley with a fifth lecture in a series entitled What a piece of work is a man. This lecture entitled Why Art was recorded in the auditorium for broadcast at this time. All this Huxley is introduced by Professor William C. Green of the humanities department MIT is the first of the lectures or Mr. Khan a visiting professor of humanities an instrument matches in technology and history just like conception. In which you used the figure I thought very nice a sort of visceral committee system and stressed also the idea of sort of external possession. In his second speech he spoke of the more recent conception of the dynamic unconscious in which I think he stressed contrary to most of Freud's idea of sort of psychopathic evil that comes out of the
unconscious guard that the unconscious sometimes shoves up its third speech he spoke about private and public life history progress. The fact that we too often don't feel history as it passes and our spend our lives largely in privacy and to some degree can sleep with a go which he suggested in a lovely figure wishing to sit alone picking our nose and staring at the sunset. And as for us lecture he spoke. Small words as symbols. Which do indeed transmit. Just allow us to have new ideas which are also to some degree blinders to new
ideas and new experience. It is like your TONIGHT is abruptly titled Why are Mr. Hucks. Ladies and gentleman. Why. This of course is an enormous extraordinarily difficult subject. But I want to begin by asking not merely why science writer Lawson. I suppose the ultimate answer to these questions is that human beings do seem to have a kind of neat. Very imposing and otherwise comprehensible different ways
science philosophy and art are to look for this order to impose it gave meaning to what is otherwise a completely new world in which he lives. Animals I presume have no need of science and philosophy and art because the process of ordering has been done for them is done in extremely simple and very effective way never simply shut out elements except those which are strictly necessary logical. Leave a note in the mysterious universe that because of tiny clues that there really is no problem arises and they don't have to
order giving systems such as science and philosophy. If you cannot prove. That he means of symbolic systems and of course science and philosophy impose order in terms of rational analysis is another kind of order in terms of significant forms of one kind or another. What are the criteria which we use in judging works of art.
Well I suppose let's keep it on the most general level we can criticize the work about having to. Quit the work of art. May be too short or too rigid which case that we feel the spirit. Well on the other hand maybe in some way extremely common place. Or in that case we feel that there is a certain part at work and in regard to meaning in the work of art may express a meaning which is such extreme obvious realistic or all of these.
These distinctions constitute adequate criteria for judgment. Of course the the order may be imposed upon an experience which on the one hand be shallow and on the other may be profound and I would think certainly that the greatest works of art created by experience power of great experience and of course this wide and deep experience based upon great capacities of sensitivity and sympathy. I think this question of simplicity of being able to see
the importance to the artist has been expressed. For example the passage in which along with out sympathy works to his own interest in his own. And he says again the man was there identified himself as the subjects he was writing about. But in a very different and more classical tone we find Matthew Arnold saying the same thing in the Strayed Reveller where the stray revellers speaks about the gods and the poets of the sea that were called humanity. But whereas the gods do not identify with
her it does Strayed Reveller concludes such a price to God's exact song. What we see. Function of the artist is to become what he is to express. Extremely penetrating and powerful symbols. What he has experienced. Needless to say all experiences have concepts for everything but quite adequate to the experience itself it is not a mystical experience but even the most ordinary sensory experience. We have the conventional way to describe it in some way.
Instead of trying to express the indescribable rapture the vote goes about it in a circular way so to speak in this voice work arrangement is such so to say they call it from the white spaces between the lines from within the network. Create kind of the equivalent on symbolic symbolic of the experience which they express. It's extremely difficult to understand how it can somehow bypass the ability of experience to
create a kind of. Equivalent in terms of symbols never this difficult and mysterious. This is precisely what happens I think when a work of art is created to do some equivalent experience in terms of symbols. Let us consider briefly the relation of the importance of art in relation to ordinary life here. I think one of the reasons is that one of the elements which helps to give a. Lot of good artists. I think I've really
been effectors as much as they help to improve the general style of living truly. Doesn't happen. We see this happening again and again in the history that they do. People do take on practical qualities suggested to them by their works of art. And in this sense the shortcomings may be regarded almost as moral delinquencies. There is a certain phrase which the crowd cries out. You haven't got the right reason there but there probably are quite good reasons for
people for their bed producing bad works of art. I think it would be quite untrue to say that the work of art is the only determining the general style of living within a society. But it is the effect such it has I think of great social importance. Briefly I would like to make a digression another of the functions of art which is the cathartic function. It seems to me it has two functions. One is communicative person of great talent communicates through his power to create expressive symbols communicate which special talents communicates qualities and experiences which his powers of sensitivity and sympathy
to give out. This is one of the functions of art and the other function is a function and many of the great artists of course of course have often spoken of this cathartic function of art and they have spoken of the way in which artistic expression to release tension within the within the artist himself. Getting read of all kinds of painfully moved. This is the second function of art. Now I would say that. Practically everybody would be willing to practice art to stop yourself doing something which is extremely good for the
trouble. But I think one has to emphasize that a lot of good youre looking at. And for this reason I think one should confine himself to therapy not to exhibit. Something relatively few people have to communicate. And above all have this talent for communication. Let's
