Scott Postma

A blog about the Great Books, the Craft of Writing, and Human Flourishing.

7 Premises Modern Artists Miss

Artists like Homer, Dante, and Milton knew something of art–what it is, what it means, and what it’s for.

But the fact that art is for something, and has a base of reference other than itself is an alien idea to most modernists.

In his book, On Moral Fiction, John Gardner argues that true art is moral and cultivates, not debases, humanity.

So before making art this week, consider these seven premises Gardner offers on the moral nature of art:

  1. The traditional view is that true art is moral: it seeks to improve life, not debase it.
  2. Art asserts and reasserts those values which hold off dissolution, struggling to keep the mind intact and preserve the city, the mind’s safe preserve. Art rediscovers, generation by generation, what is necessary to humanness.
  3. In art as in politics, well-meant, noble-sounding errors can devalue the world.
  4. True art is a conduit between body and soul, between feeling unabstracted and abstraction unfelt.
  5. Art, in sworn opposition to chaos, discovers by its process what it can say. That is art’s morality.
  6. Art builds; it never stands pat; it destroys only evil. If art destroys good, mistaking it for evil, then that art is false, an error; it requires denunciation.
  7. …true art is about preservation of the world of gods and men.

What are you creating this week that builds, preserves, discovers, or improves the world around you?

(Visited 69 times, 1 visits today)

About Scott Postma

Scott is a writer and teacher living in North Idaho. He loves teaching the Great Books, writing and blogging, and collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

Subscribe for free, and get Write Like A Human, a resource that will teach you C.S. Lewis’s “secret sauce” for excellent writing. Plus, I’ll send you updates directly to your inbox every time I post.


Comments Policy: Comments that are relevant and add value to the conversation are encouraged, even if they express disagreement with the topic or the writer. All comments must be free from gross profanity, or otherwise distasteful language (at moderator’s discretion), and accompanied by a valid first name and email address (all anonymous comments are blocked).