This writer, inspired by Aristotle’s Physics, makes specific reference to his thought and ideas, identifying the special correlations from his book on physics, which I am now applying to art history. Art history will not survive the demise if its narrative if it does not permeate human substance and the reality it projects in the human mind. Historians must not alienate themselves from the reality and actuality of art and make specific reference to the science of history arising from the causality of human nature. The reason for this important statement is a reminder that art is a human product and artists are humans like any other human being. Most of all that art and life are cannot be estranged without upsetting the order of things. First of all, the historian must analyze reality before arriving at the characterization of an art event and strengthen the correlation of art and life because the laws of physics apply to things and to people’s minds as well. Aristotle sustains that for every form of existence there must be a “cause.” Until one arrives by causal logic at the ends of all material movements cannot say to have identified reality as it occurs in the world from beginning to end. To arrive at the original “unmoved mover,” namely, the complete circular causality of the history of things, at times opens up questions, which will remain unanswered and perhaps destined to remain open for discussion for years to come. This says that all causes must be brought out as much as possible within a synthetic contextual historical discourse for they are the propelling forces, of the endless circularity of historical time.
Like all physical things existing in the universe, human substance can be measured quantitatively and qualitatively according to mathematical and epistemological principles. It can be placed into relation with general physical laws defining all forms of existence in time, which can give us an idea of where we are anthropologically. For any kind of movement of physical existence the causal elements are always the same: force, time and space, but when it comes to human existence, the elements extend to the realm of phenomenology and psychology, for humans are guided by their thoughts, their habits and inclinations. In order to characterize every type of existence a particular and complex causality should be considered among many intricate intermingling forces working for and against each other. We may begin with the generalization of ‘ideas’ in particular, but not with human actions, which can come into being by many causes. The causality of action is what brings the object into being. From a physical standpoint, a work of art is no different from an ordinary object except for a work produced by an intellect in action, which is a complex compound of forces originating from everywhere and bringing the process to imaginable forms. The intellect is the instrument determining whether, for example, a piece of abstract art can be brought to a reason or even to a non-reason for being. An object can be moved by complex solicitations or various forces like an idea is moved by many causes, which contribute to its predication. Substance is what characterizes the reality and congeniality of an object. An object cannot be transposed into another time or another historical environment and retain the same value. Accordingly, Aristotle refers to movement of time as a causal factor, which can be perceived in relation to changing objects, but did not consider the substantial force engaging the perceptual activity, namely the subjectivity of the subject. For instance, one cannot assess human validity in objects art with accuracy without considering all factual psychological and epistemological components of the artist. Accuracy of judgment is what art history demands in relation to circumstantial cultural time changes, which may be transitory or perennial. Otherwise, works of art may not be considered substantial historical markers, not without first assessing the human substantial movement in time. For the same reason they cannot be considered valuable because made in another time and with different purpose and criteria.
Yesterday is no longer today, which will no longer be tomorrow. Thus, in this case the movement of time must be associated with some sort of value that has nothing to do with time movements in our social system. The logical question that arises after this consideration is how human energy could ever be related to a kind of history that is not there? We do not have a clear conception of value concerning human energy because we do not understand entirely how we are affected by a-causal notions. That is why we need a true and clear conception of history. For this reason, sensuous beauty and psychology can only enjoin the pure fiction concept, and like astrology, they may reflect fantasy and not science, which in principle purports real human value. In addition, since time could not be exhausted, the natural movement of substance comes to an end when it is not nurtured like a young baby. That is why, when we read art history books we come to a sad realization that it did.
A clear distinction though between artists, who are substantial movers of higher thoughts and ideologies, and artists, who are being induced by subjective narrative and historicity remains unchanged and it is now given an explanation. What the writer is about to say must therefore be placed in proper context. Thought is what should move the arts toward their own potentiality, but adverse thought may offer resistance matching the Aristotelian term of “unmoved mover”. As human entities, artists must overcome their own inertia, what Aristotle calls “passive potentiality,” which is inability to think and to act within their proximate social context, makes us think to a constellations in a circumscribed universe. Under the influence of a productive environment, like a good existential philosophy of being, any thought may produce a specific force that initiates a well-planned action. Truly existential thought is necessary to understand causation of action because there can be no action without planning or it would result in a waste of energy. Many times, scientific reasoning may be applied and sometimes not. Therefore, a reawakening of thought in the arts will not be just a historical landmark, but will do a lot of good for the arts and humanity as a whole. Proper action must follow formulation of thought in the mind propelling the intentional will with clarity and distinction, clarifying what the action wants to accomplish, or the action will make no sense. Lack of thought is lack of desires, values, principles and ideals. In other words, one must find a necessity to move his or her thoughts and bring about the extended potentiality of being before the mind. Once the thought is underway the subject becomes another person, for thought itself is a mover of the mind and of one’s own body and the bodies of others producing changes in the world.
This definition of reality was provided by Aristotle analogically almost 2,400 years ago. What causes a physical brain to be charged with energy and to produce thought is the solicitation of a motive, a purpose or a desire, which speak about particularity of being having a vision, not a dream, distinguishing and improving the work of art by constituting direction and purpose. This means that the language that produces the energy to move the body must be grafted in the mind of the subject with accuracy in order to reassure the way the next movement must take place. Consciousness is what provides proper reason to works of art to exist and to produce the right energy that moves ideas from point A to point B successfully. i.e., this is done by a specific method, which in our case is offered by “phenomenology.” Phenomenology is the new thing that helps the understanding of reality and allows the subject to penetrate the dynamics of phenomena, which include the phenomena of art becoming a language capable of communicating human values. This equals to expansion of perceptual reality. In sum, phenomenology opens and expands the perception of reality so that the artist can interact with the world in a better and more constructive critical manner. Art is a meta-critical endeavor because it embodies universal reality and interacts at the level of high human values. The being of art is a potential natural energy that infuses the lymph necessary to support the creative spirit of art and the true feelings of congenial form of freedom, which makes the artist feeling like being needed more in the world. This is the type of purpose that identifies with the need of artists being loved by others aiming at one’s own becoming, not just for the sake of change, as it has happened in the historicity of art, but for the sake of the realization of the potentiality within the subject’s own nature (kata phusin). This is why we must give higher meaning and a just reason to the emerging human spontaneity, which accounts for the knowledge that supplies the mind with the motion of thought and the potentiality for change.
A change in the world can be natural or unnatural, induced by natural or artificial forces and this is what has happened in the course of the history of Modern Art. Artists have made no distinction between constructive and destructive causality. They began to advance ideas that had no place within human reason and rational cognition which introduced ‘passive potentiality’ into the discourse of art. As a result, the notion and the perception of art have been dispersed until they lost meaning and significance. From the 1960s until now, artists have been treated like producer of commodities by their consumers. What these bourgeoisie consumers want is only the simplistic pleasure of limited decorative values, which have nothing to do with greater powers of the intellect. For this reason for almost 200 years, the meaning of fine art has been characterized by poor intellectual quality, and for much too long, the public mind forgot that there is a historical legacy with the glory of the Renaissance, which could have kept the creative spirit alive. Such legacy, no one can deny that could have inspired and helped produce master pieces, rather than the mediocre production housed in modern museums and public collections. To remedy this condition, we must regain the full significance of art’s human potentiality whenever is applicable even in the face of contrary disposition of art’ subjective narrative and historicity. As reparation of these disruptive conditions we must now recognize art’s natural and intrinsic capacity for change and not let the bourgeoisie reduce the creative spirit again to mere production for the sake of material ends. New creative energy will have to emerge from somewhere other than commerce in order to advance the notion of a “new humanism” in the artist and apply all the energies toward this end. Without taking into consideration that truth (aletheia) lies in the essence of nature, as Aristotle mentioned in De coelo the latter should be captured and retained by any work of art, or the result will be a continuous waste of energy.
Any movement of human energy is in actuality a potential force in need of explanation. The concept of energy is that it is never lost, but it may be misapplied when certain principles are not met. Principles are given to us by the in-exhaustive manifestation of phenomena reflecting the natural laws, which develop as chains of various types of events, psychological and down-right contingent like accidental events causing the tragedies that afflict our world today. These are causal factors generated by empirical philosophical presuppositions. Empirical philosophy has made no contribution toward establishing true human values that would have made this a better world simply because it did not penetrate the causal dynamics of social phenomena. Psychology was just as inactive and inefficient in producing the principle of an organized rational society.
The arts did even less as they pretended to live in another world. Had phenomenology being developed before the industrial revolution, today we would be living in a different world. We need to allow the “movers” of society, which include artists, to consolidate the elements of reality by way of logical reduction, which saves mental energy at the end and brings the action to the essential level of values, which are still printed in the books of the past and are still valid in this time and age.
The analytical elements of the natural method of phenomenology remain the intrinsic principles anchored to the conceptual structures of reality. It is up to us to identify them to help our perceptions of phenomena of all kinds at the physical and psychological level acting in a comprehensive substantive manner and assuring the truth of truth, which art must endeavor. The truth of truth can only be taken on causally and comprehensively taking in full consideration the entire natural history of mankind, not leaving anything out in terms of passive ‘retarding potentiality,’ which only phenomenology can establish to help our judgments of reality. Not to let a phenomenology of art take its course, would be like replacing human nature with a surrogate that alters the natural extensive causality encompassing human life, which would bring lethargy and intellectual poverty. The law of causality of nature regulates the intrinsic, extensive field of necessity of the mind down to the core of the unconscious phenomena that interact beyond our control, like the unexplored universe of memory. This thought ought to remind us of the unexplored inter-connection and substantial interaction at all times in order not to underestimate their incongruous vicissitudes. Causality is God’s will and the cement of the universe for everything exists for a cause. We cannot deny that we are only little dots in the universal space.
Aristotle’s De Caelo seems to expand this discourse, by enlarging his definition of phenomenal motion. He places human energy in the right context as to produce a special harmony with the general natural energy of the ether. This effort seems to advocate a conception of art in perfect harmony with the natural environment. Modern science will not succeed in devising artificial intelligence as it will not succeed in changing our nature. In order to do any good, science will have to appropriate the full causality of nature and design its products according to it.
Forced motions and resistance to natural forces could not exist for us without causal reasons especially if we fail to relate our actions to our intrinsic natural disposition. Aristotle advances the ideas that to one natural force corresponds another contrary one called ‘forced motion’ of resistance, but also a proper way to overcome it. This should not be construed as an occurrence in the logical approach of “art for a purpose,’ which unites, rather than separate human energy and integrates the human potential in the context of the potentiality of nature. In this way science can find a proper remedy like the empathy of thermodynamics. Similarly, there are contrary forces even in society that will place obstacles in the route toward the realization of a phenomenology of art. The way to overcome these obstacles is to reinforce ideas of social potential and direct them to a proper dynamic context, like grafting a plant to achieve the desired fruit. Of course, Aristotle foresees a different outcome when dealing with rectilinear and circular motions, but he is thinking in terms of geometric forms to which mathematical calculus apply. In nature, forms of quantification may not be left concealed or unforeseen for mathematical reflection cannot afford to leave out the smallest quantification. Being too small or too large to calculate makes no sense to mathematicians, for even the smallest force can lead to unpredictable sources. However. in art there is no tool to measure a work of art qualitatively, though the final end is what ultimately counts, which is art for the sake of humanity.
Since he says nothing how to cope with these interfering minute forces, we are invited not to consider such necessity until we recognize that they may affect the essential theory of motion in art, which would bring to a stop the consideration of essential values. However he warned that a scientific assessment of this reality before us is to be taken keeping in mind natural values as opposed to their basic preservation rather than allowing them to be overcome by artificially, because it would implant anomalous forms of culture.
Toward the identification of reality there is one more thing to consider. In his book on Physics, Aristotle argues that all motions are regulated by causality and precisely by the four causes, material, formal, efficient, and final causes. His theory also finds application in the realization of a work of art. His analysis of causes is very important for edifying a progressive and constructive theory of art because it is central to the questions of providing a purpose and a direction for art and artists. This the best and most complete argument one can advance to identify reality and produce the right assessment toward building a logical structure in art. Today, with the advancement of science we can answer more complex questions than before that reflect the four causes of the reality of nature and offer a large perspective of time and space to stretch the future of art in the world or to expand the perception of objects and ideas of art in the proper perspective. The idea of employment and application of Aristotle’s conception of causality precisely serves us to keep the good perspective in all our judgments and decisions to be made to bring into this world the proper rational dimension of art.
Aristotle’s four causes are above all fundamental to our cognition, perception and consciousness of the world – all necessary ingredients for the actor aiming at the final result of his or her art object. The actor (the artist) can apply them in just about any field of life or in art and see exactly where he or she stands as an endemic practicing subject of reason predicating in support of productive substantial meaning.
In analyzing their application in art, we find that the material cause, which is strictly physical because it refers to material objects, includes the hands that handle them; the formal cause which refers to the sense of shape deals with spatial or linguistic relations; the efficient cause is interactive from a non-autonomous actors contributing to the final realization of the work of art; and the final cause, which integrates the object in the teleological context in which the subject must operate, is often the silent a priori. It starts and ends with anticipating the scope or the purpose of the action supporting the realization of the object.
All four causes must be advanced in the planning stage of the work of art for the following reasons:
The first cause must support the substantial conceptual ideas of the material to be moved or transformed from stage A to stage B, i.e., to the final stage. The motion of ideas must encompass and withstand the applied force, which must be proportioned and sufficient to actualize the desired modifications of the original formal conditions of the object. This cause is important because is the premise of the other three causes that follow. It requires rational, adequate choice, at times with the intervention of philosophy, mathematics, physics, biology, etc. For instance, wood has characteristics different from bronze, plastic, and other substances. Each must receive a special different treatment. This consideration will obviously condition the entire interventions that follow.
