The Fate of the Arts   /   Summer 2004   /    Articles

Is Art Salvific?

Nicholas Wolterstorff

Late in his career the eminent analytic philosopher of art, Monroe Beardsley, a person who avoided overstatement and hyperbole in his writing as if they were mortal sins, published these words:

The fundamental task of the philosophy of art in our to mark out the spe- cial sphere of artistic activity, duly recognizing the peculiar and precious character of its contribution to the goodness and significance of life.... This theoretical task has as its practical analogue that of finding ways of preserving and enlarging the capacity of the arts to play their distinctive and needed roles in promoting the qual- ity of social life, protecting them against the enormous political and economic forces that constantly threaten to control, distort, repress, or trivialize them.

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