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What he says is his imagination is the power which reveals itself in the balance or reconcile opposite or discordant quality of sameness with a difference of the General with a concrete idea in the sense of novelty and freshness and familiar objects which I think is a profound and extremely episodic description of this process of bringing together all these disparate and truly consequential material and forming it into a single within the work of art and of course on the small scale. This process of the imagination of bringing these mutually relevant factors together is brilliantly illustrated in poetic metaphor. It's worth I think in this
context quoting a few vivid metaphors which bring together the most absurdly remote factors and form them into a single powerful. For example the raveled sleeve of thought combining the idea with the idea and the workings of the trouble of The Tempest. The strongest strolled in the extremely powerful metaphor and describing the violence of desire in those taps. But through the window
bars both the breasts boring into the into the field. Quote another one from OB-GYNs talking about human nature and the art of the beak brought into connection with the scene and the server used to speed it. Hours stream the powerful metaphor and then of course there's the famous metaphor. I cannot see my feet nor what soft incense hangs upon the conclusion I would like to quote this very extraordinary Sunday on prayer which is a long
history of the church's banquet. God's breath returning to its the soul in the Christian sounding. Christ the sixth transposing so peace and bliss at the base of the Milky Way the Paradise beyond the stars of space is something understood
this extraordinary bringing together powerful set of symbols. But of course only so I say the working of imagination the reconcilement of opposites on the smallest level but of course on the large level we see the same thing we see. Any great work of art bringing together many disparate elements and forming them into who I think we can speak about something which to me very significant the idea of the hierarchy of perfections many works of art up perfect in their way. But I think it's true to say that there is a
real hierarchy of protection some protection greater and more significant than others for example. Who were Japanese or Shakespeare is not equivalent I would say as the perfection of the Greek drama is not on the same level although it is perfect in its way to the perfection of this. I think one can generalize here and say that those works of art are the greatest and most significant. Great is now a significant factor.
You can have the perfection which is very few actors and certainly static sectors for example in fiction is a real protection. But I would feel certainly that this perfection is not the equal of the perfection of the best landscapes which has many elements of experienced elements of awareness of the external and elements of these greats in a certain sense. One of the greatest religious paintings of all time express a kind of mystical aspect of the human stream powerful in general. I think this is one of the bases of the distinction between the two. Traditionally known as the fine arts and the arts and
crafts there is of course an element of snobbery in this distinction. The Craftsman was regarded as a person of inferior rank to the great painter. But there is also I would think a real. True evaluation. I would think that the great complex work of art. Other things being equal if it has an equal degree of perfection. These are greater works than the perfect or the perfect car or what not and. This hate to say so but it seems to me that this distinction may apply even to a good deal of objective
much of this I think is very beautiful and achieves the kind of perfection. But it does seem to me a limited fiction compared with the protection for example of all the great masterpieces of pictorial our time in the past and so on and these harmonized in a completely new set equally satisfying such an immensely much greater aspects of human experience both. Intellectual and spiritual that I would without any hesitation think that these works however perfect they may be works of art. The great perfection competence
of experience and incidentally I think there's a great deal to be said for the fact that if you do elaborate composition illustrating for example a scene in the knowledge you had opportunities. Creating purely aesthetic they're much greater if you are confining yourself to purely objective elements. For example I mean take a picture which I happen to like very much. Calumny of a picture indeed one generally found looks at it doesn't know what on earth it's about. I actually took the trouble to look up in one of the dialogues of the subject matter of this picture and I found
this picture of what it is among other things an extremely good and accurate illustration of this story out of Lucy and the story is not of great importance but it is very important as much as the necessity of drawing and painting a great many things. One of the other for background necessary for Botticelli conformal and coloristic elements in his picture. Bring in an immense number of these elements and to organize them into an incredibly complicated composition which I don't think any merely representation or composition however elaborate ever approached I mean I don't think the human mind is so
constructed that it can produce anything quite as complex statically quite a satisfactory representation of a complex scene in the outside work. Very briefly let's talk about different kinds of art. Obviously what we have learned in recent times is to tolerate and to like many different kinds of art to 200 years ago everything was extremely simple because there was only one kind of person in the western world could be art and that was Greek or Roman Renee. And its successors well know everything else of course was condemned and thought to be ridiculous. All other forms of art were to