The second cause, the formal, must have content, meaning and function. There is not such a thing as form for the sake of itself because forms to a certain extent must speak to us about their content to make mind and body comfortable. Imagine an inform couch, a distorted flower that has lost its geometry and symmetry – it will consequently speak of irregularity and under performance. Plato’s bed reflecting a good design that delivers comfort and aesthetic pleasure, at the same time pleases the eye. The purpose of art is aesthetic because it is also practical in terms of advancing human intelligence. (See chapter 6). If the bed cannot accommodate the human body, it will not reflect natural forms, just as art, because of its complexity, encourages intellectual development. Forms of any kind are language and expressions of what we are and to communicate feelings and emotions to others, as explained in the preceding chapters. Forms signify and justify human conditions, or as Saussure understands them, they are the “signified,” seen and interpreted empirically because they carry meaning and content of values, but they have their intrinsic linguistic phenomenology, on which they stand, which is the reason they exist. They demand a general holistic and particular analytical interpretation, which defines a branch of philosophy. Philosophy of language takes into consideration all three elements: content, meaning and function to provide specific contextual signification of sentences, but phenomenology does a better job exploring the causality of linguistic forms.
The third cause, the efficient, provides the required force necessary to accomplish the specific event, or intellectual movement. To explain such concept, suffices to say that one is not going to use a tractor if he or she needs to move a chair. In this respect, we must imagine the employment of tools and other equipment in action to share the necessary labor and the understanding of what this cause is about. Heidegger speaks about the “equipmental qualities of equipment” referring to Aristotle’s third dimensional causation and Schopenhauer as indirect action. Further, to better explain the economy of the action of efficient cause, one may bring about the notion of intermediate instrumentality and imagine a train going from London to Paris avoiding Dublin or Lion, which are out of the way. The sufficiency of judgment of these two options seems very obvious, but very often in life we realize how much energy we waste in actions that are not worth the while. The efficient cause arises as a logical solution, but at times it must be researched and the research may go through the various options and calculations necessary to find convenience and best results combined toward saving energy and producing the best results.
The fourth cause, the final is not the ultimate human end, for time is timeless and space is unlimited; it is not the end of the motion either, because the world is a planet in perennial motion around the sun because of the tremendous gravity exercised by same, and has been so for billions of year. Its speed of rotation cannot be measured with exactitude, judging from the theory of relativity, but it is constant as the human calendar proves. This cause is hypothetically final according to our limited vision and our limited understanding of time and space relations until something drastic event, like a meteorite entering the gravity field will cause imbalance and displacement of masses and perhaps the end of the world. At that point, the world could travel in space and enter into another orbital system. The final cause implies this eventuality, which would not render it final until we determine the totality of its effects. As a result, nothing is final in the universe. If we are satisfied with the results of a material or mental movement, it would only be temporary and not eternal. This indicates that we have arrived at a partial conclusion or to a new conceptual theory or stratagem of an endless action in the universe. We can start saying that we cannot accomplish our goal of understanding the final necessity of all things as a premise of reality. With this in mind, somehow we feel satisfied with the result of an action or a movement until we can become more confident and see the true finality of motion. In order to turn our theory into action, it may be necessary to implicate other subject matters that enter the field of action and review the finality of the cause. Final causes will not put an end to human endeavors as life continues to allow the mind to expand the confines of space perception. When the theory is infinite, there will always be a next endeavor for nothing is perennial as long as the manifestation of time and space remains open.
This is the general causal structure of reality, but artists must deal with besides their own psychological inclinations before initiating the movement that will leads to the completion of a work of art. Insecurity of mind may arise during the process and the first preoccupation would be to build a sense of social belonging as a solid base to go back to in difficult moments. It must be stated that such security has not been provided by the history of art. In a moment of desperation, there seems to be nowhere to go or to recur at any time especially when self-confidence begins to fail. Heidegger spoke of several forms of anxiety affecting his model of dasein, who went through experiencing the vicissitudes of the world. He refers to the psychological causes determined during the production of a work of art as well, in Poetry, Language and Thought, but the important thing is to have a clear vision of purpose to overcome the uncertainties, which are many. However, the final cause must be envisioned and set as a priori condition to all that may come after. Final causes are what signify purpose and furnish the necessary commitment to exercise the profession without compromises.
All things considered, one must approach the white canvas with a plan and a certain conceptual confidence, conscious awareness, imagining an ideal world. To use synthetic reflection on the past and projection on future development may be the way to satisfy both worlds of necessity: the social thirst for novelty and the advancement of the conceptual idea of art. Conceptual awareness belongs to the final Aristotelian cause because is serves as a premise of pre-conceptual structure of intentionality, and as a concluding result of the action. Somehow, as we will realize much later in the book, a certain similarity with Heidegger’s concept of the “equipmental quality of equipment” does exist.