consider some of the forms. I think it's worth drawing an analogy between the arts and the sciences. In the history of science we see thinking about the types of methodology that first of all constituent elements. And this is represented in classical antiquity Democritus we see contemporary physicists and chemists This is the analytical method which of course is. But there is also another way of looking at that. Which is the. The method of seeing not the component elements but
this is represented in antiquity by such thinkers as Plato and Aristotle. The comparative anatomy of the morphology Incidentally the word was invented by morphology by the students of psychologists and so on and this is a legitimate and we discover extremely from looking at the. General it may be said that that art has pursued the second more than the first. It has been generally a search for forms and in position to make the explanation and the comprehension of the world more clear. As I say not only look for forms which we have also in art forms upon
our experience. But I think it's true to say there is also a considerable experiment particularly modern times with what may be called atomistic out in the world of the novel for example we see represented by such works as the novels of Dorothy Rich Joyce. So to say. Atomistic narratives rather like the world of physics physics which which considers reality below the level of qualities that a mystic No consider so to say below the level of character we find contemporary music such composers who are writing music
such as Jackson Pollock painting below the level of geometry very much the atomic physicist works below the level of qualities. In general however I think Paul has tried to ponder Well of course quite clearly two types of octaves the type of plastic arts which deal with space and other arts whose fundamental the art of music poetry. These are
temporal arts and spatial spatial arts of course the fundamental fundamental types of symmetry and symmetry. And it's it's interesting here to look at which I think it's true to say that the arts which deal with space. Significance from that example. If we look at the typical but thought up to
this point I think one will find that this is a very powerful. Circular symmetry symmetry found only plants and free floating forms it is not found in films of animal life which which move of their own volition is found only in those which attach to the earth or which float about in water also in plants which do not move in the same way as animals. And I think this effect is profound and obvious natural fact is perhaps what accounts for the
we have about the curved form of the pointed form. We certainly get as we look at architecture with its rounded a sense of repose. And so on. And from the Gothic architecture which is one point I puts this sense of dynamic power and I think one could probably a little ingenuity find many other examples of symbols which have been taken from natural objects and incorporated into the symbols which we find also certain taking. Reason within that we are perfectly familiar of
course with the astronomical real cause of the coming and going of the seasons the cycles of vegetation and so on. And it's interesting to note too that the standard natural division of. What right it calls perpetual was a continual flux of time has found it necessary to supplement these natural divisions with official deviations of the week. The national holiday break up rather telling fact if this continual flux of time to make it seem in some way space like
even in the process of leaving it to give it a certain artistic form I think it's clear that these natural forms. Time divisions have been taken over. We see the types of within the circles of repetition going on within books music and poetry and I would say quite definitely one of the fundamental you know we see this curious and interesting fact of symbols upon the earth
from from nature we take something turn it into a symbol and give it back to nature. And the problem of course is here in relation to certain types of. It's a modern art. For example I just mentioned just now one wonders very much which has got beyond the ordinary natural rhythms of the beat the rhythms of music. However interesting it may be create that we do not know that we are not compelled by the need to conform to certain forms of modern art
for rhythms within. So I would guess that these experiments which seem to betray an extraordinary kind of impatience as though it were impossible to spend so much time as is required in listening to the music in which the natural rhythms. Whether such a music telescope reduced to a kind of short flowering developing musical style I don't know I have a strong feeling that it will be found to be almost impossible to keep his music but of course I may be entirely wrong. This lecture is rather incoherent because I talk about such an immense number of things. But I
would like to talk very briefly about the creative aspect. What does the artist do when he prepares himself to make a work of art. Well I think in general terms what he does. Concentrated upon piece of subject matter open himself up to what is called positive conscious of this subject of consciousness but the unconscious is providing all kinds of material out of the scraps of historical knowledge scientific knowledge philosophic knowledge which can be stored up in this
contre. I think it's great. Being extraordinarily fortunate in being able to tap an immense reservoir of such material and then to be able to organize it it forms. The organizing process. Of course what people call and I would like to quote a very famous passage from cool reach on the nature of the imagination to this day remains one of the best accounts of this strange faculty in man is able to do.
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What a piece of work is a man
Why art?, part 1
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program presents the first part of a lecture by Aldous Huxley entitled "Why Art?"
Series Description
Aldous Huxley presents a lecture series in which he asks, "how did our ancestors think of human nature and in what terms ought we to think about it?"
Broadcast Date
Media type
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
Speaker: Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963
Speaker: Green, William C.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-56-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:03
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Chicago: “What a piece of work is a man; Why art?, part 1,” 1961-10-15, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 5, 2023,
MLA: “What a piece of work is a man; Why art?, part 1.” 1961-10-15. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 5, 2023. <>.
APA: What a piece of work is a man; Why art?, part 1. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from