realize the kind of fiction created by the Greek or Roman and. Well now we have a much greater knowledge than we have photography which is reproductions of every work of art life time it's incredible what has been opened up. When I was a boy there was no such thing. We was virtually unknown about nothing about Africans. This is entered into our knowledge sphere of understanding then we realize quite clearly. All these methods of looking at the world there are
means of achieving perfection within each of these methods and I think this is an immense gain. In another sense it poses great difficulties because in the time when there was only one people were not distracted from it there was only one way of doing it. They threw aside everything else and consequently they were able for example with the elements of Greek or Roman architecture to go on exploring the possibilities of the start from the 15th century to the 19th. And it's incredible what a lot they got out of it simply by concentrating on this one thing we know is such an immense amount that it seems very difficult to concentrate for as long as it was done in the past on any single one. And perhaps this kind of disadvantage which we have. Yes we are embarrassed. It may be
that certain respects even better. But for the rest of us I think except for practicing examples except for practicing artist I think we comparably better off with a wide range of knowledge which disposed. To the discoveries within my own lifetime. One of the great discoveries of course being the discovery of the earliest. Discoveries were made before I was born but many of the greatest discoveries of quite recent years realize that here even among these extraordinarily primitive people where perfections body was seen in south
central France must have been overcome with the extraordinary power of these things. And it also. The most interesting psychological problems I mean when we compare the extremely naturalistic paintings which seem to be based upon the capacity with the complete conceptual extreme spectrum covers I say that one is based upon identical imagery and perhaps created haven't been developed yet. Perhaps this was why they were thinking such conceptual terms. The other at the other end of the
scale we find out which is so completely conceptualize that it looks as though men were suddenly revelling in the discovery and were projecting onto these wonderful verbal ideas which he sends to the world and it does show clearly there was an enormous gamut of this. Certain extraordinary activity can spread. To the most difficult problem of all the problem of why on earth does affect us as it does. This isn't unlike the
Literary of plastic and pictorial symbols the sound of music not represent anything they do not have a conventional such as they don't they are not automatic. They don't correspond closely I mean the general rhythms may be analogous to the rhythms but there is nothing which makes music strictly comparable to return literature or to the pictorial plastic arts. Nevertheless I don't think anybody can doubt that music is profound but what that meaning is very difficult to say. It certainly isn't the meaning which is on the programme notes.
Need to start with every program annotator so something different I mean does this work with Beethoven's heart was breaking for somebody or other. Next one says this is a work of power or something of the kind and never the list. This meaning is there is of profound importance. It is worthwhile in this context to see Listen to what great musicians of thought about what they were doing. For example think that music was about Beethoven's writing satisfactory I mean his power of expression was entirely within the realm of music. His letters on the whole I think are rather disappointing. When he wanted to express it. Consequently he has to
say about me and I think it is great importance to think that has a cognitive aspect it was possible to come to a special kind of knowledge of the universe. Something like this is the entrance into the how prophetic and heavenly these are significant. But I do think this idea of the cognitive
of all artists probably in a certain sense something which is forms of flux. But in a certain sense it is also discovering not merely discovering that which. So to say this after a profound ideas of discover something about the nature of the world. This in some way or rather inexplicably built into the fundamental things of discovering music. Above all a strange
capacity for discovering a sort of dynamic essence of life. Perhaps the most powerful weapon for exploring this aspect at least of the ultimate nature of the work and I would like to finish with this idea extremely because I don't understand it myself. But I do feel very strongly that this Beethoven's idea of the cognitive there you know music and indeed about the real thing and as I say that we do not impose upon them we discover them within the world and we also discover that which lies beyond
form and that which is the ultimate source of all form which serve to say the creative principle of at sea upstream from all particular manifestations. Thank you for. You have heard the fifth recorded lecture in a series delivered by all of us Huxley at present the auditorium while he was Carnegie visiting professor of humanities at MIT. Next week the six lecture untitled visionary experience. The program was produced by WGBH Af-Am Boston for the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the N A B Radio Network.
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What a piece of work is a man
Why art?, part 2
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program presents the conclusion 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
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-56-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:23:45
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Chicago: “What a piece of work is a man; Why art?, part 2,” 1961-10-15, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 4, 2023,
MLA: “What a piece of work is a man; Why art?, part 2.” 1961-10-15. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 4, 2023. <>.
APA: What a piece of work is a man; Why art?, part 2. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from