Reading Aristotle (ashamed to admit that it’s really my first textual encounter), I was stuck on this articulation of art as production, as making, under the guidance of right reason – a direct and natural response of a person to the sight of the beautiful. And although right reason is described as a natural response, it is made clear that art, or rather the productions of art, are not things that come into being as nature because they originate without a person. While it make sense to me that the productions are not things that exist within nature, I wondered in what ways nature, as a state of mind, could be a material – maybe beyond influence/inspiration that complicates right reason. I don’t just mean nature as materials like wood, stone, clay, but the structures of nature – honeycomb, natural arches, sedimentary rock – that craft craft/art. Then I saw a book I picked up before I visited my friend in Japan (and dragged him to traditional craft centers) and began skimming for relationships to right reason, products as good, and nature in the description of craft:
Folk Arts and Crafts of Japan by Kageo Muraoka and Kichiemon Okamura
“The Hidden Beauty of Common Objects” (“Zakki no Bi”):
The Craftsman and His Craft
“Although the Japanese folk artisan is poor and uneducated, he is a fervent devotee of his craft…Unconsciously, he is motivated by his belief in kami (the spirit of nature) and seized by its indomitable force…Because he was not self conscious about what he was doing, the man who made this dish had not planned the final outcome of his creative effort…What is beauty?…We cannot expect him to be prepared with clear-cut answers to such questions, but even though he may not have thought-out knowledge, his hands move rapidly at his work And we could perhaps say that just as the voice that speaks the Buddhas name is not actually the man’s voice but is that of the Buddha, so too the hands of the potter are not his own but those of nature”.
And another thread:
And another – Aristotle:
“now Making and Doing are two different things (as we show in the exoteric treatise), and so that state of mind, conjoined with Reason, which is apt to Do, is distinct from that also conjoined with Reason, which is apt to Make: and for this reason they are not included one by the other, that is, Doing is not Making, nor Making Doing. Now as Architecture is an Art, and is the same as “a certain state of mind, conjoined with Reason, which is apt to Make,” and as there is no Art which is not such a state, nor any such state which is not an Art, Art, in its strict and proper sense, must be “a state of mind, conjoined with true Reason, apt to Make.”
“And, so neither things which exist or come into being necessarily, nor things in the way of nature, come under the province of Art, because these are self-originating. And since Making and Doing are distinct, Art must be concerned with the former and not the latter.”
*exoteric: of or relating to the outside; external
I feel like in trying to unpack Aristotle, I’m not making much progress…I suppose what I’m getting at is reason’s relationship to utility (or maybe use) in craft? Whether or not art and craft are one in the same and what connotations this has on aesthetic/fine art (especially distinctions between knowledge, wisdom, intuition, science and art)? And ways of considering nature’s relation to craft aside from inspiration as beauty alone? (or perhaps I’m not fully grasping this notion of beauty or nature either). This might all be lingering and densely packed confusions about tensions of the terms nature/natural and culture in other philosophy texts I’ve encountered.
And I suppose I want to pause on objects and things in the manner in which Aristotle uses them – what relationship do objects/things/matter have? To man? To nature? And in thinking about the ethics of things, can it be the thing itself considered?