Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Art and Scholasticism

While on vacation I swung by the Newman Bookstore in Washington and picked up a copy of Art and Scholasticism by Jacques Maritain. As I have been personally studying St. Thomas this year, and especially Thomistic philosophy, I thought this would be a good read, and a way to bring two of my interests together. I plan on writing a summary of each chapter for everyone's edification. I will say that it would have been nice if Etienne Gilson had written the book... I find him much easier to understand than Maritain. But then again, maybe the translator is to blame. Or maybe it's just me.

So his first essay is "The Schoolmen and the Theory of Art". He says that the Schoolmen never composed any treatise specifically about art. Instead, what they thought about art is to be gleaned from their writings on other topics, such as logic, moral theology, and more. One can find a far-reaching theory of art looking through all of their works in this way. Interestingly, Gilson, in his book "The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas" says much the same thing about there being a "Thomistic" philosophy. It is an anachronism to some degree to say that there is such a thing. The so-called philosophy of St. Thomas is something that has been gleaned from a larger body of work that is theological and devotional in nature. But, back to Maritain, he says that the theory of art that can be uncovered is a theory of art in a more "general" sense... not merely fine art, which is a modern error. Art includes the art of the shipwright as well as the art of the painter. Recourse must also be made to the "... metaphysics of the ancients..." and specifically to their understanding of beauty.


Anonymous said...

Sweet. Look forward to your chapter summaries. You might also enjoy these by Umberto Eco: (1)Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages and (2) The Aesthetics of St Thomas Aquinas. peace.

J. Gordon Anderson said...

Thanks for the heads up! I will check those books out.