Art, Will, and Necessity

"Art, Will, and Necessity." Lecture at Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, 1973.


It is one of the defining characteristics of our contemporary civilization that in the degree we cherish art and make it the object of our piety we see it as perpetually problematical. From the eighteenth century onward, enlightened opinion has held that art plays an important part in the life of the individual and society, some would say a decisive part. But although art is regarded as momentous in its function, which is sometimes said to be no less than that of providing the significance of life, nothing is more typical of our cultural activity than our periodic discovery that art is not so serviceable as it was supposed to be or that it has lost some measure of the power it once had. Art, we might say, exists for us through our crises of belief in its potency.

Google Books - essay in The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent